I was lucky enough to travel to Bali, Indonesia during the semester break of my first year in Taiwan in January 2014. Now, I have had some great travel experiences, and I can say, without hesitation, Bali tops them all. I had been having a hard first year in Taiwan, and when I got my chance to go away, vacation, and explore a new place, there was just something about Bali that inspired my soul at a time when I needed it most. And that something about Bali continues to warm my heart when I reminisce today. I managed to hit a few different spots in Bali, and today I want to take you back to my time in the heart of Bali, Ubud.
On my second day in Bali, I booked a driver I was recommended to explore Ubud. Ubud is the town Elizabeth Gilbert lived in that she wrote about in her best-selling memoir, Eat Pray Love. I didn’t know much about it, but I knew if I had the chance to go there I should. So I got in touch with Mr. Bedu, the driver I hired and he picked me up late Monday morning. He charged about $70 USD per day and will take you wherever you want. It’s not a bad deal when you really don’t want to deal with figuring out the public transport. During our drive, Mr. Bedu explained a lot of things to me about Balinese culture. There are vast differences between western and Indonesian culture. Mr. Bedu has a lot of experience with westerners, being a tourist driver, and he does a nice job explaining his native culture to his clients.
My Visit with Old Ketut Liyer
I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go in Ubud with my driver, so I told him to just bring me to the places he most recommended. When he said he often takes people to see Ketut Liyer, the medicine man who Elizabeth Gilbert writes about in Eat Pray Love, I knew I wanted to meet him. In her book, Ketut gives Elizabeth a prophecy for her life, and nearly all of it did end up coming true. I wasn’t all that interested in getting fed a prophecy, I mostly just wanted to meet this person from this memoir I thoroughly enjoyed. My driver told me that since he became famous he cannot use his “powers” for commercial gain anymore, so the things he tells people are basically just a bunch of crap. I didn’t really care since I don’t really believe in fortune-tellers anyway. The movie was shot at his house, and apparently, the filmmakers wanted to cast the real guy for the movie, but he turned it down. I took a lot of pictures of his house, – so it’s cool watching the movie now and seeing that I’ve been to his house.
Ketut is a very old man who sits on the floor all the time. I bet he needs help getting up and walking after that.
The moment with Ketut I had been waiting for…
When it was my turn with Ketut, I saw that he was a very happy, very smiley, and very toothless old man. Then after about 2 minutes of talking to him, I realized he really is an old man. Why? Because after about 2 minutes he had already asked me the same questions a few times. “Where are you from?” America. “Are you yet married?” No. “You yet have boyfriend?” No. “AAH! Then you marry me! AHAH, I kidding, I kidding, you are very very beautiful, and I very very ugly!” Yes, this exchanged happened about 4 times in the 10-15 minutes I was talking to him. But, hey, he never dropped his very happy, toothless, warm smile. Later when I got back to my hostel I told the owner of the hostel that I visited Ketut. His first response was “Did he ask you to marry him?” Apparently, that old man’s quite the player.
Next stop on my Ubud trip was an old Hindu temple. It was quite beautiful. I can’t remember how old it is. I had to wear a sarong around my waist because apparently, my short shorts were too “immodest” to wear to a place of worship. Woops. It was a hot day, alright?
Satria Coffee Plantation – home of the poop coffee
Our next stop was Satria Coffee Plantation, a place where people harvest coffees, teas, and spices. Apparently, the most expensive coffee you can buy in the world is made there. It’s the most expensive because there is a rodent native to this area that can smell the difference in quality in coffee beans that humans can not smell. The rodent only eats the highest quality coffee beans, and then people collect the coffee beans from the dung of the rodent. There’s a significant cleaning process (I would hope), and then those beans are cooked and ground to produce the greatest coffee quality in the world. This plantation gave me samples of many of their teas and coffees, but I still wasn’t very interested in drinking the poop coffee.
After tasting the coffee samples, we took off to the monkey forest. The monkey forest is beautifully groomed with trails, bridges, etc to provide a really nice tourist experience and to interact with so many monkeys! There are monkeys galore in monkey forest, but you need to be careful, they might steal your stuff! As I was leaving one of them jumped onto my bag and I needed to shake him off! Those little monkeys are mischevious little creatures!
These photos below were taken by a local man who offers to take photos and asks for donations from tourists. A lot of tourists don’t like this kind of behavior, but I have different feelings about it. Indonesia is a 3rd world country, and people are struggling there. If a man without a job is offering to take photos for me, I am more than happy to give him a couple of dollars. I wouldn’t have these pictures without that man’s help, and for that, I am very grateful and feel it was more than worth it for a couple of dollars.
Silver Factory and Art Gallery
Later my driver brought me to a silver factory, where there was lots of beautiful (and expensive) jewelry there. Then he brought me to an art gallery. This art was beautiful but there was one piece that I just wanted to stare at the whole time. The problem is if you stare, the people there think keep trying to get you to make an offer for the piece. The painting was just a tiger staring at you, but there was something so striking to me about how calm yet fierce the tiger looked, staring at me. It was somehow soothing to me to see that a creature could be so calm, powerful and fierce. I really just wanted to stare at it forever, but I didn’t want anyone bugging me. So I looked around, and then I left. I wish I had some photos of these places. I can’t remember if they had signs forbidding photography, or if I was just too intimidated to take photos with people watching me look at things. Either way, it’s a shame I don’t have any to share.
French Crepe Shop
Wandering around Ubud later into the night, I stumbled upon a very cute little crepe shop run by a French woman. I ordered a couple of crepes and talked with her for a little while. She had grown up in France, but moved to Bali decades ago and has lived there ever since. When I asked her if she had gone back to visit, she said she had, but it was expensive to fly on her Indonesian income. I didn’t ask her why she chose to stay and live in Ubud where her income would likely be lower than it would be in many other places in the world. I wish I had asked her, I think an answer to that question could have held a powerful lesson.
Staying in Ubud for the night
It was getting late so I made an unplanned choice to stay un Ubud for the night. My driver found a decent hostel for me to stay in for the night. If I remember correctly, it was about $15 USD for the night, and it was a private couple’s room with a bathroom. To my surprise, it came with a complimentary, delicious breakfast!
Ubud is a place I would love to return to later on in my life. Writing this article filled me with the warm memories I hold of the place. It sure is a unique spot in the world.