Ubud is the main centre for arts, crafts, culture, music and dance in Bali. It has a vibrant expat scene and receives many tourists who want to get away from the beach for a bit. All this means you loose out a bit on authenticity, but it makes up for it in choice. And quality: virtually any restaurant is top notch - even though it isn't "real" salt-of-the-earth pure Balinese fare it is a culinary paradise. Good thing the belly trouble I've had for the last few days is over, not that it has stopped me (which is probably why it's lasted so long). Glitzy coffee shops and snazzy bars line up the side streets, and upmarket boutiques dominate the main drag. After wandering around for a bit we actually forgot we were in Indonesia for a moment. On the one hand this can be nice and relaxing, but it also can mean you have travelled to the other side of the world to visit Marbella. With more motorbikes and crappier pavements. This is fine by us if it's just for a couple of days, a holiday within a holiday.
Out hotel is all but glitzy though. It is a step below our usual. No towels, terrible mattress, dingy walls and a basic bathroom with no hot water. It would have been a paradise for us a few years ago during our 2006 backpacking trip, it's cheap as chips, and bang in the centre. Expectations were also a bit high, it had great ratings in booking.com and looked really nice (at a similar place in Kaliurang at least we knew what to expect, plus it was just for one night). Hearing a girl complain of bedbugs freaked us out a bit so we started looking for alternatives. Bit the bullet (we had already paid for this place) and got 2 nights at another hotel. But when I walked there at 10pm with some of out luggage to check in it turned out they were fully booked (they just hadn't informed booking.com - maybe after a certain hour the guys at reception pocket the money of the guests that walk in off the street). In a way I was glad - it was a bit out of the way in a pretty boring part of town. At least I had got some exercise in.
So we toughed it out at our current place, after carefully inspecting the beds for bedbugs. We have booked another place for tomorrow, which looks great and has a swimming pool.
We have really honed in on our haggling skills. The problem has been realising that in tourist markets things work differently than in normal markets. In normal markets there is little or no haggling. In fact many items even have price tags. The price is right even if you are a tourist. This is where we buy some toys and clothes. Tourist markets are different. This is where you buy some other clothes and "artisan" tat and if you don't get them down to a quarter you are getting ripped off. The tricks are: get an idea of the proper price, make sure the shop is empty (shopkeepers don't like other tourists overhearing how far down the prices can go), don't show too much interest (here kids are a liability), walk away slowly, look at similar items in the shop next door, and never accept more than 1/3 of the price. I got a (very useful) coconut piano from 150 down to 20. The shopkeeper called me some name which the other shopkeepers said meant "good bargainer" but I'm sure it really meant "tight fisted bastard".