After our few magical weeks in India Peter and I made a pit spot in Bangkok before we joined our friends Travis and Jen for a two week trip in Indonesia.
Peter and I always stay on Thong Lor at the Pan Pacific but this time we stayed at Centre Point in Asoke. Thought we would try something else on for size. What’s the saying? If its not broke, don’t fix it? Well, since then we have gone back to Thong Lor on all of our visits.
We had a little time to bask in our lingering zen glow from Rishikesh before it was off for our next adventure. My first morning in Bangkok I received a FaceTime call from some girlfriends. I literally rolled over just waking up and answered. All of them kept saying “wow you look so good.” I hadn’t even brushed my hair or teeth. I can only attest this to the lightness I was feeling after our spiritual yoga retreat. I think a harmonious existence equates to outward beauty. However, since then no one has told me I look so good over FaceTime. Not even when I’m trying to be cute. Probably need another zen retreat.
On our brief stay in Bangkok we did a few normal activities such as going to the movies to see The Avengers.
See ours friends Teddy and Greg at Maggie Choo for a couple drinks.
And Explore the new fabulous mall EmQuartier. Bangkok has mall awesomeness covered.
After 5 days of hanging out in Bangkok (which has now started to feel like a second home) we were off to the airport to fly to Denpasar, Bali to meet our friends who were flying in from Arizona. We were treated to a nice sunrise in the morning. With all the skyscrapers, BKK certainly offers some charming sunsets and sunrises.
Travis, who was my roommate when I lived in Phoenix, and his lovely wife Jen were coming to visit us for their sabbatical and Travis’s 40th birthday. We were all very excited.
They landed a couple hours after us and we were off to our first stop in Bali – Ubud. GO CATS!
I for one was thrilled to be returning to Ubud. I had been three years prior when I was on a solo adventure and fell in love with it. Ubud is a backdrop of thick green jungle and rice paddies with a magical albeit peaceful soul that is palpable. The locals practice Hinduism and are some of the most generous in terms of smiles and kindness that I have ever come across. Some of those smiles I can still recall today and remember the happiness and warmth that I felt. It’s one of those places where materialistically people don’t seem to have much, but they seem genuinely happy and content. Rich in what matters most. It’s something I had marveled over on my last trip.
For the next few nights we would be staying at an Airbnb in Ubud. Some parts of Asia take Airbnb to the next level with providing a driver, cooked meals, and daily cleaning. Our home for the next few days had wonderful service, a pool, and large bedrooms with outdoor showers. As well as an open planned living room, kitchen, and dining room. It was perfect and all for the bargain price of about $30/person.
Prior to the trip I had asked Travis and Jen what they wanted to do most in Indonesia. They both put daily massages at the top of that list. So after check-in and a couple of Bintang’s (the local beer) we got dropped off in the heart of Ubud in search for a good massage to kick start our trip.
We dropped in to the first one we came across and we were all hooked. Cheap daily massages became our thing.
Next up we visited a restaurant I had frequented on my last trip, Biah Biah. The menu is a number of small plates to share which offer a lot of things with coconut and peanut sauce. YUM! We ordered a number of items and washed everything down with a cold Bintang. Our trip was off to a good start.
We night capped it at XL Shisha Lounge and mapped out the next couple weeks.
A trip to Ubud isn’t complete without visiting the Monkey Forest. Peter has an absolute disdain for monkeys which has in turn rubbed off on me. Why is the phrase ‘a monkey on your back‘ considered a serious problem? They truly are terrifying, but nonetheless we were about to go face our fears. As Peter has said many times, “Never, ever trust a monkey.”
In a turn of heart for me, Travis and I bought bananas to feed the monkeys along the way. A decision I immediately regretted.
Mainly because this occurred. Please note the terror in my face in the first picture.
Travis on the other hand did so much better. He remained cool, calm and collected. Almost like a monkey whisperer. (Peter’s sidebar) He apparently has no idea that at any moment a monkey can turn on you and scratch your face off, contract you with HIV all while screeching maniacally with their red devil eyes.
Jen gave the monkey feeding a go, but was just as fearful as Peter and I.
Alas, we were treated to some nice jungle views along the way that eased the nerves.
Afterwords we headed to Sari Organic which is a restaurant located in a stunning setting overlooking rice paddies and emerald green jungle. It’s a bit of a hike to get to as you traverse along a narrow width walking path deep into the rice paddies, adding to the whole dining experience. We sat on the patio delighting in healthy food with a unique and glorious backdrop.
I realized where we were sitting was right where I sat on my previous trip. I attempted to recreate the same picture.
With utter gratitude I now have this hunk of a man by my side.
On our walk back into town we saw a massage spot located right off the walking trail. It was almost like a popup shop of sorts. As we checked in we had to wait around as the lady called her “friends” to come in and accommodate us. It did take us a moment to decide whether or not to wait as it was nearing sunset and navigating back to the road in the dark seemed a bit daunting. Alas, we opted to gamble and get the massages. We were all glad we did. Having a massage in the rice paddies while watching the sunset was certainly a highlight for all of us. Finding our way back by using our iPhone flashlight while being serenaded by the frogs in the paddies also added to the adventure and mystic.
Back in town we grabbed a drink at Siam Sally and then a light dinner at my favorite Ubud restaurant, Kafe. Kafe is one of those culinary delights where everything on the menu is healthy, delicious, and your body feels good consuming anything there.
Another thing I love about Ubud is the decor blanketing the restaurants.
On our last day in Ubud we opted for yet another spa day. We booked half-day appointments at Sang Spa 2 for the “Eat Pray Love” special. This consisted of 4 hours of pampering including a massage, body scrub, facial, hair cream bath and lunch. Yes please!
The next four hours were utterly indulgent. A strong memory for me was sitting in a bathtub eating the freshest and most delicious fruits including the outrageously mouthwatering passionfruit.
Part way we refueled on a healthy lunch. Why we needed fuel considering none of us had much of a pulse, I’m not sure.
The most entertaining portion of the day though was watching all my friends receive a head massage and hair wash in side by side parlor chairs. Travis and Jen were getting into the zen zone real quick.
That afternoon we did some walking and shopping around. While Peter headed back to our Airbnb to work, Travis, Jen, and I took a taxi to the much photographed and buzzed about Ubud Hanging Gardens. Here’s why all the hype.
The three of us road for 40 minutes via negotiated taxi and arrived just in time to grab a sundowner and watch the sunset. Or so we thought.
To our avail we were informed of a new hotel policy which grants access to non-guests for $45/person. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time until we had to meet Peter for dinner so the arbitrary dollar seemed ridiculous considering the mere minutes we’d be spending in the gardens. As we discussed the possibility of an exception the sunset went down and so did our hopes of seeing the hanging gardens. A man who gets between me and a Bali sunset is not my friend. You can’t win them all and not everyone is your friend. I told myself this as we headed out the door that kicked us on our way out. Before leaving we did have our driver snap this picture of us outside the property.
We charged it back to town where we grabbed passion fruit martinis (immediate mood lifter) at Jazz Cafe before meeting back up with Peter at Bridges for dinner. We enjoyed a bit of an upper scale dinner in a serene atmosphere tucked away by the river. It was a perfect close out to Ubud.
In the morning we were off for our next adventure — the Lombok island of Gili T.
This time around Ubud still delivered it’s magical zen energy. I will say note, however, that Ubud has certainly picked up in it’s popularity since Eat Pray Love and since my previous visit. This popularity in effect has dialed back the zen in my opinion with aggressive traffic, loads of commercialism and a little bit of lost charm. Locals and people working there seem a bit more stressed and not as smiley. However the town is still unbelievably picturesque, with incredible cuisine, and delightful people. Go there before it changes too much. Although I hope it doesn’t.
Thanks as always for your interest in our story.
Thankfully I have no monkey on my back. Literally and figuratively.