Posts/March, 2014/

Ubud, Bali 1: Infinity Villa, Campuhan Ridge Walk,Paon Bali Cooking Class, Walking Home

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Early Sunday morning, we took another budget cab from the resort to Kota Kinabalu Airport.

The car was well-cared for, and the passenger side visor had a sleeve of DVDs and a built-in screen. Our driver was old, but had youthful enough reflexes for dodging traffic while answering phone calls.

We were dropped off the wrong terminal–the crusty, unconnected domestic one. We bought two cheap paper tickets, waited, and rode the garishly upholstered bus to the correct terminal on the opposite end of the massive airfield.

There wasn’t much to do in the airport other than drink sweet white coffee and admire the dried fish and edible bird’s nests for sale in one of the shops. There were no other customers.

We switched planes in KL and flew to Bali.

Through the thick clouds on our descent, we caught glimpses of clear water, lush greenery, and volcanic peaks. It was dusk when we pulled up to gate.

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Mountains that look like mole hills.

Through the thick clouds on our descent, we caught glimpses of clear water, lush greenery, and volcanic peaks. It was dusk when we pulled up to gate.

The immigration hall was was massive and filled with two sets of lines. The first line was to pay a visa on arrival fee. The second was payment verification, passport check and stamping. The official asked no questions and stamped without hesitation.

While the “no items to declare” luggage scanning lines were long, we luckily had an item to declare and were able to bypass the madness.

Our driver wasn’t in the arrival hall yet. While J tried calling him, I did a couple passes by all the guys with name signs and eventually found him. We walked into the suffocating heat of the short term parking garage and waited for him to bring the minivan around.

It was night, and the hour-long drive to Ubud went through a lot of traffic. Along the way, the driver pointed out landmarks and answered our questions.

The hustle and bustle of the area near the airport mellowed out to narrow roads that passed through numerous villages. The scenery outside was moody and exotic: people chatting and walking home, dogs sniffing things, Hindu ceremonies, people building large monster sculptures, bustling night markets, scooters dodging and weaving, and ornate, mossy buildings that resembled ancient temples.

In Ubud town, we stopped to eat dinner and get some groceries. Our first meal was good, but in a very touristy part of town. I guzzled watermelon juice.

After fifteen more minutes driving, all the tourists were gone and the roads were quiet. Rice fields surrounded us as we turned down a gravel road towards our lodging.

Infinity Villa was only two units in the middle of rice fields. The owner of the property lived in a separate house nearby. Despite sharing an infinity pool, the buildings were built with quiet and privacy in mind.

The house was beautiful: two floors, pleasantly appointed. The lower floor had the living/dining area, kitchen, storage, and bathroom with shower. The upper floor had a canopy bed and bathroom with an open wall and business-hiding plants.

We settled into the house, took a quick dip in the pool, and went to sleep to the sounds of croaking frogs, crickets, and geckos.

The next morning, I was so excited I woke before sunrise.

I explored the immediate area around the villa and the villa itself. Our pre-arranged breakfast arrived at 8:30 and we enjoyed the view as we ate.

Soon after, the owner stopped by to say hi and give us tips on how to use the scooter.

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Our ornate wooden door.
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Sunrise over palm-lined paddies.
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Creeper.
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Dew.
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Our canopy.
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Breakfast.
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The backyard of endless rice.
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The front yard.

Engineered for style, comfort, and riding ease, the Honda Scoopy combined an underpowered 108cc 4-stroke engine and small tires. While not the ideal vehicle for two fat Americans on a gravel road or going up hill, she tried her best.

We took a wrong turn immediately onto a longer, muddier, and bumpier dirt road. When we arrived at the pavement, we were turned around. Luckily, we had been given some good advice about the roads in Ubud: if you are heading downhill, you will eventually end up in town (or the ocean). The other way leads up the mountain.

But that didn’t keep us from getting lost. The roads all looked the same, lacked clear street signs, and had few but easy to miss intersections.

Driving in Bali demands constant attention because the narrow roads are a near constant stream of obstacles: passing scooters, animals, parked cars, oncoming vehicles on the wrong side of the road, water, potholes, vehicles turning and merging without stopping at intersections, and lots of loud courtesy honks. Plus, you drive on the left.

It took a few passes and phone checks to locate our destination. We parked nearby, and walked through the stifling heat to the Campuhan Ridge Walk trailhead.

The walk was beautiful, but hot even in the shade. Above, dark rain clouds moved closer.

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An offering.
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Bali Bug.
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Aqueduct over a road.
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Cocks.
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A voyeuristic view.
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Green stairs.
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Elephant ears.
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The start of the trail.
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Abandoned house.
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Cresting a hill.
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Grass harvest.
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J on the ridge.
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Dragonfly.
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Hillside dwellings.
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The prettiest grasshopper in the world.

The rest of the afternoon involved a delicious lunch, and getting lost numerous time on the drive home. It began to rain, so we put on ponchos for the home stretch. The rain got heavier as we drove down the unpaved road to the villa. Steady rain lasted the rest of the day.

We took a nap, ate fruit and crackers for dinner, and played two games of rummy.

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Rambutan tree.
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Spicy tuna stir fry.
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These ducks are plotting something, I just know it!
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Our first sunset.

The next day we skipped breakfast because we were picked up for a half day Balinese cooking class.

First, we toured the the produce at the main market, then were taken to a field to talk about the farming of rice and its history in Ubud.

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Supplies for offerings.
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Duck eggs.
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Flower power.
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Lemongrass and lime leaves.
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Market courtyard.
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Garbage dump.
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Custard apples.
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Fruit lady.
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Mangosteens.
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A deal gone wrong.
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More offerings.
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Tattered poster.
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What do you mean vegetables come in colors other than green?
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Counting stacks.
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Hot dog.
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Strange cargo.
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Nearly ripe rice. Taste: starchy.

Paon Bali Cooking class was held at a family compound in a village near town. The owners were an enthusiastic and joking married couple. They explained the layout of a traditional Ubud compound: who lived in what buildings, their heirarchy, various symbolism, and were the placentas were buried.

This talk was also helpful in explaining why all of the compounds looked like temples: they actually had a family temple built inside them.

After the wife gave us a run down of the ingredients and how to prepare them, the guests and a small team of paid assistants got to work.

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The house dog.

A symbolic bulldog.
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Ingredients.
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More ingredients.
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Making peanut sauce the old fashioned way.
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J making yellow curry paste the old fashioned way.
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Backyard jungle.

Hail to the chef.
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The mysterious shack out back.
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Woven fly covers.
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Ducks and underwear.

Since J and I hadn’t eaten anything that day, the fragrant food was making us swoon.

All of the finished dishes were arranged in a beautiful display, and I filled my plate with them twice.

Delicious.

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Gado gado.
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Sate siap.
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Jukut urab.
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Pepesan be pasih.
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Tempe me goreng.
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Siap mesanten.
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Banana and jackfruit pudding.
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Coffee cups.

Instead of getting brought back to the villa, we asked to be left in the center of town so that we could walk home.

After two hours of walking, we stopped at an empty balcony restaurant to use the bathroom and get some hydration and desserts. I felt bad for the massive amount of bored staff that had been sitting around all afternoon.

After another hour of walking, we were back in the villa’s pool.

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No parking.
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Ornate door.
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Magenta and green.

Even more ornate door.
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A narrow cross street.
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Gas station.
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The gate to a family compound.
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Chick learns to peck.
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A nearly un scooter-able alley.

Where there is death…

…there is life.
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Pig feed.
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Old stairs.

Brick delivery.
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Freshly planted rice.
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An itchy dog.
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Gang bench.
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Dead man’s curve.

Dressing the bridge guardian.
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Abandoned stairs.
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A communal space, bunkering down for the rain.
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Wrapped tree.
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Side car and new wall.
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Burning leaves in the street while fishing in the gutter.
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The gutter/aqueduct.
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Harvesting rice.
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Harvesting heads.
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Small organic vegetable garden.
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Minimalism.
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The great duck escape.
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Tiles that time forgot.
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Shrine.
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Safety first on the dirt road home.
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I nearly walked into this guy.
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Creepy scarecrow.
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J at the edge of infinity.

Nap.

We woke to fireflies twinkling over the rice fields. Soon after, the bats came out. They swooped close to the pool to catch the small flies that hovered over it.

We went back into town and had a lackluster dinner that cast doubt on Trip Advisor recommendations. Luckily, we were able to find the supermarket again so we could stock up on snacks and meal ingredients.

After deciding on a plan for the next day, we retired.

As we feel asleep, massive tiger mosquitos systematically tested the netting for weaknesses.

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