Travelling Homebody relaxing in Bali

Relaxing in Bali: my first two weeks

Despite the stressful start to my journey, my two weeks relaxing in Bali have been a gift, aside from a bout of diarrhea that I always seem to get while I’m here. Here’s a rundown of what I got up to, which actually hasn’t been very much except writing, writing and more writing!

Ubud

I spent the first couple of days in Ubud out of sorts, not being able to get my travel groove on. The Tiger Air flight getting here didn’t help, and I missed my cat. I also thought: what the fuck am I doing quitting my job and running off to Vietnam? And I thought about Made, who I met the first time I was here. I spent one day by the pool reading and feeling sorry for myself, and then pulled myself together and booked myself into a couple of day and half-day activities.

The first activity was a cooking class with Canting Bali. I’d only ever done one (as part of a group tour in Vietnam in 2010) so I didn’t know what to expect. I have to say it was brilliant. There was a group of seven of us (German, French, Belgian and Canadian) and our guide took us to the Ubud Market first. It was morning, so the vendors were still servicing the locals (in the afternoon, it’s tourists). He showed us the herbs, spices, fruit, vegetable and proteins that we would be cooking with that day. Then it was back to the family home to cook. It was very hands on and enjoyable: there was lots of slicing and dicing and pounding and stirring and frying. All up we (as a group) prepared seven or eight dishes, including soup and dessert, which we ate for lunch. I can highly recommend this activity.

The next day I signed up for a cycling tour that cycled down from Mt Batur. The cycling took about three hours, but the tour itself went pretty much all day. I must say I did not enjoy this as much as the cooking class—actually, I didn’t enjoy it at all—it was something I endured. After picking up all the guests (there were eleven of us), we were taken to Tagallalang rice paddies, then a coffee plantation for Kopi Luwak (not a fan—it’s expensive and cruel), then to a rather ordinary restaurant for “breakfast” (at 11am) of a banana pancake. Tea and coffee were free, but were charged for water. Then it was onto the cycling part. The bikes were quite old and poorly maintained. A couple didn’t work. We were advised to use the left brake (back wheel) rather than the right (front) for safety reasons. I got on, and I have to say my butt was sore within five minutes. The seat was like sitting on concrete. I was sore for days afterwards.

During the cycle down from Mt Batur, we stopped every half hour or so (at a village temple, at a family compound, at a wood carving shop and rice paddies) while the guide explained what each was about. I was so bored. There were a couple of very steep hills to traverse, but it was mainly riding through villages (I almost collected a dog that ran out in front of me, and my wheels slipped on loose gravel even though I was going slowly). After our cycle, we ended up at a restaurant for “lunch” (at 4pm) where the food was quite ordinary. I ate one tiny bit of fried tofu before declaring it dodgy (tough, bitter and cold) that I’m sure gave me the diarrhea I then experienced for the next few days. I was not impressed.

I spent three nights in Ubud and I stayed at the Village Guest House, a short walk from the Ubud Markets. Yannick and his wife Komang were very kind, and the accommodation was delightful. There are three well-appointed rooms at the back of Yannick’s family compound, with a small pool and lounges. Breakfast was included and it was delicious. Even though it’s close to central Ubud, it’s very quiet. I can highly recommend a stay here.

Writers’ Retreat at Sharing Bali

So me and my diarrhea arrived at Sharing Bali (located about 20km north of Ubud, in a village called Singaparang) and I was so happy to see my friends Karen Wills and Jacq Burns (from the London Writers’ Club). Technically, I wasn’t doing the retreat (as the other three writers were). I was here to write. And write I did. I probably knocked out about 10,000 words of my novel.

It was here that I got my travel groove on (and got rid of my diarrhea with a day of fasting). I settled into an easy routine: breakfast at 7.30 or 8am, write until lunch at 1, do a bit of reading after lunch, and write or read until dinner, then after dinner, watch a movie on my laptop (no TVs and no wi-fi at Sharing Bali). I was usually asleep by 10pm. Rinse and repeat for four more days. Bliss!

The weather made it very conducive to this kind of routine. It was warm and sunny in the morning, but by lunch time it was raining and the storms had set in, often lasting until dawn. Perfect writing weather!

Those five days flew by mighty fast, and before I knew it I was on my way to Sanur for my last five days in Bali.

Sanur

The easy routine that I established at Sharing Bali continued into Sanur. I was back at Jukung Guest House and it was nice to be back in familiar territory. I woke up and read (despite having a TV) until 10.30ish (breakfasted at 8), swam until 12ish, wandered into Sanur for lunch, and then after lunch, wrote until dinner and then, after dinner (which I’d shopped for at the supermarket), I allowed myself some TV viewing with a Bintang or two. The weather is similar to Singaparang’s: warm to hot in the morning, then stormy and raining in the late afternoon.

I like Sanur. It’s quiet and low-key and has some great places to eat cheaply. The only disappointment was the seafood dinner I had on the second night at Warung Amphibia (with Jacq, at her friend’s recommendation) which was inedible. Maybe it was because we ate late, but my fish was tough and lukewarm, and my “chips” were soggy potato crisps on skewers. It was bloody awful. I fed mine to the stray cat hanging around, and I wasn’t charged for it, thank God.

I did nothing touristy at all while I was in Sanur. I could have gone to Denpasar Markets or taken a boat to the islands for a day trip or go to the Bali Bird Park. I flirted briefly with each of these ideas before dismissing them. To be honest, I was quite content taking it easy.

Last word

This trip to Bali is very different to the first trip where I met Made, and the second, where I broke up with Made. I thought about him quite a lot while I was here. Not in a I want to get in touch with him way, but a I wonder if I’ll bump into him and what would I say and I did this with Made and it was really cool kind of way. It would be fair to say that his presence haunted me like a ghost the entire time I was here, which probably added to the unsettled feeling I had at the beginning of my trip.

 

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