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Few Days in Paradise – Bali. Episode 1: Ubud

Bali photos: Goa Gajah

Everytime when somebody asks me which is the place I liked the most, i answer without hesitation – Bali. For me, this seems to be the single place on Earth which mostly resembles Paradise, a green place, filled with flowers, colours, where life’s rhythm isn’t either fast, neither boringly slow, where people live in harmony with the gods, offering them flowers and fruit, receiving, in exchange, rich soil and warm weather.

I’ve been twice to Bali – during the summer of 2004 and during the summer of 2009. The changes were notable – lots more motorcycles on the streets, traffic tends to get kind of a mess in some places, but, in exchange, the temples, ceremonies and flowers were all the same…Frangipani flowers and green rice teraces everywhere.

While during 2004 i had established my base on the coast, in Sanur, and visited the island from there, in 2009 I established it in Ubud, the cultural capital of the island and the second point of great interest for the visitors in this area… If the ones who go to the seaside resorts have a primordial purpose to sit on the beach and dance in the club, in Ubud one’s purpose seems to be to visit, for the culture, or just in order to feel the island better. Sadly, even Ubud has become a rather commercial place, motorcycle circulation is very intense, and if you find a guesthouse at somewhat of a distance from the main boulevards, you will experience the intense silence of the rice paddies. Also, Ubud is now filled with restaurants, bars and cafes which any european capital would envy, and this might be a good argument that Ubud is one of the best places to see, for the first time, Eastern Asia without having any shocks.

In Ubud, i arrived from Singapore. I checked in at Sehati pension, which I have written in detail a few months ago, and the next day I started to explore the city. First of all, I woke up in the morning and I was able to witness the morning ceremonies that take place in front of each hotel, restaurant, store or internet café, during which special flower offerings, placed into a basket braided out of banana leafs, are brought. Bali is the country of flowers and fruit, and the soil is extremely rich, because of its volcanic nature.

By foot, in a few minutes, I reached The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary… probably the most touristic place in Ubud, which should not be left out of the itinerary of the tours which come from the coast … So the earlier you get there, the better, because you avoid the tanned hordes coming from the beach. The Balinese are Hindus, and the monkey king, Hanuman, helped Rama with the recovery of his wife Sita out of the hands of Ravana. This is the reason why monkeys are sacralised in the entire Hindu world… Don’t expect some religious monkeys, on the contrary…they are extremely aggressive and they feel food, be it bananas or anything else, even if you pack it in a lead container. They fight between themselves and their greatest passion is to climb on top of tourist’s heads…in case you really do have problems with monkeys, according to the indications left at the forest entrance, you must ask a “monkey expert” for help, you will be able to find them everywhere around the park. Don’t understand me wrong – it isn’t a bad experience, the place is extremely funny, but you must not disturb them too much and you must not fight with them over any banana!

In the forest, you will also find some Balinese traditional temples. In these temples, you can only enter with some sort of a skirt (both men and women), so you receive something like that in the entrance of the temple, so none of the tourist misses the occasion to pose himself while being dressed silly. The main temple in the forest, Pura Dalem Agung, has, as main attraction, a statue with a Rangda monster eating kids…so if any disobedient child walks past here, he must be afraid.

After exiting the forest, you go back on Monkey Forest Road, an extremely frequented street, regarding the fact it is one of the main artery in the city… This is where you`ll find anything you want – restaurants, spa centres (Ubud is famous even for its spa`s), libraries, stores and many art galleries. Art is one of the main occupations of the Balinese…many  villagers paint or sculpt, so this is the place where many foreign artists have chosen to come to all along history, after they have been inspired by the beauty of the island, but also by the artistic atmosphere that surrounds Ubud…you will find numerous painting, sculpture and other kinds of galleries. Dance is also a very important aspect for the Balinese, reason for the fact that each evening they enact their traditional dances– legong, barong, kecak, etc. Also, all the children must learn, even from a very young age, all the slow and elegant moves of the logng, if they`re girls, or the jerky singing of the barong…

In the end of the street, one will find the royal palace. You can visit a part of the royal complex, built in the purest of Balinese styles, without being excessively ornated, although this still is the place where the royal family lives. Next to it, you will find a few royal temples…In all this complex, at night, you will encounter dancing shows which are worth the bother – you can`t miss them, people who sell tickets for these shows are everywhere – and the program is also announced in a weekly matter, with all its hours and places.

From Ubud, you can also visit two religious complexes nearby. Maybe the most spectacular of them is Goa Gajah (Elephant`s Cave)… The strong point of the complex is a small cave in which you enter by passing through the mouth of a monster; on the inside, you will find a phallic of Shiva, but also the feminin one, yoni, and a statue of the funny elephant-headed god, Ganesh… But, maybe, the most spectacular panorama which you`ll see are the fountains which are provided with wither out of some statues representing some women with outstanding busts which hold some bowls in their hands… At the entrance, you might as well cool yourself with some coconut juices, drank directly by straw out of the coconut, and after that you may explore the area behind the temples, going through the rice.

The second most interesting point of the Ubud area is Yeh Pulu, another sacred place, probably a 14th century monastery, rediscovered during the `20`s by the Dutch – you will see a fresco sculpted in the stone of a great boulder, which is 25 meters long, and which shows scenes out of the Balinese daily routine, and not some kind of a Balinese god.

Around Ubud, there are numerous artists villages…each village is specialised in something – some are sculptor villages, others are potter villages, some even are painter villages, or batik weaver villages. Batik is the traditional clothing of Bali and the rest of the islands around it (especially Java, but also Lombok). In case you want to buy seriously, walk around the villages next to Ubud – the prices are smaller than in extremely touristic Ubud.

During the evening, what could be better than a delicious meal, some divine cookies and a traditional dance? Especially that during the next few days, I walked around the island, only to discover some other beautiful places of the Paradise island.

Pictures of Bali


 Bali photos: Balinese girl with offering

Buddhist offerings

Bali pictures: balinese offerings

Bali tradition: offerings

different sizes, different forms, all colourful

Bali picture: monkeys in Bali's Monkey Forest

A distinguished inhabitant of Monkey forest

Bali pictures: Monkeys in Bali's Monkey forest

Jobs in Bali: monkey expert

He is the “monkey expert”

What to do in Bali: play with monkeys

Monkeys really love tourists

Bali travel: a monkey on top of a blonde tourist

Not sure if it is the other way around

What to do in Bali: Pura Dalem Agung

Pura Dalem Agung temple

Bali photos: Pura Dalem Agung.JPG

The kids eating Rangda

Bali picture: woman dressed traditionally in Ubud

What to eat in Bali: exotic fruits

Fruits – more or less exotic

Bali religion: temple in Ubud

Another temple in Ubud

What to do in Bali: visit a temple

Bali tradition: temple with umbrellas

Bali photos: Ubud Royal Palace

The Royal Palace of Ubud – king is behind the closed doors

Bali dances: young girls practicing legong

You learn legong since childhood

What to do in Bali: Goa Gajah

The temple of Goa Gajah

Bali travel: Goa Gajah

Bali photos: Goa Gajah

A refreshing coconut is always welcome !

Bali travel: Goa Gajah

At the entrance of the elephant cave

Bali temple: Goa Gajah

Typical Bali: rice and flowers

Bali is so green

Bali pictures: rice pads

Bali picture: Yeh Pulu temple

Yeh Pulu

What to see in Bali: Yeh Pulu

Bali restaurants: let's eat some fresh fish

Back to Ubud ! Who wants to eat fish ?

Bali restaurants: delicious cakes

What about some cakes ?

Bali restaurants: cakes in Ubud

OK, I settle for a small one

Bali show: Balinese dance scene

With a full belly – time for some dancing

Bali picture: Balinese dances - Hanuman dance

Balinese dance, of course… featuring Hanuman, the monkey God

What to do in Ubud: watch a traditional dance

Ubud travel: traditional dances in Ubud

Ubud photo: Balinese dancers thanking public

Până acum există "1 comentariu" la acest articol:

  1. […] Bali. It is impossible not to love Bali. I believe Bali is the place on Earth which is closest to how I imagine paradise. Everywhere you turn your head you see the fresh green of ricefields or just grass in general and there are millions of flowers. Actually, the Balinese use these incredible flowers for their prays and taking into account their beauty is impossible not to give them some Gods-send feeling. What you can do in Bali ? Well, I think this is a highly cultural island – the locals although they are now connected to the whole World and hordes of tourists disembark daily were able to keep their costumes and habits. In many places of the world, local people wear their traditional attire just for the tourists shows, but in Bali, the traditional sarongs are used on a daily basis in the most natural way. You should visit the main temples of the island, including the Mother-Temple Pura Besakih or the Water-Temple (Ulun Danu Beratan), but you should not avoid any of the smaller temples. You should walk or cycle next to the rice fields, you should live the flowers of the Botanical Garden next to the Water Temple and for anything in the world, do not miss the sunset at Tanah Lot. Traditions in Bali are not only expressed by religion or clothes, but also by their dances. Try to go to some shows, there are countless shows in Ubud and not only where you can enjoy the delicate female legong dance or the fierce war-like kecak. You can read more of my stories here. […]

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