Trip Start Feb 12, 2011
Trip End Nov 19, 2011

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Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Friday, March 4, 2011

Erica Writes: Sadly, all great things must come to an end.  As John commented on the fact that he could stay at the Conrad for another 15 – 20 days, I commented on the fact that I was anxious to get to another destination and check out some other spots in Bali.  John booked us at The Ibunda Bungalows & Spa on Monkey Forest Road for three nights in Ubud and Kristen arranged a car service at the Conrad to drive us around for the day as it was her last and she needed to ensure a ride to the airport in the end.

We called for a late checkout to draw out the last bit of luxury John and I will surely experience on our travels.  The weather, unfortunately, did not cooperate by bringing cloudy skies and Kristen and I were unable to do our last sunbathing session on the compound.  We spent some time putting everything back together and in our backpacks as we had gotten very comfortable moving into our temporary home at the Conrad.  Our pack mule, Kristen, was loaded up with anything we decided to ditch so far and she 'claimed' her pack was a whole lot heavier thanks to us.  John, once again, took three times as long as Kristen and I to get ready, as he was backing, double backing, triple backing up files, photos, addresses, etc, etc, etc  as methodically as possible.

Our Conrad driver started touring us around at 1:30pm and devised a plan to stop at several shops so Kristen could do some last minute souvenir shopping.  We stopped at Batik shops, silver shops, kite shops, wood shops, and trinket shops until we were satisfied with our final purchases.  We made our way into the cultural mecca of Ubud and were surprised to see so many tourists.  We heard Ubud was less of a tourist trap than several other parts of Bali but, as we learned later, the book "Eat, Pray, Love" has changed all that in recent years.  Our driver dropped us and our luggage at our new digs and it took approximately two seconds to figure out our days at the Conrad were very much over.  The first thing I did was drop my bag and run to the bathroom as I am known to have a bladder the size of a pea.  As I was getting up from finishing my business, the toilet seat came with me, crashing to the ground as I realized it was broken off and probably hadn’t been attached in 10 years. 

We told our driver we were going to lunch and then to watch the beginning of the “Ogha-Ogha” procession which started in the football fields just a few hundred yards from our guest house.  We arranged to meet him a few hours later.  We had a touristy Balinese lunch complete with American musical hits from the 70’s blasting at Cinta restaurant.  It was centrally located in a busy part of Ubud where we could gawk at all the hippy dippies with American accents. 

We eventually made our way over to the football fields after several ‘2 for 1’ mojitos that John insisted we take advantage of because it was, after all, Kristen’s last day of vacation.  It was a sensory overload as we watched hundreds of Balinese preparing their Ogha-Ogha floats for mass exodus up the streets of Ubud and into the square, eventually leading them back to their individual villages to burn them down and ward away the evil spirits.  John walked excitedly around with his ‘Baby’ (camera), as Kristen and I have been referring to it as, capturing the moment.  Kristen and I tried keeping an eye on John as he bobbed and weaved through the chaos of the crowd, but were distracted with the mud pit we were attempting to negotiate our way through as we realized there was no sense in fighting it…we were destined to be covered in it like dirty hippies at Woodstock.

We followed the parade to the temple and watched as the children from several schools danced their “DEMONS” around the square, showing off their works of art.  I will say it was an amazing thing to witness and the energy was boundless.  John had contacted some friends of friends who lived in Ubud and owned Ary Warung (a restaurant) just near the main temple where the festivities were taking place.  We decided to head over there just as it started to rain…

Arys Warung was hopping and turned out to be quite a hip spot for other tourists watching the parade looking to escape the rain.  We waited for quite some time for a beer as they were understaffed and overwhelmed with all the people filing in at once.  We were eventually led back to the family compound behind the restaurant and met Odeck and his wife Tara, a native of Eugene, Oregon.  We had a lovely time chatting with them about life, Balinese culture, and Ubud – where we learned how much it has changed since “the book” and consequently “the movie”.  There are now a significant number of 30 – 40 something divorcee women flocking to Ubud in search of enlightenment and with the hope that they will meet their dashingly handsome, mysteriously wealthy international lover, and find their purpose in life.  It is always interesting to get the inside scoop on a culture first hand from someone who has grown up and lived it.

After what seemed like a brief visit with our new friends, we had to send off our dear friend, Kristen, for her long journey back to the States.  Our attempts at getting her to quit her job and keep traveling were futile…she waved goodbye in the Conrad vehicle as John and I set out to stock up on snacks for the next day’s New Year, the Nyepi holiday.

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