March 24, 2015
A Day in Ubud: My Free Magdalene Holiday (Part 1)

Our "New Guy" columnist went to Ubud for the first time with a hotel voucher he won during Magdalene's anniversary party in December. This is the first part of his account.

by Mario Rustan, Columnist
Lifestyle // Travel and Leisure
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“What I am going to do for three days in Ubud?” As a city lover, it took me several trips to Bali – specifically Kuta, to appreciate the island. I know some day I ought to attend Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. An ex-date recovered herself there and asked me to join her there, but I was too reluctant to go. Now I got a chance to stay free in Ubud, thanks to Pita Maha Resort and Spa, which gave the voucher I won during Magdalene’s anniversary party.

So, it’s a place to eat, pray, and love, then? I got the praying part. Two or three times each year I visit the retreat place for CHOICE, a Catholic group for singles. It’s been seven years since I had my retreat, and I could use a refresher. I looked for the best time to claim my voucher. There’s Chinese New Year in February, Nyepi (the Day of Silence) in March, Easter in April. The week before Nyepi seemed to be the best window – still low holiday season and at the half-life of the voucher.

I chose between three budget airlines from Bandung to Denpasar. Air Asia departs so early. Lion Air has the best times (arriving throughout the afternoon), but its website was not a friendly fellow. It asked me to finish transaction in 10 minutes, its insurance does not cover person over 75, and it said it could not guarantee wheelchair availability. And oh, it could not say what’s for lunch.

So I chose Garuda Citilink, with the knowledge that it would land just before evening. There goes Day 1. Actually there goes Day 3, since the return flight to Bandung was at 8 am, meaning I had to leave Ubud before sunrise. I had only one day of holiday.

So it’s one day instead of three days of retreat. I searched online for “personal retreat” and found some websites and documents giving samples and ideas, all American. I could look at the night sky. I could walk while contemplating. I could read while drinking a glass of juice slowly. I could meditate. I could pray and listen to the sound of nature. I could nap. I could write notes giving thanks and asking forgiveness for my loved ones.



One of my favorite parts in planning a travel is making hourly schedule, from waking up to sleeping. It would be one packed day, from nine to five. Either I could be out of time before completing everything in plan, or I could finish early with plenty of hours to spare.

The week before departure, I found my CHOICE handouts from 2007 and changed my retreat plan with them. There are nine topics, so nine hours, thirty minutes study and thirty minutes exercise for each topic. It would be eight to six then, including one hour lunch. Phew.

I departed to Bali with a bible, Magdalene’s organizer, pens, and warm clothes, since Ubud was pretty far from the coast. Turned out my best decision was to bring a jacket with hoodie.

Despite Bandung’s progress as an international tourist city, it sadly still has a shabby airport because of Air Force management. The departure terminal is better inside than outside. I wrapped my suitcase with plastic, partly because I remembered Air Asia or Garuda’s check-in counter asked baggage to be wrapped up first years ago.

After browsing Periplus, there was nothing else to do so I went to the gate to grab some lunch. Prologue, the only café inside the airport building, which had been decent for years, had sunk to a new low. It allowed smoking and so I was surrounded by smokers. The cheapest main course was American club sandwich for Rp 45,000, and it was not available. I was not sure with fried rice since spicy fried rice has become a standard in Bandung recently, so I chose hot dog for Rp 48,000. What I got was an open hot dog covered with mayo, chili sauce, and tomato sauce, although I didn’t ask for chili (and no mustard, the proper sauce for hot dog). I had to buy chocolate milk from another coffee shop (again past a room of smokers) to get over the chili sauce.

Since Husein Sastranegara Airport has only one gate, it was jam packed with passengers for Garuda, Lion Air (and its subsidiaries Batik, Malindo, and Wings), Air Asia, and Citilink. Any call to board a flight did not clear the gate since more passengers went into the gate. It was starting to rain and it was clear that I wouldn’t depart on time, not with three scheduled flights in one hour. After 3 p.m. I became the first person to stand before the departure gate, and soon a line formed behind me. Next to me were people going to Medan, also with 3.05 p.m. Citilink.

A man was asking why his flight had no departed yet and why there’s no delay announcement. “Dude, please don’t make this Lion. It’s different.” I said silently to him. The crew said that the plane had arrived, but still circling above the airport, waiting for clearance to land. He demanded her to give him a clear time, so she said 30 minutes.

Then an elderly man came to him and asked where the baggage claim was. He replied by asking where the senior heading was, and the answer was “home”. Both men became agitated in no time, and I explained to the elderly guy that he mistakenly entered the departure gate when he was supposedly in the arrival gate. A security walked him downstairs, and I was thinking how he could make his way from the runway to the departure gate.

Finally I could board my plane and used that hoodie to walk on the runway under rain. Other passengers used umbrellas provided by the airport. An Army helicopter took off next to my airplane soon after everyone was on board. Such a colorful departure.
Mario Rustan writes opinion pieces for The Jakarta Post and is working on some other online projects and was featured in Guardian Football and SBS Radio. His dream job is still teaching High School History by day and writing for feminism by night.