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Indonesia

Day 3: Ubud

With our marathon only four weeks away, it was time to get into training. I had a one hour easy run scheduled, and thought the path along the beach would be the perfect spot to achieve this. There was nothing easy about that hour. Even early in the morning the temperatures were already into the 30s, and the humidity wasn't about to be outdone. I didn't know it was humanly possible to sweat so much without passing out due to dehydration. But I pushed through and survived, leaving my mark up and down the concrete as the drips flew off me. 

The picture-perfect scenery on my morning run.

Breakfast at the hotel was a choice of Asian or Western. We didn't think we could stomach huge platefuls of rice and noodles so early in the day, so we took the safe option. One look at the fluorescent coloured jams on offer made us question our decision. 

 

As we were packing our bags to prepare for our trip to Ubud, we received a phone call through the hotel phone. This was odd, as no one knew we were staying at this hotel. Danny picked up and listened to the woman on the other end, his eyes becoming wider and wider. Before I knew it he was laughing and shouting, ecstatic about whatever this woman had to say. Danny responded to her, "I have never won anything before!" Free stuff? Now I was getting excited.

 

Once the phone call finished I pestered Danny with questions. Danny had no details other than he had won a free one week holiday in Bali, at a resort down in Nusa Dua, and that we were going to be picked and taken down there to see this resort before being driven to Ubud. It sounded too good to be true.

With one more quick walk along the beach, watching the surfers hitting the waves, we waited patiently at the hotel to see if someone would turn up for us. They did, right on time. Being driven in an air-conditioned car was enough to make the whole experience worthwhile. I could have won a free car trip and I would have been happy, but the prospect of having a whole week's free vacation was beyond belief. 

 

The resort was beautiful. Fairly new, clean, right on the beach, surrounded by dozens of other resorts just like it. I could see myself spending a week there. As soon as we arrived we were asked to fill in a detailed form. Right then it clicked that this was a scam, and now there was no way out. We were quickly ushered into an office to listen to a sales pitch about buying shares in hotel rooms, and all the ways that it would save the world. Okay, it wouldn't save the world, but they make you think you're ignorant for not taking it up. We pulled out a few excuses, which to his credit the salesman accepted without pushing the matter. We were then given a free lunch and also a voucher for a free seven night stay at any one of their resorts across a number of countries. Plus they drove us to Ubud. We didn't do too badly out of it.

One week's free accommodation here? I could cope with that.

Danny and I discussed this little adventure for a while, trying to figure out how they contacted us at the hotel. Danny suddenly remembered that when he filled out the survey yesterday in Kuta, he gave his name and the name of the hotel we were staying at. One phone call to reception and they could be put straight through to us. So much for filling out an innocent survey about tourism.

 

It took a while for our driver to find the hotel. Danny had booked our accommodation and it ended up being out of town, up in the mountains. I was wary at first, preferring to stay in town in the thick of the action, but once I saw the place my mind changed completely. The hotel consisted of individual wooden villas built into the side of the mountain, each one at a different height. All rooms, plus the swimming pool, provided stunning views across the surrounding tropical forest. From our balcony it felt like we were the only people within 100 kilometres. Peaceful, relaxing, perfect.

As much as I wanted to enjoy our little slice of heaven, I was also keen to commence sight-seeing. We hired a scooter from the hotel and set off, with Gunung Kawi being our first stop. The 11th century temple was, like our hotel, in the middle of nowhere. We donned the obligatory sarongs, walked down the never-ending concrete steps, skipped the artisan stalls, passed through the rice fields and came out at a massive, stone wall of ancient shrines cut straight into the side of a cliff. It wasn't the biggest or grandest site we had visited, but it sure was impressive. The views across the countryside were just as extraordinary.

Gunung Kawi.

Our next destination was Tirta Empul, a water temple renowned for its magical spring water. Every day hundreds of Balinese people come to visit the complex, bathing and praying in one of the several pools. This was completed fully clothed, a rule that tourists were required to follow too. We didn’t go in, happy to watch the ritual from the sidelines. More intricately carved temples and sculptures (and more artisan stalls) made up the rest of the site, but it was completely different to Gunung Kawi.

The purification ritual at Tirta Empul.

Danny had read up on an award-winning restaurant in Ubud called Locavore. European cuisine, local ingredients, an environmental sustainability policy, vegetarian menu - I was in. We weren't sure what to expect but we ended up eagerly devouring the seven-course degustation, as well as phenomenal cocktails and wine. We could not have been happier; the meal was perfect. Great dinner, great hotel - Danny did well today.