May 17, 2015

My Dad enjoys going on motorbike trips around various European countries, and as such had some valuable advice to impart. Write notes on things you do every day, because you will definitely forget everything, and you'll have no semblance of a timeline. He doesn't write a blog (though I've argued it would be a fine addition to his website) but it's still nice to glance back and remember the day you bought the overpriced revolting hotdog, or settle a debate on whether it was a kindly Japanese lady or an Australian tourist in Bali who helped you when your giant suitcase split open. You'd be surprised at how utterly awful your memory is. I did exactly this. A little notepad file called 'China.txt' (lack of foresight). Since I wasn't great at writing blog entries in real-time, this proved invaluable. Also I was able to put honest details in, that aren't allowed go in published Internet stuff, like a paragraph-long moan about a persistent ear infection. You can imagine my dismay when going to write this Ubud entry, my little China.txt file had inexplicably disappeared. I searched and searched and eventually, even more puzzlingly, found a file called 'Holiday Notes.txt' but it was only in my 'Recent Items' folder, and was missing the last 2 entries. This laptop, struggling to die for so long, has now turned on me for forcing it to stay alive. 'I will destroy what you love most,' it croaks from its deathbed, 'self indulgent rants about your ear infections.'

So anyway, 'Holiday Notes.txt' now successfully saved on The Internet, let us move onto Ubud.

It's so green. If you were to scan all my Ubud photos and extract some kind of average dominant colour, it would be green. Please do this and report your results, it sounds like a lot of fun. It should be green, as it rained every day, dampening both clothes and spirits.

The four of us stayed in a pleasant hotel just outside Ubud town, and just next to the Monkey Forest. The hotel itself was actually within the rice fields, so we could see the local farmers working every day. The quickest way to the town is through the Monkey Forest - a nature reserve and Hindu temple. It is absolutely full of Balinese Longtailed monkeys, who quite frankly have their own agenda. You can buy food there for them if you have a death wish, but there's really no need. If you show any interest they'll happily clamber all over you in the hope of stealing your stuff. I argued that the large, bearded ones were much cuter than the babies. Anna didn't agree, so presumably she thinks extremely ugly hairy human babies are nice to look at. The forest had another temple, but it was Hindu this time which was novel.

Laying rice fields
I like this monkey
I actually brought four flannel shirts with me, so while it appears I wore the same flannel shirt in every part of our journey, the reality is slight less awful

Ubud is mostly market shops and restaurants, with lots of assorted temple bits everywhere. It's charming and lively, apart from the sewer running under the treacherously broken footpath. On our first night Dan and I figured it seemed short to walk into Ubud, why not walk back to the hotel? The Monkey Forest was closed, but the road couldn't be that much longer. It took us an hour and a half, in pitch black night, on windy roads with no footpaths and rally drivers. When we told the hotel staff they thought we were insane. We did not make that mistake twice.

No section of our holiday would be complete without a really long walk, so the following day we did the Campuhan Ridge Walk. I say 'did' as if it was a monstrous feat of physical endurance, but really it's just a very green 4km walk through beautiful Ubud countryside. You get lovely views of the terraced rice fields and at the top there's a cafe.

Dan decided to eventually embrace the fact that he always leans unnecessarily into photos
A lot of green
It's even greener in real life

The rain usually didn't start until midday so the next morning we all went on a day trip around Bali. It's not very big and if you hire a driver you can see an awful lot. Exceedingly good value (very cheap). We started with a Treetop Adventure Park featuring obstacle courses of varying difficulty, and heights. You have a harness (the guys from Sumatra would be disgusted) and you climb things, pull your way across ropes, walk on rope bridges deliberately designed to flail and wobble under your feet, and zipline. Most of it was fine, until the last, Red course. There's a part where you're on a narrow ledge on a very high tree. You have you pull an extremely heavy rope up on a pulley system to your tree ledge, while sort of hooking your arm into the bit wrapped around the tree so the rope doesn't just pull you down. Then you hook your harness onto the top of the rope, and stand, at the edge, holding the rope, and jump. The rope isn't tense. You're freefalling. The idea is that halfway down you let go (your harness keeps you in place) so your hands are free to grab the net at the other side. I watched Dan and James go ahead, panicking, fretting, eventually jumping and succeeding in grabbing the net. I stood for what felt like an hour, reasoning that going back would be even tougher, and eventually jumped. I remember nothing except that I obviously didn't grab the net because they had to let me land on the ground. I was grumpy with myself for ages afterwards.

We could only take photos at the practice course, so imagine this with 100x more terror

We powered through the rain and thunder for a blustery walk around a temple in a Lake Batur, a blustery nearby waterfall and a blustery beautiful view of the lake from the top of the mountain. As it started to get dark, the weather calmed the hell down, so we spent the evening arguing outside Ubud restaurants about where to eat. We then went to a traditional Balinese show called Kecak, which is a fire and trance dance. It's in Indonesian, but you can get the general idea. The actors are a monkey army and at the end the villain kicks a load of fiery embers around the stage. Great stuff.


Dan and I spent our final night in a spectacular jungle mountain-side hotel called Ubud Hanging Gardens. Our room had its own infinity pool, but unfortunately we only had two hours of sun, and spent the rest of the day stranded in the bar because the thunderstorm was too severe to go outside. We did get up at 7 the next morning to use the terraced infinity pools though.

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