Our driver arrived promptly at 10am to pick us up and take us to Ubud with a few stops along the way. This promptness was most unexpected and caught Peter off guard, as he assumed that “rubber” time was the norm and figured he had at least another 10 minutes to get ready.
Our first stop was a Batik factory, with many women making a variety of clothes. This was on the tourist route, and we were joined by at least three tour buses and other private cars with tourists. The wide assortment of reasonably price shirts were very tempting, but having bought three shirts the first two days, Peter decided to hold off buying anymore for at least two more days!
Forty minutes later we were in the outskirts of Ubud. The compact village that we had seen on the map was the central part of the town. There was Balinese urban sprawl for over 10km as we passed many houses and businesses until we got to the centre. Three kilometers up the hill was the village of Junjungan and our hotel.
We had found this hotel on TripAdvisor, and were not disappointed. The dark wood flooring, four poster bed, private verandah and solarium were topped off with a stone soaker bath. The entire room was about half the size of our apartment, and had a tropical regal feel. The food served at the hotel was equally fit for a king. We would definitely enjoy the breakfasts here over the next three days.
Ubud is considered by many to be the cultural center of Bali. The movie Eat, Pray, Love was filmed in Ubud, and was instrumental in convincing Peter to go to Bali. There would definitely be a lot of eating in Bali!
We headed to the main part of the town to begin our culinary adventure. Casa Luna was our first stop. The excellent food – Nasi Champur with the presentation normally seen with Japanese food, filled us up. We had to delay dessert for a few hours, and headed to the Ubud Palace to walk off the lunch.
Ubud Palace had many shrines and temples, each shrine had a small offering. This is common all over Bali, and made you realize that homage to the spirits was a daily ritual in the life of the Balinese people.
Jungjungan was known for its local Kecek dance, a traditional Balinese dance, in which one member of every household in the village performs in the dance. There were 150 performers and about 30 tourists watching the dance.
The Kecak Dance tells the Indian story of Ramayana. Rama, a warrior and rightful hier to the throne of Ayodya, is exiled with his wife Sita to a faraway desert. There, an evil king spies Sita, falls in love with her, and sends a golden deer to lure Rama away. Sita is captured, and Rama rounds up his armies to defeat those of the evil king and rescue her. Rama is the man in green dancing in the center of the circle, the golden deer is in yellow in the back.
We finished the night with an appetizer dinner prepared at the hotel. Indonesian Gado Gado, vegetable salad with peanut sauce and spring rolls. Normally this would not be worthy of special mention, but the presentation was exquisite and mouthwatering, and the food was delicious.
The second day in Ubud was spent sightseeing in the hot humid conditions. Our first stop was the Monkey Forest, a forested oasis, at least 5 degrees cooler than the surrounding town. This forest was home to a lot of monkeys who like to grab bags, purses, and even glasses. We saw them doing some of these antics with the tourists at the various temples and pathways in the forest. One of the more unusual statues was a pair of monkeys engaged in sexual acts, some of which were being demonstrated live by the resident monkeys. Life imitating art.
We headed back into Ubud and ate at one of the must see restaurant in town- Ibu Oka – known for its suckling pig. This al fresco eatery had a few different specials which were already portioned out and served up quickly as if you were in a fast food restaurant. However, this was not fast food, and was quite delicious. Our strategy of eating ahead of the normal lunch time proved correct as there were at least ten people waiting to get in to the restaurant by the time we had finished our meal. We topped this off with dessert at Casa Luna.
The museum was our next stop. This was in the middle of being renovated, and their construction workers (a lot of women) carrying huge bags of cement or rocks on their head! This proved more culturally interesting than the museum, which was not that memorable with the collection that was on display. Better art was available in the stores and restaurants. Our first massage in Bali was at a nearby spa where we each had an hour long massage for $12. A perfect way to end the afternoon.
Peter picked up another shirt which was made overnight – no use carrying inventory if you can produce them that quickly.
We headed to a town East of Ubud for a Legong performance. We initially had difficulty finding the theatre as it was down a back alley in a residential area. A lot of families live in residential compounds with two or more houses sharing a common courtyard which has many temples. We almost went into one of these compounds while looking for the theatre complex.
The theatre was home to an internationally performing troupe of dancers and musicians who rehearse at this location every Tuesday, and open up the performances to tourists. This was again a very well coordinated show, with amazing dancers, some as young as ten years old, performing the traditional dance. This was accompanied by Gamelan music, a traditional Indonesian percussion drum based orchestra. After the show, we were allowed to play tunes on the Gamelan drums!
The next morning we headed north from Jungjungan, and rode bicycles in the nearby village of Petula, famous for the Blue Heron. We cycled along the quiet country roads that bisect the rice paddies of the area and saw a baby white heron.
The cycling in the morning sun worked up an appetite for another sumptious breakfast at Jungjungan Hotel. We dined on Nasi Goreng (fried rice, again presented in a visually artistic fashion), a large western breakfast and green tea lattes. The early afternoon was the start of a temple procession from Jungjungan to Ubud.
We went to the temple that we had seen the Kecak dance at two nights earlier. There were lots of great people photo opportunities here as the village turned out to watch the festival. We met an Australian couple, Ken and Kirsty who invited us to their rented villa for a beer. This was a 4 bedroom 2 storey palace with a swimming pool, owned by another Australian. Reminded Peter of some of the beach houses in Jamaica that he went to as a child.
After the cool beer by the pool deck, and the afternoon got cooler, we headed to central Ubud to the market. Marg got a Sarong and a skirt, while Peter took lots of pictures of the patterns of cloth, beads and other crafts that were packed into the tiny stalls. We walked down the main street and then up some of the smaller streets which had some amazing crafts and arts. The Threads of Life store supports indigenous weavers from different parts of Indonesia and had an array of fabric on display and for sale. On our way back to the main street we saw an artist painting a Balinese scene using black ink on a 8 ft wide canvas. The details and shadowing were incredible given that all of the lines are done in only one color and tone. He told us that he is represented by a gallery in Singapore, and that we could not actually buy any pieces in Bali. He usually works on pieces that have been commission by the gallery.
That night we ate dinner off the main strip and had a delicious meal, not very well presented, but at a substantially cheaper price than we had paid for any other meal in Ubud so far.