The hotel complex in Munduk was absolutely lovely. It looked like an old village surrounded by nature, quiet and incredibly charming. Small paths led to the wooden cottages where we would be staying. The reception and restaurant areas had roofs but no walls, which added to the rural and welcoming feel. There was a plaque that boasted about previous famous guests. There was only one name I recognised, but it was an impressive one: David Bowie. Wow. We were greeted by staff members who presented us with a welcome drink. Nothing about the place suggested anything unpleasant.
(I have inserted a video below that I took before everything went downhill. You can either watch it now so that you can get the full picture, or use your imagination and watch it afterwards to laugh at how happy and naive we look.)
This is very…outdoorsy
The group split up in pairs and my friend Isabella and I made our way to what was to be our home for the next two nights. Our small wooden house consisted of two floors, with the bathroom on the ground floor and upstairs a four-poster bed and a little balcony that overlooked the garden and water feature. I stood on the balcony and waved at other people from our group as they walked by. How beautiful. Our own sanctuary.
One thing we did immediately notice was that it was all rather…open. We had a semi-outdoor bathroom, since part of the ceiling was nothing but mosquito net. The bedroom’s triangular roof had rows of wooden beams on both sides, but in between those beams were wide gaps. Instead of glass windows we had wooden shutters that didn’t close properly. We also noticed a large plastic box next to our front door.
Isabella decided to take a shower, so I stayed on the balcony. I only got to enjoy the peace and quiet for a couple of minutes, because I heard a scream followed by someone running up the stairs. I immediately sensed that whatever had happened would change the overall vibe of our stay. Isabella appeared and told me that she had felt something on her leg. She hadn’t been wearing her glasses so all she had seen was a big black dot. She asked me to go into the bathroom and check.
The culprit was something that looked like a cross between a cockroach and a centipede. Absolutely not the kind of thing I would want a visit from in the shower. I tried to drown it, but to no avail. Eventually we got Lena, one of the girls in our group, to put it in a glass and get rid of it. What a hero. For a minute there Isabella and I actually thought that this would be the worst encounter that weekend. How very, very wrong we were.
The half-eaten hairbrush
The first night we slept perfectly fine, so by the time we made our way to breakfast the bug situation was nothing more than a vague memory. However, the mood quickly changed when Lena informed us that an unknown creature had eaten part of her hairbrush. The wooden handle had been gnawed at. Ehm…what? Lena was surprisingly calm about the whole thing. Isabella and I? Not so much. My blood ran cold. Whatever had visited Lena in her house could easily make its way to ours. She thought it was a mouse, but I feared it had to be something bigger. I enjoyed the day (we did a jungle hike and visited some waterfalls), but the hairbrush anecdote was still very much on my mind.
When Isabella and I got back to our house, she noticed that something was wrong right away. You see, in her suitcase was a pack of crackers that, when we had left the room earlier that day, had very much been untouched. That’s not how we found them. The wrapping had been torn and several of the crackers had been half-eaten. We also found out that the big plastic box downstairs was there to put food in so rodents wouldn’t smell it. Okay. Okay.
I’m not gonna lie, at this point I’d had it with our rural stay. We went for dinner, where Lena told us that she had caught the hairbrush eater in the act. She had walked into a rat rummaging through her stuff next to the sink. Once again, she was surprisingly and infuriatingly calm. I tried to enjoy my night but I felt on edge the entire time. We asked the staff to check our room. They found nothing, but as we basically didn’t have a roof and everything could just crawl or fly in and out, that did little to reassure me. Also, whatever this was now knew that there was food in our house. And so we went to bed trying to convince each other and ourselves that everything would be fine. Of course, you’re reading this today, so everything was very much NOT fine. Because in the words of lyrical genius Taylor Swift: I swear I don’t love the drama. It loves me.
Please let this be an axe murderer
I had only been asleep for an hour when I was woken up by the very distinct sound of glass clinking together. Next to the door of our bedroom was a small cabinet with a water bottle and two drinking glasses on top of it. They were clearly being moved. I knew there was something in the room, but it was pitch black so I couldn’t see what.
Everything in me knew it was a rat which, considering my massive fear of rodents, was the worst case scenario for me. I honestly think that I would have been more okay with a snake or an axe murderer. Isabella had her earplugs in (her roommate may or may not have a bit of a snoring issue, but let’s not dwell on that), so I started shaking her awake. I was already beyond scared at this point. She heard the noise too and we spent the next ten minutes in bed, too scared to move, listening to our visitor living its best life.
We discussed our options. There weren’t many. I tried to call reception but we didn’t have service. Neither of us felt like going downstairs because that meant walking past the cabinet. Earlier that night at dinner people in our group had told us that loud noises would scare rodents away, so Isabella started making what I can only describe as caveman noises while she slammed and stomped on the mattress. I started laughing hysterically, the rat remained completely unfazed.
It’s every woman for herself
At some point Isabella heard a noise that she interpreted as the rat (she had agreed on it being a rat) coming closer, which made her yell out in fear. I honestly cannot even explain what happened, but something in me snapped. I have never gotten out of bed faster in my life and before I knew it I had thrown myself out of the room and onto the balcony that was on my side of the bed. Isabella was further away and it seems like in my panic I decided that I was not going to wait for her. I tried to close the balcony doors even though my friend was still very much in the room, begging me not to leave her. What can I say? Survival instinct. I eventually came to my senses and let her join me on the balcony, where she jumped on the table and I jumped on a chair. And because I was absolutely one hundred precent fucking done with this and we were now stuck on a balcony with no way to escape, I started screaming bloody murder.
Imagine, if you will, this idyllic-looking village-like hotel complex surrounded by trees, statues of Hindu gods and rice fields with nothing but the sounds of crickets chirping and water features babbling. And out of nowhere, someone howling like they’re being slaughtered.
Within (and this is not a word of a lie) ten seconds five men, all armed with torches, were standing underneath our balcony. Just when I thought this could not get any more mortifying, I heard one of the men say ‘Ohhh, it’s my guests!’ It was Ketut, our incredibly kind travel guide who now had to deal with two members of his group screaming the place down in the middle of the night. Although I felt bad for him, I felt worse for myself. We explained the situation and after politely turning down the men’s first suggestion that one of us had to go back inside to open the front door and let them in (I believe our exact words were ‘hell no’).
Our balcony was more than 2 metres off the ground. So why do I suddenly see one of these men jump on our balcony? He did this little run-up and there he was, dangling from the railing and then hoisting himself up like it was nothing. Oh, another fun fact: Since we had been asleep in a very hot and humid room, I was practically naked.
When the guy went inside and walked towards the cabinet, that’s when the rat finally took the hint that it wasn’t welcome. I never actually saw it (thank God) but Isabella saw how it ran up the wall and disappeared. That’s right, it just ran up the wall. Also, the fact that it had just stayed there during all of this commotion proved that what we had been told earlier that night, that rodents get spooked easily, was a load of bull. According to Isabella, the rat was absolutely massive.
So there we were, rat-free but half-naked with a handful of strange men in our bedroom. The guys told us they were moving us to an empty cottage next door. We accepted because there was no way we were staying in that bedroom, but I didn’t feel like this would solve the issue. Nothing could guarantee us that the same thing wouldn’t happen in the other house. I was exhausted, scared and I knew that I would not be getting any sleep that night so that the next day, which was packed with activities, would be hell. As I was grabbing some clothes to go outside I started laughing and crying at the same time. I tried to have a normal conversation but tears were streaming down my face. Okay, so this breakdown wasn’t over yet.
Oh, it gets worse (of course it gets worse)
Isabella and I spent the first hour or so in our new bedroom feeling sorry for ourselves and being angry that this fate had befallen us. We also tried to distract each other from the fact that we both really needed to go to the bathroom. Since that only worked for a little bit, we eventually decided to go downstairs together. I told myself that if we went and everything was fine, I would hopefully feel a bit more comfortable afterwards and I might be able to sleep after all. I mean, what were the odds that something bad would happen twice in one night? Hahaha.
Isabella went first, so while she was in the bathroom I waited outside. I was not exactly relaxed but I was slowly starting to believe that everything would be fine. That was until she came out, turned around and her mouth fell open cartoon-style. I asked her what she was looking at, although I really really didn’t want to know. She pointed at a spot on the wall and went: ‘That’s the biggest spider I’ve ever seen.’
She was not exaggerating. Right next to the toilet (not sure how she had missed this, maybe it had moved) was the biggest spider I had ever seen in my life. Earlier that day in the jungle our guide had shown us a spider that we had all shuddered at. This one was bigger. Both of us ran upstairs and I did not pee that night.
The craziest thing to me is that under normal circumstances I never would have stayed in the same house as a spider of that size, but compared to the rat this was the least horrible option. Spiders just end up where they end up because of coincidence and then they just chill. Rats are on a mission, they have a very clear purpose and they will not be stopped. Still, neither encounter had been pleasant. We briefly considered demanding to sleep on the bus but we were very aware that we had caused quite the scene already.
I was aware that my reaction to all of this had been strong, but I didn’t care. These kinds of shenanigans are just not for me. I want to feel comfortable and safe at night. I didn’t spend all that money to be woken up by rodents in my room and be afraid to enter my own bathroom. That’s not my idea of a nice holiday. Isabella felt the same way which definitely means we hyped each other up that night, but I don’t think I would have felt better if my roommate would have been chill about the whole thing. Okay, we lost our minds a little bit, but at least we were in it together.
The next morning I felt rough to say the very least. We couldn’t wait to get out of there, but we still had the daunting task ahead of us of going back to the rat house and packing our stuff. Not wanting to be inside for one second longer than necessary, I dragged my suitcase outside and finished packing there. We did inspect the bedroom cabinet where we discovered that the rat had been feasting on Isabella’s bum bag. There was a massive hole in the bag, with the fabric neatly in a pile next to it. In the bum bag we found the remaining half of a bamboo bracelet, as well as a leather eyeglass case that was missing a corner.
Then it was time for breakfast. As we had predicted, half the people in our group had heard blood-curdling screams coming from one of the houses during the night and of course everyone thought it was absolutely hysterical that the source turned out to be me. We heard that two other girls had a butterfly in their room. Or at least they did, until a tongue had appeared and the butterfly had gotten eaten by a chameleon that had also been in their room. I have never been more happy to leave a hotel.
One with nature
Up until that night I had always hoped that I could be the kind of person who would love becoming one with nature. When the time came, I used to tell myself, I would be able to let go of luxuries. I would be the kind of person who could travel anywhere in the world and stay in the most rural places equipped with nothing but a backpack and a positive attitude. People would be impressed and ask me how on earth I did it. How I lived a life that was so adventurous and minimalist. ‘Oh, you just get used to it’, I would tell them, ‘It’s not for everyone of course, but it’s all about the mindset and the experience is worth it.’
That night, I had to face the fact that that will never be me. I’m all for becoming one with nature as long as I have a private bedroom, a private bathroom and the only creatures in the room are the ones who paid for it. The staff apologised about the rat and told us that this was the first time that this had ever happened. I found that difficult to believe, so I researched the place and came across endless reviews about guests who had had a similar experience. A couple of them even described the absolute horror of rats running over the breakfast table.
Don’t get me wrong, the Bali trip was great. The rest of our stay was very nice and luxurious and I realise that I’m extremely fortunate that I was even able to go on a holiday like this. Isabella never blamed me for trying to save myself and almost feeding her to a Balinese rat, so we had a lovely rest of the week. Our weekend in Munduk left me with one question though…did David Bowie have to put up with this?