Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Ubud: on profound thoughts of being a single, female traveller

So here I am in Ubud. I had all these profound thoughts about travelling alone, as a single woman, about Bali, the people I talked to on my way to Ubud but all those profound thoughts vanished when I went shopping today so now, all I could think about is shopping (well not really, but it pretty much is dominating my thoughts).

At first I was really excited to see all these cute small shops but when you go from one store to another, you realize that it's all the same merchandise anyhow and to top it off, 70% could be found back home. Really. Ah well, at least I have an idea what the prices are back home and could get things here for really cheap. I have decided that I am going to do all my shopping in the pasar, which is pretty much the same stuff you see in the cuter shops but you can bargain like mad. It was being back in Beijing and admittedly, I wasn't prepared for it. My first purchase is this small wooden mask that I made a mistake of admiring and the seller wouldn't let me go until I bought it. The consolation part is that I got it for about 70% of the initial price. It really, really helps being able to speak Malay in Ubud. There is instant familiarity when I open my mouth and Malay comes out. Some of the men have tried to impress me by speaking in English but my Malay is so much better than their English so I'm pretty much speaking Malay 100% of the time. Very cool! Lots of practice for me.

Well aside from shopping, I still haven't done what I initially promised myself when I first decided to go to Bali. I figure - this afternoon, a mandi lulur and perhaps after that, well, more walking around and getting a better feel for the place. The losmen that I'm staying in rents bicycles so I'm going to look into that.

Oh! Speaking of my losmen, let me describe it further - it's tucked away in a little alley. My room is on the only floor, basically my balcony is akin to Juliet's, as in Romeo & Juliet. It's very private and I just open the doors in the morning and listen to the early sounds of a typical Bali morning. The other tenant is a guy from "Amerika Selatan" - a musician. I took a peek at him this morning from my balcony and he looks like a damn hippy - facial hair, long hair and scruffy looking. I haven't had the opportunity to talk to him yet.

So anyway, as promised, I took several bemos to Ubud from the airport. It was a little confusing at first because I had initially thought of proper buses from some reason. Bemos are like van sapus in Malaysia. The good thing is that I was prepared for travelling by bemos - after numerous trips in jeepneys in Manila and van sapus in Sarawak. The hot, sticky and crowded bemos were a norm to me. What I wasn't prepared for was the aggressiveness of the bemo drivers. I hate them already. Now, I'm not sure whether I just bite the bullet and continue on travelling by bemo around the island or hire a jeep like I initially thought. The traffic isn't as bad as I thought. Actually, what I'm surprised is how... grimy the place is. Well, Ubud's so much nicer than Denpasar, and what I figure are the outskirts of Kuta and Sanur and the air is much cleaner but.. it's still not as clean as back home. Maybe it's because I'm really in a congested part of Bali and it'd improve as I travel outward. I mean, I touch my skin and I can feel the grime! Ick.

Anyway, back to the bemos. I had stopped for a very long stopover at Batubulan and started chatting with this friendly woman vendor. I should emphasize how much easier it is to get around by knowing how to speak Malay, even though Bali is considered a English language friendly place. She was very chatty and very complimentary ("women in Malaysia are more beautiful than women in Indonesia - look at you!") hehe She was amazed that I was travelling alone and said that I had "so much courage". It makes me nervous when people say how brave I am because I'm not. I mean, I so wanted to do this - solo travelling - for so long and it supercedes my fear of actually travelling alone but it doesn't exactly mean that I'm fearless. I have a safe feeling in Ubud and feel comfortable walking around by myself but perhaps that would change when I go to less congested areas. Actually, right now, I feel a bit lonely and I want someone to chat to.

Anyway, she recommended this particular losmen and I was a bit hesistant. She called the bemo driver and he had a pamphlet. He wanted to give them a call so that they would expect me but I didn't like the idea of being rushed into this BEFORE actually seeing the place. So I said no. On my way to Ubud, this odd-looking man with bushy facial hair got on and tried to talk to me. By then, I was exhausted by the many bemo rides - the waiting gets you down - and also overwhelmed that I was *actually* doing this - travelling on my own. So I completely ignored him. Strange looking male stranger wants to talk to me? Yeah right. He then tapped my knees to get my attention and I shifted and continued ignoring him. The bemo driver encouraged him, telling him that I understood Malay. Yet Malay or English attempts on his part didn't shift my continued, and increasingly hostile silence. Finally he gave up and left.

Now, the bemo driver then tells me that he's going to drop me off at the losmen so I can check it out. I'm a bit pissed because I don't like being pushed to this but I'm also tired and we were close to central Ubud anyway so I thought it wouldn't hurt checking it out. When I saw the place, it was sooo much prettier than I expected and the woman who greeted me was very pleasant and friendly. And when I saw the room and my exclusive balcony AND the cushioned bamboo daybed on the balcony, well that sealed the deal. I bargained the price down from the initial offer. Basically, I'm currently paying less than RM20 for a night, which is pretty ok. It includes a MASSIVE breakfast - a mound of fresh fruits and nasi goreng and tea. So I think it's ok.

After a nap and a much-needed bath yesterday, I decided to take a look around. I then met her husband, who was clad in traditional wear, and her beautiful young daughter. Actually, the daughter was the reason why the woman vendor thought I should stay in this particular losmen. She thought that we could become friends (and that it was just safer for me to be with them).

This morning, while I was tucking into my mound of fruits, the husband/dad comes out and says hello. I cheerfully say hello and then it hit me - OH SHIT. This is the SAME crazy-looking bushy facial hair guy that I completely ignored on the bemo. I had such a shock. Why didn't I recognize him when I first saw him in the losmen? I think it was because of the traditional garb he had on. I then felt so bad for being rude to him initially but then again, he's not exactly the best PR face for them. He's crazy-looking! He should be grateful that his daughter did not inherit one iota of his looks, honestly. And he shouldn't try to solicit single female travellers all by himself. At least I was very friendly to him at the losmen when I met him for the second time. He must have been shocked himself that crazy, rude lady is staying at his place.

I still haven't really figured out my itinerary in Bali. It's crazy, I'm crazy. I've had a look at the tours that they're offering but it's too expensive for a cheap bastard like me. Well, I'm definitely staying in Ubud for three nights - although there's a big cremation this Friday that the people in the losmen recommend. I'm always up for a public burning of dead people.

Twelve days left in Bali! What to do, what to do....


At 6:17 PM, Blogger Froot said...

The losmen that you're staying sounds like a good deal lah. RM 20 a night for a room of your own, an exclusive balcony, a comfy day, and a hearty breakfast -- good things, good things to have.

I'd want to get the name of the losmen from you if I ever go to Bali :-)

At 9:33 PM, Blogger sativa said...

Hmm...the losmen you're staying sounds cool. There's a big cremation on Friday??? um, ok...

At 5:26 PM, Blogger Cayce said...

froot - it's actually MUCH less than RM20! And I took lots of piccies so you can see what it's like. I recommend it because the family is very sweet, love the daughter. Great view. It is just off central Ubud but it's still very walkable to places like Hanoman Rd. and Monkey Forest Rd. where all the interesting boutiques/shops are, as well as the pasar. There are a couple of problems with my room however - the mattress sinks a bit, and you can feel the springs. And the tub is cracking! But other than that, the room is so charming and the breakfasts are so huge! And yummy!!!!

sativa: not sure whether i'm staying on for the cremation this friday. might want to start moving. oh i miss you girls! you girls would love the shops here - i just know it. it'd be so much fun if we go together!!

for some reason - i can't connect to gmail so haven't been able to return e-mails.


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