One month has passed in that way time passes when you are living someplace new and different. Fast yet slow. Plenty of days spent in a mixed blur of laziness and work; motorbike adventures and days where we barely left the house or our computers. Getting comfortable. Learning the lay of the land.
We've been in Bali a month and we haven't had a single massage or so much as stepped foot in The Yoga Barn. We've mostly avoided the swarms of tourists, shuttle van traffic, and frustrating one-way streets of.downtown Ubud. Instead, for the whole of June, we lived in a stunning little house nestled in impossibly green rice paddies, north of town.
The open-air layout of the house provided a lush breeze and relaxed vibes; always bright and airy and fresh. The constant chatter of crickets, roosters and exotic birds, along with the gentle sounds of running water from the nearby rice paddies and creaking geckos was a never-ending source of soothing comfort.
We had a cool green pool, used far less than we'd like to admit.
Our house lay at the end of a winding, narrow path, at times barely wide enough for our Scoopy to pass. For the first few weeks, I’d take a deep breath and close my eyes each time we’d venture out, praying that Jim wouldn’t drive us off into the paddies. He never did.
Heavy rains fell on our second night. Our flatmates run under sheets of rain, and we hear happy screeching and splashing sounds. They urge us to join and we do, jumping into the pool to join them. We pledge to stay in the cool water until the rain stops and we do–afterwards hurrying into hot showers.
One night a gathering is held which fills the house with friendly people, other digital nomad-types. Other people roaming around the world like us, dividing their time between exploring and working on the Internet. We spend the evening chatting and sharing stories, drinking cold Bintangs. Someone brings Nasi Goreng (fried rice) and other street food treats to share with the group. When the rain begins, one of our flatmates gets that sparkle in her eye and soon we are all persuaded to, once again, jump in the cold, dark pool.
We found that this house was nearly perfect in every way… except it was not available in July or August.
So we searched the web and found a place in a traditional Balinese compound for the coming months. A cool cave-like downstairs apartment overlooking a deep jungly ravine, a river far below. Cozy and cool and quiet, save for the occasional rooster call. This place we have to ourselves, with the exception of a couple cats and the regularly visiting neighbor dog named Charlie. Mornings here are spent sitting on the back porch, drinking coffee and soaking in the gentle sun. Watching the dense foliage for birds and butterflies.
We’ve spent our days... following similar unspoken routines. Wake up late, make breakfast at home, find someplace to work, relax in the house, bed early... wake up late, have brunch at one of the nearby cafes, stop at a temple or attraction. I teach my online Skype classes and work on projects (like updating my portfolio!), Jim does business on his computer. Unfortunately for us, the snail-paced internet in Indonesia often makes working online a less-than-zen experience.
We've recently joined Hubud, a co-working space. Here we can use the swanky facilities, which resemble a treehouse for grown-ups; a breezy space built from bamboo, filled with large wood work tables and faster than normal WIFI. There's a raw food cafe, rice paddy views and a chill relax area in the backyard. Here we can meet other people who work remotely or run their own businesses.
There are loads of events held every month from lectures to classes, to social gatherings. We’ve already watched an inspiring lecture from a world-renowned photojournalist and gone to a backyard social happy hour.
We've already found a few favorite food spots in town serving cheap, local food and a few spots with pricy, international food. Everyday, we vow to stick to a stricter budget tomorrow.
Once or twice a week we take excursions on our motorbike. To the pretty volcano for stunning views, fish meals, and new territory to explore. To Tanah Lot, a temple overlooking a craggily coastline, for photos, a sunset and a fire dance.
To Monkey Forrest where we observe too many monkeys hanging out around too many people. To the world’s largest bamboo structure, which conveniently houses a chocolate factory. To the green school. To the Bali Bird Park.
I've continued taking my walks. Podcasts playing on my iPod, camera in hand. Wandering down mysterious pathways, alleys and traditional Balinese neighborhoods.
Still, I have found no better way to experience a place.
The weather has been nearly perfect, especially in the shade; far cooler than we’d become accustomed to in blistery Saigon. This adds to the delight of exploring the island.
Next week we will take the ferry to Lombok for a few days and discover a slightly less trodden piece of Indonesia. Next month we are fantasizing about making our visa run to East Timor Leste! And in September, it looks like we may be heading back to the U.S. for a visit! Exciting stuff!
Already, Bali has been a breath of fresh air. A sigh of relief. A dip in a fresh, cool pond. A detox from crazy Saigon, just as I hoped it would be. And we haven’t even taken advantage of the infinite world-class spas or yoga centers…
Maybe next month.