We planned to head for Ubud when we got back to Bali. We’d only spent 3 days there on our first visit but liked it (in spite of the traffic and crowds), and it had a good supply of places to rent. If we didn’t find anything suitable we’d push on to the north coast.
The flight from Labuan Bajo’s vast, new but eerily under-occupied airport seemed to go smoothly enough. We’d even seen Mr V’s bag on the tarmac by the plane door, waiting to be loaded – or so we assumed. But when we arrived in Bali we discovered that Garuda had actually been taking it off. “Overloaded plane” claimed their agent at the lost luggage desk, and yet we had seen cargo being loaded. Ours wasn’t the only bag missing, and it was particularly hard luck on the guy who was headed straight to the north coast for a day’s diving – all his diving gear was still in Flores. The paperwork was swiftly completed (I got the distinct impression that this was a regular occurrence) and we were assured the bag would arrive on the evening flight and be sent straight to our hotel in Ubud. Not really believing a word of it, we bypassed the taxi desk and headed outside to negotiate directly with a driver.
The City Hotel was a small, no-frills kind of place, but set in a beautiful garden with ricefield views, a sparkling pool, and lovely staff. I don’t think I’ve ever been hugged by a hotel receptionist before and anywhere else it would probably seem fake and ridiculous, but there was nothing fake or ridiculous about February.
Surprise, surprise, the bag didn’t appear that evening. Or early the next morning. Connie, the manager, reported that February had tried several times to phone the airport but nobody had answered. Then we discovered that the airport was actually closed and all flights cancelled due to ash from an erupting volcano in east Java – for how long was anybody’s guess. Marvellous. Resigned to a shopping expedition for a few essentials, it was therefore a joyous moment when in the early afternoon we saw a man carrying a black bag with a distinctive green band towards our verandah. So it had come on last night’s flight after all – it had just taken rather a long time to travel the hour or so from the airport.
Luggage problem resolved we could turn our attention to finding somewhere to rent. Many of the advertised cottages were in Penestanan, a village just to the west of Ubud, so we set out the next day to have a look around. It was a fair walk from central Ubud up a steep hill, then following Connie’s advice, we cut south down the path by Alchemy (an arty organic restaurant) into the green rice paddies. The surroundings were lovely, with well spaced houses dotting the landscape, flocks of ducks wandering around the field edges, and traffic noise fading away. We found some of the places on our list of possibles but inevitably the nicest was way above our budget. However, we were concerned that they were just too remote, given that we wouldn’t have a motorbike. If we hadn’t walked all the way from Ubud we might have had the energy to explore north of the road, closer to the Bintang supermarket, but in any case I wasn’t really impressed by what I saw of Penestanan village – it was a bit scruffy, the road was very busy, and the eating places few and overpriced. It was probably really nice before it got too trendy. So we took a taxi back into Ubud and resolved to look elsewhere.
The following day we arranged to look at a place I’d found on Airbnb. Monkey Forest Cottages were, unsurprisingly, located just south of Ubud’s (in)famous Monkey Forest, a place where otherwise sane people apparently willingly pay to feed the primate equivalent of a plague of rats (but larger, and with rabies and bigger teeth). By road it would have been a very long walk, but a path cut along the side of the Monkey Forest from central Ubud, just downhill from Coco’s supermarket. The location was perfect – one of two cottages in a walled garden with trees and a lily-filled pond, set between rice fields and the steep, thickly wooded banks of a stream far below. The restaurants of Ubud were an easy walk away, with more eating places just along the path in Nyuh Kuning village. It was delightful. We tested the WiFi, which worked perfectly, and signed up on the spot, then returned to the hotel for 5 days happy that for £422 (less than £14 a night) we had our home for the following month. Provided that the small problem of no running water could be resolved, of course…