The sound of the rain drops touching the large leaves of the jungle. From all the wonders of Ubud, this simple memory is my favorite. It’s my ticket back there every time I close my eyes and think about that beautiful place.
The start of September is still dry season In Bali, but that green needs rain. So in all the evenings I have spent in Ubud, rain came to visit the town and gave it a little fresh good night kiss.
It was past 11pm in a rainy evening when a taxi stopped in front on almost hidden gate, on one of the few main roads in Ubud, close to the huge white statue of Arjuna, the Hindu God, at the intersection of Jalan Raya Ubud and Jalan Raya Andong.
Two people and a big suitcase came out, laughing a bit too loud for the quiet around. I was ending a 2h great conversation with my taxi driver, a father of 5 who was so kind to drive me to Ubud at that late hour. We shoke hands as the gate opened and he saw I was now in good hands, with my new host. I entered following the young man who opened the gate and a wave of frangipani perfume surrounded me in the dark, as an irresistible invitation to enter. It was all black at first but little by little the surroundings were revealing: first I saw a few small shrines with Hindu Gods statues and offerings, then a small paved alley, which we followed, passing by a small pond covered with water lilies, then huge white frangipani trees, after a small pool hidden behind a dense curtain of banana trees… and finally the whole garden in its full beauty magically protected by the dark. A “WOW” escaped my lips… Alice in Wonderland couldn’t have felt more charmed then myself in this paradise like place!
Another host came, a little older man, wearing a green sarong around his waist and a white turban on the head. Smiling, he welcomed me with a Balinese bow.
– Welcome! Your bungalow is waiting for you.
I couldn’t hide my surprise and enchantment when he showed me a 2 levels high wooden bungalow, with a large white canopy bed, two bathrooms, two large terraces, one at the entrance facing the jungle and one in the front, to the pool and garden. The windows were of glass only at the first level, all the rest was opened to fresh air that so took the freedom to wonder freely inside. There aren’t many things I love more then sleeping in opened air… It was perfect! I was expecting a room in a bungalow and I got a palace instead. For less then 10 euro per night this made me wonder what reasons I still have to spent any more holidays somewhere else.
Next thing I had to deal with was a very tangled situation: trying to save my hair from a short cut the next day. The swim in the rough sea and a two hours scooter ride earlier that day left my long blond hair looking as a complicated nest of some sort of bird. It felt unfixable… When I arrived, I throw a glance on the list of services from a beauty saloon I saw inside the garden, just in case I needed to pay them a visit next morning, to fix my hair with the scissors. It was that bad! But miraculously, a long cold shower saved it and the bird’s nest was gone. Feeling fresh and happy I submerged in a deep sleep, hearing the song of the last drops of rain falling on the leaves.
Day 1 Ubud revealed
My condensed marathon in Asia was planned to end in Ubud, with a well deserved quiet time. So in the 1st day I woke up late. An arrow of light have found its way in through the opened windows, straight through the curtains of my canopy bed and finally reaching my hand. Now, in the morning light, all my excitement about that place and its garden from the night before suddenly grew 1000 times more. As I jumped out of bed and went out on the first terrace, the jungle said “hello” in all its green beauty, with unknown sounds and scents. Then I crossed the room, opened the door and ran on the other terrace, this time the garden said “hi there”, with its blue pool as the only contrast in a sea of green, banana trees in bloom, frangipani… Perfection!
Breakfast was served in the middle of the garden, by the small pond covered with water lilies, where a few koi fish were now awake. Black rice, fresh fruits and black tea! A rare and delicious occasion when food was now spicy, an exception since I arrived in Asia.
Ubud, a place I heard so many things, was out there, waiting for me. I followed the little street outside my accommodation and in minutes I was walking the main street in Udub, with shops, restaurants, coffee places, temples and ohh so many tourists. The place was pretty touristy but definitely had its charm and though I do not believe much in the influence of energies, if there is a place on earth that could change this view, it’s Bali, for sure. That peace and perfect serenity can’t only be related to its beauty and green, there’s something more about this place…
My culinary adventure continued as well, I bought a few pieces of all the fruits I found on my way that I have never seen before, sold by people near the market, out of big baskets. I fed on the curiosity in their eyes every time they hurry to cut into pieces a fruit I said I have never tried before, to have me taste it right there and see my reaction. I payed back every gesture of generosity with great excitement and a small quantity I bought. My favourite was by far snakefruit, because of the texture and its taste that reminds me both of pineapple and pomplemousse.
And so, tasting fruits I found the market in Ubud, with huge paintings, carvings, all sorts of art pieces. I totally lost any track of time there, buying bracelets made of lava and silver rings in geometrical shapes with abalones mother of pearl. I did what I like best: wander, without a map, a direction or any time constrainment. I entered each of the temples I found on my way, wore a sarong inside provided from the entrace, admire all the details inside and sneak peak to see people praying or bringing offerings and lighting candles.
I found a hidden alley with a sign and I thought: why not… I walked away from the street, among backyards, following a narrow path by a small dirty river in a very underground area, I passed by a durian tree with big durians hanging down and out of the blue, all was green in front of my eyes. I remembered a post from a friend who was in Ubud once, saying about the rice paddies there, a hidden place that can be found somewhere behind Lotus coffee. Happily there was no one there except 2-3 people working on the paddies far away.
A little path with high coconut treen was splitting this endless green in half, huge squares of paddies on each side, a small broken cottage on the right, a man crossing the way, carrying buckets and tools, his feet and arms black, covered in mud after a working morning. He sends a smile, I answer the same way. I kept looking back, then turn around, then again black, trying to capture all details of this beautiful place. The sun was up, turning the fields into mirrors where clouds were reflecting and the blue sky was turned into silver.
At the end of the alley I found a warung, Sweet Orange seemed to be the name. I could use a light lunch so I entered…. The small terrace inside, with views to the rice paddies, was decorated with coconuts husk faces and Balinese art pieces. I took a seat at one small wooden wound table, on a wooden chair and ordered fried noodles with chicken but asked if they could keep the meat away and a dragon fruit smoothie. I enjoyed my delicious lunch while watching two women in the front, working on the rice paddies with the feeling that I will later remember this moment as one of the best places for lunch in my life. And that I can now confirmed it happened multiple times.
I went back on the busy streets of Ubud where a durian ice-cream tempted me this time. The place had its walls ceiling packed with small yellow lizards which first looked as a cook wallpaper. Only it was one full of life. The sunset time found me wandering the Campuhan Ridge Walk, a famous spot, which I also found by chance. Funny how this happens each time we dedicate the time and patience to a place and we choose to enjoy without a map. The incredible green of Ubud on this side got me in love head over… flip-flops, as I walked by the jungle, among other people, tourists or locals, on one famous cobbled path heading far from the city’s madding crowds of tourists, bikes, cars…
And finally, a day painted in green ended in flames… It started with an invitation handed on the street, in front of a temple, by a boy. It was about the fire dance that was supposed to take place in exact one hour, inside a temple nearby. A chance to catch the story presented in this show from the beginning, not almost the end as in Uluwatu. So not to be missed. I bought one ticket from him and when the time came I took a sit on one of the wooden benches inside the temple’s yard. The fire dance, known as Kecak, began. The performance mixes acting and dancing in beautiful costumes and it narrates the story of Asia’s most epic, Ramayana. Gods, a prince and a princess, a fight between good and bad that ends with a jaw dropping performance: a barefoot dance on hot coals left behind a huge fire made of dry coconuts. As the rhythm grows, the moves intensify and smoke and fire and sparks of light are filling the air in front of an audience left speechless. In the end, woken up from that magic by the frenetic applauses, I had a moment of truth thinking and realising: I am in Ubud!
A late dinner with chicken satay and tongue killing hot peanut sauce, (what else)…, in a warung recommended by a policeman – not for hungry reasons but rather for craving reasons, a raw Balinese chocolate tasting and a late rain shower that found me back in my perfect bungalow. That’s how my day in Ubud ended. Listening to all the raindrops hitting the vegetation around, hoping that the insects and the lizards will stay away of my bed.
I fell asleep thinking why don’t we live all days like that, refusing to stay awake for the answer.
Next: Wander, believe, indulge: 3 days in Ubud