Report from Tomorrow - Vol 48, Bali Redux

Bali Redux, Jan 2013

1USD = IRD9400

In January 2013 we returned to Bali for the first time in almost thirteen years (read about the previous experience here and here). Someone recently told us you should never return to a place that had been an especially great experience, because, of course, you cannot repeat that experience. There's much truth in this advice.

We returned to Ubud, a small town no where near the coast and beaches. The area specializes in wood and stone carving, as well as painting. In some ways Ubud was little changed. It's still a target area for vists from tourists and so the shopping and accommodations are plentiful. The rupiah to dollar was better than before, so the costs were reasonable (typical meals were about $5USD each). The prople were friendly and very helpful, as before. Once again we were fascinated by the elaborate rice offerings to the earth demons scattered all over Lokasari and downtown.

This time because we anticipated we might have a few others staying with us, we booked with Lokasari, which was located a couple of miles from the center of town. Lokasari offered nowhere near the splendid accommodations we remembered at Bali Spirit. The rooms were okay, had air conditioning so we could sleep, beds were fine, but the place was a bit tired, in need of sprucing up, and because of it fronted on a busy road, it was not as quiet as I would have liked.

The staff were very helpful when one of our party experienced more than a little drama trying to arrive. We greatly appreciated their shuttle which took us into town and picked us up (clever us to have brought a phone that worked in Bali), but it would have been nicer to be close enough to just walk into town (we did walk back once, not too far, but the sidewalks were a challenge).

What had changed in the intervening decade-plus was the traffic. We were met at the airport by Agu who'd been sent by the hotel. His English was quite good and we booked him for other trips (again, we were grateful to have a cellphone). The traffic, however, was shear gridlock. It must have taken more than half an hour, just to creep out of the airport and then another hour before we got out of town and were well on our way to Ubud. Arriving the evening of January 1st, when everyone in Indonesia was on their way home, was not the most clever time to show up. Our return six days later to the airport was much smoother.

Because we had to rely on transportation to take us into town, we had to endure the very busy and cramped Ubud traffic. The streets are narrow and filled with motorbikes and vehicles schlepping people in/out of town. The first day into Ubud was near gridlock and took forever. Later in the week it only took ten or so minutes to go the two miles.

Our second trip to Bali was nothing like the idyllic time we had anticipated. Lokasari was not what we had imagined. We had to deal with far more traffic than we'd expected (Vietnam traffic had pretty well overwhelmed us). I was hot and sweaty (no surprise) and it rained copiously (rainy season, no surprise). In short, it was not 1999, it was 2013 and not as we'd expected. There were good experiences, good food, great fruit drinks, and we came home with a very nice wood carving as a keepsake.

The Ubud we think we visited is no more.