Friday, October 21, 2016

Hidden Ubud Part One

While walking back to the central Ubud Market from the Puri Lukisan Museum, we saw a tiny, hand-written sign posted on a wall:  Rice Terraces 50 Meters.  An arrow pointed toward a narrow walkway, between the shops.  We were a bit incredulous.  Yeah, yeah, we knew Ubud was surrounded by these beautiful fields because our villa bordered one, but a rice paddy in the middle of town?  Really?

So off we went.  The path took us behind a facade of concrete shops.  We had to jump over mud and step through a few pools of foul-smelling brown water.  (And I was wearing sandals.)  We met a young couple from Germany.  "Are there really rice terraces back here?" we asked.

They grinned.  "Yeah, yeah.  Keep going."

We rounded one more corner.  And gasped.

Suddenly, and I mean SUDDENLY, the noise, the tourists, the shops, the scooters and cars and  aggressive touts were gone, gone, gone.

 Pure magic.
At last.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

First Impressions of Ubud

We began our tour of Bali in Ubud, having booked a villa on the edge of town overlooking the rice terraces.  Finding our driver among a sea of placards at the Denpasar Airport was our first challenge.  We ended up going to the information desk and having him paged.  He was young, timid and equally rattled by the mass of humanity confronting him.  Relief replaced consternation as I assured him I was indeed the "Mrs. Marea Dotz" written on his sign.  We then followed him to the parking garage where we waited another 45 minutes before he pulled up with his little car.  "Traffic very bad," he murmured.

No kidding! What was supposed to have been a one-hour drive to Ubud turned out to be three.
I'm still not sure where Denpasar ended and Ubud began.  Ugly, urban sprawl covers the entire southern portion of the island.  The population has exploded to four million, far more than is sustainable.  It was bumper to bumper traffic the entire way.  And here we were, adding yet another carbon footprint to a saturated country.
Ubud is touted as a quiet haven for the arts.  Even as recently as 2010 when Eat Pray Love enchanted us movie goers with bucolic scenes of Julia Roberts riding a bicycle along village streets, it seemed like the epitome of what Balinese culture was all about--lovely people, Hindu temples, romance and blessings.  Who wouldn't want to go there?

Nobody.  Because we were all here.

With that being said, we jumped in full steam ahead.  The next day our young driver dropped us off in front of the Puri Saren Agung Palace with all the other American, European and Japanese tourists.  We walked down the main street, determined to find the magic that had fallen between the cracks.  It took awhile, but little by little we began to focus on the statues dripping with moss and mold, the ornate, colorful temples and the lush tropical plants.  Enchantment was still to be found but it was wedged in between the concrete stores and open air restaurants.


For the next three days we were to uncover a hidden Ubud.  It took some effort (and a lot of sweat) but the Bali of our dreams is still there.  At the time I felt like Alice walking through the Looking Glass.  There were two distinct sides to this world.  I deliberately chose to photograph the beauty rather than the filth.

It would take another week before we could sing Bali Ha'i without sarcasm.

Your own special hopes, your own special dreams.
Bloom on the hillside and shine in the streams.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Packing for Bali

We have been planning this trip for months--as a reward for all the trauma of moving.  But now that I'm packing my carry on for real, I find myself more excited about the leaving; rather than the going.

I did not sleep last night after watching the first presidential debate.  I can't wait to get away from computers, tv's, newspapers and tablets--away from Hillary and Donald and the potential disaster our country may face.

I can't wait to get away from my husband's job.  Because he works remotely, I am privy to conference calls, difficult people and impossible deadlines.

I can't wait to leave behind certain family issues--issues that are beyond my control and that will never go away.

Except for a blissful three weeks.

For three blissful weeks, I only have to think about what fabulous things I am going to see that day.  Rice terraces.  Temples.  Monkeys.  Beautiful dancers.  Batik.  Lakes.  Volcanoes.  Tropical fish.

Then why do I feel so guilty?  Why do I feel like I'm running away?  Putting my problems on hold rather than facing them.

Then again, that is what travel is all about:  Escape.  And peace of mind.

For a blissful three weeks anyway.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Birdman's Abode

Roadside Double Takes

Not a ladder in sight.  You have to have wings to get up here!

Spotted on Washington Route 14, just east of Stevenson.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Finding Panther Creek Falls

A woman at the Visitor's Center in Stevenson told me about this hidden gem of a waterfall on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge so my travel buddy and I went in search of it last week.  Once we found the darn thing, it was an easy, delightful hike.  But finding it?  Oh, brother!

If it weren't for some thoughtful soul scrawling "FALLS" on the road, we would have driven right by.  Unlike Oregon, Washington keeps its waterfalls secret.  No signage.  But no crowds either.  I almost feel guilty writing about it.

 Well, okay, there was a sign!

Is this the trail?

Turns out it was.  Whew!  Anyway, to get you headed in the right direction, the falls is located about 13 miles from Carson, Washington.  Drive north through Carson on the Wind River Highway and turn right at the second (not the first!) entrance to Old State Road.  Then turn left on Panther Creek and go for about 7 miles (until you see the big FALLS on the road.)  Park across the street at a sort-of gravel parking lot and look for the trail heading down through a thick forest.

Good luck!

But, shh, don't tell anyone!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Lunch on the 30th Floor

Where to go for lunch?  Ah . . . that is the big question every traveler asks after a full morning of touring.  When you are alone, this question can weigh very heavy on your mind.  Although I like to travel solo at times, the dining alone always causes anxiety.  So I tend to grab a sandwich from a deli or a taco from a food truck and eat on a park bench.  Or skip lunch altogether.

But in the last couple of years, I have learned to quell this dread by eating at a restaurant with a view.  It's that awkward time between ordering and receiving a meal that causes the anxiety.  Where do I look?  Not at the other diners (always in pairs).  Cell phones.  Books.  Magazines.  These are my crutches, but I don't really enjoy these distractions.  Who am I kidding?

But a view . . . ah . . . a view.  When I have a beautiful view to look at, there are no awkward moments.  And so my choice became abundantly clear after touring the Lan Su Gardens in Portland, Oregon.  There it was:  The tall pink U.S. Bancorp Tower only a few blocks away with the Portland City Grill on its 30th floor.
I was seated by a window even though it was a table for four.  My waiter was attentive (and cute).  I spent the next hour soaking up the skyline of the city of Portland while dining slowly on a Caesar salad and the warm crab and shrimp BLT.

No worries.  No embarrassment.  Only bliss.  Only me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016