Why would anyone travel to a destination in full knowledge it’s torrential monsoon season with punishing humidity?
The answer was fairly simple as I sat down under the sheltered terrace of my hotel, set in the utterly stunning tropical vibrant green surroundings of Ubud, Bali. I was forced to slow down, read a book and listen to the gentle soothing patter of the rain as it filtered through the palm trees onto the rice fields, not a single gadget beginning with the letter ‘i’ in sight. It was a fantastic revelation, I was on a relaxing break and I didn’t even realise it until after I arrived. Travel for me is usually a case of seeing how many pages in the guidebook I can turn in the time allocated, marking each landmark off as I go.. This was nice, having to relent to the elements for a change (also forgot my raincoat) waiting for the notoriously stubborn rain to ease was one of the best uses of time in Ubud. Actually, it didn’t rain very much leaving plenty of time to tour and explore. Between December and March there aren’t too many other tourists either, most places in Ubud are quiet and rates are cheaper.
Ubud is a collective of 14 villages, each governed by its own ‘Banjar’ committee. To the tourist, Ubud seems small, never seeing much more than the central hub of the town. Life continues relatively unaffected by tourism. Culturally, here you will discover a more real Bali, local arts and crafts fill the spaces between the intricate and ornate history of the island away from the badly behaved coastal party areas like Kuta further south. It is 600m above sea level keeping activities thankfully cooler, the midday sun still packs a hefty bite, especially when the humidity kicks in, you will be spending a lot of time swigging from a water bottle or heading to the nearest bar for a Bintang. Quieter streets feel like you are far removed from familiar references, the impression imersive travelling. The ubiquitous ‘street hustler’ can be even more intrusive to the less hardy, remember to just say no and move on, the Balinese genuinely love to chat, try not to confuse the two and you will get so much more out of a visit by interaction.
The adventure did get the better of me in the end, so a plan was hatched to get up to the world famous rice terraces of Jatiluhwih. Even though the island of Bali is relatively small, short trips take time, roads are narrow, potholes deep, and mopeds are many. Expect to have an average speed of 40km, and I am being generous. Taking roughly 2 ½ hours to reach by car costing 350,000 ruphia ($30 AUS) with your very own driver, Jatiluhwih did not disappoint. Stretching off and abutting against the distant mountains, so green, uniquely Asian and a Bali invention so that even the farmer at the bottom of the valley receives enough water to irrigate his rice. Take a walk through the terraces sticking to the pathways, or, traverse the paddy borders, although they are very steep, and slippery when it has rained. Either way the view, you will discover, was worth the airfare alone, they don’t just hand out a UNESCO world heritage status for nothing.
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