Drinking shitty coffee in Ubud (Day 193 - 196 by Chris)

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March 27th 2016
Published: April 8th 2016
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Sunday 27th March 2016

Having had a great time in the beach area of Bali we had decided we’d mix things up a little and spend some time inland of Bali at a place called Ubud. Located only a 1-hour taxi ride from our hotel in Seminyak getting there was very easy and was quite a strange feeling leaving one area and arriving at the next by taxi. Usually our travel days consist of sweaty buses and hours of looking out of a window whereas this change was very smooth.

We had booked into ‘Ubud City Hotel’ which was quite expensive compared to other places we’d slept on our travels. The room rate was almost £30 per night and was actually quite basic. I think we were paying for the location which was on the Monkey Forest Road and very central. The hotel had some lovely gardens and even a pool, however the pool had all sorts of bugs floating on top so we never ventured into the water.

On our first day in Ubud we had a walk around the small area which is essentially a block full of shops and restaurants. The area is quite ‘artistic’ and as a result there was an abundance of shops selling art work, handmade jewelry and wooden carvings. We spent a few hours looking around the shops and had some lunch at a really nice restaurant called ‘Watercress’, which was at the very top of our budget but we couldn’t resist their strong coffee and eggs florentine.

In the evening we headed to ‘Ancak Saji Ubud Palace Court Yard’ which was at the bottom of our street and was a beautiful courtyard with a stage area where we sat cross legged on the floor for over an hour watching the traditional Balinese dance known as ‘The Leggong of Mahabrata Epic’. There were 7 separate dances in all and a mixture of individual performances and group dances. The dancers were dressed in a lot of sparkly gold and red clothes with ornate over-the-top headdresses. The dancing though was not the main thing that kept us entertained, it was the expressions the dancers made with their faces. They were clearly retelling some ancient story and the facial expressions were a massive part of this. They constantly changed from looks of fear, surprise and happiness. A really interesting hour and a half and well worth the £5 per ticket. After the performance we headed out for food before returning to our room.

Monday 28th March 2016

Ubud is a very green part of Bali and is basically countryside. We had arranged for a taxi to take us to a quite popular rice paddy field where the rice terraces are set up on varying levels which offer a great views. The taxi driver dropped us off and after paying a small fee we were allowed to enter the rice paddy. We only spent 20 minutes here as it was beginning to get quite crowded, but we did wander through some of the different levels and got some great views of the, still working rice terrace.

When we returned to the car, the taxi driver asked whether we would like to try some coffee. Slightly confused that he was asking us on a date, we soon realised that he was actually offering to take us to a coffee plantation where we could have the option of trying Lawak coffee. We actually wanted to try this delicacy whilst we were here so made sense to take him up on his offer. As we arrived we were met by an employee who welcomed us and walked us through the entrance to begin a short tour. For those who are unfamiliar with Lawak coffee, it is, in simple terms, coffee made from the coffee bean which has been eaten and poo’d out by the Lawak, a cat/ferret type animal. The poo is collected, washed and the coffee beans extracted. The information we were given was that there is some sort of enzyme in the Lawaks stomach that ferments the coffee bean and gives it a more distinct taste…. Now you might be thinking we fell victim to some practical joke, and who knows, perhaps we were, however the coffee tasted very nice and is the most expensive coffee in the world. We paid approx. £3 for a small cup to taste and was offered the option of buying some ready grinded coffee beans for an extortionate price but we politely declined. Whilst there we also sampled some other coffees and teas whilst sat looking out over the coffee plantation.

When we returned to the car, our driver drove us to Ubud where we had a relaxing evening of eating and wandering around the streets of Ubud.

Tuesday 29th March 2016

We are quickly running out of time in Indonesia and only had a vague idea of where we would be heading next. As a result, we spent today cementing those plans and doing some further research on where to go and what to see. We have decided that we will fly back into Malaysia, but the Borneo section, with the hope of seeing an Orangutan (or two) before heading into our final country, the Philippines. We spent most of the day sat in a coffee shop booking flights and reading up on the best places to visit. We also made the spare of the moment decision to spend our final full day in Indonesia climbing a volcano. One of Gemma’s work colleagues climbed Mount Batur, an active volcano in the centre of Bali only a few months ago. Gemma messaged her and she advised us to contact a particular tour company that she had a positive experience with. It was a little unusual to call some random guy over WhatsApp and ask if he could pick us up at 2:30am the following morning.

After having a productive day, we returned to our room to get an early night. Our driver was coming to collect us at 2:30am so we had to sort out some suitable walking gear and get an early night. Going to bed at 8pm is quite difficult when you can still hear people walking around outside and the bar nearby playing music, so and we probably didn’t actually fall asleep until gone 10pm.

Wednesday 30th March 2016

When the alarm went off at 2am I thought I was being abducted or something. I have never felt so disorientated and sad to have arrange such a stupid tour. When we were fully alert though and made our way out to the main road we were both quite excited about the next few hours. We got into the car and our driver said we would be at the volcano in only 45 minutes time so we both got some extra sleep in the back of the car before arriving at a car park which was pitch black. Our driver told us he was going somewhere to park and would wait for us to return. We were then approached by a man in the dark carrying sticks who told us to follow him into the woods. Thankfully this was our guide and he gave us both a walking stick and the 3 of us headed into the woods to locate the foot of the volcano. It was already 3:30am and very dark, but thankfully not very cold. He predicted we would be at the top for 5am allowing plenty of time to have breakfast before the sunrise. We walked through the woods up and down and over fallen trees with nothing but a head torch to brighten the way ahead. We were able to stop whenever we needed to, to catch our breath. The walking wasn’t too difficult, but being done on little sleep we were out of breath quite a lot. Not to mention that Gemma had only left hospital a few days previously, something we both forgot in the excitement of booking this walk very last minute.

As we walked out of the woods after approx. 30 minutes we then started to climb up the face of the volcano. This became a little harder as the surface is volcanic rock and is like walking on gravel. Each step we took involved a little slip backwards as our shoes didn’t grip instantly, so the vertical climbing was made a little more troublesome. It was so much fun though and behind us we could see the huge mount Rinjani on Lombok island which was silhouetted against the twilight. We made it to the top of the volcano for 5am and took a seat facing east to await the rising sun. We were soaked in sweat and from the mist in the air. We soon discovered how cold it was when the slight breeze blew our wet clothes against us and the lack of movement did nothing to keep us warm. Our guide told us to take a rest and he would provide breakfast. He boiled some eggs in the steam that was being emitted from the volcano and brought over some tea too. We sat down eating our breakfast along with 50+ other people who had made the trek and watched as the sun changed the sky into fire. When the sun was fully up we could see the amazing views that were hidden from us in the dark. We could see the island of Lombok and mount Rinjani and also some other peaks across Bali. There was a huge lake ahead of us which reflected perfectly the volcano. Overall a wonderful morning.

We stated our descent which we were told would only take 1 hour but would be a different challenge as we would walk down a different route. We have to say that the climb down was better due to the amazing views we had. Ever step was a picture opportunity due to the amazing sights laid out ahead of us. Our guide became a lot chattier on the descent and he had clearly woken up. He provided some information on the volcano such as its last eruption was in 2000 and in 2009 there were volcanic earthquakes which halted all hiking, and the height is 1717 metres. He also explained that his father was an ex guide and made over 500 ascents to this volcano, but had done triple figures on all of Bali’s peaks over the years. Our guide, Ketut, was now a second generation guide and had was also a teacher. He told us how he works 7 days a week as a guide waking up at 2am every day to walk up Batur and when he returns to his home at 10am he then heads to the school to teach before returning home at 8pm and not going to bed until 10pm once he has eaten. This means he is operating on 4 hours sleep per day which made us feel a little ashamed at how tired we were feeling right now. No longer will I ever complain about a long working day sat behind a desk.

When we arrived at the bottom of the volcano having had a great time slipping (and falling) down the volcanic ash and rocks, plus walking through the lush forest, we got back into the car and asked to be taken back to the hotel where we wanted to sleep. When we arrived back at the hotel at 10am we had breakfast and had full intentions of sleeping but realised if we did we would throw our body clock off and we had a busy few days ahead of us. Instead, we showered and then headed out back into Ubud to look in the shops again and visit the Puri Saraswati Temple, which was quite small but very beautiful. The main feature here was a Lilly pad covered pond which the local children were fishing in. For the rest of the day we tried to keep ourselves awake by planning some more travel before conceding to sleep after packing our bags around 9pm. The next day we were heading to the airport for our flight out of Indonesia and back into Malaysia.

Indonesia has been the country that we have spent the longest in during our trip. We used up every day of our 30-day visa (well actually 31 days as we found out when we left – read next blog!!) and it has been quite varied. We started off in Jakarta, the capital, which we wouldn’t rush back to if we are being honest. We then headed to Yogyakarta which was a great few days mixing with the locals and seeing some wonderful temples and amazing country side. We then visited the beautiful Gili islands where we got the chance to swim with turtles, an experience we will both remember forever. The islands were so much fun and both Gili T and Gili Air offered something completely different. Unfortunately, our last few days on Gili Air were cut short as a result of Gemma catching Disco Fever, but nevertheless we had a great time. After leaving the hospital on Lombok we took a short flight to Bali where we had a fun few days on the beach and then in the countryside of Ubud. All in all this was a very varied trip and we had an unforgettable time here. If we were to speak honestly, we would also have to mention that it hasn’t been a place where we found all of the locals to be friendly. We found the majority of those in the tourist trade to be quite money grabbing which can begin to frustrate you a little when you are having to constantly haggle for every single thing you buy and the amount of times people told us they had no change to return to us was frustrating. Understandable of course as they are only trying to make a living, but we found this to be more common in Indonesia than in other countries. Outside of the tourist trade though, other locals we met were extremely welcoming, friendly and smiley. There is so much more to Indonesia than the few places we visited in our 31 days and for that reason we would never rule out returning again in the future.

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