Walking Home in Ubud, Bali

In Art of Travel Spring 2016, Shanghai, Open by Brian GrecoLeave a Comment

It is evening in Indonesia. The sun has set and I am sitting in a bean bag in a rice paddy in Ubud. The warm flicker of the citronella candles at the tables in this restaurant in the middle of a rice paddy is the only light left, and it’s time for me to close up the bill and head back home.

The evening has been one of the most relaxing in memory: for my last night in Bali, I chose to return to this quiet, winding stretch of walkway that I had found when looking for a famed organic restaurant in the area called Sari Organik. What I found when I went just two days prior was that the walk was equally enjoyable—this was the image I had dreamed about in Bali… quiet trickling water moving through rice fields with wind chimes, roosters crowing, coconut palms scattering the landscape and of course the occasional motorbike passing by.

I am walking home, but I’m actually currently homeless: after closing up the bill for my vegan pizza, rice pudding, and green juice at this café in the rice paddy, I know I’ll be making the half-hour trek back to where I was staying to get picked up for the airport. It’s one of those moments of limbo when you’ve checked out of your hotel but you’re not actually heading back until later in the day—and in this case, I had my big black backpack with me and quite a bit still to walk.

As I turn on my iPhone flashlight to avoid falling into the stream on the side (the roads are hardly paved), I am guided by a dim blue-white light through this last nighttime walk through Ubud. I am reflecting on what a wonderful weekend has just passed, what a complete difference here in a tropical environment (stuffing my face with delicious vegan food) this is from the polluted urban jungle I am about to return to.

I think about the beautiful temples I passed by with my guide, the waterfall I swam under the day before, the beautiful Indonesian boy I spent the evening with at dinner (and the memory of riding on the back of his motorcycle down Jalan Raya Ubud), and all the other joys that have come through my being over the past 72 hours. I am filled with gratitude and love of Bali and a desire to return, having met a place far exceeding my expectations.

The walk continues through the narrow winding paths through the rice fields, and I am sweating even in the dark, moving swiftly so I can return back to the main town area and start approaching my guest house. I get to the road and do the classic “run for your life” road crossing that is ever so necessary in Southeast Asia with roads full of bikes and zero stoplights.

I’m on my last leg home up Jalan Bisma, approaching Bucu View guesthouse, which had so graciously housed my Bali experience. The lovely host and owner Ayu was so generous with her kindness (and lots of free mangosteen!) and I had felt so welcome there. I remember my uncertainty when we first pulled up to the guesthouse in my taxi from the airport just a few nights before, which is down a ~200m dark gravel path off the road—looking like there’s nothing there.

But when you approach the guesthouse, you are met with the peace of the forest, the swaying palms and dim lights that light the path and pool at night, and the lobby with its raised seating area and small informal check-in desk. A man in the lobby with his beautiful yellow Balinese headdress approached me and said “Are you Brian? We have your taxi coming”.

Yup, that’s me.

I’m back now at the hotel, waiting for my 2-hour ride back to Denpasar airport, and the journey back through the travel industrial complex of airports and customs and immigration and planes and the rest of it.

Walking home is a spiritual thing. I love the feeling of fresh, raw reflections of the day meeting your mind with a lighthearted look towards what is to come next. One knows there is nothing much more to do in the day, and the familiarity is there if one has made the walk before—so there is so much ease.

I knew once that taxi pulled up, my trip was “over” so to speak—and the transit began. I cherished those last moments in the rice paddy, taking in some deep breaths of tropical air to lock in with me until next time.

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