I'm pretty important in Ubud
Our series of travel events en route to Ubud included two bus rides, a late night stroll down the side of a highway, a stop at an all-night food place, a brief sleep at Erin's friend Nasha's house, one upset stomach (Erin's), a delayed flight, and a taxi ride. Nonetheless we ended up in Ubud mid-afternoon on Thursday. Our plan was to schlep from hotel to hotel until we found something satisfactory. I was expecting something very simple with cold water. But the first place we went to was beautiful, inexpensive, and offered us a choice of a room with air con and a fabulous view on the third floor, or no air but a porch on the ground floor. We chose the ground floor. We had nice beds with good pillows and ikat bedspreads. There was even hot water! And breakfast included. Since our little porch and entrance to our room was right next to the lobby entrance it was very convenient. So
guess how much it cost per night. Seriously. Tell me your guess and I'll tell you the answer later.
And now I must tell you about our Ketut. He works at the hotel and is the most enthusiastic and helpful person in the world. He brought us our breakfast, he procured our tickets for cultural events and he even took us to holy sites all around Ubud by ojek (motorbike) for a mere $10 each. Whenever we were on our porch Ketut was there seeing if we needed anything. Ketut spoke pretty good English and he wanted to practice as much as possible with us. I seriously considered inviting him to work at camp.
So we had better than expected accommodation and a very helpful concierge / tour guide / chauffeur / new friend. We started out logically enough. I have read that a backpacker can easily get by on $15 a day in Indonesia. Well I totally believe that but I spent about three times that on average. Of course we ate good but not top end food, we saw two traditional Balinese performances, visited several temples and holy sites, went to the sacred monkey forest and we did a fair bit of shopping. Oh the shopping.
I am nowhere near to being a shopaholic normally. I have low shopping stamina. I like to research before I buy. But when you take someone who has been trying to save money for months and plop them down in a land where the US dollar is worth 10,000 rupiah something dangerous happens. Even worse if this person is a person who loves fabric and the country is know for beautiful textiles.
Basically, I lost perspective. I had a few things I definitely wanted, and there were some gifts I was going to get. But then I realized how cheap the sarongs were. I fell in love with the batik (hand painted cloth) and ikat (intricately woven often hand dyed cloth). I had gotten out as much as I wanted to spend when we arrived in Ubud but by Saturday morning I was selling my leftover Australian currency to support my textile habit. Later that day I sold some USD. Erin was not as bad as me but we both went a little overboard. We realized, as I contemplated fitting the full bed sized ikat into my backpack, that we were out of control. But when the woman offered to sell us each a full sized totally awesome frog motif ikat for $7 each what were we supposed to do?!
Overall I didn't really go over budget and my stuff all fit into my bag. And if I get married someday my ikat will ensure that I have plenty of children (frogs are a sign of fertility Erin tells me).
Loss of perspective aside we had a really great trip. It is kind of funny that Erin and I had our first grown up vacation together like our aunts Lauri and Leslie do. This morning we bid Ketut a reluctant farewell, and later we had a very characteristically Maryland Shitama goodbye.
Now I am in Bangkok again on my way to London. I am going from being a cool American with awesome buying power to being a stupid American who can't afford anything.