Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ubud Retreat

Part two on Ubud, Bali. If you missed part one, you can find it here.

I walked into central Ubud with the two girls. Short skirt/Chucks was named Etna and she was from Ireland, and her friend was a blonde Brit named Pepper. Brits. They had met on the road and had been doing the Southeast Asian circuit together for the past month. Both had several months left on their trips. I had 4 days left. I was jealous. Most non-Aussies that I met on this trip were traveling for months, I was unique in my short trip.

I mentioned getting dinner. The girls had eaten before the show, but said they would join me and have a beer. We walked quite a ways down the central Ubud street before deciding on a restaurant, a place called 3 Monkeys. We sat down at a table facing a lit up rice paddy in the back yard. We ordered a round of beers and I ordered my dinner. Not surprisingly, we talked travel. All of us had spent time in the usual spots - Bangkok, Singapore, New York, London, Paris, Rome, even Vegas. One round of beer turned into three.

At 11, we were the only customers left in the restaurant, and they clearly wanted to close. Ubud isn’t a late night town. The girls were embarrassingly specific in trying to figure out who owed what for the bill. I decided to resolve the argument by picking up the whole tab. They argued against it, but I told them I wouldn’t hear of anything else. After all, they were both on months long trips and needed to save cash at every turn. I was on a 10 day vacation, and short vacations are designed to throw around money. The girls wanted to get another drink before they went to sleep. I asked the staff if there was anywhere we could go for a drink, he told me that the only open place in town was across the street.

We walked into the only bar in town, called Napi Orti. It was loud. It was pretty much just white people. It was a complete sausage fest as well. The only girl in the place was dressed in traditional Balinese garb, and I was 97% sure she was a tranny. We sat at a table near the speakers, the only one available, and a really loud one. The girls bought me a drink. Then another. After 5 drinks, Pepper still wasn’t any cuter, but she seemed to like me. After five drinks, plain-Jane Etna became a knockout. Somehow, despite the overabundance of dudes at the bar, I managed to hold my corner down, nobody came to hit on the girls.

A better table opened up. We moved. A Dutch dude that the girls met the other day saw them and joined us. He seemed like a cool cat. He spoke less English than any Dutchman I’d ever met. He seemed to like Pepper. Good. I felt like a two-on-two wingman situation was better than me acting on my own, especially since he and I dug different girls.

An Indonesian pick-up artist dude moseyed over. He used all the tricks. Quickly got himself a chair. Palm reading. Kino. Card tricks. He was all over Etna like a cheap suit. She fell into every trick he set up. I should really learn some card tricks. The Dutch guy and I looked at each other with obvious disgust for the Johnny-come-lately. I wasn’t having fun anymore. The brilliance of the card trick game - while entertaining the girls, it bores the hell out of any dudes around. I should learn some tonight. The girls and the Indonesian pick up artist made plans for the next day. I didn’t care, I was going back to Kuta the next day either way. I checked out. This was supposed to be my night off, and here I was throwing back gin drinks and talking to girls at 2 a.m. in the only bar in town.

The pick up artist left. So did the Dutch guy, I was left with the girls again. We decided to leave the bar. On the way out, another random guy stopped Etna, this time it was a fat white guy. Look, I’m no decent player, but I could have crushed this dude’s game like it was Zelda 2. I didn’t care. I was done. I left alone.

I began walking toward my hotel, about a mile north of the bar. The streets were empty. No people walking. Coming to Ubud from Seoul by way of Kuta and Kuala Lumpur, it had been a long time since I’d seen streets so empty. I saw an open Circle K and took the opportunity to buy a beer for the road. I’d soon find out that Ubud has no shortage of road dogs.

Southeast Asia is pretty well known for its high population of stray dogs. KL has them. Bangkok is crawling with them. Kuta has its share. Unlike Ubud, these places all have an active nightlife. In Ubud, the late night streets are the exclusive realm of the dogs. There were dogs everywhere, barking at each other, chasing each other, darting around. There was no traffic for them to worry about. Bali also had a breakout of rabies a couple months back. I’ve never had any fear of dogs, but I do have a healthy respect for rabies.

Near my hotel, the road abuts an old soccer field. At the north end of the soccer field, there’s an intersection. At this intersection, I could either turn right or go straight, either way I would be back to the hotel in three minutes. As I neared the intersection, a pack of dogs ran into the middle of it. They stared me down. I stared back. They barked, not a how’s it going bark either, a we’re gonna fuck you up bark. There was no way to pass the intersection. The dogs ran this corner. I was terrified.

I retreated. I really didn’t have a choice. I considered walking all the way back to the Circle K to buy some beef jerky to distract the dogs. I walked along the soccer field, and I noticed that another establishment was still open across it. I walked across the field to get to the open place, which turned out to be a restaurant/hookah bar. I considered running there, but i figured that would just give the dogs something to chase. The pack stayed at the intersection and didn’t come after me as I crossed the field. I suddenly missed the Kuta “Hello my friend, transport?” touts. I made it to the restaurant. I was able to convince this random local dude to give me a lift on his motorcycle, which required admitting what a pussy I was. It took roughly 28 seconds to get back to the hotel. I tipped the dude for the ride and sat down on my hotel’s porch. It was time to drink that road dog, then to get to sleep.

I woke up at the usual time in the usual state. It was 10:40, just in time to get an order in for the free hotel breakfast. Like every other morning in Bali, I nursed a reasonable hangover. I planned to spend most of the day in Ubud before returning to Kuta for the sunset.

I went down to the Monkey forest. The monkey forest was just south of the bar I had been at the night before. As I walked, I saw legions of ferocious, possibly rabid dogs. During the daytime, when the crowds and the touts were out in full force along Ubud’s main road, the dogs slept. I let them lie. The monkey forest was probably my favorite sight in Ubud. The monkeys mauled people who had bought bananas for them, and I got to laugh at oblivious Eurotrash getting mugged by monkeys. The “forest” part of the monkey forest was amazing as well. I walked down into a gorge to a jungle stream. Everything everywhere was green. Emerald deep green from all sides. My camera ran out of charge shortly before I reached the most brilliant jungle scenery I’d ever come across. Hell, my $150 point-and-shoot Samsung would have failed in capturing it.

Shortly after running out of camera charge, I realized that I’d hiked as deep into the forest as I was going to go. I was on the furthest precipice of my trip - I would go no further. Now it was a matter of going back to the top of the gorge, back to the monkey forest entrance to pick up my water and my Lonely Planet, back to the hotel to pick up my bags, back to the bus stop, back to Kuta, and back to my original Kuta hotel to crash a night and get my main bag back. In Kuta, I would recharge my camera, stay a night, and then go back to Kuala Lumpur, then back to Seoul. Once you get to the farthest place that you’re going to go, there’s nowhere to go but back.


jack said...

as a travel writer, you need to get better with your visual imagery... make it more 'lyrical', if you know what i mean...
joking, of course...

Joe Kickass said...

You should have pulled the old "I have some pot in my hotel room, but it's just enough for us 4."