Updated: Jul 3
So glad we choose Ubud in Bali as our first international destination. Everyone we have met is very friendly and helpful, and almost all speak some English, which is great as our Balinese is basically non-existent. Tourism replaced agriculture as the main industry in Bali many years ago so there is that incentive to be nice to tourists. But the general disposition of the local people is to be happy and courteous which reflects on the visitors.
Many families live in "generational" homes where there are children, parents and grandparents living together. The family household is passed on to the children and they all help each other. Ketut & Novika have given us a wealth of information on Balinese customs, traditions and everyday life. We have greatly enjoyed being part of their family these past days.
No visit to Ubud is complete without a trip to the Monkey Forest, a nature preserve on the southern side that contains over 700 of the Balinese long-tailed monkey. The many paths wind through forests of huge banyan trees and narrow, rocky gorges, where monkeys are free to roam. There are several feeding stations where sweet potatoes and corn and set out for food. Guests are admonished to avoid eye contact with the animals, do not feed, and do not carry water bottles or plastic bags.
We came across one monkey sitting on a low wall that had an aluminum aerosol can that looked like maybe some type of hair product. Even though the nozzle tip was missing he finally managed to get a squirt in his mouth. Surprised by the nasty taste he dropped the bottle and tried rubbing his mouth on a tree. While he was doing this I tried to kick the bottle away to dispose of it. Big mistake! He immediately jumped off the wall and grabbed the end of my sarong while baring his formidable looking set of choppers! More like fangs! I slowly moved away, and he was more interested in reclaiming the bottle - in hopes of another taste? Oh well - lesson learned - for me, anyway.
Another interesting thing about Ubud is the number of vegan & vegetarian restaurants. The majority of eateries advertise vegan, vegetarian, raw, gluten-free, or some other type of health conscious food. And - every single dish we have tried has been delicious! So many new foods that I cannot keep track of all of them.
We visited another famous place called The Yoga Barn, down a winding alley from Jalal Hanuman. Kind of a misnomer because this is a sprawling complex of many studios, bungalows, cafes, offices and meeting spaces in a lovely, serene setting. They offer a multitude of classes, sessions and workshops in almost everything yoga related.
This evening we returned to the Ubud Palace to see the Legong Trance - a performance of traditional Balinese music & dancing. This is the palace of the Ubud royal family, making it one of the most prominent landmarks in Ubud. The main courtyard probably held 500 guests and was quite full by show time at 19:30. The ~30 piece orchestra got the show started. Balinese gamelan music is a percussion-dominated musical ensemble. It is also known as a gong-chime musical ensemble. This musical ensemble consists of bronze gongs, metallophones, cymbals, and a time-beater. There were two drummers with skinned wooden drums, one man bowing a single-string instrument, and a droning keyboard sound I couldn't locate.
Next came four dance sets with solo, duo and ensemble groups with exquisite costumes and beautifully choregraphed moves. The orchestra set the tempo with variations from slow to adagio to allegro (sorry - I don't know the Balinese terms for tempo). Very interesting to watch the synchronization of the dancers, including eyes and fingertips.
The second was The Ballet of Bimaniu - a story of a prince out searching for the love of his life. He finds her, but of course many obstacles crop up such as protective palace guards and malevolent witches. There is much dialog and grunting on stage over the music, but they seem to sort it all out for a happy ending. Everyone takes a bow and goes home.
Walking back to Ubud-Ku we stopped for a bite at Kismet Restaurant & had the most amazing gourmet grilled cheese sandwich. So delicious! And fun chatting up two young ladies we shared the table with, from Australia and South Africa. Late night for us and seemed like every eatery was filled with young people - I guess they don't come before 22:00 or so!
Well, this is our last night in Ubud for a while. We have had a fantastic adventure, meeting new people, experiencing new things & tasting new foods. The weather has been perfect and almost everything is considerably cheaper than the USA- except wine.
Now it is time to get back to the beach!