After saying goodbye to my friends, I spent the day at Kafe (a great little organic restaurant), writing, texting with friends, reading emails and researching where the hell I was going to sleep. Things didn’t really come together until 6pm, but when they did, they came together in a BIG way.
I normally spend about $9-15 American dollars per day on my accommodations in Bali, which have included a dorm bed in a hostel, a tiny shared villa at a hostel, and a room with ensuite at a home stay. I’ve been with friends throughout my time here, which has been great, but I was looking for some solo time. I was ready to splurge, which isn’t hard here in Bali I wanted my own place with a pool and there were plenty to choose from.
I messaged three different places on AirBNB and heard back from my first choice in a little over an hour. Perfect. But when I messaged back (three times) to inquire about the exact address/name of the accommodations there was nothing but radio silence. It was starting to get late in the day and my pack was back at the home stay I’d checked out of earlier in the day. So I said screw it and got in an Uber. After some significant online stalking I was pretty sure I knew where the place was, but had to sit up front with the driver and direct him (he seemed skeptical, but I was confident).
We arrived at a lovely compound in the rice fields, about 10 minutes drive from the center of Ubud. There was some construction going on, but I didn’t mind. I was getting a baller private room and bathroom right next to the large pool with breakfast included for $35 per night. A stretch for my budget, but worth it for a few days. I was just getting ready to jump into the shower when the owner knocked on my door.
“I’m so sorry about the construction going on. I didn’t realize you were arriving today.”
“It’s ok – I just booked last minute.”
“Yes, but I really think you’d be more comfortable at one of our other accommodations. I’d be happy to upgrade you to our honeymoon suite.”
I’m sorry. Did I just hear the words “UPGRADE” and “HONEYMOON SUITE“?!??! Needless to say I was happy to jump into a shuttle to the other location. Along for the ride was a young Chinese couple and their translator (as they spoke no English). The translator was also Chinese and introduced all of us. She asked about me and when I told her I was traveling alone for a year she gasped and in one breathe blurted out:
“You know Eat Pray Love? You Julie Roberts? HAHAHAHAHAHA! One year? You have lot of money. You business lady? You travel one year lose money, go home find more, yes? HAHAHAHAHAHA!”
Something like that.
Fifteen minutes later I was standing in a room with a four-poster bed (complete with gauzy mosquito net), a sitting area looking out into the tropical garden, and an ENORMOUS open-air bathroom with a rain shower and large copper tub. For $35.
After doing a happy dance around my room I set out in search of dinner. Just down the street was a small outdoor restaurant that had Bingtang, so that was good enough for me. No sooner had I ordered a beer and the chicken curry, and the young Chinese couple from my villa came in. We smiled and waved and then the girl looked down at her phone typing. After a moment she thrust the phone in front of me.
“Have you eaten yet? Could we join you?” It read.
Google translate is an incredible thing. I invited them to sit with me and, thanks to our phones, we were able to type out a small back and forth conversation. They were getting married next year. I was two months into my travels. She said I was very nice and would like to speak with me in English more. I happily agreed. I told her she was brave to come to a country where she didn’t speak the language. She said I was brave for traveling alone. It was definitely one of the cooler things that has happened to me during my travels.
All was well until the WIFI stopped working and we were reduced to communicating in head nods and shakes, tummy rubs and awkward laughs. Three Russians at the next table were snickering at our ridiculous, childlike interactions, and it made the three of us laugh in agreement. So there we were: an American, two Chinese and three Russians shaking with laughter together.
The emotional impact of communicating with people who couldn’t seem more different than you is overwhelmingly powerful and, no matter how elementary, I was loving it.