November 08, 2014

Spectacular Ubud - Bali Day 5

I have had a travel bucket list since being a little girl in my tiny Austrian country side village. My dream destinations were mostly Canadian and US American cities at the time (and Paris, of course), but as I am growing older, I seem to prefer nature over people and the manufactured. Aside from choosing quieter destinations, I also keep my bucket list a lot shorter these days, knowing that fostering a career doesn't always go hand in hand with constant travel and hence allowing me to tackle my wanderlust in a much more manageable fashion. After my gap year I struggled going back to 9 - 5 and realising that travel is going to be a privilege from now on, when I still felt it was my dear right to see the world whenever I felt like hopping on a plane. I have since made peace with traveling twice a year, one trip leading me to a new destination, while the other reunites me with my family.

Ubud has been on this very bucket list since I properly integrated into Australian culture and heard about it from every second Aussie who has ever made it to Bali and wasn't completely drunk for the entirety of their stay. :-)

Our trusty taxi driver Ketut picked us up nice and early and from the moment we hopped in the cab we completely lost track of where he was taking us. We asked him to take us to the rice fields, but little did we know he was going to show us a bit more culture along the way. This was such a "what the fuck" experience that still makes me shrug and laugh to this day. He dropped us off at location after location and we just rolled with it.

We started our day with a traditional dance performance called "Barong" in a small temple building.

After that we drove through tiny windy gravel roads, past gigantic commercial rice fields and through tropical forests. We finally got to another place we didn't expect to see that day - a massive stream with a bonus waterfall! There was a tiny shop with a  baby monkey chained to a pole (uurrrghhh the amount of animal abuse we saw on our trip was heart breaking), a million gigantic stone stairs leading down to the waterfall  and a million and one perfect photo locations!

After the amazing high intensity training of climbing back up those stairs in forty degree heat and almost 90 % humidity, we finally headed to our first proper rice field location:

This is what an excited lady looks like when she ticks an amazing thing off her bucket list!

After this hidden and quiet spot, we moved on to the super touristy Tegalalang rice terraces.They were equally as beautiful and the views were worth listening to Ketut's road rage and body slamming our way through the crowds.

Ok, can you see now why this was so highly rated on my bucket list? Will it excite you if I tell you you can climb all these rice fields without a tour guide? How much more excited can you get? What about if I tell you a rather old toothless man sits hidden amongst the terraces and scares then offers tourists who stroll past the opportunity to take a photo with him? Of course he wants money but he will put a funny hat on for you! It's truly a magical place people!

An attempt to put into writing how I felt after being at Tegalalang would ultimately sound cheesy but I'll give it a shot anyway. I was brimming with excitement but also humbled and at a whole nother level of content. Travel is the ultimate remedy for a battered soul. It's one of the few experiences that will challenge you to get back in touch with who you are, away from your daily routine, your stress factors, your usual surroundings.
Being at a place I have anticipated to see for such a long time had the emotional resemblance of one of those magical childhood moments you never fully forget. You know, the ones you promise yourself you will always remember in detail and that you look back at with painful nostalgia. The memories start to blur a bit but are still clear enough to allow for a bite of that original excitement to move you.


The feeling of an infinite number of nerve receptors simultaneously going mental in my body while I tried to soak up every single image, smell, noise, taste of this special moment were eventually trumped by my growling stomach  (hunger you fool, cheers for always ruining the good moments), so we ended up leaving Tegalalang and headed for Ubud's markets.

You will find identical items for sale at all of Bali's markets, but Ubud's are HUGE, cheaper than most others and, for all the adventurers amongst you, the potential to get lost or die of incense poisoning is pretty high. I know that because I got lost. It's not something I think back of with joy - in fact, there is a part of the markets up a staircase that looks just like a labyrinth with vendor's faces poking out behind ceiling high walls of sarongs, coasters and penis shaped souvenirs. I bought wooden carved cats in the shape of superheros (no penises, sad face) and fiberglass pineapples and beaded coin purses and I blame it all on the distress this place caused. I feel as though my emotional state could be best described as follows: I walked into the markets well groomed and came out looking like two monkeys had sex on my head. I mean, there are piles of flammable shit EVERYWHERE and in close proximity to burning incense and cigarettes. One bad move and WHOOOMPH I imagine the place would burn down in 30 seconds. I still wasn't anxious enough to forget about my empty stomach though, so I did what my parents would do in this situation and bought all the weirdest looking food. And then some (tiny bananas)
A taste of the outdoor area.
Teeny tiny bananas.
So that's it for Ubud. Fondness of fondue memories. Ubud 4-eva!