Shifting Gears

endured a cramped flight over the Java Sea, and exotic airplane food, then skipped through a quick customs process at the Bali airport. Not a single one of our many bags was even glanced at. The taxi rides to Ubud are for a set price. Kind Jennifer gave me the front “eyeball” seat, left side, while she sat in back. It wasn’t until our 90 minute ride was nearly finished that I saw how ridiculously squished against her door she was, to accommodate our ginormous bags. This hour and a half was not the best introduction to paradise. In Maui, by comparison, once you drive away from that small airport, you are immediately on a sparse, relaxed highway, surrounded by a tropical scene that goes on for miles, and you know that you’re in paradise. This was not Maui. And this was not Singapore.

The narrow, 2 lane road out of the airport was packed with slow traffic. But it was the busiest bumper to bumper jam I’ve ever seen. A steady stream of fast motorbikes and scooters whizzed past or weaved around us, while our car jockeyed for an edge against other cars and vans that would somehow appear on one side or the other, like a heard of cattle funneling through a gate. The roads were unkempt, and the worn shoulders and sidewalks appeared and disappeared constantly. Just beyond the hordes of motorbikes to my left, was another, slow world going on. A seemingly endless string of artisans and their wares. Stone carvings, rattan furniture, wood carvings, piles of bricks, baskets, chunks of wood, textiles, heaps of dirt. People calmly sitting on the ground, right next to the busy traffic. Some with their heads down, fixated on their creation. Others had somewhere to go, and moved between the artists and street chaos as if they had plenty of room. Many billboards clamored for attention. Ads for restaurants and hotels and electronics. Lots of cinder-block dwellings going up, and periodic heaps of debris set on fire. We didn’t really know what to expect upon arrival, but this wasn’t it, but we both kept our thoughts and disappointment to ourselves. We barely said anything.

There were however, frequent sights that did impress. White stone figures towered over everything at the roundabouts. Strange, temples and religious looking facades, unlike anything we’d seen in Singapore, got our attention. And now and then, the narrow confines of the buildings opened up to reveal glimpses of rice fields, or even a volcano way off in the distance. After 45 minutes or so, the pace of our drive had improved, and the scenery began to change a bit into a more rural and scenic environment. There were longer stretches of land now visible, in between small, distinguishable villages. Our arrival into Ubud was not obvious to our untrained eye. There is no welcome sign. However, we’d soon understand that our cottage was located on the southern edge of Ubud, just short of  a bend in the road that acts as an entry point. Beyond that bend, it becomes clear that you’ve arrived at someplace significant.

We turned down a short, rocky trail just wide enough for the taxi to pull onto, and we were at our new home. Our host Made (maDAY), showed us to our cottage, behind his house. We appreciated how quiet everything got, yet still so close to that main road. Our first impression here was good, thankfully. A lovely lush garden and pond surrounded our tiled terrace, and we loved the large, open air bathroom with walk-in shower.

It was dark by the time we ventured out for our first glimpse of Ubud, in search of dinner. These are among those magic travel moments, when you dive into a new place, without any idea what to expect. We simultaneously tried to comprehend it, while just letting it wash over us. We were happy to finally, actually be here -whatever that meant. We were dazzled by much of what we saw, but it would take several days of walking this same road, and venturing off from it in all directions, for things to start making sense to us. We found a serene, beautiful spot to have some delicious food, served by delightfully pleasant people, and then went to bed, happy, tired, and excited for what would follow. We had arrived.


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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kristi Jacobson
    May 07, 2013 @ 15:01:20

    This is an amazing glimpse into your entry; beautifully written!!! Thank you for taking the time to include us in on your adventure!


  2. Kristi Jacobson
    May 07, 2013 @ 15:03:03

    This is an amazing peek into your introduction to Ubud! Thank you for sharing these special moments; so beautifully written! xxoo


  3. Matt & Rita
    May 08, 2013 @ 07:52:01

    Matt, your writing is great! You have done a good job capturing that moment when you first set out in an unknown city with nervous anticipation of what you will find . . .


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