If you follow my Facebook Page, you can probably figure out what we do most days living in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. But, for those of you out there who are considering a soft retirement, or Escaping The Predictable Life, or are satisfied just living vicariously through us, I thought I would share what a typical day looks like for us, now that we are settled in Ubud. Basically, what is it like to live in Bali?
Mornings in Ubud
We are up most mornings before 7 am. Although Eric has been setting an alarm to get up at 6:35 (argh), I prefer to wake up naturally through a combination of the sun streaming through our opaque curtains, or by hearing our gardner, Pak Mejo, walking around outside. Luckily, we don’t have roosters telling us to wake up. That is a particular problem because anyone who tells you the rooster crows at dawn has never spent time with a rooster. Roosters crow all day and all night. Seriously. It is constant.
For a while we were waking up to ducks quacking as they cleaned the rice fields of bugs and things, but they seem to have moved on to greener rice pastures. It’s unfortunate. I miss them. They are freaking adorable. But, I am sure they will be back in the coming weeks at the rice was just harvested, and the replanting has begun.
Breakfast generally consists of fresh cut papaya with a spritz of lime. Eric makes coffee on the stove top in our Moka Express, with ground coffee from our favorite cafe, Anomali. We check email, I check the blog to see who made comments the day before, and spend some time marketing the blog on various social media channels. We usually have a quick chat with Pak Mejo, who does not speak any English. He shows up outside our back door, or is in the rice paddies, gives us a beautiful Balinese smile along with a “Pagi!”, or morning. Our conversations are brief because I have not been working on my Bahasa Indonesian, so they revolve around good morning, how are you, lots of sun today, and where are you going this morning.
Where are you going, or mau kemana, is a common greeting in Bali. It was one I did not understand when living a our first villa. I assumed the staff was just being nosy, particularly when our responses were always limited to yoga, coffee, or dinner. But, asking someone where they are going has a history, a tradition. Before telephones, this was the way to communicate where someone was. If I were looking for Pak Mejo, I could ask our neighbor Ibu Made, who would be able to say, Pak Mejo just came by and he is heading home. It’s kind of adorable, and I have adopted it to ask other Balinese when I run into them “mau kemana?”
After breakfast, I generally head to a 9am yoga class at either the Yoga Barn or Radiantly Alive. Eric goes to yoga too, but now that I drive my own motorbike, I don’t need to rely on Eric for my rides. I do spend some time each day, though, trying not to drive off the dirt path and into the rice paddies on the way to or from our house.
More recently, I have been teaching private yoga classes two mornings a week at 8, which has been great experience. Those mornings, I take a 10 am class. The yoga classes are all 90 minutes, and require a well deserved shower and often a coffee afterwards, usually back at Anomali. On the way home, I often stop to pick up a bottle of coconut water, or a large bottle of green juice from Nyoman, at Abe-Do Organic Warung.
Afternoons in Ubud
Afternoons are our productive time, at least most days. I try to get in about 3 hours of work a day, on the blog, writing, being active on social media, or attempting to market myself as a yoga teacher in Bali – although that last one has been less successful. Eric continues to work on his project that will be launching soon. Eric belongs to Hubud, a co-working space in town, and spends a few hours a week there. Sometimes we work at a cafe, but now that we have a gorgeous view from the house, and a lovely breeze all day, I prefer to just work from home.
This has its disadvantages. It has been nice, on sunny days, to work in my bathing suit, and take occasional breaks for a dip in the pool, dipping into my productivity. We also have a pretty comfy day bed that operates as a kitchen table bench. You can imagine, many days, a nap is in order. Sometimes I meet a friend for lunch or a coffee. Most days, we manage issues with the house, worrying about not having water, or problems with the pool, or recently an outdoor light caught on fire. The fridge has been wonky. Unlike living in the US, where you would call your landlord for these things, we are responsible for taking care of them, and then our landlord will reimburse us for the costs. This certainly confirms that we are living in Bali, and not merely vacationing in Bali.
Each day, in the late afternoon, Ellen, the teenage Balinese girl who lives next door, comes by to do our Balinese Hindu offerings. She walks around the house, and through the kitchen, placing numerous offerings, while saying a prayer, lighting some incense, and sprinkling holy water. It is one of my favorite times of the day to be at the house, to experience the tradition, and smell the incense as it burns. It is so Bali.
Feeling a Part of the Community in Ubud
We frequent a padang for lunch, where the owner makes the same joke to every bule, or foreigner, that comes in. He greets the bule with “Selamat Malam,” which is good night, to see if they notice. I always notice and respond. He also asks for payment in Euro, so lunch would cost 50,000 Euro instead of about $4 for two of us. Same joke. Every time. More recently, he thanked me by saying “terima kasih sedikit,” which means thank you a little. I caught on pretty quick, as my sole goal in learning Bahasa is to figure out how he makes fun of the bules when they come in. Now, I thank him a little bit when leaving, while I thank the employees a lot. I think he enjoys the banter, now that I have caught onto his shenanigans.
We seem to attract a lot of fruit. Santi, our house keeper, started by bringing us fried tofu that she sells in the village. Then, every time she came over, she would bring rambutan, a soft fleshy fruit encased in a red spiky ball. Then, she brought us a papaya. One day, she gave me a pair of pants. She sometimes sends her older son over, with Ellen, to bring us fruit. Luckily, the fruit grows in her yard, so she is not purchasing these things for me.
Pak Mejo has delivered us bananas, and once a durian. Ibu Made has delivered us a durian as well. Durian, the king of fruits, is hard and spiky and smells atrocious. We feel we cannot decline the durian, but we have given it to our pool guy each time. And, yes, if you are keeping track, we have a house keeper, a gardner, and a pool guy. Santi’s husband, Jajang, also does work around the house for us. Plus Ellen who does the offerings, it means we have a “staff” of five people working for us. Yeah, life is different over here.
As we drive through the village of Kutuh Kaja, we often wave to people we know. Made, and the staff from Made Becik’s Warung, Santi’s mother, Nyoman from Abe-Do and his wife Sri. Santi seems to find me whenever I am in the village, to say hello. Her youngest son is adorable. Although he used to be shy when he saw us, now, he seems to spot us from a kilometer away and will start waving and calling out “Amber” as I approach. He has a gorgeous smile. We often see Pak Nyoman, the land owner on the road, as well as Jajang. It really makes me feel part of the community, as I rarely drive through the village without honking or waving to at least one person.
Beyond the village, we joke with the guys who work at Anomali, in particular Umar, who always prays for rain because he does not like it when it is so hot. In the rainy season, this was a huge problem as it rained consistently for weeks. We asked him to stop praying for rain, and when we came by in the rain I would raise my fist, jokingly, and exclaim “Umar! Stop praying for rain.” The running joke would continue. When it was sunny he would say “today, you win.” When raining, “today, I win.”
Eric also has a parking guy near the padang that he is friendly with. He charges about $.08 for parking the motorbike, but sometimes let’s Eric get away with not paying. Eric also has his laundry ladies from our old neighborhood, where he is known as Mr. Erick. They now pick up and deliver our laundry to our new house, on the complete opposite side of town. I have come to appreciate each of these interactions, and our place in the community.
Evenings in Ubud
We try to enjoy sunset at our house whenever we can, when it is not raining, and when we are not otherwise busy between 6:30 and 7. Ubud does not have much nightlife, and what nightlife there is, we just often do not participate in. There are few bars and virtually no night clubs, of the traditional variety. This is not really a problem for us as we have not been into bar hopping in quite some time. Most evenings in Ubud revolve around dinner, either out at a restaurant, or over someone’s house. We have hosted a few dinner parties ourselves, and it has been so much fun to have people over to The Big Orange House. Although there are evening events in Ubud, like Tibetan Bowls, Ecstatic Dance, or African Dance Jams, that’s not really our thing.
Although we hang out with friends for dinner most nights, otherwise it is just Eric and I flying solo. We head out to eat most of the time, as it is cheaper and easier than cooking at home. Regardless, when it is just the two of us, the rest of the night is spent either working online, or more often than not, watching TV or a movie on the computer, hooked up to a TV. We do not have cable. I’m very happy about that.
Evenings also involve chatting with our resident Tokay geckos, Georgie and Daisy, named after our two favorite Singapore pups. They come out at dusk as we leave the house, and we can hear their famous chirping all evening long. They are stunning geckos, with spots on their backs. We just love them.
When not chatting with geckos, Eric has a standing appointment removing spiders from the house. We have so many species, from small to rather large, and most of them we just leave alone. Occasionally, though, a spider that is too large for comfort makes its way inside. Eric has perfected a routine where he uses a tupperware container and a cutting board to capture the spider, which he then releases into the trees outside, only to have hime return a few days later.
We will watch an episode of something on the computer before bed, currently we are on Breaking Bad, Season 3. Before that, we were re-watching Downton Abbey, believe it or not. It is the most American thing I think we do on a regular basis – catching up with TV like we used to with our DVR.
We head to bed early, as I am generally tuckered out before 10:30, which is actually kind of late for Ubud. I get a pretty good night sleep with the sounds of the geckos, frogs, and who knows what else outside our windows.
Then, we get up and do it all over again. This is our new life in Bali. Not too shabby.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.