I decided to hire a driver for the day, in order to as efficiently as possible see the famed beautiful areas around Ubud. Temples, mist clad mountains and rice terraces worthy of UNESCO status I found a driver via a forum online and meet up with him at 10am. He thanks me profusely for the job and we spend a long time talking about the difficult life of the less privileged Balinese people. He tells me about the corruption that meant he couldn’t train to be a policeman, lacking sufficient funds for the bribe, and that the same may become reality for his daughter who wants to be a nurse. I think about being able to study a Master in Sociology, not even a vocational programme. When we stop for lunch he finds a way of ensuring I pay for him, and the whole thing has me very downbeat – the rich Westerners, aka money bags. I think he realises after a while, when he stops and offers to buy us both freshly picked clementines from the side of road – and give me more than I can carry at the end of the day.
We see MungKawi, the royal temple, Munduk waterfall (impressive) and the temple in the lake which is the one in all the post cards (disappointing, the highlight was having four lots of Asian tourists come up to me in a space of 12 minutes asking to be in their picture, doing the V sign). We also go to a place where they make coffee, which was great. The speciality is a coffee made from a wild cat’s poo (yes), which costs 50,000 rupiah just to take a sip of. All in all I am amazed at how much grows and is cultured on Bali – we see cardamom, macadamia nut, saffron, cinnamon, ginger, galangan, red rice, black rice, cocoa plants, turmeric, lemon grass, cloves, chillies, papaya, strawberries and bay leaves.
All in all, the spiritual nirvana of Bali that I had heard of remains elusive to me still, hidden behind the never ending stream of traffic on the narrow streets, and the compulsive capitalism that reigns in Ubud. It is impossible to walk more than five metres without hearing ‘taxi?’.
In the evening I have a lovely dinner with Jayne and Oz from Manchester, back in popular demand since I ran into them at the first camp in Borneo. They are lovely and bubbly and we spend the evening weighing the pros and cons of diving in Gili Islands or Flores/Komodo, and giggling after one too many Bintangs. I think, and hope, we will stay in touch.