Pro, Con, Pro
In my sorority, (yes I was part of a sorority and yes NYU has sororities), we used to have a specific way to provide feedback, called Pro Con Pro. You must sandwich your constructive criticism with two purely positive compliments or comments. I kinda love that idea. So here goes Ubud. Pro: your beauty is so enchanting that I am speechless when we lock eyes. Con: it's hot as balls out here. Pro: I appreciate the road that you have paved for me. As I write this after being in Ubud for a few days, I am definitely having mixed feelings. Read along for the journey to Ubud.
After a few days in Sanur, we were excited for the next stop: Ubud! Ah, Ubud. Dear, Sweet Ubud. Before our flights overseas, Avery and I debated about which countries, cities, or towns we were most excited to see. Ubud was in my top 3. I have seen countless photos and read endless essays about Ubud so I was truly eager to experience it myself.
Our driver, Jiwa, came to pick us up at noon for another sweet itinerary planned en route to Ubud. First stop, Keramas Beach, a black beach destination for surfers all around the world. After weaving through a garden and a small forest, the most magical view opens up to black sand peppered with Volcom-decked surfers. Avery and I immediately asked the staff if we could learn how to surf here. They laughed and explained that this beach was not for beginners. Coooool. I guess I’ll go sit with the Janis Ian and Damian. You’ll see, Regina George - I’ll be back.
As we slumped back to the car defeated, Jiwa offered to take us to his village. We perked up, excited to see something truly authentic and traditional. We squeezed down the tiniest road in the Rav4 and arrived at his home or really, his compound made up of 4 individuals small homes plus their own temple. To me, this is the best part about traveling: seeing someone else’s Normal and being amazed by it. Apparently, every Balinese home has their own temple. Can you imagine? Your very own sacred getaway just footsteps from your bedroom door. I’m not religious but I am spiritual, and I truly admire this custom. It’s probably similar to every yogi’s dream to have their own yoga sanctuary. But this isn’t just a second bedroom or office turned haven. This was an entirely separate construction built outdoors. F, that’s cool.
Jiwa offered us traditional Balinese tea with fresh watermelon and cherry tomatoes. He also offered us some Arak, an anise-flavored distilled alcohol drink that’s also very popular in the Middle East. We read that Indonesia also offered this 100 proof alcohol and Jiwa’s was homemade but with a special flair. His son placed some vanilla beans in the bottle for added flavor. It was actually pretty delicious and I love anise. It reminds me of home. And by home, I actually mean Tenafly, NJ when my mom would make me my favorite Taiwanese snack: boiled peanuts with anise. As a kid, I could seriously eat tubs of it like popcorn at the movies. (Not anymore though. Unfortunately, it gives me a stomach ache now. That’s right. I said unfortunately).
After the quick refreshment, we had one more activity on the itinerary: woodcarving shopping. Jiwa wanted to take us to the best of the best. He explained that you can buy wood carvings all over Indonesia but this was where quality meets craft. As a merchant, I appreciate and respect craftsmanship and the details. Buying from a souvenir shop was not an option for us. Before coming to Bali, Avery and I knew that we would definitely want to purchase some Indonesian art so we were incredibly excited to take a peek. As we wandered throughout the space, we were just amazed at the work. There was one piece that stood 2 stories tall, completely carved from head to toe. Apparently, this took two men two years to complete in hopes that someone is willing to spend up to $1M. Obviously, we weren’t willing to spend that much, but we wanted something.
I was really responding to the masks of different goddesses - the detail in the headpieces were exquisite. However, the cheapest option I found was $225. Even with a discount, we just couldn’t blow through our budget like that. Finally, I came across these beautiful bookends, plus the sales associate was willing to give us a 50% discount on that one. Love. Sold. (Unfortunately, I don’t havea photo of these magical pieces because they are currently wrapped up and ready to be shipped back to the States. I’ll share asappy.)
By the end of the day, we were spent. I don’t think we’ve ever felt so physically drained. When we were walking around Bali, I noticed that I’m the only one sweating profusely. Is it just me? Why am I the weakling? It just didn’t seem to make sense. I know that a lot of Australians come to visit Indonesia and apparently, it is also quite hot over there. So perhaps I am just the only fish out of water. That night, I almost fainted at dinner. I fainted for the first time a few years ago during the Haight Street Festival in September. It was 88 degrees in San Francisco that day. The next day, I was curious how many restaurants have air-conditioning. Apparently, this is rare in Bali in general, let alone Ubud, which is crazy because of the level of heat here. For shits and giggles, I even called the Four Seasons and THEY don’t even have air conditioning in their restaurants. Not like I would’ve ever afforded to go but I like information. Knowledge is power, right?
There’s a glorification that comes with Bali. I don’t know if Eat, Pray, Love just messed things up for everyone. I read that stupid book and no where did it discuss how hot it was. She went to her shaman and overall, seemed totally fine and not sweaty. (Side note: there are tons of solo chicks traveling in Ubud. I guess it really started a trend). But she was a New Yorker too, so what the F? Guys, I’m gonna be super real with you. Prepare accordingly when you come here. And it’s not even the wet season. I’m not gonna fake it and pretend like I’m all tough. It’s extremely hot and the humidity makes it worse. it is so important to hydrate, eat, and sleep plenty. You will need all the energy you can get. Trust me, you will exert quite a bit here.
While Avery and I are truly blessed and lucky to be here, I think I even glorified Bali a bit. I think we both did. Having almost fainted in the restaurant a few nights ago, it can almost be scary in a way that I wasn’t expecting. It really had us thinking. But I always trust the path, the journey. And I know that everything happens for a reason and there is a reason why we are this point of both bliss and slight concern and fear.
This morning, as I reflect on the day we arrived to Ubud, I woke up with the sun and roosters, and I am happy. With The Allman Brothers in my earbuds, sipping terrible but free, instant coffee, staring out into the forest, typing away, this is what I envisioned and I am feeling blessed to be so fortunate enough to have it manifest.
But for now, I’m gonna go in the pool and exhale all the fear and all the bad. I wish Cher could be here to slap me in the face with all seriousness to say, “SNAP OUT OF IT!” That would be so amazing on so many levels. Cher, if you’re reading this, I’m at the Villa Campung Mas.