Today we move from Manggis to Ubud by way of a car and driver/guide. He is to pick us up at 8:30AM and, believe it or not, he is waiting and we are on time! Luggage loaded, we are off for a full day of touring, Carolyn’s prearranged itinerary, at 8:40AM.
Our host today is Putu Arnawa who is Balifriend Tours. He came to us by recommendation and we pass him on to our readers as patient, skilled, knowledgeable, fun, careful, courteous, etc. Use his services when you are in Bali!
Carolyn and Putu had worked up a full day seeing the salt making village and a temple on the East coast and then going up to the Mountains for a temple and the World Heritage Site rice terraces and finishing with a coastal temple. It sounded good on paper...but things change during festival time!
We drive back toward Denpasar on the coast road and decide to turn up into a village that we noticed yesterday preparing for a local festival. We drive into the village area and stop to get some pictures of the street decorations. Our stop happens to be right in front of an elementary school. The children are out in the yard on snack/recess break and, like kids everywhere, are anxious to say hello and have their pictures taken.
Leaving the village and turning back on the main road, we drive several miles, passing rice and vegetable tracks, that stretch to the sea before Putu asks if we would like to see a "sea purification festival?"
Bali is approaching its New Year on March 21 and each village is getting ready for the celebration and preparing for the Hindu purification festival all in preparation for the new year. New Year on Bali is a "Silent New Year" when there is no travel, the airport is closed, no fire or electricity! This is enforced and you can be fined for breaking the rules. Since the festivals are colorful and interesting, at least one is a must see. So, down a narrow, paved track toward the sea. He lets us out to walk to the beach while he turns the car around, no mean feat on this narrow track, and says he will catch up. Sure enough, he is up with us soon after we come to a low seawall covered with parked motorbikes and some cars. We walk toward the sound of bells and oriental music while taking in the black sand beach and arc of the bay.
Without being intrusive, we can take some photos of the prayers and gathered crowd. There is everything from kids flying small kites, to food vendors selling Sate up to and including the devout following the lead of their priests. It is quite a party!
From here we drive further East and then turn North and begin climbing up into the hills towards the center of the island passing through one small village after another and many rice fields. Traffic is very heavy on this narrow main road but soon we turn left onto an even more narrow road to cross one of the many deep river gorges that make going East to West a jig saw puzzle experience. We pass by a small quiet water temple and stop. Putu likes this small temple because it seldom has anyone (tourist) visiting. It is a simple temple, but looks nice sitting out in the small, green lake. The sky is getting grey and looking like rain so our pictures aren’t the best. Across the street is a spring and people are gathered there filling five gallon jugs with water and a little further on there is the bath pool with men bathing in the "all together"...reminds us of India.
Onward, climbing all the time, though many more small villages and past more rice fields, we turn on the main road to Pursa Duna Bratan. This is a very busy area, but the temple is not too crowded. Putu has been racing the afternoon rain and it hits just as we arrive. Fortunately it doesn’t rain long or very hard so we tour the temple without getting too wet. This one is famous because part if it is in the lake and looks like it is floating. It is pretty, but Dick doesn’t care a thing about temples.
Soon we move on to the main stop of the day the World Heritage Site of the Jatiluwih Village Rice Terraces. Just before we get to the Terraces, we get caught up in the purification festival parade of one of the small villages. We follow the parade to the temple and then on to the Terraces, The clouds have lifted some and the terraces are spectacular even if the sky is still a bit grey. Putu gets into the act with his camera and all three of us work the terraces over.
The visitor must come to appreciate that virtually all the labor needed to grow rice on terraces is done by hand. There is no way to get any sort of mechanical equipment onto the terraces without destroying them and they have been there for at least 1,000 years! We do see, just before arriving at Alila Ubud Resort, a man using an ancient, gasoline powered, contraption to level a very small field by a paved road for planting. That is the only thing mechanical we see all day in the fields. Stoop labor all day, every day, three crops a year!
It is now after 3PM and it is an hour and a half direct to the hotel plus another 90 minutes if we go to the sea temple first. We are tired and ready to get off the road so we head to the hotel. We have to backtrack and Putu is a little concerned that we will get caught up in the village parade from the temple to the river that runs through the Terraces. The villages in this area use the river instead of the sea for their purification ceremony. We are in luck and the people are still at the temple, but the roads are beyond awful, barely wide enough for one car much less a car and a truck trying to pass. The pot holes are huge and Putu has to stop and then slowly negotiate each hole. Driving in Bali is very tedious.
We finally arrive at Alila Ubud at 5PM after 8:30 hours with Putu while seeing many sights and driving some very rough roads. Our stay at this resort does not get off to a good start when our room is not ready due to "short notice." We have only had these reservations for nearly a year! It turns out that Manggis has warned them of our mobility issues and they have changed our room at the last minute. This room is supposed to be easier for Carolyn to get to. Well, after climbing a flight of steps to check in, we descend these steps and go down three more flights to get to the terrace the room is on and then climb a half flight to get into the room. Is this their definition of easier?! Mind you, we have to climb back up these same three flights to get to the restaurant or take the shuttle etc! Carolyn is not a happy camper since our room was suppose to be ground floor.
Unfortunately, the room is hot and not made up when we are escorted there. Hot and cold running porters have it set up in no time but the AC is showing no signs of solving the temperature problem any time soon. But the AC is not the only issue; the room safe does not work and is not bolted down, there is a leak under the sink and most of the room’s towels are damp, if not wet. We ask them to send a fan and they send a good, tall floor model that does move the air. So we hope for the best and get unpacked and do a bit of trip housekeeping.
Dick is still having no luck getting our electrical plug adapters delivered to our hotel in Bangkok but he does manage to get a call through to FedX in the US. Before losing the connection, he does ascertain that his problem has been assigned to a specific person for resolution.
We go to dinner in the hot and humid, open air restaurant a little before 7PM. We have not even bothered to clean up since we know we will just sweat down new clothes at dinner. Carolyn has six pieces of chicken sate as a main course with sticky rice and a peanut sauce the chef whips up that does not contain soy. Dick has two orders of grilled scallops, total of four scallops, in a nice tapioca sauce. We finish up with ceramic cones with a scoop of white chocolate and cinnamon ice cream that is very good. A nice light supper. As we eat the temperature does drop to a some what comfortable level.
As we leave the restaurant, it starts to rain and we are handed an umbrella for our "short" walk. This is obviously a regular occurrence as they have umbrellas everywhere. We get to the room OK but it starts to rain heavily soon after we arrive and we are pleased to have proof that our thatched roof room does not leak.
We both enjoy the, for us, unique open air shower. It has a very nice rainfall shower head with decent pressure and hot water. It is still raining but not pouring and the sound of the rain and the sound of the shower blend very nicely, thank you.
After our long day of touring, we are both pooped. The fan is moving the air and it is not totally uncomfortable but neither of us like to sleep under a fan and that may be a problem by morning. Oh well, this traveling is not as easy as it used to be and lights are out by 10PM.