Winding through the forests of central Bali, you will notice that the air is cooler, the world is greener and you feel like you are going back in time. Back to a time when many in Bali worked in rice field to make their living. Eeking out an existence in flooded built into the sides of the hills and mountains.
As we approach Ubud, I see that there are more and more wood carving, furniture making, stone carving and other handicraft shops. Everything seems to slow down a bit and fall back into a slower pace than the frenzied tempo of the beach towns. Ubud feels like it puts more of a focus on people, handicrafts and yoga. Of course there is yoga…Ubud was the city where Julia Roberts spent her time in Bali in the movie Eat, Pray, Love.
Ubud is my favorite town in Bali. I feel like you get a better feeling of what Bali IS and what it once was. Before all of us pesky tourists arrived. We stayed in the middle of town in the Puri Saraswati Bungalows. They are owned by the Royal Family of Bali and rest on part of the royal land that is part of the Pura Taman Saraswati temple. The bungalows are older but the grounds are amazing.
Here is Evan at one of the gates inside the bungalows showing us that he is ready for an Ubud adventure. Since the bungalows were in the middle of town, we walked most places that we visited. Taxis are not quite as prevalent as in the beach towns so if you need to drive somewhere, you have to hire a driver.
Our first adventure in Ubud was a visit to the Monkey Forest. I’d been telling Evan about the Monkey Forest for weeks. He was super pumped to see them up close…though not too close. Our doctor at the travel clinic put the fear of God, or actually the fear of rabies, in him so he was NOT getting close to the monkeys.
Evan’s fave part of our visit was a French tourist (he’s the one in the light blue shorts and white shirt above) who had decided to buy a bag of bananas at the grocery store and bring them in to the forest. He thought he would be able to take one banana out of the bag, give it to a monkey and then keep the rest “hidden” until later. He vastly underestimated the monkeys. This was NOT their first rodeo. The bag came out and one banana appeared. Monkeys ran at him from every direction…and then…
I’ll just let Evan tell you.
Hands down Evan’s favorite part of the trip. He laughed at that guy for the rest of the week. Macaques are cute but they have big teeth. Don’t think you can trick them. You can’t.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped into the Ubud Market. Markets are not for the faint of heart. You need to know what you want and how much you are willing to pay for it. You will see the same products at every stall but the prices can vary greatly. I kind of stink at negotiating price. I think I got a few decent deals and I think I got taken for a ride on a few things. My one tip…remember to take into account how much you are arguing over. The Indonesian Rupiah right now is about 10,000 to $1 CAD. So 100,000 Rupiah sounds like a ton of money but it is only about $10 CAD. So don’t argue over 1000 Rupiah! Also, if you negotiate for something and they agree to your price BUY IT. Otherwise you are just being a jerk. Visit the market even if you don’t plan on buying anything. It is a great place for people watching.
Our other big adventure in Ubud was checking out the rice paddies. We set out from our hotel to find the trail from the centre of town through the rice paddies on the outskirts of town. Dewey had scouted the trail out earlier for us so we didn’t get lost.
As you leave the center of town it only takes a block or two to make you feel like you are in the middle of farming country. Everywhere you look there are flooded rice paddies and farmers. Little paths make it easy to see the rice paddies up close and personal. Evan loved checking out the birds fishing in the fields. We also saw a snake!
As we were walking, we saw a woman running across the fields. As we approached she started calling to us. We were the only people anywhere around so we decided to stop and say hi. She invited us to rest in her bale (which is a raised platform to sit on with a roof). She loved Evan and hugged him about 50 times. She told us about her 6 children and 12 grandchildren. She showed us the mint, ginseng, lemongrass and more growing on the edge of her rice field. She opened a young coconut for Evan and Dewey to drink the water. Then she carved out the coconut meat for us to try. She was such a sweetheart. She also gave Evan bananas and oranges to take for a snack. We gave her a bit of money before we left but I honestly don’t think she would have cared. She thought Evan was the best. It makes me sad I didn’t get a better picture of her.
Every afternoon while we were in Ubud it poured down rain. Evan loved that, though, because it meant that we spent time playing cards and eating candy on our room’s porch.
My favorite part of Ubud? Seeing all the women heading to the temple in the mornings to refresh the offerings.
The gorgeous beaches of Bali makes you love the island but Ubud makes you love the people and the culture.
I can’t wait to go back!