A Vagabond’s Dream: Finding the Hidden Jewel

In many ways, long-term travel is, of course, a whole different ballgame from short-term travel (vacations). For one, you cannot go sightseeing or adventuring every day because 1) it is hard on the budget, and 2) it is exhausting. After all, long-term travelers are living on the road. There is all the time in the world but not unlimited funds.

I have been in Bali for two weeks now. Much of that time I have spent in Andong, the small village where I am staying outside of Ubud. A typical day starts with an early-morning jalan jalan (walk) followed by meditation and breakfast. The day is then filled with a little housekeeping and research, hanging out with the family who is hosting me, strolling the village, cooking, and work, so the days I take to sight-see around the area are a real treat.

Rice fields in Andong
Rice fields in Andong

While Ubud has many tourist attractions, tourist stuff in general does not appeal to me. I want to experience the local culture I am in, as this is the nectar, the juice of my joy in traveling. That said, a few days ago I decided to do the tourist thing anyway and made a list of things to do in Ubud. HA! I had a nice reminder of how lovely it is to simply go with what is happening, no matter what your list says.

A small temple inside the entrance to the ARMA
A small temple inside the entrance to the ARMA

My first stop was the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA), founded by patron of the arts Agung Rai. Four hours later, it became clear that it was also going to be my last stop of the day. (Right here, a deep thanks to my meditation teacher, PC, who helped me learn to slow down and appreciate the small details of each moment.) I can’t say enough about this amazing place—six hectares of gorgeous, lush vegetation; sculptures; water features; an upscale restaurant, kafe ARMA; Warung Kopi, the coffee shop; and two museum buildings that house Agung Rai’s private collection of both traditional and modern Balinese art. There is also a luxury resort on the grounds, but that’s out of this vagabond queen’s world.

After paying Rp 60,000 (about $4.25) and strolling down the long entranceway, I was greeted by a friendly, delightful man dressed in a burgundy-colored traditional Balinese robe and hat. Smiling and greeting me warmly—almost as an old friend—he escorted me toward the central part of the museum grounds and gave a brief explanation of the art in the two museum buildings. He also oriented me to the huge property and encouraged me to use my free drink card at Warung Kopi. (You can redeem it at either the warung or the restaurant.)

An entrance to one of the museums
An entrance to one of the museums
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A detail of the entranceway

I spent the next hour and a half in the museums before heading to the elegant open-air restaurant for lunch. While I could spend all day describing the fantastic service, menu selection, and tasty lunch I enjoyed, I will instead say that I savored the best dessert I have ever tasted in my life, bar none. I’m sorry I didn’t take note of its name, but it was a combination of crushed ice, coconut milk, thin strips of jack fruit, and little red pieces of another fruit I couldn’t identify. I was completely blissed out. I’m not even going to try to describe the flavor, but if you ever go, look for it in the desserts; it’s in a clear glass cup. (The photo below is of my lunch of satay and other treats. I was enjoying the dessert too much to take a photo.) I splurged on this meal, spending $9.75. This is usually two days’ worth of food.

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Lunch and bliss

As I enjoyed my afternoon repast, I leafed through the small but hefty brochure I received with my ticket. It provides a thorough and interesting history of the museum and Agung Rai himself—a well-known man in his own right, not just in Bali, but throughout the art world. Gazing at the full-color pictures in the guide, I noticed with a start that the man in many of the pictures was the very same man who had greeted me and escorted me around the grounds: Agung Rai. The Balinese like to keep a low profile.

Agung Rai and Vagabond Queen
Agung Rai and Vagabond Queen

After lunch, I set out to continue wandering the grounds, enjoying the colorful, fragrant orchids attached to the sides of dozens of trees; the moss-covered sculptures of protective spirits and animals; the abundant water features; and the cool, soothing river that runs through the property. I found myself at a dead end at the foot of a small field of rice paddies and the effective border of the grounds. Turning back, hot and a little weary from the afternoon heat, I decided it was a good time to redeem my free drink at Warung Kopi. By now I knew the bridges and turns and walkways to find my way there.

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A water feature with turtle and monkeys

It was at the warung that I got my bonus, my golden ticket, and was a big reason this one stop became my only stop of the day. As I enjoyed my cool, refreshing iced tea, I noticed, in small print on the warung menu, a brief description of a film you could watch right there in the warung. It was a documentary on the preparations for the cremation ceremony of the great Balinese stone sculptor (and, in his old age, an artist of ink drawings), I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, who carved hundreds and hundreds of the temples and palaces in Ubud. He died in 1978 at the estimated age of 116, just as the documentary filmmaker, Australian John Darling, began to shoot. I was rooted to my seat for an hour watching this old but highly informative film. To me, this is what savoring the moment looks like.

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Sri Chinmoy, Dreamer of World Peace

Filled to my limit with joy and radiant aliveness and complete contentment from feasting on the treats of the ARMA, I was ready to head home, grateful for one more day in this amazing life of mine. And so ended a most pleasurable day.

If you’re going to Ubud, make sure to set aside plenty of time to visit the ARMA, and plan to eat lunch there. Agung Rai is often in attendance, so if you see him, say hi from Vagabond Queen.

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