October Break – Ubud, Bali

It has been a month since our lovely family vacation, I suppose it’s time to tell you about it.

At the end of term one, our school takes a week off, also referred to as, October Break. Mark and I planned this during our second week here. I think we needed something to look forward to at that point. During the overwhelming newness of everything, looking forward to an escape was needed.

We tried to avoid the super touristy areas of the coastal areas of Bali, and opted for the higher area toward the center of the island, a town called Ubud. Well, this turned out to also be a very touristy area. We saw more westerners in that week than we had in all of our first three months in Indonesia. Yet, it was still a lovely place to stay and fairly central to a lot of activities we wanted to do.

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I was surprised to find that our 2-hour drive to our villa in the hills, was solidly through a continuous mass of life. The sprawl of life in this island seems to be little different from that of Jakarta. I suppose I thought we’d be driving through less populated areas, through a more wild landscape. This is not the Indonesia I have found yet. There are a lot of people in this country.

Again, driving up to our villa, we traced a narrow road until it became almost impossibly narrow, (we later took our scooters down this road and found it turned into a narrow path through a rice paddy) until we finally arrived at our escape for the week, The White Villas. It was lovely!  A little home to relax in and use as a landing pad for our adventures ahead. Breakfast was also included every morning and delivered right to our little outdoor dining area. We had a choice of fresh fruit, eggs, toast, muesli, and pancakes every morning, completed by tea, coffee, and fresh juices.

Our first adventure was the Sacred Monkey Forest. We had been duly warned about how aggressive these monkeys can be. So, we packed our water into a backpack and didn’t have much else with us. We walked about 2km from our home away from home and paid a minimal fee to enter this area. It’s a lovely walking path through an old forest, and down into a ravine with a temple at the bottom. The monkeys are wild and roam as they please. I saw one uncomfortable lady with a monkey on her head and a child cried as a monkey stole the water bottle out of her hand. But they left us alone. Since this is no zoo, this is the natural habitat of these monkeys, they are also wandering around outside the paid area, so if all you want is a glimpse, just walk around the streets outside.

The next day we booked a tour with our villa’s driver, Ketud, to take us on a tour to the Volcano. This included three temples, a stop at rice paddies, and a tour of a coffee plantation. The volcano was more of the turnaround point for us. We were dropped off at a restaurant for lunch with a view of the Volcano (which was actually on fire, but we think it was a forest fire.) The view was great, but the food was not and was terribly overpriced. It was by far the most expensive meal we had the whole week!

The temples were interesting to walk through, however, we didn’t have a guide to explain anything to us. They were all located in the most beautiful places, surrounded by forest, almost always leading down to a water source of some sort. Yet the garbage problem of Indonesia followed us here as well.

Since these temples are a draw for tourists, you will also find people selling whatever they can. Every temple provides a sarong to wear for men and women (and sometimes children), but these vendors always want to sell you theirs. At one temple, we walked down about 350 steps and almost the whole way down were little shops lining the way on both sides, selling beautiful things like sarongs, coconut works of art, fans, snacks, and drinks. Our final temple tour actually exited us through a maze of a market. We wondered if we’d ever find our way out!

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Another favourite stop was the coffee plantation. Here we saw the Luwak, an animal that is famous for eating the coffee bean and only digesting the outer layer, excreting the bean itself. Apparently the fermenting that occurs during digestion gives this bean a deliciously unique flavour. People collect these beans, wash and roast them. We were given many different coffees and drinks to taste and couldn’t resist trying this one as well. It was pretty good, but I’m ok with just sharing one cup.

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This plantation has one tame Luwak that we could pet and cuddle. So fun!

We were also able to trek down and up and down and up again through a rice plantation. Again, this was full of tourists and many ways for tourists to leave their money behind. There were even stations along the way requiring a donation to use their path. It was worth it to experience something new and get a little exercise, not to mention the beautiful views.

Another day, we enjoyed the rafting on the Ayung River. Our family was picked up at our villa, taken to the office, outfitted with helmets, life jackets, and paddles. Then trucked to the top of the ravine where we walked hundreds of steps down towards the river. Many rafting outfits use this starting point and there were rafts lined up and so many people to fill them. We followed our guides and waited our turn to enter the river.

After quick instructions on what to do, we were off, the four of us, plus a couple and our guide. The water level was low and although we had some exciting rapids to run, I never felt we were in danger. We could take in the beauty of the river environment.

About an hour into our time, we put into a little spot along the river with a small snack shop, our tour operator’s little break area where you can grab a beer at 10am, or a water or pop, and chips and rest for ten minutes. The shopkeeper asked if we’d be kind enough to buy our guide a beer for his break, so we obliged. We all enjoyed our time on the river. There’s no photographic evidence of this since I was too afraid to bring my phone. I found out later, our guide had a dry bag I could have put it in. Oh well.

One of the most exciting events of our week actually happened at night. At about 2:45am on Wednesday night we awoke to our beds shaking and the sliding doors rattling loudly. What do you do in the pitch dark of night with your doors shaking? Look for your phone to shine a light and wonder if someone is trying to break in. That’s what went through my head, other than the quick thought of maybe it’s a storm or an animal. The shaking stopped soon after we were up and dressed. M went outside to check things out. I put N back to sleep, she thought she woke up for a drink and Jeremiah slept through it all. I had no idea it was an earthquake until I got back to bed and asked M why he went outside and what he was doing on his phone. …now I know. Later we found out it was a 6.0 magnitude earthquake, but there was no damage on the island of Bali.

We did make it to the beach one day, about an hour drive away and spent the rest of our time enjoying family and pool time and exploring our little town on scooters.

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We enjoyed our time away, a chance to be together and enjoy more of this beautiful country. We are very grateful for the opportunities we have living here in Jakarta and look forward to exploring more around us.

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