Fortifying Our Souls in Ubud/Losing Them in Kuta
Trip Start Oct 18, 2010
9Trip End Dec 15, 2010
After Candi Dasa, we headed inland to Ubud, a center for Balinese arts and one of the most visited destinations in Bali. It's touristy and upscale enough that there were at least three Dolce & Gabbana stores (50/50 chance they were real, not pirated) and you can dine on tapas one night, sushi another, and Cuban food yet another. There are also spas everywhere, from basic to luxurious. That's all fine, but we kind of wanted to see Bali, not Miami, so sometimes we wondered what we were doing there. Nonetheless, we stayed 6 nights, because of all of the things to do in the surrounding area, the amazingly persistent friendliness of its residents, and the overall charm and beauty that characterizes Bali. And we admit we got massages - $9 each well spent
On two evenings, we saw traditional Balinese dance shows -- their dance and music is both unusual and beautiful. We did a lot of shopping, both in the city and the surrounding villages. Ubud has far more than tourist trinkets for sale, but also lots of really beautiful art. We took a walk out of the city through a monkey sanctuary, rice paddies, and some smaller villages. We also rented a motorbike for a day to get further afield. One highlight was a beautiful temple with a spring feeding various bathing pools where the Balinese come to pray and make offerings (they practice a form of Hinduism). That day, we also had lunch in a street market in the very non-touristy capital of the region where Ubud is located, trying out our very limited local language skills (which basically consisted of Allison being able to count to 6 and our ability to say thank you - good thing nice English-speaking locals helped us out).
There also was a lot of excitement around Ubud while we were there. We didn't understand all of the details, but the last Balinese king in that area (we assume from before Bali was part of the country of Indonesia) had died recently, and major preparations were underway for his cremation, which was going to draw tens of 1000s of visitors. We unfortunately missed the main event by a day, but we were there for a large procession from the palace in Ubud to the cremation site - tons of people in traditional dress and costumes, elephants carrying head honchos, a little prince and a little princess being carried on thrones, and a gigantic, beautifully decorated dragon being carried by about 50-60 men that was to be burned along with the deceased king
Then, one day we were walking down a quiet road, when some kids in a classroom waved to us and said hello (almost every kid in Indonesia says hello to visitors, from what we can tell). We waved back, and then the teacher came outside and invited us in. Turns out that he teaches supplementary English class to kids every afternoon for free and loves having native speakers come in and talk to the kids. The kids very competently asked us about our favorite drinks, our favorite flowers, our favorite motorbikes, and how many brothers and sisters we had.
The time finally came to leave Ubud, though, because we had to catch a flight from the main airport in south Bali. Because it was an early flight, we opted to spend the night in the town of Kuta, due to its proximity to the airport. We'd been planning to avoid Kuta due to its reputation as a seedy, touristy hole, but necessity and curiosity called. It lived up to its reputation, with aggressive hawkers, T-shirts and bumper stickers with misogynistic messages, crowds... Although some glimmers of Balinese charm shined through occasionally and it has a big beach with lots of surfers to watch, for the most part we couldn't wait to leave.
We'll have a report from the island of Flores soon (we hope).