Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.” — Bruce Lee
South East Asia is so different this time. When we came to Bali in 2008, we were a couple but still testing our relationship. While fiercely in love, we were flickering as we worked on understanding basic ideas about one another, even after a year and a half together followed by three months on the road. When we left July 1, 2012, our understanding of each other and our relationship had vastly improved. Our marriage is solid full of deep burning coals and we have learned how to communicate and travel so much better, having now spent nearly nineteen months on the road in different continents.
While in Ubud, remembering my first trip to Bali in 2008 and comparing it to now, I remember going to an expat Shabbat dinner and meeting a man who had spent decades in Ubud, who loved every thing about it and wanted to share so much with me. His hand-drawn map led us to Jantilui, where I was mesmerized by the gorgeous rice terraces.
Over the last three weeks traveling around Bali, the rice fields have again entranced me. I was shocked to read recently in the UbudLife, the Jakarta Post and other local papers about issues with the fields. Ubudlife: “After 1200 years of continuous cultivation, [the rice terraces] are now in jeopardy from the twin threats of development and environmental degradation.” I do see how tourists and others in love with the sight of the terraces and fields would want to live, work, open shops, hotels and restaurants near by to share the view and bask in shadow of the vibrant green colors.
I have to admit that when we arrived in 2008 and stayed in Ubud on Monkey Forest Drive, I felt overwhelmed by all the people, shops and being asked repeatedly: “Hello, Transport?” George started to tell people, “My name is not Taxi.” George’s comments now that the fields seemed to have disappeared from Ubud and been replaced by tourism commerce. I can understand why Pande Putu and two other artists from Kintamani would make a sign, “NOT FOR SALE” in the rice field in Jungjungan north of Ubud and how this could be called “Occupy the Rice Field.” This issue seems to be in its own unique fashion a love growing from a flame into a fire with coals burning. It is all of our responsibility to the Earth and our planet not to squander the areas where we grow our food and get our sustenance literally and figuratively.
I do have to report that the rice fields and relaxed areas do in some instances co-exist! We stayed at Villa Sanggingan on Jalan Sanggingan and it was fantastic. The staff is incredible. Located near the Alberto Blanco museum where we went in 2008 with Dov Fraser for the Ubud Writers Festival, this area is away from the main tourist strip. The hotel is available on Asiarooms.com, Booking.com and Agoda.com. We stayed five nights and ate at several great warungs, including the famous N as well as Fuzion Café on Jalan Lungsiakan, where we felt as if we were dining in a rice field. I thought the décor was charming; this is one of the original hotels in the area. and along with the Neka Art Museum, has been there more than twenty years. Bagus (Good) Laundry was great, too. I have to admit clean clothes, fresh from the laundry, are one of my favorite things!
I highly recommend a stay in Ubud. I will write more after our next journey to Ubud and this weekend we are staying on Monkey Forest Drive to be near the Palace to see the ceremony for the King.