Published: February 27th 2010February 27th 2010
So this time around in Bali I decided I was not going to kill myself doing every possible tourist thing, but I did want to go to Ubud, one to try this dish I saw on an episode of none other than Anthony Bourdain, known as Babi Guling, at a restaurant he featured called Ida Oku. Ubud is also the cultural capital of Bali and sits a bit in the foot hills surrounded by beautiful rice terraces and very colorful temples.
Babi Guling is roast pig stuffed with Herbs and Chilis a very very tasty dish. Served with rice, juicy slices of pork and a serving of crackling and a blood sausage (least favorite).
So my day started out very strange, I woke up to a phone call from reception saying I had a call, then there is an indonesian woman on the phone asking 'is this Mr. Christopher'? I said yes and they told me to wait they had a call for me. Then a guy with an australian accent tells me i have won an 8 nights stay at a 5 star hotel and can they fax me over the details to my hotel, I was dumbfounded on how they got my info and said yeah okay and hung up. I promptly told my hotel I did not want any faxes and later found out that the indonesian immigration department sells your arrival cards to companies who telemarket you.....
So I found a shuttle service that was 35,000 each way (3.50) and it was odd because I was the only one on this brand new airconditioned minibus. I almost felt like I would soon be featured on my own episode of locked up abroad after being kidnapped and held in the jungle for 6 months, but all was fine. The ride to Ubud was very cool, rice terraces, temples, little villages, lush tropical vegetation. On my arrival I asked where I could find the above mentioned restaurant and as it turns out it was just around the corner, what luck.
So I get to the restaurant and it looks exactly as it did on TV. Open air seating small plates of meat rice and other assorted goodies being passed around. I couldnt tell if you sat yourself or not and asked someone sitting down and they said just have a seat. So we started to talk of course he was french so we spoke french, his name was Juan, and was a private exporter, he stayed in bali 2 months out of the year and worked the rest of the year selling his finds in France. I told him I wanted to see the rice terraces and asked about how to find a taxi. He said he had some business to do in that area and that if I could get my own way back that he would take me up there. So we hopped in a late 70's toyota land cruiser and off we went though the country side of Bali. So we stopped along the way at some wholesalers and while he finished up some business I wandered around the town. There were stores with wood carved budas, jewelry, and many other things ready for export.
We made our way to the rice terraces and parted ways. What a great guy though for doing that. I spent about 30 minutes admiring the rice terraces and took many photos while swating away people hawking crappy souvenirs like flies. They were so intense, they would bombard people as they got into their cars like 5 at a time to one victim. At the end I decided to grab a beer at a local cafe. The owner was very nice and of course had my usual 'bintang' the local beer. I told her I needed to get back to Ubud so she immediately started to recruit her family members. Most said no, but her son said he would do it. I said how much, she said you decide so I said 50,000 (5.00) she said 25K ok but in the end said 50 which was fine it means much more to them and besides I was stuck at the top of a hill in the country side.
So up pulls a motorcycle and I hopped on the back of it. I held on for dear life but every moment was just so amazing. We drove through small villages, past temples, farms, rice terraces, basically all back roads. He asked where I wanted to go and I said the moneky forest. He did a U turn and there is precisely where we headed. At the end of the ride he asked if I could take a photo of us and send it to him as a souvenir.
I headed into the monkey forest and first things first, don't be fooled, monkeys are little bastards. They will jump on your back, reach in your pockets and take things, slap and bite. I forgot all of this as I entered the sanctuary. They were everywhere and sure enough those who put food in their pockets had little hands in them to follow. It was so muggy and about to rain. I ran into a group of guys from Australia who previously took my picture at the rice terrace. I said hi and continued on, but started to feel uneasy about the monkeys. So I headed out and debated my next move. I walked past a few stores and a cafe I looked into the cafe and straight through the back could see there was no back wall but a view of a rice terrace, so I decided to go in and have none other than a bintang. It was a very nice cafe with chill out music playing, I had my own table right a the back of the cafe with a front row view of a man planting rice, palm trees and a temple. I read, watched a rain storm and just chilled out, it was so nice.
As time went on I realized I needed to figure out how to get back to catch my bus. The waiter said he was off and could take me but disappeared. As I asked someone else in the restaurant a very nice Australian lady named Sharon offered to drive me. She was building a house in Ubud, knew Bali very well and also dealt with exports. We had a very nice drive back to the cafe to where I was to catch my bus. I had 45 minutes to kill so decided to go into the Ubud central market as I had something in particular in mid to get Steve. I wandered the labrynth of stalls until I found what I was looking for, but had to make a few attempts to make a fair deal for all parties involved. I had just enough time to make my bus and decided to nap on my way back. I had such a great day and met so many generous people whom without this day would have not been the day that it was!