Bali – Ubud

After leaving Flores we headed back to Bali, it was the fourth time that we’d flown into Denpasar Airport and this time we were going to get time to explore unfettered by any strict onward journey plans .  I’d booked a home-stay in Ubud had the home-stay had arranged for a taxi to pick us up. The journey took about 90 minutes and the driver was friendly and chatty, he liked to practise his English as he told us that he had taught himself. Ubud has got it – its an amazing place.

Rice Harvesting Ubud.

Rice Harvesting Ubud.

The town is situated inland and has a reputation for healthy living, well-being, yoga and spas perfect for Paul and nice for me as I got the chance to indulge in some decent spa sessions.  The home stay was made up of 6 individual rooms centred around a well maintained courtyard.  In Bali home-stays are basic B&B’s offering nice small accommodation with a simple breakfast. We lucked out with Gershan 2 Home-stay Our room was perfect, we had a terrace where breakfast was served to us each morning when we awoke, the choice was great, any type of eggs you wanted or banana pancakes with fresh fruit, tea and coffee. We had a great outdoor bathroom too.  I thought it would be strange to shower outdoors but it was such a nice experience, we even had a fish pond in the bathroom!

The Living Bathroom

The Living Bathroom

In Ubud we met a friend, Olly who had moved out to Bali 4 months earlier to escape the monotony of office life in the UK and to spend some time on his on-line business, iambestman.co.uk. Olly explained remote working, it is possible to have a base anywhere in the world if you have a laptop, good internet access and a business plan.

Paul, me and Olly

Paul, me and Olly

During our stay we were taken to HUBUD a co-working space, the like of which are popping up all over the world. HUBUD is a kind of communal building and for a modest monthly fee you can use the building as a base for work. There are communal spaces, WIFI, photocopiers and printers. There is also a kind of cafeteria where like minded “HUBUDders” can network and socialise. We learnt that the real value in co-working spaces is meeting other people with a similar focus (wanting to work remotely overseas) but who have different skills. Skill sharing is central to the co-working philosophy, so, for example, you might be developing a website but have no idea how to build in an on-line payment system. The chances are there will be someone at HUBUD who has that specialism and might be able to help. There were some forward thinking people in that building and you could feel a palpable energy and vibrancy as we mingled about the many different nationalities that were milling about.

Drink overlooking the Rice Paddi Fields

Drink overlooking the Rice Paddi Fields

HUBUD also organises workshops and social events for its members, most of whom are forging a utopian life in Bali. We were taken to one such event – a business start up weekend. In short, people get together and think of ideas for a business start up. The ideas are then pitched to a panel on the Thursday evening. The panel picks the best ideas to be developed over the weekend. By Sunday evening each group that made it through the first sift stage has to be in a position to present the finished business model to the audience which included us and an esteemed panel of judges. It was a bit like X factor for entrepreneurs. It was interesting to watch the energetic presentations – these people belive in what they are doing. It was clear that each of the groups had spent a lot of time during the weekend developing the business models and having them verified to be able to report to Sunday’s panel that their particular idea was capable of success. I was surprised at just how developed some of the ideas had become. In a single weekend most groups had created a website for their ideas and some groups had even sold their first product.

The final night at Hubud's start up weekend.

The final night at Hubud’s start up weekend.

We watched each presentation, there must have been over a hundred people in HUBUD’S trendy wooden attic room. There were simultaneous events happening in other locations  around the world including Hong Kong and Rome. The organiser of the event wanted to make the Ubud event the most tweeted and we were kept up to date with the world table of tweets which only helped to build anticipation as the evening progressed and we moved towards the panel’s announcement of the winning pitch. The winning idea was to empower local school children in third world countries to collect recyclable waste. Children that had mobile phones would be able to download an app to record how much recyclable material that they had collected and they would be rewarded with a payment by weight, the amount of money earned would also be able to be seen on the app, the idea wasn’t exclusive to children with mobile phones it was just that an app happened to have been built during the weekend, amazing.  The collective waste in each town would be collected and sold in bulk to a recycling processor for a fee which would in part be used to pay the children that had collected it.

Cheeky Monkey.

Cheeky Monkey.

The start up weekend was really fascinating, there is a big community of entrepreneurial remote workers living the good life in Bali and they all congregate at HUBUD, a very interesting place, if you want to start a new life in Bali, HUBUD is the place to begin.

We were really grateful for Olly taking us to HUBUD and being out host whilst we were in town, these trips are easier and better when you have a local to show you round – thanks Olly. On another evening we spent time having a meal at Clear Cafe, a trendy eatery offering a wide selection of foods from around the world, with healthy juices and no alcohol on sale, Ubud really is a town that promotes well-being. We ate at Clear Cafe again on our penultimate night and found out the next morning that the lovely restaurant where we had dined had been burnt down! There was nothing but a charred table stem left from where we had sat the previous evening – weird   After being healthy for dinner, we headed off to find a bar to get a few beers and watch England, the game didn’t start until 2am and we chatted and drank until 4am – not that healthy I’d say.

The England Game.

The England Game.

The next day Olly took us to the rice paddy fields, just a small walk away from the main town, it was very picturesque to walk on a track amid the green rice fields just what I’d imagined of the wonderful Balinese landscape. At the end of the track it lead us to another amazing  cafe which served organic fare overlooking the fields, Olly told us that he often works from the cafe with his laptop, somewhat different to his previous office in the marketing department of Arsenal Football Club in central London. In the afternoon we visited the monkey forest, a small area at the end of the main high street, where you pay a small fee and get to see the friendly  monkey population. The monkey’s were ace, here’s a little video of the cheeky chaps in action.

A walk through the rice fields.

A walk through the rice fields.

Ubud’s reputation for wellbeing is  further reflected in the many massage parlours and spas that can be found in the vibrant town, some are even located in the rice fields. We extended our stay as we liked Ubud a lot, it also happened to be Paul’s birthday so it was the perfect place to relax and get spoilt for a few days. We researched the internet and found great reviews for Putri Bali spa so we booked a half day treatment package, this included 8 treatments, starting from your feet with a pedicure, I felt sorry for the girl having to treat Paul’s feet! In addition we had an exotic massage, a petal bath, a manicure, a facial and a head massage it was Amazing. We spent 5 hours getting pampered and it only cost £28 for each of us. In the UK something similar at would cost upwards of £250, it was pure luxury and worth every penny.

The Putri Bali Spa.

The Putri Bali Spa.

In the evening we went to see a traditional Balinese dance performance – the Kecak Fire & Trance Dance, I really enjoyed the experience but Paul was glad when it was over he found it boring and wanted something to eat.  We found Ubud to be a vibrant relaxing town, with food most of which is cheap and healthy, we wished we could of stayed longer, its one of the best places we have visited but unfortunately running came calling, we needed to get to Jakarta as Paul had entered a half marathon.

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Balinese Fire and Trance Dance.

We caught a flight to Jakarta the next day, everyone we spoke to advised us how smoggy the city was going to be. The population in Jakarta is reported to be approximately 10.7 million living in an area of 740 square km, this is bigger than the whole of Bolivia which covers an area of 1,098,582 square km and has a population of 10.67 million. Jakarta was hectic, hundreds of cars, motorbikes and lorries everywhere. It took ages to get from the airport to hotel we thought it must be rush hour, however the volume of traffic was to be encountered every time we left the hotel. The city’s roads are at a standstill most of the time, it took ages to get anywhere.  We collected Paul’s race number and then went to explore the hectic metropolis.  It is difficult to walk anywhere in Jakarta as there are no footpaths, luckily taxi’s are very cheap so to get places we had to use them even if the cheap fare was offset by the time spent ion traffic jams.  We complain about the roads in Grantham or the A6 in Stockport, but believe us – compared to Jakarta everything is good.

Terrible Traffic.

Terrible Traffic.

We spent a day looking around the main city, taking in all the sights, Jakarta is known for its shopping, they have built new modern shopping malls bigger than Bluewater or the Trafford centre, Paul was in his element browsing the swanky malls and not so swanky fake goods stalls.  We got a taxi to our next hotel, the Idoop, on the fringe of the city but near to the half marathon start, this took nearly 2 hours due to the traffic, ridiculous.  The hotel was a 20 minute walk away from the race start which was good.  The race started at 5.30am, they start the race at this time due to the heat & humidity and even at this time it was so hot I didn’t know how Paul would manage especially with a complete lack of training and a fat Asian diet.  He managed to complete the race in 1 hr 51 minutes, not his best time but due to the conditions it was fantastic, he came 44th out of 3000 runners amazing.  Jakarta was definitely not on the tourist trail and we had an interesting time exploring the hectic city but I don’t think I’d go back there in a hurry and if I  did I would leave at least 4 hours to get anywhere. We met an ex-pat in Tangerang (location of the half marathon), he literally stooped us on the street as he was surprised to see two Western faces in that part of town. He was working as an English teacher and we felt sorry to leave him in that chaotic smog filled suburb, we kind of felt like we should have rescued him, he stunk of alcohol which wasn’t surprising, if you had to live in that depressing suburb of Jakarta you would drink I’m sure….

Jakarta at Night.

Jakarta at Night.

We left the next day for Singapore, the traffic was so bad on the way back to the airport that moped drivers line the traffic jams. As happens frequently, if you are going to miss your flight you can abandon your taxi and take a moped ride for the last few kilometres weaving through the lengthy traffic jams.

Happy To Finish

Happy To Finish

We left three hours for our taxi journey, it took two and half to get to the airport, a distance of 35 kilometres, crazy. The flight to Singapore was more straightforward apart from the customs officials finding two cans of lager in our bags. They let us stand by the X- ray machine and drink them. We felt slightly ashamed, like a couple of typical British lager drinking tourists amid a largely non drinking race but it did help to calm the nerves as there was huge storm swirling around the airport and we had to fly into it. In the event the pilot must have done a good dodging mission as the flight was calm and we arrived in Singapore on time a few hours later.

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