Sunrise at Mt. Batur

Sunrise at Mt. Batur

After jumping on a mistake fare to Indonesia in the spring (and convincing my friend Jacob to join), I finally got to live out my trip, spending five days in Bali followed by one in Singapore and another in Tokyo.

We spent a large portion of our Bali segment staying in Ubud, from which we had access to much of northern Bali (like Mt. Batur, an active volcano, shown above) as well as respite from the hordes of tourists typically crowding the beaches of Kuta (we did of course spend a day in Legian to take advantage of the beaches).

On the third day of our stay, we followed the advice of the (wonderful!) hotel manager at the Gajah Biru Bungalows and walked into Ubud city center searching for ‘push bikes’ (not to be confused with normal ‘bikes’, which is how the locals refer to motorcycles) to rent.

Poolside cabana at Gajah Biru

Poolside cabana at Gajah Biru Bungalows

After walking down a side street we stumbled on a vendor and asked how much it would cost to rent bikes for the day. He told us 25,000 rupees (a bit less than $2) per bike.

“25,000?!” I asked, feigning outrage, “That’s ridiculous!” (The hotel manager told us to expect 15,000 as a fair price). I turned to walk away.

“Fine. 20,000”, he acquiesced.

I gave the man an uninterested glance and then continued down the street.

After proceeding about five minutes without passing another vendor, Jacob turned to me and pointed out, “You realize that you turned down an offer for a full day bike rental of $3, right?”

“That’s not the point. We have to get a good deal!” I retorted.

We then started laughing and turned back down the street.

At the end of the day, during which we biked about 15km, we navigated our way back through rush hour traffic and returned to the vendor from whom we had rented.

Terraced rice paddies at Tegalalang

Terraced rice paddies at Tegalalang

“The bikes were good?” he asked.

“Yes, very.”

As we walked away I remarked that the price of the bike rentals — barely $3 — was by far the best purchase of the whole trip. They had carried us 15km in and around Ubud, through expanses of farmland, dozens of local temples, and finally, to the terraced rice fields at Tegalalang.

Jacob agreed.

Feeling reminiscent, I then posed the logical extension to what was originally meant as a rhetorical question — for each of the trips we had taken since the start of the year, what was the best money we had spent? I’ll clarify here that we settled on the term ‘best money’ to mean the greatest ratio of enjoyment to amount spent, with free things being excepted.

Here were my answers:

  • India: $30 on a cooking class in Jaipur.
  • Austin: $11 on barbecue in Austin with one of my mother’s childhood friends.
  • Japan: 2000 yen for entrance to the Chichu Art Museum with my dad and grandmother.

    This made us quite popular with our fellow travelers ;)

    This made us quite popular with our fellow travelers 😉

  • Chicago: $15 on a growler of beer purchased during a four minute Amtrak stop in Glenwood Springs, Colorado on the California Zephyr (a redemption sadly disappearing at the end of the year) between Chicago and Emeryville. Word quickly spread throughout the train and we made many friends over the next few hours.
  • Arizona/Utah: $300 on dinner at the Cliffside restaurant for my parents’ 25th anniversary

The exercise was memorable for me because it was immediately evident what it is that I remembered of my trips, and by implication, what it is that I enjoy most about travel. It’s not the fancy planes or luxurious accommodations, and in fact, by and large, the things that were the most memorable were those that cost the least. And that made sense to me, because at the end of the day, it’s the experiences and the people with whom I shared them that make all this worthwhile.

Does this ring true with you? If so, what’s the best money you spent on your most recent trip? Share with us in the comments!