My Ubud Getaway

I need a vacation!” I said to myself on one particular busy day.

I’ve been in some sort of situation where I need to take some time alone, to tune into my inner quiet. To have a direct dialogue with myself. Something that impossible to do in Jakarta, with all those meetings and to-do lists. I decided instantly, that I need to go to Ubud, Bali.

As an Indonesian, it’s such of wonderful privilidge for me to be able to visit Bali anytime I want. But all these time, I only go for the main attraction of Bali, that most Indonesian will do the same, I’m going to the beach. As for Ubud, the city offers something else: serenity, peaceful, and real spirit of Bali. Now, I really need some of that.

My short trip to Ubud has been influenced greatly by a best-selling book by Elizabeth Gilbert: Eat, Pray, Love. I want to see, feel, and get, whatever inspired Elizabeth Gilbert to write that book. One of the most important person that I want to meet is the medicine man: Ketut Liyer.

So, where should I start? I got free tickets from Citilink (thank you so much!), I just need a departure date. Turned out the date I picked carefully still didn’t meet the ideal, but there’s no turning back. I decide to leave for Ubud at July 16, 2010. I ignore the date for weeks before finally realize: I will go in a few days and I haven’t book a hotel.

I want this trip to be as simple as possible. I will travel alone. I’m definitely not a drama queen, so I’m pretty much happy with what’s available. So, my friend @b4nch4 said I should look for a Homestay instead of a Hotel. I Google for 5 minutes and found Jati Homestay. It has everything I want, including rice field view. Best thing is? It only cost me Rp 150.000 ($15) per night. I book it right away.

When I arrived, Dewa from Jati Homestay already picked me up at Ngurah Rai Airport with sign: “Alia”. Clearly, he misspell my name. I asked him, “Sorry to make you wait for an hour!” He shrugged, “It’s okay! I got Blackberry! I can BBM. I can wait forever, no problem!”

Soon I know, he’s the apprentice of Jati Homestay. He’s the manager/driver/guide. I pay Rp 200.000 ($20) for him to picked me up at the airport.

As I missed beach so much, I asked him to take me to Kuta Beach, where we eat rujak (mixed fruit) silently, watching sun burned Balinese hunk having intimate conversation with the western girls. Bored with Kuta, we went to Jimbaran, where we drink coconut and watching sunset together. Dewa has been friendly and talkative. He’s getting along with me real well because he has sharp business mind and have interest with online application. So, yes, in between culture and history conversation, we talked about the old school html tables, frames and Dreamweaver.

When we finally reach Ubud, an hour drive from Denpasar, it’s already dark. I followed him to a small path in Jl. Hanoman, passing thru traditional Balinese houses and Temples. And finally I got to enter my room. It’s a spacious bamboo room with high ceiling and beautiful paintings. I like it!

Dewa suggest me to have dinner at Bebek Bengil restaurant. I walked based on his direction. Most of the art shops in the city are already closed. There are only some tourists like me, walked in the same pace like I did. Maybe they were hungry as well. I stop in front of a temple where they practicing Balinese music. I love it very much, I couldn’t move for a few minutes. But the hunger reminded me to keep walking.

Bebek Bengil is a huge restaurant with amazing romantic ambience. Problem is, the situation is not match with what we have to eat: Duck. It’s a giant fried duck, actually. Everyone, I mean all the foreign tourists, eat gracefully with spoon and fork. I said to myself, screw it, I’m eating with my bare hands! And there I was, a strange hijabi girl, eating alone uncontrollably, with her bare hands. I swear people around me are watching and observing me. Hey… This is the right way eating a giant duck, okay?! :D The delicious fried Duck of Bebek Bengil + drinks cost me around Rp 100.000 ($10).

The sound of the wind, frogs, little animals, make me easier to sleep that night. I wake up to a very nice view of rice field that I haven’t seen the night before. Dewa claims that they have the same scenery as Komaneka, just across Jati Homestay. Komaneka costs $400 per night. Ok, now Dewa has to pay me commission :p

I have breakfast at the lovely open air cafe of Jati Homestay. I met French couple and family. Turned out, I was the only Indonesian in the homestay. Over breakfast, Dewa explain places of interest in Ubud. I told him that I just want to do nothing. I don’t want trekking, cycling, rafting… I want nothing! My answer only frustrated Dewa. I feel sorry for him, so I said, “I want be just sit quietly, read books, and watching something.” His face lightened up, as he began to explain where the bookstore is, some recommended museums, and all. Everybody’s happy.

I walked pass some small exotic shops to my first destination: a bookstore. Call me geek, but books already in my blood and soul. So, the only thing I bought in Ubud, not that fancy accessories or apparel, but books. This small bookstores contain used books in English, Dutch, Germany, and French. I bought an English novel for about $5. They sell postcards as well, you should check ’em out.

My next destination is Antonio Blanco museum. Pak Hermawan Kartajaya has mention him several times regarding the launch of his book, Ubud: The Spirit of Bali. Antonio Blanco, the genius painter, married to a local Balinese woman and stayed in Ubud. His house now turned into a beautiful museum, complete with all his masterpieces. I got to see his creative studio as well. The entrance fee is $5, the actual price: priceless.

The unique and blessed weather in Ubud really helps traveler like me. During the night and early morning, it will rain hard like there’s no tomorrow. Perfect to rest. But after 10 am, the weather would calm and warm. Perfect for a walk. Amazing.

I walk back to Puri Lukisan museum to chill and read the book I just bought in the small bookstore. The entrance fee is $4. While sipping bottled tea and watch the infinity inside the green pond, I got a surprised text message. It’s from Mas Bembi, co-author of Pak Hermawan Kartajaya for book, Ubud: The Spirit of Bali. I invited him (like a native) for lunch at Cafe Wayan. I never been to Cafe Wayan, I just heard it’s a good cafe. I took a glance at my Ubud Map and see that Wayan Cafe is located at Monkey Forest street. Piece of cake! I think I have mastered Ubud in just few hours hehe :D Thank God I didn’t get lost :P

Cafe Wayan is one nice outdoor cafe. Their speciality is Nasi Campur. Cost me $10 for lunch. I met and chat with Mas Bembi for an hour. He already giving up his life in Jakarta to live in this paradise. Wow… That’s a big decision! He explained everything I need to know about Ubud. And then our discussion starts growing to Ketut Liyer. As an effort to follow what’s on “Eat, Pray, Love”, I really need to meet him. At least, take picture with him. Mas Bembi said, “I met him several times…!” I gasps. “Can you take me to his place?!” I said in the sweetest voice. “Sure!”

And off we go. There’s no public transportation in Ubud, so we rented a car. For a near destination it should cost around $1-$5. Rent a motorcycle? $4 a day. Rent a bicylce for $3 a day.

In 5 minutes we arrived at Ketut Liyer’s residence. He’s asleep and I’m afraid of interrupting him. But he came out with his toothless smile. I amazed. He was everything that ever described by Elizabeth Gilbert. I told him, I came to him because of Liz and her book. He showed me the original copy of the book signed by Elizabeth Gilbert. Exchanging some stories. Until one point, he asked if I want him to read me. It’s freaking scarry. I look at Mas Bembi nervously. He wants to read my mind. And maybe already did.

After I nodded, he started to see me. As a medicine man, he could detect that I’m in a great health. Excellent, he said. Then he said I have to pursue art, for everything I will do in that will succeeded. I’m very clever, but sometimes I don’t have much patience. I want everything fast. I nodded. “You must not frown. Be happy. Put on some make up!” I open my mouth in disbelief, but I said, “Ok, I will put on some make up….” And to close our conversation, he said, “I see a flower, the same flower in Elizabeth, you will succeeded. Just like her!” I said to him, “Amennn!” I thank him. He said he’s almost bankrupt. Children education are expensive. He said that to every guests like a template, I thought. So, I slip some Rupiahs on his hand and left. Some says we must prepare for around $25.

Even after pondering in Rice terrace, after Mas Bembi dropped me back in Monkey Forest street (thanks a lot Mas Bembi!), after having my dead skins eaten by fishes ($5), after a traditional Balinese Massage at Bodyworks ($12), I still think about what Ketut Liyer said. Do I frown a lot? Is this unhappiness?

I sealed the perfect day watching Kechak Dance at the nearest temple ($8). Kechak dance has been my favorite dance for its dynamic moves. And the one I watched in Ubud was very special one. Love it so much!

Before I go back to my room, I’m having dinner at a cafe in front of the shimmering temple. I ate Tuna Mushroom pizza ($5). While enjoying my pizza, I close my eyes to feel the faint music from the temple. Then I speak, mostly speak to my own heart. Have an intense conversation I needed. I’m having a dinner date, with myself!

On my last day in Ubud, Dewa took me to eat at Nasi Ayam Kedewatan. It’s deliciously hot! Yumm yumm! ($2)

Surprisingly, I got some answers of the question mark in my heart, from the book that I bought in Ubud, on a plane that took me back to Jakarta. God works in a certain unthinkable wonder. I’m very grateful for the wonderful experience.

Honestly, even though I love the paradise so much, I can never leave my heart and passion in Jakarta. Now, I should be able to create my own version of Paradise, by playing the memory of Ubud as much as I want.

I remember how Dewa wants to live in somewhere else and I asked him, “How can you get bored with Paradise?”

At the end of our conversation, we both agreed that we’re just human. We want what we don’t have. It’s grattitude that matters.

Thank you, Ubud, for teaching me life. Let’s meet again sometime.

Ps: All photos are taken with iPhone. It’s crappy at night. No flash, mind you. But I like 80% of the results, so, it’s worth it. Check complete pics on my Flickr.



A writer of 30 books. Co-Founder & CMO & Initiate StartupLokal, the biggest startup community in Indonesia. Co-Managing Director of Girls in Tech Indonesia.


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