[Apologies for the inexcusable delay in posting the remainder of our Bali posts. I promise I will eventually get there one day (and hopefully before the end of the year) and excuse myself in advance if it results in blog post overdosis.]
Sunday, 21st October
First full day in Bali and we had made plans to get out of busy and touristy Kuta and head North to the traditional town of Ubud. Ben forgot to get an international driving licence, so we had to make alternative plans to get there. But first things first: breakfast! Or as they call it at Pop! hotel: the "morning bite". On offer were two traditional Indonesian meals, wrapped in a banana leaf with a free flow of coffee, tea and water. It was pretty spicy, but filled us up enough to last us to lunch. And off we were. We walked along the streets, talking to anyone uttering the words "taxi, yes?" or "transport, yes?" to us. And believe me, we were asked those questions over and over again. Contrarily to what we read, these prodding questions were never uncomfortable and a polite "no thank you" was all it took to put an end to it. In our eyes it was more like a "hey, whitey, you look like you could use a lift! No? Well have a good day then!" And so we finally settled on a direct shuttle bus. It's a good thing we went to Ghana, as the other tourists did not seem all too accepting of how it was driven. Seatbelts were only available to the driver, who seemed more focused on the heated debate he was having with this co-driver than on the road. Beeping horns, scooters rushing past, trucks taking over, etc. Ah, how we missed this!
We arrived in Ubud, bought some things from the local supermarket and then went on a quest to find our home-stay. It was a longish walk, on a quiet street packed with gorgeous houses and temples. But at last we found it: Desa Putu Putra. We waved our online booking in the air and were greeted by a lovely woman who immediately took us to our gorgeous room. After making sure we liked it, she came back with our welcome drinks: two big cups of deliciously scented home-brewed cinnamon tea and freshly baked cakes. Seated on our little balcony overlooking the rooftops, we were the happiest bunnies around.
Our homestay in Ubud
It would have been easy to lose track of time on that little balcony, but after some serious motivating, we gathered a bag together and headed off to the town centre. We walked around, marvelled by the abundance of architecture, culture and colour. We stopped here and there, bought some food and water and managed to get tickets to see a local kecak dance from a friendly, slightly camp, man. And anyone who has seen the documentary Baraka (http://barakasamsara.com/baraka/about) will understand how delighted we were at seeing a live kecak performance!
With three and a half hours to kill before the show, we decided to do the Campuhan rice-field walk. After three false starts, we finally found the entrance to the walk and off we went. It took us on a path through stunning scenery and rice-fields.
Many locals were doing the walk too and we were greeted with warm smiles and lovely chatter. As we walked, we went past this art studio owned by a lovely older man (with the most gorgeous eyes!) who hand painted wooden eggs with the finest paint brush we had ever seen. It was fascinating seeing him at work and so we couldn't resist buying one as a souvenir.
We thought we had done most of the walk already, so we stopped for a drink at one of the cafés which had little stilt cabanas overlooking the rice-fields.
Can you imagine a more idyllic setting for an afternoon drink?
It was an idyllic setting and we would have been able to stay there for hours upon end if it weren't for the fact that the owners were getting ready to head home. Refreshed, we walked on and realised we had only walked 3 out of the total 9 km! And with the sun slowly setting, we really had to rush! And so the second half of our walk was more of sprint, all the while we soaked up the peaceful atmosphere as we went past stunning villages, temples and witnessed the locals getting ready for their ceremonies.
Sunset over the rice-fields
We made it back to Ubud's town centre before darkness and were so hungry and thirsty that we stopped at a restaurant. Completely oblivious to the time, we ordered our meals and as we were happily munching away at our starters, we suddenly realised our much anticipated show was going to be starting in 15 minutes! We apologised to the owners, asked if they could postpone serving our main meal for a few hours and dashed out looking like a bunch of mad people! Imagine trying to get away with something like that anywhere else in the world! We are quite the idiots!
Lady Fortune must have been on our side, because we made it to the show within plenty of time. As mentioned before, we had both been dying to see a kecak performance following a slight obsession over the documentary Baraka. It was everything we could have hoped for it to be and more. It is hard to describe what it is all about, so luckily for you, we filmed some of it! If you are interested, take a peek:
Entrance Video: Kecak Dance - Entrance
Snippet: Kecak Dance 2
Kecak Finale: Kecak Dance Finale
The last video is very long, but worth a look at. It shows the end of the kecak dance performance resulting in one of the performers dancing through a big fire completely in trance. It was magical and unlike anything we expected to see! Mesmerized by the amazing performance, we made it back to the restaurant where we finally were able to finish our meal. The owners remembered when we would be returning and everything was set out and ready for us. And that marked the end of our lovely first evening in Ubud. What a wonderful place!
The dinner was worth the wait!
Monday, 22nd October
Good morning, Ubud! We woke up in our cosy home-stay and sat on our balcony for a little while, feeling incredibly fortunate. As we made it downstairs, we were greeted with an extensive breakfast menu, from which we each took our pick. We were joined by a lovely South African couple, with whom we swapped many travel stories. They had travelled for over a day to get to Bali and it made us realise how fortunate we were that we were only a two hour flight away.
After breakfast, we grabbed our belongings and headed off into town. We left one of our bags at the tourist office – which was such a pain to find! - and made our way along Monkey Forest Road, which, unsurprisingly, led to the Sacred Monkey Forest. Such clever cloggs, these Balinese! We had heard so many things about this place and were well aware of the many rules and regulations when entering the place. Don't bring in any food or drinks other than water, don't wear any jewellery or anything shiny, don't make any sudden movements, and so on and so forth. Why? Well because these monkeys are vicious little kleptomaniacs and not afraid of harassing the many tourists. Set in a stunning park with several temples, a graveyard, a waterfall and an extensive walking route, the Sacred Monkey Forest is a lovely primate haven.
Once we had enough, we stopped for a scrumptious waffle and milkshake (how very Balinese) and then walked back into town, where we eagerly awaited Scott and Adrienn's arrival. They had landed in Bali the previous night and were making their way into Ubud from where we would depart to our next destination together. They were travelling by car and would pick us up after they had their own browse through the monkey forest. Their experience was not as peaceful as ours and Adrienn got scratched in the face by one of the little buggers, who then proceeded to violently grabbing her trousers. No wonder she was a little shaken up when we saw her! Together we visited the local market, and bought the most gorgeous sarongs.
We then headed off Northwards to the town of Kintamani. Along the way we had a brief kodak-moment at some rice-fields, before arriving at the foot of Ulun Batur (Mount/ Volcano Batur) at nightfall.
You can view all of our Ubud pictures via this public Facebook album link: Ubud Photo Album.
[To Be Continued...]