I met Megan as I was leaving my first hotel in Ubud, Bali and on my way to my second. I found the first room to be very dark and realized that I could get more for my money if I did a little face to face bargaining with other hotels.
About 3 minutes after meeting Megan, a guidance counselor from Toronto, we swapped email addresses and made plans to meet up later for a drink (typical mating ritual for solo travelers). When we met up later in the evening, we totally clicked. After a few cocktails, we made plans to rendezvous the following morning and explore the rice terraces right on the outskirts of Ubud. Megan’s guidebook outlined a leisurely 2.5 hour walk that circled around and brought us right back to the center of town.
We ventured into the rice terraces in the severe heat and intense sun. They were beautiful. About an hour into our walk, we saw two Australian gentlemen drinking straight out of coconuts at a stand along the side of the path. It looked splendid. So I asked the local man who was running the stand if I could also get a coconut. He said yes, walked around the back of his stand, and before I knew it, was half way up a coconut tree. He plucked off a coconut and quickly slid down the trunk of the tree. When he came back down, he took a machete to the coconut and handed me a delicious drink.
We all sat for a while in the shade, Megan and I shared the coconut and discussed how wonderful it would be to go swimming. The local man said that there was a swimming stream just 100 meters away that he crossed every morning to get from his home to his stand.
It sounded perfect. Megan and I confirmed that it was something that we both wanted to do and then gestured in the direction that the man was pointing to earlier and asked, “100 meters?”
The Australian men decided to join us as well. As the group started to walk, the local man insisted that he would escort us and show us how to get there. I thought it couldn’t be that difficult if it was 100 meters in one direction, but he insisted.
We walked across the rice fields and then into the forest. I could hear the water, but couldn’t see it. Climbing down the side of the hill in flip flops, we continued to trek. It literally felt like we were in the middle of nowhere and we were definitely at least a kilometer from where we started.
When we finally reached the stream, I apparently was the only person who actually wanted to get in, so I did. After wading around for a bit in the water and washing off all of the mud that I had accumulated during the adventure down to the stream, I got out.
The local man insisted that I rinse off in the “sacred temple water” sourced from a spout coming out of the side of the hill. I thought it was strange since earlier he had told us how clean the stream water was. Regardless, I got under the spout and rinsed off. Then, as if to help me, he started rubbing my head under the faucet. He claimed it was a “traditional head massage.” After finally escaping from the faucet and the grips of the local man, Megan and I turned to each other and agreed that the whole experience was, well, weird.
We decided it was time to go back. With simple directions from the local man, cross that (high) bridge (made with a few sticks), go right, go up the hill, go left and then cross the rice fields, we were on our way. Another kilometer plus of vertical climbing on wet, marshy jungle, we returned to the rice terraces; alive but a little weirded out.