August 29, 2017: Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Listening to: VÉRITÉ — Somebody Else (The 1975 cover)
Okay, so I said I’d write every day. I said nothing about posting every day. Turns out this whole writing every day thing is more challenging than I thought it would be. On a day when words are effortlessly spilling from my fingertips, it’s easy to feel like that’s never going to stop. In those moments I have so much to say and seemingly infinite stories to tell. But then I get busy, tired, or a writer’s worst nightmare, blocked. My style is generally a giant spell of writer’s block (e.g. not writing for a year at a time) with short bursts of inspiration in between.
Luckily, today I’m not blocked, I’m just tired. And I’m tired for the best reason — a packed day of adventuring by my favorite mode of transport in Asia, motorbike. After a lot of experience motorbiking in Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines, and Indonesia, I strongly believe it is the best way to see a country. Breakdowns included.
After a long sunrise walk and breakfast, I walked down the road from the beach until I saw a sign that read “Motorbike for Rent.” A few minutes later a Yamaha Nouvo was rolled out to greet me. I laughed. This was the model of bike a couple friends and I bought for a ten-day motorbike journey on Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh Road back in February. We visited nine mechanics on that trip. Another story for another day. The sweet man renting me this bike was confused, so I assured him it was fine, paid him the ~$4 US to rent the bike for the entire day, and off I went.
I’d read up on a few scenic routes around Bali, what many travel bloggers like to refer to as “The Real Bali.” I knew I wanted to go up to Mount Batur, an active volcano with a beautiful caldera lake about 60 km north of Sanur, otherwise I had no real plan. My bike made an alarming sputtering noise every few minutes, but I had no real issues with it. Taking the express bypass out of Sanur and happily leaving traffic-infested Kuta behind me, the scenery changed drastically in just 15 minutes driving north. I thought briefly about driving directly up the coast to Padang Bai and going on a dive, then reminded myself I’d be diving every day for a month starting in a couple days, and turned left to head up into the cool air of Bali’s central hills.
When I reached Mount Batur, I turned down a road that took me along the rim of the caldera (Lake Batur) and then in a loop around the mountain. This turned out to be a bit treacherous, with the road around the backside of the mountain consisting of only sand and rocks in spots. Thankfully, my motorbike skills have improved vastly through my travels and I maneuvered out of a couple potential spills. Turns out this road is also the route for many trucks, and as I inhaled a tasty cocktail of dust and exhaust, I wished I’d brought the face mask I bought back in Laos. But I mean, if you’re not breathing in exhaust and trash fire smoke from the seat of a motorbike, are you even really in Asia? The Real Bali. Despite the dusty road, the route did offer some gorgeous vistas of the mountain and caldera from the backside, a less common vantage point.
I headed back down the hill toward Ubud, considered by many as the cultural heart of the island. On the road to Ubud, I passed the famous Tegallalang rice terraces and stopped for a quick photo op before getting out of the tourist-infested area. Tegallalang is cool, but the UNESCO site of Jatiluwih, which I visited in May, is much more beautiful and unspoiled in my opinion, and I highly recommend taking the longer trip to get there if you’re looking to get lost in rice terraces. (My friend Emily and I actually did get very lost. Make sure you go with a guide!) You can decide for yourself:
I stopped for a quick lunch at my favorite spot in Ubud, Atman Nourish Cafe, before starting the fume-breathing drive through traffic back to Sanur. Before returning the bike, I drove down to the Sanur Harbour and bought my fast boat ticket to Nusa Lembongan for the next day. As I post this, I’m about to head to the harbour to catch a boat to my new home for the next month! Plans for the next two days before my Divemaster course starts include finding a room and a motorbike to rent. And writing more. Wish me luck!
I look my best when I take my helmet off after a long motorcycle ride. I have a glow and a bit of helmet hair.
— Eric Bana