I’ve always had the feeling the places I’ve gone have somehow chosen me, rather than the other way around. They call and I obey. I confess, after several trips to Asia, Bali had not been among the places that had called. Then, camping in Sequoia National Park, a charming young couple set up their tent and became my next-door neighbors for a night. Chatting in the evening, she told me I must go and I believed her.
Following the path, the search begins
A left turn, continue.
Another left turn, rice ahead.
My first visit wasn’t perfect but sometimes one must get the hang of a place and I hadn’t yet. After several weeks, 1 hotel in Ubud and 2 outside it, I determined what was needed was more effort invested in the process of finding exactly where I’d stay when I returned. Time was running out and it was clear to me that I would return.
The House, and I walked right past it.
Backtracking, a first glimpse through the gate.
My route of discovery began and ended on the extensive network of footpaths through the rice paddies around the village of Penestanan. I’d been staying, first in a small apartment and then in a guesthouse cottage, along the local road that’s a loop off the main road running west from Ubud. Penestanan is walking distance from Ubud and most of the houses are set along these paths between the roads. So I reasoned that if I could find a house more suitable for my purposes, it would likely be along one of them. I crossed the road and set off along a path I’d already used a number of times, my goal to follow as many as I could find, look for possibilities and ask people for information when opportunities arose.
What would be my spot, days in front of a fan, reading, on the open porch.
Kitchen to the right, bathroom to the left.
Ilhu in her kitchen.
I wasn’t long before I turned down one I hadn’t walked before, passed several houses then turned back in the direction I’d come. As I passed the gate of a small house I glanced to my right, toward a raised patio and saw a woman who I assumed was not Balinese by her European appearance. I backed up the several steps I’d gone past the gate and called to her. She came to the gate and I asked her if, by chance, she knew of a house that could be rented? Yes, she said, this one. She invited me in, the house was beautiful, her name was Evelyn and she rented the house when she wasn’t in residence. I explained that it would be for another visit, the price was right and we’d be in touch. That simple. And, by the way, we had a mutual friend, someone I’d known for 30 years and she knew professionally. Remarkable, as always, and you’d think I’d stop being surprised.
Looking back out to the pond.
Breakfast is served.
My knee and an empty plate.
And so it transpired that I rented Evelyn’s house. The very modest rent included the services of Ilhu (Ee’ lu), a lovely young woman who arrived every morning with the day’s shopping, cooked me breakfast and lunch and kept the place tidy. Her food was wonderful, my only desire that whatever she made be accompanied by a mango at every meal. Watching her deftly peel them with a very large sharp knife only added to the pleasure. Ilhu’s husband was also ever handy when I needed a sim card or large bottles of drinking water brought on his motorbike. And Nyoman would turn up with his taxi when I arrived at the airport or fancied a jaunt. It’s hard to imagine why I ever came home.
The entire upstairs was my bedroom, views all around.
Toward the village of Penestanan.
The ladies of the construction crew next door, coming & going with building materials.
My 2 favorite guys, Nyoman, left, and Ilhu's husband.
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