By Don George
There is palpable excitement in the air at Crystal Cruises as the annual World Cruise prepares to embark this weekend from San Francisco. As I was re-reviewing the epic itinerary and daydreaming about the extraordinary experiences one enjoys on a Crystal World Cruise, I noticed a two-night stay planned for Bali, and it got me reminiscing…
Every time I go to Bali, some kind of magic happens. On a recent visit to Ubud, I was walking down the main street, feeling assaulted by the whoosh of cars, whine of motorbikes and plumes of exhaust fumes, lamenting how Bali had changed in the three decades I’d known it, and wondering in despair if the tranquil Ubud I’d once fallen in love with could still be found anywhere.
Suddenly a motorbike veered to a stop in front of me. The driver, a middle-aged man wearing a sarong and turban, parked his bike and walked toward me, then smilingly beckoned for me to follow him. “Come! Come! I’ll show you something special!” he said.
I’ve learned to trust the hand of serendipity when it’s extended on the road, so I followed him.
For five minutes we traced a dirt path through thigh-high grasses into a grove of trees, over a trickling creek and finally up a muddy bank. There, at the top, the man spread his arms wide and said, “Look!”
Pristine rice paddies spread before us, a sea of lush shoots rippling gently in the breeze. In the distance a row of palms and other green trees separated one patch of paddies from another. A dilapidated wooden storage shack listed on the left, and in the far distance three thatched roofs rose from the paddies. Green stretched as far as eye could see, the swish of rice shoots filled the air, and the smell of sun-warmed mud and paddy suffused the scene.
The man turned to me. “Isn’t this beautiful? This is what you were looking for, right?” he said, his smile as wide as the sky.
I didn’t know where he had come from, how he had intuited what I needed or why he had stopped to help me that day, but I knew that the mystery and magic of Bali were still robustly alive, and that the Ubud I loved was never far away.
Discover the magic of Bali and Ubud on Crystal Adventures’ “Central Bali Exploration,” on Crystal’s Malaysian Mystique cruise, a 12-day segment of the complete 102-day World Cruise.