Two nights before we rent another Airbnb in rural Mengwi, we decide to go to Ubud after all. I am not particularly fond of this village of artisans. Too crowdy, too touristy, too kitchy. Just too. I once swore never to come back here. But I guess it is like wanting to see the Eifel Tower every time you visit Paris. We know the surroundings are lush, green, fresh ricefields. So what the heck, we book two rooms in Sapu Lidi Resort and Spa, a nice place ten minutes out off the center. We can enjoy the views, the nice food, and the ancient old royal tombs of Gunung Kawi, north of Ubud. (Which we never got to due to our faulty googlemap directions. Dammit.)
The drive from Kuta Selatan to the Sapu Lidi is 39 km and, according to googlemaps, takes 1.11 hour. Right. Did I already mention traffic is ridiculous on Bali? The area around Kuta and up to Ubud is one big traffic jam. Take into account the narrow roads, the constant impatient honking of cars and motorcycles, the double parking, the continuous line up of houses and no nature, the stray dogs, the occasional cow, potholes the size of big Chinese babies, no rules, and three bored out of their minds monsters in the back who get at each other’s throats, and I can assure you that, after three hours of creeping along the Balinese roads, you are totally fed up with this paradise! I was anyway.
The hotel is nice though, with an open air restaurant, a big blue pool with palmtrees on all sides, rooms looking out on rice fields or ponds. We have the deluxe, not the superdesuperdesuper delux, so we get the rice fields. Sap Lidi is another paradisal pocket in a string of tourist made up fantasies, with culture on demand, ketchak dance and experience-the-real-Bali-in-three-hours on the menu of tour operators.
After a swim, we took to Ubud, with the hotel-shuttle- van. My my, did we get nowhere fast. In the end we got out, walked, and got there faster. Faster in the midst of shops, resto’s, bars and other themepark like stuff created for us tourists. And the honking, and the exhaust fumes, and my my my. But the kids loved to shop for bracelets and other trinkets.
You might have guessed, Bali is not my favourite destination anymore. It has become the Aruba of Asia, with mass tourism and prices going up up up. I also miss the lively atmosphere of the Buddhist temples as in Thailand and Myanmar. The Hindu culture seems more secluded, behind the closed barred doors of the temples.
You could say we should have gone to the north, to Lovina, Bedugul or bucolic Sidemen. Chances are though things have changed up there as well.
But hey, we eat pray love. This is holiday. We swim, we enjoy the local dishes, and always and everywhere there are the little things that make up for everything. A gorgeous local woman dressed up for a prenup foto shoot. The charred fresh fish. The massage girls (called ‘therapists’ here) doing Lux’ nails for free, rainbow style. School children running around in their neat uniforms. The farmers shouting at the birds, trying to chase them from the ripe rice. The police elite squad exercising in this extreme heat, running 20 km (so they tell me) in full metal jacket. They take a rest in the shadows of a temple, laughing at our girls and taking pictures and the obligatory selfie.
Monkey forrest, with it’s holy spring, carved lizards, and other fearsome mythical animals, is still a thrill, especially in the wee hours of the day, when the bulk of our fellow tourists is still sleeping. It is still a thrill for Lux, who decides to thump the ground next to a makak’s tail, upon which the fierce mammal shrieks, jumps and bites our little one in the arm. No puncture though, and a guard assures me the Ubud monkeys have no rabies. Because they chase away all the dogs. The forrest also has a ‘provisional’ burial place: hindus get buried here until, on an auspicious day, the will be incinerated en masse.Little plaques mark the graves.
Mengwi (but not)
Mengwi turns out to be not only the name of a village, but of a whole regency. We did not know. So we drove to the center of this townlet, but had to drive further south. Apparently the had rent an airbnb close to Tanah Lot, which was our first destination on this trip. Talking about being well prepared. 🙂 Jacques, former Parisian, married an Asian wife, and retreated in these parts of the world. He was an engineer for an oil company. It was great, he says, and his eyes light up, I was going everywhere in Indonesia, to all these remote area’s. I flew to these tribes, in a helicopter. Pictures on the walls tell off his adventures: tree houses, 30 meters above ground, people still lived there as in the Stone Age. There’s images of tribesmen with penis holders, and an Apocalypse Now-like sepia collage.
Jacques has witnessed the changes. The price of land has multiplied by 15 in the last ten years, he says, locals cannot afford it. When he had this villa build, there were rice fields to the left and to the right, as you can see in the airbnb picture below.
Now construction is going on to the right. To the left there is a hotel. But although the place has lost some of it’s charm, it is still a nice place to rest. The sea breeze cools down the living room, the traditional joglos in the garden provide shade.