First days in Bali

Being alone in Bali for an entire week is an odd feeling, as the island is so much connected to the best family holiday I’ve ever had. But I’ve decided to make the best of this time and to go where I cannot go with the children, or at least be even more adventurous than usual.

Ubud: the more it changes, the less it changes

In 6 years Ubud has both changed and not changed a lot. It’s grown a bit, become busier, has more nice vegan and healthy cafes and restaurants, but the overall atmosphere is the same. Prices have almost doubled!

The place I’m staying in, Dewa Bungalows, is good value for money, with a 2-beds bungalow all by myself, a lovely little terrace, a nice fresh pool and very friendly and helpful staff, and it’s only 15 EUR per night. It’s particularly well situated, at the beginning of Jalan Hanuman, the second busiest street in Ubud with lots of nice restaurants,, shops and temples.

Best way to meet the locals? Break something!

On the morning of the second day I decide to rent a motorbike so I am free to go wherever I want. On the first day of me trying out the bike, I head north towards Mount Agung, Bali’s highest volcano, and pass by several nice rice terraces (Tegallagang, Ceking), which aren’t very impressive though compared to what I’ve already seen in southern China, Vietnam and elsewhere in Bali.

As the weather isn’t amazing and it looks like it’s going to rain, I decide to head back to Ubud and that’s when my bike stops working, or rather doesn’t want to start again… uhhh! I ask a local and he painfully manages to explain to me how to get to the nearest garage. Luckily I am going downhill, so don’t need to push the bike, and can simply let it glide down the road to the nearest mechanic. The latter explains to me with signs that it’s nothing, just my injector, and in less than one minute solves my problem – without even asking for anything!

At that point, the young guy who showed me the way arrives, introduces himself as Styawan and we strike up a short conversation. I explain I’m interested in the ceremonies that will be organised for Nyepi, Bali’s New Year celebrations, and in particular the Ogoh Ogoh parades, where Balinese youngsters parade giant styrofoam sculptures of Balinese gods, demons and witches. Styawan then invites me to stay at his parents’ place for the day before Nyepi and to attend both the temple ceremony, the Ogoh Ogoh parade and the dancing that takes place right after.

Exciting! We exchange Facebook contacts – in Bali and Indonesia in general Facebook is used by almost everyone under 30, it’s the best and cheapest way to stay in touch. For the next couple of days, I get regular news on the progress of the Ogoh Ogoh sculptures and the Nyepi decorations of the little village of Jasan, where I’ll be coming back on the 27th of March.

Finally I make it back to Ubud as the sun sets, riding along small winding roads, taking me through beautiful rice fields via short stops to lovely little village temples, just in time before the evening rain kicks in.

So my travel tip of the day is the following: if you want to get a real glimpse of the local culture, break something!

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