Memories of a magical night, Ubud, Bali, 1996

Every now and again a particular day (or night) in our lives seems to be blessed with just the right mix of location, company and atmosphere. A rainy night in Ubud was one such time.

It could have never happened. There were many “sliding door” moments. It had started to rain. Our hotel was comfortable and the room service superb. There were lots of mangy looking stray dogs roaming the streets. But the sweet smells of a warm Asian night are intoxicating, and head out we did just as dusk was nearing.

At first the rain came in large, isolated drops. The drops quickly drew closer, and before we knew it the dirt lane had become a river, the dogs had scattered and we – with no real plan anyway – needed to find shelter and a place to eat fast. Through the pelting rain we saw a sign across the path suggesting a restaurant was beyond, but all we could make out was a short path leading to a massive tree.

As a child I had read all of Enid Blyton’s “Faraway Tree” books, and spent hours dreaming of what it would be like to find people – a little society – somewhere up in a tree. That dream did come back to me briefly as we cautiously ascended a set of stairs at the rear, still not fully aware or convinced that we were actually heading up into a tree.

After a moment we came to a platform, beyond which was some sort of basic accommodation. “For the staff” it was explained later. Continuing our ascent, we came across a busy kitchen, the smiling hostess pointing for us to continue onwards and upwards.

Finally we arrived at a small, candle lit room with several tables and a balcony beyond. We stepped outside to confirm that we were a) definitely still in a tree, and b) safe. Satisfied on both counts and with the rain pelting away, we sat and waited for… well we weren’t quite sure.

Sometimes “corny” best captures how you feel, but the next few hours have certainly lived in our memories and hearts forever. A fabulous meal of steamed fish, sticky rice and wine was shared with a friendly proprietor (an British ex-pat beatnik) and his family/staff, with the soundtrack provided by Jelly Roll Morton, crackling away on the turntable. Locals came and went, tall tales were told of post-war New Orleans, fortunes found and lost, and piracy on the high seas.

With warmed spirits and exhausted bodies, we stumbled home through the night, slept like logs, and strangely, could not find the lane-way, the sign, or the tree the next day.

And that, my friends, is why I like to play old-school jazz on a stormy night.

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