MS EMMA & BIG BOSS IN BALI: Pt XI

Some light reading as you kill time waiting for 5pm to tick over, or if you’re stuck in-situ on the Frankston train line. See how handy twitter is?

21/11/11 – Monday

Today is one of the days on the trip I’ve really been looking forward to the most; a day exploring Ubud and it’s famous Buana Amertha Sari Coffee plantation. Our driver, Made (pronounced Mar-day) picks us up around 9am and we begin the drive north. Made is a sensation behind the wheel. I’m not going to go too much into what driving in and around Bali for those who’ve never been here before, but to give you some idea, I strongly recommend P.J O’Rourke’s ‘Third World Driving Tips and Hints’. While not written specifically about Bali, its basic rules apply: put your car in gear, toot your horn and advance doing your level best not to hit anyone. For those with weak hearts and, or constitutions, when one is a passenger in Bali, I suggest a handful of barbiturates and either of an eye mask or blindfold. No kidding.

Our man Made makes great time and we’re in Ubud in around an hour. I’ve heard so much about this place – both from Ms Emma, and some of the guys I play footy with: KP, Hermo and Bentauf. As with my first trip to Jimbaran Bay, I’m immediately struck at the contrasts Bali offers once you get away from the tourist beaches. In getting here, we’ve skirted around the heart of Denpasar, but even then, once you get out of the busiest parts of the city, the landscape becomes a dense sea of Hijau – green – and countless wood working shops lie against the side of the road. Raw timber is imported from Java – some of the finest, strongest wood you’ll ever see – and local craftsmen then go to work carving intricate designs and patterns in the wood, which then sell for a pretty penny to westerners who pay a handsome sum to have them freighted back to Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.

Ubud itself is in mountainous terrain. It’s a haven for creative types; writers, painters, sculptors and textilers. Where Kuta, Seminyak and Legian are rife with designer clothing and surfwear stores, the Ubud region has art galleries and locally made jewellery stores as its staple. There has also been exponential growth in mind and body day spa’s as well as an increase in Yoga retreats.

Our first stop is at Ary’s Warung, a favourite watering hole of Ms Emma’s. We’re directly across the road from one of the most breathtaking temples in the region; the Lotus Palace. You enter from the road and directly ahead of you is one of the most ornate and intricate stone temples in the country. A long runway leads you to the foot of the temple; each side of the runway surrounded by age old lily pads. As you walk towards the actual temple entrance, two sets of stairs lead you to the temple doors. As we approach, a local is placing fresh offerings on one of the statues on either side of the temple doors; guardians and protectors of the devotees and fighters of evil spirits. Sadly, just as I should be overwhelmed by some kind of spirituality, it strikes me, looking back towards the entrance of the grounds, how similar the layout is to The Foo Fighters staging for their Live at Wembley Stadium DVD (Hello Ubud! You guys fucking rock!).

Like an oasis, I note the presence of a Starbucks nearby. I don’t give a shit what anyone says, I like Starbucks. I convince Ms Emma to come in with me and we enjoy a coffee in the air-conditioned comfort. I have no beef with anyone who dislikes Starbucks on the grounds (no pun intended) that their coffee tastes like crap. That’s fair enough. But, if your dislike of Starbucks is based on some anti-globalisation hoo-har, then step aside. I fully support the principle of fair-trade coffee, but if you think for one minute that they’re the only one’s fucking over coffee growers in central America, the I have some pristine swamp land to sell you.

We enjoy lunch at the famous Indus overlooking some of the most breathtaking scenery you will see in Bali when the rains come. We’ve been waiting almost a week and a half for some tropical rainstorm action and it comes when we least want it!

We meet up with Made and head to the famous Buana Amertha Sari coffee plantation; the home of the world’s most expensive coffee; Luwak Coffee. Luwak’s enjoy red coffee cherries as their main source of food. Once ingested, the bean undergoes a kind of osmosis with certain chemicals in Luwak’s digestive system. Once it ferments, the bean is excreted out, cleaned, dried and roasted and viola! Luwak coffee. In plain english; people collect Luwak shit, clean it, roast it and sell it for around $60 a kilogram. And I couldn’t wait to taste it! For the record, Luwak coffee has a smooth, well rounded taste. It’s neither too light, nor too heavy, but for mine hardly worth the hefty price tag. Given its scarcity though, I understand why it yields the price it does. This stuff is almost literally, as rare as rocking horse shit.

We arrive back in Seminyak around 6.30 or so and retire to our room. It is our last night at the Pelangi before we check in at the Elysian Villas. It’s sad to be leaving the Pelangi, but Ms Emma and I are excited to be staying at the Elysian.

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