After staying a few days outside of town, we picked up and moved into the heart of Ubud to experience things more closely. We managed to install ourselves in a lovely bungalow run by a friendly family basically in their back yard.
As they showed us to our room, we smiled to each other seeing the great views of the neighboring rice fields not ten feet from the front steps of our veranda. Not to mention the big thermos of steaming hot water and cups of coffee that were waiting for us. We happily settled in and ended up staying several more days than we’d planned, we liked it there so much.
With some free time on our hands one day, we decided to go for a long walk outside of town to get a look at some of the outlying areas and some well known temples and ruins. We followed some trail guides printed in Lonely Planet, but in retrospect, this wasn’t enough as we managed to get ourselves lost a few times, and had to improvise as there was no trail in several places. Oh well, it was an adventure at least.
As we headed out into the countryside we transitioned from the touristy area around Ubud into rural roads and then found ourselves in more local villages. It was really interesting to see the kids out in the streets waving and smiling to us, and people working in the rice fields.
We also encountered several of the local temples. Each village must have at least three, located in specific places and each serving its own purpose. Of course, many wealthier villages have many more.
Eventually, we made our way to the ruins of Yeh Pulu. This place was apparently a monastery or hermitage in the 14th century. It’s an intricately carved rock wall set amidst brilliant green rice fields.
Interestingly, the only religious image is a single relief of Ganesha; all the reliefs are of various aspects of daily life.
After appreciating these ruins, we had planned to head back towards Ubud following the nearby river, and walking through the rice paddies.
Well, we’d expected there to be some actual sort of path, but it turns out to not have been the case at all. We stumbled around in the brush and jungle for a bit, trying to find a way, but were daunted, and ended up having a long, nasty walk back along the main road in the region. My hatred of mopeds was strongly solidified to say the least.
Along the way back into town we did get to see some of the ubiquitous curved bamboo poles wrapped with fabric and intricately decorated. We’d asked about these earlier, and were told that they were created for special ceremonial times of the year. We’re still not sure what their significance is.
Another day, Alina had a bunch off work to do, so I headed out on my own to explore another of the walks in the area. This time, I climbed up to the Campuhan Ridge, running between the the two branches of the Sangi Was. It was really beautiful, walking along a stone slab path winding among the elephant grass.
Along the way, I glimpsed views of some of the really fancy resorts perched above the banks of the river, as well as more local villages, some in the midst of intense development. And once again, I couldn’t find the route back, and had to backtrack. At least this time, it was along a relaxing and scenic route.
A stay in a new place wouldn’t be complete without trying some of the regional food, and Bali was no exception. As housing in Indonesia was surprisingly expensive, we didn’t eat out very much, but there were two occasions that deserve mention.
One of the famous Balinese dishes is Babi Guling, suckling pig. It’s typically eaten during celebration and ceremonial periods, but of course, there are places you can get it all the time. The most well known is right in the heart of Ubud, an eatery called Ibu Ora. They get in six roast pigs every morning, and have opening hours of “11 am till gone”. Apparently if you get there after 2 pm, you’re out of luck. We didn’t risk it and went around noon and ordered the special. We were served a pile of rice, veggies, and meat from all parts of the pig.
Blood sausage, crunchy bits of skin, light and dark meats, as well as fried meat bits, which Alina found to be her favorite. Each part had its own unique texture and taste, and the meal was delicious.
Our second culinary foray was to one of the many little restaurants clustered around the seemingly infinite number of guesthouses that dot Ubud. We found it down one of the recently renovated streets paved with sponsored concrete slabs advertising nearby businesses or just bearing various messages. Sort of like an immortalized classified page.
With the sound of the daily evening rain beating down on the roof, we indulged in an amazing dinner of Gado Gado. Another of the really traditional Indonesian meals, the base is a big pile of veggies, with egg, tempe, and tofu for protein, all smothered in a really really great peanut sauce. On top was a big prawn cracker that was like a puffy crispy batter and really great for dipping. The Gado Gado was so good they named it twice! I looked up the recipe as soon as we got back to our bungalow, and am looking forward to trying it myself sometime.
In the end Ubud was a strange duck. I didn’t really like it the first time we walked through town; too many tourists, too much pandering to them, and too much hustle and bustle in general. But after experiencing more of the culture, and spending some afternoons just lying around off the main streets, it really grew on me. Even though we extended our stay by several days, I could easily see myself spending more time there. It’s really a great place to just enjoy the scenery and enjoy a slower pace (once you get away from the tourists, of course!)