After I rid myself of the surfboard in Canggu, the road to Ubud was waiting. About two hours and a thorough tropical shower later, I arrived in the dorm of a small and simple hostel above a little restaurant where I hung my stuff to dry.
I was relaxing in the dorm when there was a blackout; one of the girls in the room tried to turn on the hairdryer. It also affected the restaurant downstairs and it would take about two minutes for one of them to come up and put the fuse back in. But undeterred by reason, the girl tried three times. It’s probably not necessary to mention that the result was the same, every single time.
Ubud has a few things to show for, and I was determined to discover them. I started by walking around the city center and then took my scooter off-road to explore the nearby rice-terraces just outside town. I had heard about a restaurant called Sari Organik in the middle of the fields and I went on to enjoy a delicious lunch there.
In the afternoon, I left the tired scooter be and hiked up along the Campuhan Ridge Walk until I found a nice place to have a beer and a snack.
Back in town, I went on to visit Pura Taman Saraswati, a classical Balinese temple whose access path is lined with a pond full of lotus flowers. In hindsight, I have no idea why the pond is not in the picture.
The next day, I was one of the first ones to enter the Monkey Forest, a park crowded with temples and surprise, surprise: monkeys. After wandering around for about ten minutes, a few of these rascals blocked my way. I have heard many stories about monkey aggression, so I waited a bit and hoped they would go their way. After a little while, the monkey still busy doing monkey business right in the middle of the path, I decided that I would pass them without drawing their attention. I zipped up my rainjacket, put my cellphone and wallet in one of the inside pockets and put my hands in the outside ones before marching decisively passed them without looking at them. A great plan. It failed miserably. The youngest of the group quickly chased after me and jumped at my leg making his way up to my arms. Two others didn’t take long to follow. Within seconds I must have looked like a furry christmas tree mistaken for a Mexican Piñata. Feeling less than comfortable, and slightly ashamed of how bluntly my genious plan to escape their curious nature shipwrecked, I kept my hands firmly in my pockets and waited until they got to terms with the reality that their was nothing falling out for them, no matter how hard they pushed and pulled. The Piñata won and walked on.
After not too much time in the park, witnessing another two or three vicious monkey attacks on unsuspecting touritst I had enough and decided to leave the planet of the apes behind me and go back to where humans are in charge. Not that they are much more pleasant in general, but they do bite and scratch far less, so that’s a plus.
Anyway, there were other things for me to see. For example Tagallalang. Located a few kilometres north of Ubud, these picturesque rice-terraces are an incredible tourist magnet. The little valley is accessible right from the main road lined with restaurants, cafés and small shops. The families cultivating the fields probably make more money asking for entrance fees to the paths leading around the terraces than from selling rice. Nevertheless, it was worth a visit. More importantly though, I got a hat. I kept and regularly used it until I left Indonesia a few weeks later, handing it on to a fellow traveller.
Before leaving Bali and travelling on to Lombok, I didn’t want to miss the chance to see Manta Rays. For that purpose, I made my way back down south and stayed in Sanur. I spend the afternoon after my arrival looking for a diving school that wouldn’t rip me off completely. In the end I found a guy who had a friend and so on. With everything arranged for the next day, I made the acquaintance of two older guys from the hostel, both travelling around the country. We ended up in a loud bar with a surprisingly hard-rocking band. After I got kinda bored with the conversation of the other two, the conversation prohibiting volume was a welcome change.
The morning I got picked up early, we drove around for a while, picked up another dude and finally got dropped off at a small dive center. About half an hour later our little group of five divers and two dive masters took off to the beach. The boat ride was rockier than usual and we got shaken quite a bit. As the Manta cleaning station off the coast of Nusa Penida is a well-known spot, I had no hope of being alone when we would arrive there. And we weren’t. But once you are under water looking at blue-dotted stingrays that hide in the sand the attention shifts quickly. It shifts again the moment the first Manta comes across the cleaning station. These giants span between five and seven meters and leave you in the shadow and breathless when they calmly glide through the water above you. Beautiful, majestic, impressive. That’s all I have.
On our second dive we tried to see the famous Mola Mola, also known as Moon Fish. I had the feeling our dive master wasn’t as motivated as he could have been to find one and so we ended up not encountering any. But with the Manta still vividly in front of my inner eye I didn’t manage to be disappointed.
Then it was time to move on to the next island; Lombok.