Just a warning: this will be the most photo-intense blog ever. Something about Bali being just unbelievably, almost unspeakably beautiful. Everywhere you turn it’s just beautiful. So I’ve pared the photos back a lot, but there are still just a ton of gorgeous shots.After leaving Flores we spent four days in Ubud, a city we visited in 1996, and the changes since then were, from my perspective, distinctly not for the better. Ubud is now vastly bigger and the sense of village and the beauty of the rice fields are long gone. The good news was that my brother Al was on a business trip in Southeast Asia so he scheduled it so he could spend a weekend with us in Bali. And then on top of that an old friend from my days as a budget-and-tax advocate – she ran the group in California that was akin to my organization in Massachusetts – was on a Ford Foundation trip in the area, too.
So while I wasn’t crazy about Ubud we had a great visit with them, including a bike ride mostly coasting downhill through rice fields. Once they were both headed back to work Mark & I headed north a couple hours to Munduk, a little place in north-central Bali. Well, it was supposed to be a couple hour drive; our driver got lost and took us on a bigger tour of north Bali than we’d expected adding an hour or two to our journey.
Once we got here, though, we found a slice of heaven, and not just a little slice either. Our resort, Sanak, is brand new, just opened two months ago, which is mostly a good thing. It’s set in a valley a little outside of the town, smack in the middle of beautiful rice fields. Most of the time the only thing you hear are the birds and the frogs and whatever animals live in rice fields; the night noises are really something. And water rushing. Rice fields require massive amounts of water and there is always the sound of irrigation running from one terraced field to another.
On our first full day we scheduled a bike trip that was described as both “downhill” and “challenging.” “How can that be?” we asked. The Balinese guy at the main office then proceeded to read the same description we were reading back to us; not very informative, to be honest. After a few more failed attempts to learn more about it we signed up without much of a sense of what we were in for; we figured the only way to find out was to try it. And while yes, it was downhill – the trip started with a 30- to 40-minute drive up the mountain before we got on our bikes – the first part of it was downhill on exceedingly rough roads and mountain trails. When the pavement eventually kicked in, there were eventually some uphill segments that were distinctly challenging.
That was a beautiful way to see part of Bali. So the next day we decided to kick it down a notch, with just a hiking tour through the rice fields. This time no car was involved at all, just two local guys who came to our lodge and took us on a two- or three-hour hike on paths that we’d have never in a million years found on our own. The destination was a big waterfall, but we didn’t honestly need a destination at all; this was a case where the journey, with all the views of rice fields, really was the destination.
So after the hubbub of Ubud, which didn’t do a lot for me, we felt like we were in the real Bali, the quiet island where beauty reigns. So what do we do after this? We’re going back to Ubud! We’d already made reservations, but this time we’re staying in a place out of town a bit, so it should be quieter and more relaxing. Stay tuned – more beauty on the way!