I’ve arranged for a taxi to pick me up from the hotel at 7am, so that I can do the Campuan Ridge Walk in the cool of the morning. At 6:30am, there is a tentative knock on my door – breakfast is brought into my room and laid out on the deck by two smiling, gentle young men.
It’s a feast. I feel embarrassed at all the food that I can’t eat. The sun sends long rays through the gaps in the treetops, and I can’t help thinking that breakfast surely has never looked so good.
The taxi drops me off at the beginning of the walk. It’s already hot, and there are so many more people than I was expecting. Everything is a vivid green – to one side the valley drops away and rises up again in an impenetrable wall of jungle. On the other side I can see hotels and guesthouses dotted up the slope of the valley. The sky is robin’s egg blue and within the first ten minutes the sweat is pouring off me.
At one point the walk winds through a series of small guesthouses and refreshment stands. It’s a relief to be in the shade for a bit. I decide to turn back because the heat is building and I have no hat, or water. I’m also wearing flip flops, which I am beginning to regret now.
Half an hour later I’m on the main street of Ubud. I look up at the vines hanging down from the trees above, and I can’t help but feel that this jungle is holding it’s breath, just biding it’s time until it can inch forward and reclaim the road, the buildings, the whole town. The concrete seems to be just keeping the wildness at bay.
I have no itinerary. No guide book, no list of things to see and check off. Instead, I wonder up the street. There are offerings everywhere of course, fragrant ribbons of incense curling lazily into the air. I am approached every ten metres by a taxi driver offering me a taxi. I smile politely with a shake of the head – they are friendly, non-threatening and as much a part of the landscape as the rows of scooters, bustling crowds and temple walls lining the streets.
I come across an intriguing temple entrance, which turns out to be the Puri Lukisan museum. It’s the oldest museum in Bali, dating back to 1956. The artworks are housed in four pavilions, set around the edges of a lush garden of green lawns and tranquil fountains. It’s an oasis from the hustle of the street, and I’m the only one there. I take my time wondering around , drifting between exhibits and enjoying the cool quietness of the gardens.
I head back onto the main road of Ubud. I hear music playing further up the street, and follow the sound into a walled square. There, on a stage, are a group of tiny Indonesian girls in the middle of a traditional dancing lesson. Dark eyes follow and copy every move of the two ladies instructing them, and I can see this is a serious thing. Little fingers are curled gracefully, tips touching, and the small chubby hands move in elegant sweeping motions. I watch from a gap in the back of the crowd until the song ends and the spell is broken. They swarm off the stage in a flurry of high-pitched chattering and giggles, and shove small dirty feet into thongs. An older group takes the stage, and I walk on.
I’ve turned down a nondescript alley next to Starbucks (!) and found myself in the open courtyard of another temple. It’s the Saraswati temple, dedicated to the goddess of knowledge, music and the arts. The sun dips in and out of the clouds, and there is some respite from the heat. I sit on a bench in the shade drinking water and watching the tourists take selfies with the temple and ponds in the background. I get so engrossed that I leave and completely forget to take a photo of the same thing.
I enter the market and my senses are assaulted by colours, noise and the sweet slightly sickly smell of fruit heating up in the sun. There are covered stalls, open stalls, rows upon rows of scooters and swarms of people. I don’t buy much – two Batik fans for Immy and myself (I suspect that I have overpaid for them) and a small Batik coin purse that the stall holder throws in ‘for free’ because she didn’t have change for the note I gave her. I smile and thank her – it seems like a hard way to make a living.
In addition to the rattan bags, masks, and other brightly coloured wares for sale, I see carved penis bottle-openers by the hundreds. They come in all sizes, and colours. Gold, silver, gleaming wood – or painted with sweet lotus flowers and the word ‘Bali’on them in curly writing. I am stumped as to why there are so many of them, hundreds and hundreds. Why would anybody want one of these things, some as big as a man’s forearm? I find this perplexing and Google it later (does it have some cultural/religious significance in Bali? Is this a thing?) Google tells me that this is just a tourist gimmick, which I believe because there are none in the beautiful souvenir shop at the airport which sells genuine silk fans and Batik sarongs.
By now I’m exhausted. It’s lovely to say yes to the first taxi driver who approaches me and anxiously asks ‘Taxi? Taxi? Within half an hour I’m back on the deck of my hotel room, sipping a cool drink before sliding into the pool to cool off. Afterwards, I stretch out on the daybed with a book and a cocktail and while away the afternoon hours until the light leaks from the jungle and it’s time for dinner.
I spend the last day of my holiday at the hotel, reading and writing and staring into the jungle. I’ve found a book on the communal bookshelf called Circling the Sun, which is the story of Beryl Markham and her exploits in Africa during the 1920s. I love so many paragraphs in this book, but this one seems especially poignant to me, on this last day in this small slice of heaven.
”…he had a way of seeing everything as if he knew it would never be there exactly the same again. More than anyone I’d ever known, Denys understood how nothing ever holds still for us, or should. The trick is learning to take things as they come, and fully too, with no resistance or fear, not trying to grip them too tightly or make them bend.”
Thanks for stopping by.