Sunday, September 25, 2011

House-Hunting in Ubud


Time to go look at a half-dozen apartments and bungalows for my month in Ubud, Bali.

I'd only given myself a single day to find a place. I couldn't afford the hotels here...I'd been shocked at the low vacancy rates and high prices in Ubud compared to a decade ago.

I'd done all the research I could ahead of time and was armed with a list of prospective places. What I'd discover over the next month is that there are loads of inexpensive bungalows in family compounds within the confines of the Penastanan rice fields. If you walk around the paths away from the road, you'll be approached every few days by a landlord looking to fill his bungalows.

But they don't usually have wifi, aside from USB sticks and phone data. So the family compound wasn't an option for me.

I need a real connection, because I upload and download huge Photoshop files, though when I camp in Western Australia, I'll be reduced to the cell network. But I can deal with searching for coffee shops when the time comes. For now, I needed a pleasant, decent, private set-up in Ubud. One that came with a strong Internet connection.

Which left me with, mostly, tourist-geared spots and expat sublets.

I'd gone through a number of way-too-pricey places online. I figured that once I was paying $1200, I might as well just stay in a hotel. So that eliminated most of the high-end bungalows and left me with a few small places out of the center, some crappy-looking spots IN the center, and some cheaper hotels.

My hotel gave me a map. I marked the places I wanted to see and set off in the hot sun.

Ugh, the humidity. I was red and burning up in no time.

And the sidewalks! They're appalling in Ubud. I knew to keep my eyes down from my earlier visits. You could sprain your ankle in your first hour in town if you're not careful. Maybe I should just sprain it now and get it over with. Also, I didn't want to kick anyone's offerings off the sidewalk. Little bits of flower, incense, and rice sit in banana leaves in front of shops and homes in Bali. I have kicked them off the sidewalk by accident before--everyone who spends any time in Bali manages to do this sooner or later. But it's embarrassing when it happens and not something I wanted to repeat.

I checked some uninspiring spots near Yoga Barn, then headed up Jalan Hanuman and off to the right.

Yuck. The cheapest apartment I'd found online was gross.

I headed to Monkey Forest Road, where 11 different young women handed me flyers for their spas. I know what ear candling is, but what is belly candling?

I stopped in midday for some gazpacho, spinach salad, and lemonade. Ubud has some yummy food.

And lots of tourists. Wow. Damn. This place is crawling with them. I'm one too. I mustn't fuss. But yeah, them's a lotta visitors.

But they're also income for the Balinese. So it's good to have so many tourists.

In late afternoon, I walked up a steep hill to the little suburb of Penestanan. This is frequently called an artisan's village. It seemed like a lot of rice paddies being turned into bungalows for tourists, but whatever, it's still adorable out there among the green fields.

I had a feeling about this one place based on...well, nothing really. Just an email exchange with the owner, Kadek. I turned down a path away from the road, alongside a stream, and found Kadek at the front desk of Gerebig Bungalows.

"You didn't email back," she said. I hadn't. I'd gotten distracted with chasing monkeys and frogs in Borneo and forgotten to tell her when I was coming in.

She showed me a few older places, which were cheap enough. And then she showed me this.

It was brand-new—the new house ceremony hadn't even happened yet. And I could have the top floor, complete with kitchen, for 7,500,000 a month.

That's not cheap, but neither is it expensive. It's about $827 a month. Her other units were much cheaper but they shared kitchens and were not stunningly brand-new.

I told her I'd think about it, and wandered off to see other bungalows. The ones that were as nice as hers all cost more and the others were kind of "eh" by comparison.

Plus, she offered to put me on the top floor so the wifi signal would be stronger.

At 5:30, I had the shuttle from the hotel I'd stayed last night drop me off.
"Kadek?" She was staring at her computer when I returned, answering emails at the front desk.

"You're back!"

"I'll take it."

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