in International Travel

Thanksgiving Day Road Trip

IMG_2252I was awakened around 3am by a large crack of thunder. The thunderstorms that we were threatened with yesterday seemed to have held off until then, and it poured heavily with a few more thunderous booms for the next 45 minutes or so. We got up at 6:30am to get ready for our day trip to the Botanic Gardens, a car ride away. Wayan made us another great, light breakfast and we were off to meet the driver down the hill.

We hit the road, winding through the narrow streets in town, passing acres of rice paddies, and finally got a glimpse of the volcanic mountains in the distance. Though overcast, there was a much higher ceiling and it showed promise of a great day. The van wound it’s way through the Central Balinese hills on the narrow roads that were in various states of decay. We passed hundreds of rice terraces, bamboo forests, and small villages, which were a strange mix of modernization and simple farm life. They were unlike Ubud, the town we were staying in, which was full of new cement and bamboo construction. Ubud is upscale in comparison, though both it and the surrounding villages were in fairly decent shape.

WiFi is advertised everywhere in Southeast Asia. Dan commented on how they were likely a mobile-first society, because they probably don’t have home computers or the Internet. Earlier we had learned that the villa just got “fiber to the wall,” though data is very expensive.

We arrived at the Bali Botanic Garden, a national park built high up in the Central Balinese mountains, and decided to walk around instead of drive. The weather was now partly cloudy and it was much cooler in the hills, so I didn’t mind. We wandered around and saw the cactus enclosure, the orchid yard, bamboo forests, fern forests, a massive old ficus, and monkeys. You could tell it was off-season, because most things weren’t blooming and the park was nearly empty. Starting to form blisters, we headed back to the car.

Next we stopped at Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, which is a beautiful lakeside temple built in the 1600s and prominently displayed on the 50,000 rupiah bill. This site was far more popular with the tourists. We walked around they waterfront taking pictures, and then it started to rain. Upon exiting the compound, the four of us had difficulty finding our driver because all the vehicles in the lot looked the same. We ended up getting soaked in yet another downpour.

Lastly, we went down the street and had a buffet lunch with our driver. Afterwards, we got in the van to ride back to the villa. We’ve been putting in a lot of ride time over the last few days. Thankfully this driver did not subject us to the same six Beatles songs as the driver in Java did.


On the way back I reviewed the guidebook and determined that I wanted to visit Senore, a quiet town on the coast, tomorrow morning. The driver agreed to bring me there and back for the equivalent of around $40 – better than renting a car! We stopped at the grocery store, changed tomorrow’s massage time, and went back to the villa for a dip in the pool, a shower, and lounging on the patio, waiting for the breeze to kick in. I even did more laundry and got a nap in.

Because it was Thanksgiving, Chris had arranged fine dining for us at Locavore to celebrate both the holiday and our fantastic trip together. We packed up and walked down the hill into town and through the market to street a that we haven’t been to before. The restaurant was very clean and modern, bright with air conditioning and high ceilings. A hostess sat us around a circular table and we ordered drinks. Because the regular menu was primarily fish, I ordered the vegetarian option. We were served nine courses of small, complex, and elegantly-prepared dishes paired with various beers, wines, and unique, finely-constructed cocktails. The courses both challenged and delighted our tastebuds, and we spent the next few hours sharing plates and laughs. It was a great evening.

Afterwards, we stepped outside into the pouring rain to make the journey back to the villa. We wore rain jackets, but the rain just kept coming, flooding the streets. In the downpour, we lost track of Chris and retraced our steps looking for him. Thoroughly soaked, we returned to the villa to see if he was there and thankfully he was. Apparently there’s a shortcut! Sweating and soaked to the bone, we called it a night.

Side note: today marks my two-year anniversary in Denver and is Murphy’s assumed birthday.