Written by: Matthew Mayer
Photography by: Briana Autran
After another restful sleep at the Gandhi Hostel, we shook the lead out and started planning our day. We were both eager to get to Ubud but Briana and I thought it would be a good idea to spend the morning taking a last look at Denpasar to take a few more photos before we departed. We packed and organized our bags in advance so that when we had finished walking around we could scoop them up and head out. Once we were all packed up, we went downstairs and enjoyed another tasty breakfast accompanied by Bali coffee and black tea. Once breakfast was finished, we hung around and chatted with the couple from South Africa. They were departing for a nearby town called, Sanur that day and told us about a nice homestay that they had found there. They were also very interested in the place we had found in the Ubud rice fields called: Firefly Bamboo Eco Cottage. We exchanged information and agreed to keep in touch about places to stay and things to do. We said our goodbyes and Bri and I set out to wander around the city one last time.
Even at 9am we could tell that the day was going to be sweltering. We decided to cut our walk a little shorter than planned and headed back to the hostel to eat and get ready to leave. As I stated before, the family that owned the hostel was very gracious and welcoming. They told us we could take as much time as we liked getting ready to leave and that the noon check out time was more of a guideline than a rule. We decided to eat lunch there as it was inexpensive(around 30,000 IDR for the two of us/$2.26 USD). Afterwards, I took the scooter to fill up while Briana looked for an Uber to take us to Ubud. Unless you can find an actual gas station, you have to buy gas at little vendors along the side of the road that store the fuel in empty Absolute Vodka bottles. Upon returning to the hostel I found Bri already loading our stuff into the back of the car.
The Uber turned out to be almost a third of the cost of the original taxi at 110,000 IDR($8.28 USD). After Briana’s trying ride from the airport to the hostel, she and I decided that I would take this leg of the trip on the scooter. With Bri riding in the Uber and I on the moped, we embarked for Ubud and the next leg of our trip. Upon reaching one of the main roads, we found it clogged with traffic at a dead stand-still. The driver turned around and I followed suit. It was all backroads from then on. The bustling crowded streets of Denpasar gave way to quiet, scenic streets as we made our way north. The ride for me was very pleasant as we made our way north. From my seat, I enjoyed a more personal view than that of the one from the Taxi. The wind, the smells, the sights, and the feel of the road was exhilarating. I found it easy to keep up with the Uber as we moved quickly past the small houses and shops of lining the road in front of a backdrop of small hills and scenic rice fields and farms.
What was supposedly a forty-five minute drive seemed like fifteen. Before I knew it, the Uber driver pulled to the side of the road beside a pottery shop. The shop had hundreds of multi-colored pots of various sizes stacked into a visually appealing wall in front. Briana hopped out of the car to tell me we had arrived and that the driver was calling the villa to find out the exact location. After confirming with the manager of the place, the driver informed us that two of the workers were walking down to help us with our bags as the path was impassable by car. A short time later, two young local men came down to the car from a path to the left of us. They introduced themselves and directed me to drive up the narrow path from which they came as they helped Briana carry our things.
The path was narrow, curvy, and lined with concrete irrigation ditches on both sides and the going was slow on the scooter. Bri chatted with the guys as they followed behind and they had no trouble keeping up with my slow progress. The concrete trail opened up to a wide expanse of flat, emerald rice fields. I noticed some large, exquisitely built villas spaced out along the perimeter of the fields as I rolled along. I reached a set of stone steps at the end of the path next to a line of parked scooters and motorbikes. I realized that this was the end of the line and parked our ride along with the rest.
Bri and I walked the rest of the way down with the two workers. We continued on down the path along a ridge that dropped off on the right down to another field where farmers were busy harvesting. At this point the workers pointed out to us the bamboo nest where we would be staying for the next few nights. The structure was about 20 feet tall on long, sturdy bamboo stilts. There were two separate nests atop the stilts, one on top of the other. The walls of the nests were made with latticed bamboo strips and the top nest had a thatched roof. The ladders leading up to each nest were made of two large, parallel bamboo poles with alternating foot-holes carved in each to serve as rungs. At the bottom of the stilts was a platform with a small table and cushions placed around it. The guys told us we would be staying in the bottom nest. They invited us to climb up and take a look around. The climb up was steep but sturdy and once we were up, it was worth it. Our nest had a large bed on the bamboo floor with very clean bedding and a large mosquito net. It was lovely but the view looking out over the rice fields was outrageous. One of the young men asked us if we would climb out so they could show us the rest of the place.
They led us around a professionally landscaped, small trail to a brick structure next to the nest that was the outdoor toilet and shower. The shower consisted of a large barrel of clean water with a hollowed out coconut to scoop the water and pour over your head as needed. Briana and I were both really excited about this unorthodox way of showering as we were both looking for an authentic experience during our time here in Bali. We later learned that the cold, coconut scoop shower was quite refreshing after a long hot day. We found that while the structure was open-air, it still maintained the privacy needed for a shower. The toilet was in a separate room of the structure and was of traditional Indonesian, bucket-flush style. It was basically a ceramic hole in ground that uses the pressure of poured water to flush. Next, it was on to the living space and communal kitchen.
The rest of the villa was beautiful but the open air living space was the best part. It was situated next to a building containing four more rooms that could also be rented out. The shared space had a beautiful polished stone floor and a large bamboo-thatched roof supported by old, repurposed masts of ships that used to sail between the islands. The stairs and balconies of the four rooms that overlooked the area were made from the hulls of old ships as well. The space itself looked out into the rice fields and we could even see a hint of the ocean from the balcony. There were couches and various types of Indonesian seating around the room for guests to relax. Our favorite part was a large swing that was hanging from the palm trees that grew along the outside of the living space. There was also a nice open kitchen along the left side complete with gas stove, large sink, marble counter, and fridge. The workers informed us that we could help ourselves to tea and coffee any time of day and bring our own food to cook for ourselves in the kitchen if we wished. They also had a lunch and dinner menu which was yet again, reasonably priced, and explained that our stay included complimentary breakfast at 8:30am.
Needless to say, Briana and I were extremely excited about her $12 a night Airbnb find. We moved our things up to our Tree house nest, taking the time to take a peek at the loft above ours. By the time we got unpacked and showered off, the sun was going down. As we were very tired we decided to postpone exploring Ubud until the next day and to just relax and order a light snack from the kitchen. We ordered the sweet potato fries to share. One of the workers prepared the fries for us and we were surprised that he cut the potatoes by hand. For the price the portions were extremely generous and the fries paired with sambal aoli were delicious. After we ate and talked with some of the other guests, we climbed up to the nest and made plans for the next day. We knew we were experiencing Bali as we fell asleep twenty feet up enjoying the cool breeze in the night air.