TRAVEL STORY: DETOUR TO UBUD BALI
Recently I had to make a long unexpected detour to Ubud in central Bali. I had not planned on going all the way down there from Bali’s north coast, nor did I particularly want to visit that over-touristy, traffic-clogged town. I wanted to continue westward along Bali’s north coast all the way to Gilimanuk, catch the ferry, and explore east Java.
Quite unfortunately for me and my travel plans, Singaraja city immigration officials had not accepted my sponsor’s paper and signature. Not correctly formatted, apparently.
So I was forced to drive up over the top of Bali via Mt. Batur volcano and down the other side, nearly to Bali’s south coast, in order to visit the visa agency and straighten out my papers. Quite possibly, I’d even have to go to the south coast, as well, to get my sponsor’s signatures all over again.
I was hopping mad at that visa agency for giving me the wrong information and incomplete forms. It was their incompetence that was derailing my travels, causing me days of travel time fixing the mess, and repeating what I’d already done.
One of my pet peeves in life is having to repeat my work due to other people’s errors. If there was any justice in the world, by golly, those people would have to straighten it all out and waste their time, not me. Hmph.
But justice did not prevail. I had to drive to Ubud. Very strangely, once I accepted the fact and decided to go, I felt quite happy about it. I wasn’t sure why, but a few small things certainly had an influence.
For one thing, I loved the little-trafficked, scenic road up to Mt. Batur crater rim from Bali’s north coast. For another thing, one of my all-time favorite guest houses is located in Ubud. I could stay again and visit the family, whom I’d know since my first visit to Bali back in 2000.
I headed up the charming road to Kintamani. Clove orchards line the lower 20 kms of that road. I was soon treated to the delightful, pungent aroma of fresh cloves drying in the sun.
Several kms up, I came across a man raking cloves. I paused to chat, learn all about clove production, and take a few photos.
Heading ever upward, the temperature gradually became cooler and cooler. Soon I had to stop and pull on my hoodie. A short time later, I stopped again to pull on my angle-length skirt. Next it was my jacket, as I entered ‘freezing’ air that felt shockingly like winter. I was genuinely surprised that my breath did not fog as I exhaled. Apparently it wasn’t quite as cold as I thought. To me, a tropics lover, it felt like arctic air.
Towards the top, astounding views gradually unfolded: sweeping views of nearby ridges, steep valleys, and finally Bali’s entire north coast. I drove through villages precariously perched on narrow ridge-lines that fell off to nothing on either side. Above that I entered pine forest in the ‘winter zone’ near the top of Batur’s crater rim.
I remembered from previous visits that it was cold up there, but I did not expect frigid. My bare cheeks were stinging, my poor bare hands were burning. I could only blink and laugh at my plight. Man, was it cold!
Before setting out 2 hours earlier, I had briefly considered staying one night on the crater rim, in a little guest house I knew in Kintamani. The icy air quickly dissolved that plan.
When I finally reached the crater rim, I just kept right on going. I passed charming temples at Penulisan and Kintamani. Then I was treated to fantastic views inside Batur crater. There was the hardened black lava flow from a previous eruption. There was Mt. Batur itself, rising from the base of the vast crater floor. And there was lovely, placed Lake Batur.
I drove several kms along the hilly crater rim, then turned down one of the rural roads towards Ubud. By that point, I had become so ‘frozen’ that I didn’t feel un-thawed until close to Ubud, one hour later.
I headed directly to my favorite guest house and walked into the walled family compound, calling “salamat sore”. The owner’s face lit up brightly when she recognized me. What a wonderful greeting that spontaneous response was. She jumped up to come say hello. Then we caught up on each others’ lives.
Sadly, they did not have a room free. I wasn’t surprised. It was a great place, with only 3 rooms. August was high season. And I had not called ahead.
But their staff promptly got on the phone and called around to locate a room for me. I went off to eat a tasty Balinese meal nearby. When I returned, not only had they found me a room, but the other guest house owner was there awaiting me! Talk about service!
I followed him a few blocks over to his place, which was tucked back some winding, narrow brick-road alleys. A huge smile spread across on my face before I even arrived.
Dani Homestay was wonderful. It was another Balinese home stay with traditional-style rooms set around a charming garden. This one had a small waterfall, adding the soothing sound of splashing water. I liked Dani’s place even better than my original homestay.
As I settled in, I realized that I inexplicably felt immensely happy to be in Ubud. What that was all about, I had no clue at the time. But within the next 24 hours I certainly found out.
So many wonderful things unfolded out of my original ‘problem’, that it really felt like one of those ‘this is meant to happen’ experiences. Here’s what I gained from my undesired ‘forced’ trip to Ubud:
1. While driving from Bali’s north coast to Ubud, at least 5 new travel stories burst into my head, most with details already sketched in. I could practically write them by the time I arrived.
2. At my new home stay I was treated to hot showers, a very rare treat for budget accommodation. I had completely forgotten about Ubud’s hot showers.
3. Within 12 hours of I reaching Ubud, at least 3 more stories unfolded in my brain.
4. I inadvertently stumbled upon the latest issue of Bali Advertiser, the one with my book reviews in it. For the 1st time, I saw my book photos, my name, and my review in print. If I had I not come to Ubud, I would not have the paper.
5. I visited Ganesha Bookshop, where my 2 guidebooks are on sale. I introduced myself and found out that 3 of my books had been sold thus far. And people were asking to buy my Hiking book, which was not yet in stock.
6. My travel life was revolutionized- I bought a usb modem for my computer and one month’s internet credit. Suddenly, I could get online anywhere, at anytime with my computer.
No longer did I have to search for guest houses or cafes or towns with wifi or internet access. From now on, I could take it with me and stay wherever I wanted.
I’d realized up in north Bali that I needed a solution to lacking internet connections if I were to travel further around Bali and Indonesia.
7. Back in 2010, when I was researching my guidebook to bicycling Bali, an Indonesian friend had lent me his bicycle for my bike tour around Bali. This time when I’d arrived in Bali, he was in Australia. The day I arrived in Ubud, he suddenly contacted me, saying he was back in Bali earlier than expected. I’d get to meet him again soon.
8. I finally had my chance to visit an amazing cave grotto spa in Ubud that I’d been wanting to visit for 12 years. Here I was in Ubud, why not go now? The visit will make a great story and travel tip (coming soon).
9. I suddenly came to re-appreciate Ubud, Bali’s cultural and artistic heartland. After my first long visit to Ubud back in 2000, I had avoided Ubud as much as possible. It had become increasingly congested with traffic, tourists, and pesky touts. And it was always too chilly for me.
But now that I was back, I realized that despite those annoyances, Ubud really is a special place. It’s full of unique amazing temples, gardens, traditional cultural arts, and a very cool ambiance.
10. I could get my visa extensions straightened out once and for all, then continue my travels.
In the end, my undesired detour to Ubud turned out to be a very good thing. In fact, instead of feeling angry at the visa agency, I almost want to thank them for ‘screwing up my travels’ and detouring me to Ubud to received all these wonderful ‘gifts’.
Morals of story:
1. Sometimes amazing things unfold from problems, adversity, and disasters.
2. When you get that gut feeling, ‘yes, this is really the right thing to do’ or ‘I feel really good about this’ or ‘Yes, this is it!’ maybe there’s a lot more to it than what you can initially see. Maybe ‘the universe’ has some things in store for you.. if you believe in such things.
3. It often pays to keep travel plans flexible and go with the flow. I’m a huge fan of pre-planning and scheduling travels. But I also allow for events to change and plans evolve.
Have you ever had experiences that left you awed, feeling like “this was meant to happen” ?
What do you think of such situations?
Just coincidence? It’s the universe at work? People read too much into connections that aren’t’ there?