April, 07 2015
A Day in Ubud: My Free Magdalene Holiday (Part 2)

Our New Guy columnist returns to continue the tale of his personal retreat at Pita Maha in Ubud, our treat.

by Mario Rustan, Columnist
Lifestyle // Travel and Leisure
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Previously...

I arrived in Bali at 6.30 p.m. local time, one hour behind schedule. The refurbished Ngurah Rai airport looked stunning with glass walls and white pillars and well-lit shops. I collected my luggage and rechecked the airport’s website for airport taxi fare to Ubud.

I had pondered cheaper transports to Ubud to no avail. The city’s rapid bus system, Trans Sarbagita, is too confusing. Perama Tour’s shuttle bus stops just after Bebek Bengil restaurant, and just while writing this report I was aware of Kura-Kura Bus’ attractive offering. In any case, I had to leave the airport and get my bearing right toward the bus hubs, and at 7 p.m. it’s too late for both services to go to Ubud.

I left the arrival hall and turned right to the airport taxi counter, and was surprised by the written fare: Rp 350,000 to Ubud (website said Rp 195,000). The irony was I asked for Pita Maha’s shuttle service and they said it’s US$40 one way. I paid in cash (not sure they accepted card and the queue was pretty rough) and be thankful that I’ve secured a transport.

Kuta significantly had more signs written in Korean and Chinese letters compared to the last time I visited, three years ago (even at that time Japanese presence had decreased significantly). The driver estimated the ride could take close to two hours, but we did reach Ubud in more than one hour, as Google Maps predicted. At 8.30 p.m. Ubud’s roads were still full with Western pedestrians and bright cafes and bungalows.



I checked in at Pita Maha and enjoyed a cup of hot tea as welcome drink while looking at the pitch black ridge from the open air lobby. A hotel staff walked me to my garden villa, secured by padlocks from outside and wooden bars from inside. My king-size bed was adorned with rose petals, the reason I couldn’t take this trip with a family member, or even a bro. My biggest surprise was the bathroom I saw on the unit plan was huge because it’s basically the backyard.

That was perhaps the first time I stayed in a five-star hotel and, of course, the resort is designed for lovers. Well, your time will come, Mario. I looked for dinner across Jalan Raya Sanggingan and found Warung Pulau Kelapa. At 9.30 p.m. there were a group of French ladies inside and merry Australian youths outside. I went with the quick nasi goreng and was delighted that it does not have to be spicy to be yummy. I returned to my villa and had one of the most awkward showers in my life, at 10.30 p.m, in the backyard, watched over by three monkey statues.

I turned on all lights but of course this villa is modeled after traditional house, and so the lighting was ambient at night. Sleeping was bit dilemmatic. Too much light was straining. Too little light was not comforting. Add that with the fact that I cannot fall into sleep easily in a new bed, no matter how tired I am.

Morning eventually came with very few hours of sleeping. I opened the curtains and the villa was just like what’s advertised – its allure is natural lighting. I grabbed breakfast and found out that other guests were foreigners. Like me, many chose American Breakfast and I later regretted that I did not ask if Egg Benedict or Egg Florentine was covered by the breakfast voucher.

I returned to my villa and was surprised that it’s already made. I started my personal retreat and it got a bit crazy. Instead of reading and reflecting in silence, I talked to myself, reading handout texts loudly and singing camp songs. Then I felt sleepy and…slept. Woke up at noon and continued with my materials. I decided to take a walk along the hotel’s path, but cancelled it short after I saw a wasp and then two lizards running toward me.

I used the hotel’s 20 percent lunch discount offer and eating while reading the history of Ubud and Bali from Wikipedia. Returned to villa to go on with the retreat until 4 p.m., when I went to the lounge to claim my free tea and snack (corn fritter with Thai chili sauce and dadar gulung) while reading newspaper. I finished my retreat by sunset.

I had dinner at Man Maru, an Osakan restaurant just nearby Mozaic (no way I’m eating in Mozaic). Even in this very Japanese place, I could not find any Japanese patron – I encountered practically no Japanese person during my trip. I had the very Osakan okonomiyaki pizza, filled with very crispy pork (and 50 percent off).

I asked Pita Maha’s concierge if he could call a taxi to the hotel and it’s the hotel policy to provide only hotel’s shuttle. Since I wasn’t sure I could find and hail a cab at 5 a.m. (and it could be rainy), I put the forty dollars to the hotel bill. Luckily I could sleep better compared to the first night.

It was already rainy with thunder when I woke up at 4 a.m. I left the villa in 30 minutes and claimed my boxed Continental Breakfast. The shuttle driver revealed on the road that he was a freelancer hired by the hotel. I gave him generous tip anyway after his life story, for taking me on time to the airport at dawn.

I was sitting pretty in the gate with the big breakfast (four types of breads and three fruits). Good decision since the Citilink flight to Bandung did not sell any meal. In 90 minutes I entered the terrible arrival terminal of Husein Sastranegara Airport, which sometimes makes me feel sad.

Thank you to Magdalene and Pita Maha for this vacation.      
Mario 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.