Everyone says you should get on a bike in Bali. I know it’s a cliched recommendation but don't just dismiss it. The southern part of the island, like Kuta, Sanur or Denpasar, might be too busy and built-up for pleasant bike rides, but it's a different story in the North, around Ubud. If you are confident on the bike, ditch Uber and rev up your engine. You won't regret it.
I understand that the centre of Ubud can be busy. You might have to stay in traffic, in the intense heat and humidity, for a long time. It was not the experience you want to have (a lot), but let's be patient as the next corner could be full of wonder. Literally!
One day, we drove to a famous "babi guling" restaurant in the centre, and got caught among painstakingly slow traffic. Ian decided to take a random turn to get out of the madness and didn't care where we headed. We ended up finding a whole new isolated world.
We started on a narrow street where road tiles bear names of people. I guess they are famous artists though I couldn't tell. Gradually the road raised up and turned into a path dissecting a plateau of rice fields.
We followed the narrowed path until it was hardly wide enough for the bike. It was time to start walking.
A local man offered to sell us some coconuts. It was all tempting: the shade of the coconut tree, the sweet juice and the soothing rice waves, but we were too curious to rest. We wanted to know what's at the end of the path.
It was, in fact, a tropical jungle, somewhere barely 20 minutes away from the central avenue of Ubud. How amazing is that!
Entering the jungle, we found ourselves by a stream, brownish in colour and fast flowing in parts. Tall leafy trees shadowed both sides of the stream, letting in little sunlight. With the shade and the water, temperature dropped to a more pleasant level, comparing with the outside.
The gravel path disappeared and an attenuated dirt track emerged. Several times I had to walk on a foot-wide ledge edging a long drop into the water. It was no easy job for me, a city girl and beginner swimmer. I put on my brave face and scrupulously manoeuvred my feet, regardlessly. The trekking was unexpected but lovely all the same.
The jungle-like wilderness disappeared as suddenly as it appeared. We soon found two big buildings in construction looming over the jungle, taller than the tallest canopy. One minute we thought we were on our own with our spontaneous adventure. The next minute construction workers stared down at us. With them came plastic bags lying where they don't belong.
I wondered what would happen to the jungles or the spreading rice field once the construction work has finished: which one would be the first to go? If the jungles stay, I hope it wouldn't become a backyard landfill.
I felt the presence of the buildings strange, even eerie so I hurried Ian along. We followed the path cross the stream and up steep overgrown steps to find a golden opening. It's harvesting time. Grains hung heavily and dogs barked loudly. The dogs were there to protect the rice, I would guess.
We decided it better not to irritate them or risk getting lost in somebody’s farms so we returned using the same path. This time, there were more than just the builders. We met up with a few other couples, exchanged friendly greetings and headed out looking for the coconut man. He was no longer there. At least, our bike stayed where we left it, and I was quietly relieved.
We got on the bike to get back to downtown Ubud where we would continue our road trips to a chocolate factory, a spice garden, and a holy spring. Till next time, folks!
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