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March 27, 2010 - Ubud Bali Indonesia

Written by GingerBlossom Published in
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Conde Naste readers, those uber rich uber travelers, voted Ubud "Best Asian City" in 2009. Even Daryl, who was a Pan Am flight attendant during the glory days of air travel, had mentioned to me once that I needed to visit Ubud, it really had something special. I wouldn't call Ubud a city, the epicenter of town is a rice paddy, but it is very special. Eat Pray Love, the book made to movie, starring Julia Roberts, and partially set in Ubud, is due for release this coming summer, and locals are wondering if Ubud will become a victim of it's spreading fame. I bought a glossy picture book last night, Tropical Asian Style, and well over 90% of the book was photographed in either Bali or Chiang Mai. Even Kuta was included, although it's much more well-known for the non-stop party scene than it's beauty. I whacked out my left shoulder from over-indulgence in the swimming pool. The hotel was empty and silent, and I had the pool to myself at night, floating on clear, warm water, looking up to a star-filled sky, with palm trees and bats flying around like drunken birds overhead, and the occasional cloud passing in front of a half moon.

To get to craft towns, I've had my cargo guy, or another local boy to drive me around most days. They are from small villages and are the best, most polite, careful drivers. They both drive like it's their cousin, or auntie, or brother on the scooter next to them, which it well may be.

Everywhere fresh daily offerings are put out, made of incense, flowers, rice, and a Ritz cracker or two. The dogs, chickens. birds and cats usually have the Ritz crackers polished off in short order, and the cooked rice is usually gone by the next offering.

Food has been fabulous. When I'm out with Rama and Alit, I always let them choose where to go for lunch, as long as it has some Indonesian food.

Rama asked me if there were any Indonesian restaurants where I live, there probably are, I just don't know of any. Best meal so far for me was at a little family restaurant, or warung, we had the daily special , nasi champur. It was rice, Balinese eggs, water morning glories cooked in coconut milk, fish crackers and crispy tempe. Both Rama and I had avocado milk shakes too, (sounds bad, tastes great) and the whole meal came to $3.50 for the three of us. When we go to the tourist spots it ends up at about $15 for 3 people. Bali has really cheap food if you forgo the Western style eats, and don't drink - a Mojito will set you back $9. A cheaper way to get relaxed is an hour's massage for $6, the second massage that I had for my shoulder fixed it right up. Finally I tried some Luwak or cat shit coffee. Civit cats eat the green coffee beans, then poop them out, but I didn't want them being exploited or force fed, so have passed on it. I finally found a brand that said that it was wild harvested. Usually this coffee sells for $8 a cup, so I thought that $12 for a small package sounded like a deal, and I justified it as a present for my brother. When the girl in the store saw that I had it in my basket, she asked if I wanted to try a sample. Sorry, Bro - I thought that it tasted like Nescafe, so I put it back.

I'm now at a pavillion overlooking the rice fields. I'd imagined a nice little stroll around flat ground, but this was a trail crossing over vertigo-inducing chasms, raging torrents of water, towering coconut palms, banyan trees as wide as a 2 car garage, and all green, green and lush. I feel like I've stepped into a Gaughan painting. Actually, women in Bali often went topless well into the 1950's. I bought a bag of recently dried vanilla beans from a trail side house, and as I can't take fresh plant product into the U.S., I think I'll try and make some sort of steeped vanilla bean concoction tonight.