Bali Hai – Ubud

28 March…And so we arrived at Ubud, no worse for wear, and met my parents at Lokasari Bungalows. We passed the turnoff for the main strip, and found the hotel a couple kilometers up a road with poorly maintained sidewalks and nothing but local convenience stores and shops with good for export. At first glance the ochre sign with whimsical white letters looked no different than the storefronts of the many of the wooden towel hanger and carved wooden kamodo dragon manufacturers, but once we passed through the temple-like gateway, the calm of the grounds became apparent. Even though the hotel is right off a busy road, the sounds could hardly be heard inside. The kids were overjoyed at seeing Mom and Dad, and my parents were amazed at how much the kids had grown. The joyous chatter was soothing after the drive.
The individual bungalows, complete with front porch, table and chairs, are separated by meandering concrete pathways beset with small pebbles, and further set apart with koi-filled moats, perfect for capturing small a child’s attention while keeping him or her at arm’s length from a lounging parent. Though WiFi only reached the childrens’ room, the family bungalow was well appointed with a couple bathrooms, our room’s having a modest tub, and a kitchenette and dining area with common entry separating our living space. All in all a nice space. Open air cut outs above the main door allowed for some air leakage, but also the geckos (who keep the mosquitos in check) entry and egress.
A small pagoda with table and floor cushions, a short distance away from our bungalow, sat beside a pool of sorts, almost like a large koi pond for people. A pair of lounge chairs sat a short distance away from the black stones at the pool’s edge.
The first afternoon we walked up and down the busy thoroughfare a short ways, exploring off the beaten path so far as we were courageous enough to brave the barking dogs. Once back at the hotel we explored the lunch options in-house (fried rice, fried noodles, jaffle (which is a sandwich put through a George foreman grill with the crusts cut off, come in various flavors), found them generally to our liking, and then retired poolside where Lucas retrieved coins from the pool bottom and the girls splashed and paddled.
That evening we took the complimentary hotel shuttle (we were the only ones there at the time so it was really a personal shuttle) to Ubud center, a downscaled and less expensive version of Seminyak with only one street running through it. Drivers milked imaginary udders and offered taxi rides, shopkeepers said their hellos, except where the shops were higher end and let’s passersby look through their plate-glass storefronts while the proprietors relaxed in their air-conditioned spaces. Even here, Circle-K convenience stores did business.
After some walking, we made our dinner venue the Cafe Lotus, which happened also to have a view of the royal palace, across a lily pond, which looked to be preparing for a cultural dance show that evening. Our traditional Balinese dinner came to our raised floor seating pagoda, and we savored each course. The kids busied themselves with watching the koi in the lily pond, and we ordered amazing desserts and watched the dance show.
The vocalist read from a script and growled his narration into the mic as the costumed performers paraded around the stage and pantomimed the story from traditional Balinese dance, princesses and demons, princes and wisemen, brightly lit across the water.
That night we slept without fear of earthquake from Nepal, and we heard no barking dogs.
Our second day in Ubud, Dad and I left Jean and Mom and the kids for a hired bike ride. Our driver drove us, our guide and our bikes some 30k from Ubud, and dropped us. We meandered through the villages, back roads and rice paddies. We stopped once for a drink of some Pocari Sweat, an Indonesian rehydration drink, and later for lunch, both times meeting our driver.
The ride, though not at all technical, was comfortable for Dad and myself, and we enjoyed the scenery and our guide Made’s (Mah-Day) company.
We arrived back in the afternoon for more pool time and decided to slum it, eating at the hotel’s restaurant that evening.
Our last day in Ubud, we asked the hotel shuttle to drop us off at the Monkey Forest, which is really a Disney-world-esque paved walkway through an area inhabited by aggressive macaques, who are not at all shy about climbing up onto hapless tourists with colorful things protruding from bags or bulging pockets. In fact, not five minutes into our walk were we when one decided that Lucas was being far too obvious about fingering the granola bar in his pocket, and hopped up to his waist, nipped his hand and surprised Lucas into dropping said treat. Guy Fleegman’s(Sam Rockwell) line from Galaxy Quest popped into our heads: “Sure they’re cute now, but in a minute they’re gonna get real ugly and there’s going to be a million more of ’em!”. One decided my sunblock looked tasty and jumped on me to grab it. I threw him off and he immediately got ticked off and began to come back for it. I growled at him and snapped my fingers, a confusing gesture Jean pointed out, as snapping the fingers often means “come and get it.” We huddled together and made our way further in, having to fend off the sunblock coveter one more time.
Once past that thicket, we meandered a bit more and found the inner sanctum, across a stone arch bridge and between the trunks of a Peepul tree. Mossy statuary stood watch over a meandering stream which dribbled and cascaded through the dense forest area and we marveled at how we had just been transported from a street side area to the deepest jungle of Indonesia. Disney World knows what it’s doing with their scenery, it’s modeled off the real thing.
Exiting the park, we observed an unfortunate truck driver trying unsuccessfully to get his beer cose, frustratingly being ripped to shreds by monkey just ten feet from the ground.
we walked up the street towards city center and our ride, purchased clothing, and got driven back to the hotel for lunch.
More pool time, a rest, and we had dinner back down town, at the driver-recommended Nomad, a contemporary twist on Balinesian food. Simply exquisite.
After dinner, Jean tried on embroidered lace dresses, unfortunately not finding any to her liking. Mom and Dad took the kids to get icecream and we went for a drink at a Martini bar. Life was good.
The next morning we had a filling breakfast and took our ride to the last place we’d stay in Bali, Amed…

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