Tuesday, 24 February 2015

A little enchanting place in Bali; Ubud and my tale of how I got there

I heart so much before arriving to Ubud that I didn’t know what to expect other that it was a little jewel of sophistication in the middle of Bali and that puts Kuta into shame.

Of course, being the person I am, I preferred to wait until I could judge it by myself, I know that in many circumstances words often just don’t make justice for better or worse to places and also, unless you are a travel writer, we let our personalities and feelings get into the way of how we express ourselves and what we say about the places we’ve been.
That is not a bad thing and it is by being true to me that I write every single sentence. As I keep repeating in here, this is just my trip, yours won’t be the same and therefore this is just the way my eyes see the world.  I hope I bring a new perspective to the way a place can be described.
Here’s for you my tale of how I got to Ubud; the good, the bad and the really bad!

Where to stay:
As a routine, I never tend to pre booked accommodation. Many places will have a backpacking area and if they don’t, then chances are that a taxi driver or any other men hanging around the bus or train station will have some suggestions for you but there are exceptions; Ubud is one of them.
 As per usual, I did my research prior getting there and found out that Ubud looked the sort of place without much budget accommodation options for backpackers. Given my latest experiences with taxi drivers and their inability to help me out, I did not want to spend hours walking around Ubud under the sun or the rain (these days here you never know!) I decided it was wise to pre booked and I used Agoda to pre-book a room in a homestay (Tu Eka Homestay for 5 nights for a total of $59.00).
With that sorted, it was time to research how to get there. At that point, I knew that I would get to Bali by local transportation and by myself, not easy private tour package for me; the adventure had to continue, right?
I felt that I could totally do it, at the end of the day, I had crossed the whole Java using local transportation but it didn’t quite went the way I thought…

Getting from Java to Ubud (Bali):
Uff…only the memory of that day makes me still cringe, worse travel day of my trip so far! Of course I do not want to discourage anyone to do it and as a matter of fact, many before me have done it successfully so my conclusion to this date is that I was simply unlucky.

I woke up very early from my room in Banyuwangi and made my way to the ferry pier, just a few minutes’ walk from the train station. As soon as I approached the building, a friendly local escorted me to the ticket boot where I purchased my ferry ticket to Gilmanuk for 8.000 IDR. After I was done, the same man still escorted me to the bus that would go inside the ferry and then drove us all to Denpassar. The bus ticket cost 150.000 IDR.
The ferry crossing was pleasant, we all went to the upper decks and enjoyed the sun for the 40 minutes that it took to get to Gilmanuk in Bali. Once in Gilmanuk, we all had to get off the bus to have our passports checked (mine they didn’t even look at it, the attention was on the locals).

After that easy step, we all went back to the bus that drove for what it seemed to me about three hours until it stopped at the entrance of Denpassar. Then it stopped and a local man came inside and spoke some words to everyone and the next thing I know is that all the people were leaving the bus.

Luckily for me, I team up with a student who was as shocked as me and he translated that the man was saying that the government didn’t allow big buses getting inside the city. VERY strange is you ask me…

After that, as I was the only westerner on the bus, he tried to sell me a private taxi to Ubud for 200.000 IDR but I was determined to get there locally. He didn’t try to convince me but just said to me that it would be very difficult for me and it would cost me more. I decided to ignore him….I shouldn’t have.

They put a bunch of us in a minivan paying again (20.000) and then dropped me shortly afterwards in the bus station, everyone else stayed in the minivan.
I will just summarised my traumatic experience in that bus station by saying that I was completely ignored by almost an hour, no one bothered to talk to me or help me, I was going in circles and getting more anxious by the minute and felt that I would never get to Ubud at that point.
Eventually and I suppose seeing my desperation, a man approached me and pointed out an empty ojek and told me to wait. I waited for almost 40 minutes more and eventually this very old man came and took me and two others.
Following the man’s instructions, he said that the old man would leave me in another bus station where I could get another minivan to Ubud. I wasn’t very sure it was going to work but he was the only person there in almost two hours that could bother to help me. I had no way out but to trust him.

The old man drove on and after a while, he stopped and told me to get off there. I quickly looked around but could not see any bus station. I tried to get more information but with his complete lack of English or interest to help me, just drove off and left me behind IN A ROAD.

Almost not souls were in that road and the few people I could find, they told me with gestures to keep walking up to the bus station. I walked and walked under the sun carrying my heavy backpack for almost an hour until I felt I was going to collapse; desperation.
When I decided that I would stop and cry my eyes out, I say a young guy working as a security guard in a Gallery and asked him to help me. He called a friend who came with the motorbike and I ended up offering him 50.000 IDR to take me to my homestay in Ubud which he did, but unfortunately dropped me in the wrong one and from there, it still took me about 40 more minutes to find mine that had no signs whatsoever and was well hidden.
Not to mention that by the time I reached my destination, I could officially declare it as the worse day of my trip. Things could only get better.
Ubud; final destination
 The first thing you notice of Ubud is that Bali is a world away from Java and it feels that you have crossed to a different country. Ubud throws you in the face beauty, Balinese mysticism and sophistication.

I was shocked to realised that every Guest House, Home Stay or Hotel               entrance looked like temples and I actually went inside a few of them thinking that they were until I realised that every single accommodation had the same spectacular entrance. I was in awe and thought that it was unrealistic that every service building could be so beautiful.
Then I noticed that they were all decorated inside with different relevant sculptures of the Balinese culture; a better accommodation, nicer sculptures or constructions. It explains why on the roads surrounding Ubud are hundreds of shops that sells them or made them.

  The centre of Ubud is purely designed and dedicated to the tourism, their number one business. The Ubud that you are likely to see first is very exclusive and screams shopping. Little shops selling all sorts of clothes and crafts are absolutely everywhere, nothing to envy to Covent Garden!
There are only three things that you are going to see; shops, restaurants and accommodations temple style.
Is it nice? Yes, it is nice, beauty is always nice but is it want you want to see? No, it wasn’t. I felt that Ubud was a little bubble of order and luxury that offered the westerners all the commodities of home away from home

   I was hugely concerned that Ubud would break my budget big time. Beautiful restaurants with big menus and prices were absolutely everywhere. You know, the sort of place where people dress up to go? But I thought that locals had to eat somewhere and it would not be in those places.

With that in mind, I decided that what I had to do was keep walking pass the fancy streets and eventually I would reach the “real” Ubud which I did and when I did, I started finding warungs and other food stalls in the street. I was ready to enjoy a delicious meal for 20.000 J  
In Ubud any fancy street leads you to the real local life if you have the patience to keep walking and stop seeing fake beauty to start seeing the real one, Bali in its pure essence.


Should you rent a bike, bicycle or private tour? It is a very personal choice but you definitely will need one of them. Let’s be clear;  you will not reach the beauty of the Ubud surroundings by walking, which leaves you one of these three options.

Since I cycled non-stop for three days, I can positively say that the roads outside Ubud are in not good condition and they can get steep without being too obvious, also it is important to remember that it is very hot and humid, or very hot humid and wet (don’t even get me started with the rain pouring in my face just like if someone were throwing me buckets of it..)

Many and I mean MANY tourist were renting bikes and I can positively say that there is no other better way to get to Ubud and surroundings that with a  motorbike however I tried to rent one in a couple of places and they refused as I do not hold a driving license.
I tried to argue that it was not possible that every single westerner I saw with a motorbike hold one but it did not work out. As a matter of fact, the guy said that some tourists pay more money to get the motorbikes. Whether that is true or not…I can’t comment on it. Maybe I didn’t sound too convincing that I wanted to rent a motorbike..? (I’m very scare of them but I was trying of for the sake of seeing some far away temples)
In the streets every single shop sells tours and transfers, be concerned not, they are expensive but widely available.
For your information, I paid 40.000 per day (I bargained a bit) for the bike and they were renting motorbikes at 60.000 per day.

       When the heat of the day starts decreasing slightly and the evening approaches, as you walk around the touristy Ubud you will notice two things; every two steps a sweet lady will offer you a massage and men holding laminated pieces of paper with “Taxi” written on them will be absolutely everywhere offering to take you somewhere, even though it seemed to me that most of us were staying in accommodations within those streets but man, they were persistent…

     Balinese people from Ubud are soooo friendly. Wow…that was an incredible nice shock when you start walking around the area and absolutely everyone says hello to you. First; it shocked you and makes you shy; then you just enjoy this friendliness and let yourself correspond back.
I am at this stage unclear whether it was genuine or not, it seemed to me that it was but nevertheless, that made Ubud even more special to me that it already was.

  Ubud is green, green and green and has the most spectacular rice fields; I never got tired of seeing them. I found them to provide the eye with a beauty of great intensity and the vivid colours stay in your memory for a long time.

You should not stopped searching for them while in Ubud, of course you can reach to the most popular ones (Tegallalang) thanks to the movie of “Eat, Pray, Love” which I did however ended up reaching the Campuhan trekking (2 km total) just on the skirts of Ubud pass the market and once I reached the 2km, I kept walking and that took me to open fields of extreme beauty, I could not get enough and the only reason I had to stopped myself to keep walking and walking it was the daily rain approaching.

Here’s some other pics from Ubud and surroundings. If these don’t make you rush to book you flight ticket, I don’t know what else will!

1 comment:

  1. So inspiring... :) I cant believe how complicated and interesting this trip turned out to be, a story to tell us in details when you are back :) xxxx