Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Looking Around in Bali

Written by Karen.

During our stay in Ubud, Bali, we were able to meet up with some Swiss friends of ours - Sabine and Andy.  We originally met them when we were overlanding in our VW Vanagon in 2015 in Oaxaca, Mexico.  We stayed in touch as they went further into South America, and we returned to the USA to assist with my sister’s medical care.  They mentioned to us that they were planning on spending some time in Bali, and since we decided that Southeast Asia was next up for our world tour, we made plans to get together - and Bali was the best place.  
We got a chance to hang out together in Bali for a few days, eating great food and getting caught up on our lives.  Our reunion was much easier because they graciously made arrangements for us to stay in the same family homestay they were staying at in Ubud.  

A few days later when they left, we moved into their bedroom suite, which overlooked a jungle ravine and was thus very private.  The very large terrace seemed to fly over the trees and jungle foliage.  Sitting out on the terrace was a lovely way to start our day and to cool down in the heat of the afternoon.  The sounds of the jungle made their way up the steep and overgrown slopes and it felt like we were very, very far away from our previous lives. 

This was our first experience participating in a homestay environment.  To be honest, we had heard about the concept of homestays before, but didn’t really know what to expect living within a local family’s environment.  We tend to like our privacy and being able to ‘do our own thing.’  However, this homestay - the Latugu Homestay - allowed us to do both.  We originally booked for a week-long stay, and then added an additional couple of days, and then a few more, and then yet another week.  We would have stayed much longer had we been able to extend our visa.  But, the bonus is that we now know exactly where we will stay when we come back to Ubud, Bali some day.  


It is typical for a Balinese family to live in a family compound comprising of multiple buildings.  This picture shows the homestay from our bedroom side terrace.  The lower room is the kitchen.  We found that throughout Bali, the kitchen was often outside or in a different area from the other living areas.  Each morning we would lean over the terrace rail and that would be the signal for the woman to start our breakfast.  There were about five different bedrooms built around this main courtyard and the quiet morning would every so often be broken with 'good morning' calls and response flying around.  There was a lot of activity throughout the day as various family members worked on different projects.  
This woman was the primary person who cooked our food and did the housekeeping for the homestay.  She was kind - always remembering our preferences - and when she smiled would light up the room.  Every morning, she would go around the compound during the offerings ritual.  We would find tiny mounds of cooked rice and smell the fragrancy of the incense burning on the rail outside our room and know it was time to get up.  
A typical breakfast for us:  Omelette with herbs, greens, tomatoes and onions cooked with the egg and simply folded over; coffee; chopped fresh fruit; and toast.  It was simple and delicious. 
Our terrace outside of our bedroom sliding doors.  Adam is working on his computer.  Our drinking water is on the coffee table in the foreground.  
Our view into the jungle ravine.  It wasn't so many decades ago that this family raised rice on the terraces cut into these hills that are now covered in this overgrown foliage.  We talked often with one of the brothers that now run this homestay about just how difficult it was to raise rice, and what a difference tourism has made to his family.  This family homestay helps brings in a steady stream of income.  Nowadays there are many homestays in Ubud as other families try and augment their incomes.  
You can't go far without hearing the throaty cock-a-doodle-do of a rooster.  This one seemed to like hanging out under our terrace.
There were at least two Komodo dragons living in the stream at the bottom of the ravine.  This guy was pretty big - about six feet long.  It was very quick for its size, easily able to turn and disappear under the ferns.  To me, they looked like a combination of a lizard, snake and alligator as he moved his head from side-to-side flickering his pronged tongue.  They eat - among other things - chickens and roosters - and once I knew that, I listened for our rooster's call with a little more concern.  Well, except for when he let loose at 3 am!
Adam, me, Sabine and Andy eating dinner at Mama's down the street.

Our days spent in Ubud settled into somewhat of a defined routine: breakfast outside on the large terrace overlooking the jungle, then doing some computer work, then going for a walk or hike or some other outdoor activity or errand, enjoying a late lunch and either returning to our little bedroom for some down time or venturing further into town for some refreshing drinks, hear some music, or finding some other evening activity.  It was altogether very easy to slide into a comfortable lifestyle, enjoying whatever presented itself to us that moment. 

A big priority for us is to try different foods, and Balinese cuisine has much to sample.  We tried different restaurants here and there; we even tried the only Mexican place in town, and returned quite often, I must admit.  Muy bueno.  The town is full of eateries of every description.  


Anthony Bourdain at some point in his travel/food show visited this particular restaurant:  Babi Guling Ibu Oka.  It is all about the pig here, especially suckling pig and all parts pork.  It's all pretty straight forward.  You sit down and they bring you a paper doily full of different ways to eat pig.  I'll say that I liked some parts better than others, but it was all good.  
I am seriously in love with the Balinese spices.  
We found a little tapas place that we went back to quite often because it allowed us to sample different Balinese foods in small portions.  
Here's the menu from our little Balinese tapas place.  The exchange rate at the time of our visit was 13,355 IDR to $1USD.  
We had heard good things about the local Mexican restaurant, Taco Casa Bali, but had initially held off going.  It altogether sounded too good to be true and I didn't want to risk being disappointed.  Well, it was good.  Very, very good.  In fact, we went back and back and back again three days in a row just to scratch that burrito and taco itch.  I tried their nachos as well just to be able to have the salsa, jalapeƱos, and guacamole.  It was all good.  
A helpful reminder as you went to the bathroom.

Following are some photographs illustrating (and summarizing) one of our typical days spent walking around and exploring the beautiful paradise that is Bali.  Hopefully you will get an idea of what we actually experienced while we were there.  Bali is truly a magical place, endlessly fascinating, and well worth the time that we spent living there.

A traditional front door.   
The first thing that you see when you open the front door is usually one of the gods.  This is Ganesha.

The intricately decorated bamboo poles are not only beautiful and graceful, but are purposed to reflect sacred gratitude.  

We would come across these little homes/shops randomly during our walks through the rice paddies.  Sometimes the shops would offer art, or food, or water for sale.  It was a welcome respite.

That was a pretty good hike that we took today exploring Bali.  Having reached this blog's technical capabilities, I'll put together another blog post for us to walk around Ubud for our next walk about together.  Until then......


Jennifer Chase said...

Fantastic photographs! I would love to visit Bali. I hope you both are doing well :)

This Journey We Call Life said...

Hi Jennifer! Thanks!:) You would love Bali... I really enjoyed Ubud and there's so much more to see on the island of Bali. It certainly got my creative juices flowing! :)) Take care.