We wanted to see more of Bali while we were there, so we decided to take a day trip to Ubud. As this was our first trip with Noah, we knew we couldn’t be too ambitious in wanting to do too much, so it was good that we managed to get a knowledgeable driver, Tony, who was able to show us some of the highlights.
Our first stop was a wood-carving factory, but we were disappointed to see only two or three men working on some carvings. Most of our time was spent browsing in the shop, being followed by a salesman of sorts. To be fair, he wasn’t pushy, but the prices quoted were way too high for us, as all we wanted was to buy some marcaras for Noah. I would suggest skipping this altogether, if you are planning your day trip itinerary.
Lunch was at the famed Ibu Oka, which serves Babi Guling. Many people have raved about how the Babi Guling there has the crispiest ever skin, and juiciest meat, so our expectations were sky high. Sadly, we were disappointed. It was a decent meal, but I don’t think it was as good as we thought it would be. We ordered the Special, without sauce for me, but the vegetable dish was too spicy for me, so I didn’t enjoy my meal that much. The Ubud Market is just opposite it though, so if you’re going to visit the market, you can have lunch at Ibu Oka before that. It gets really crowded quite fast, and seats are limited, so do go early, at about 11am or so.
We spent a little time walking around the Ubud Market, and it reminded us of being in Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market. Many stalls were selling similar items, and Tony told us that we should bargain by asking for 70% off their price initially, and that we shouldn’t accept anything more than 60% off. I can’t remember if we followed his advice, but we did manage to get a couple of wooden marcaras, at a much lower price than what we were quoted at the wood carving factory. I was very tempted to buy a ukelele for Noah as well, but as C rightly pointed out, he’s way too young for it. I think this is the first time I did so little shopping on a trip! Having said that, it was quite an interesting experience, as the market is housed in buildings with contrasting architecture.
The Ubud Market
The padi plantations in Bali are also a popular tourist destination, so we made a quick stop at one. It was a good time for us to visit, as the padi was almost ready to be harvested, and the plantation was an amazing sight to behold. I think I’ve only seen photos of them in my old Geography textbooks! According to Tony, the rice is harvested and planted about four times a year, as each cycle takes about three months. In between planting and waiting for the rice to be ready for harvest, many of the workers take on part-time work as wood carvers or painters. It’s amazing how so many of the Balinese folk are so talented in the arts, yet few are properly recognised for their craft.
Our final stop for the day was a luwak coffee plantation, but because it was raining quite heavily by the time we arrived, Tony decided to bring us to a different one, located near Seminyak. Okay, ‘plantation’ isn’t quite the right word for the place, because it was basically a small area with a wide variety of fruits and other produce, supposedly for ‘samples’ only. This was also the place where we first changed Noah’s diaper in a car, something which I had hoped I wouldn’t have to do, but well, Noah clearly didn’t care what I wanted. Sigh. Anyway, it was a fairly educational experience (the tour, not the diaper-changing) for us, as we were shown a wide variety of trees and plants, and got to sample all their products as well. Of course, it all ended in the shop, where we felt obliged to buy something. Everything was rather expensive though, so we picked only a pack of lemongrass tea for my parents.
Where chocolate comes from
Coffee and tea samples
The little girl at the Luwak plantation
I think what struck us most on this Bali trip was the people we met. I spent a lot of time chatting with the staff at the Westin, and really enjoyed hearing their stories about their families and experiences. Our driver for our day trip, Tony, also shared his life story with us, and we were very impressed with his determination to build a better life for himself from a young age. When he told us about how he has been saving up just so that he can afford to send his children to school, and that ‘maybe next year’, he will have enough, I felt silly that I’ve been fretting over where Noah should attend pre-school. I also watched how a young mother fed her one-year-old while cooking our lunch at a local restaurant, and how the little girl fell asleep after that on a thin mat spread at the back of the restaurant, and thought about how different their lives are from ours. It was a humbling reminder of how very privileged we are to be living in Singapore.
The local restaurant where I saw the young mother and daughter (both not pictured)
I thought that C managed to capture some lovely portraits on our trip. The little children were so sweet, shaking our hands, touching Noah’s feet, and excitedly checking out the photos that C took of them on his camera. This is what we will remember of Bali: the simplicity of the people, and how genuine they were.
PS. If you are visiting Bali and would like to hire an experienced driver for day trips, do contact Tony. He was recommended by a friend of ours, and the cheapest of the three we found. More importantly, his children need an education. Do give him a tip if you are satisfied with his service too.
Tony (Our driver)
HP: 081 338 125 200