Ubud: Cultural Heart of Bali

As a result of our pre-arrival research, Erik and I disembarked the plane in Denpasar, Bali with some slight trepidation. We’d read that arriving and departing from Denpasar could be a trying experience fraught with corruption and scams. However, a new terminal was finished this year and is now under stricter domestic control. With a little common sense we had no problems avoiding the money changers, taxi drivers and baggage porters. Nevertheless, I was relieved to see a sign from our hotel with my name on it as we exited the international arrivals area. After the pristine conditions and development in Singapore, Indonesia seemed wild and exotic.

We somewhat unintentionally booked a room at a small resort about 30 minutes outside our destination of Ubud, which is the cultural capital of Bali,

DSC02548Wand after a two hour drive on chaotic two-lane roads we pulled into an oasis of calm.

DSC02370WThe three nights that we spent there ended up being just what we needed. The free coffee and tea, almost non-existent Internet and box of DVDs to go with our flat screen TV allowed us some much needed rest and relaxation in the evenings, while the free shuttle four times daily into Ubud central offered us the option to explore as well. Plus, as luck would have it, for whatever reason, we were upgraded our first night and enjoyed a small villa by the pool that had two walls completely made of glass, and a traditional, Balinese open-air bathroom.

DSC02368WEach morning we enjoyed a local breakfast of a form of spicy rice, toast and Balinese coffee.

DSC02393WOur first day, we caught the early shuttle into town and made it to the tail end of the morning market, which was a treat for the senses with its vibrant colors, new smells and beautiful music.

DSC02300WHere’s a sample of a melody played by some street performers.

Ubud Market Music

We spent the remainder of the morning strolling the streets of Ubud which clearly deserves its reputation as the cultural heart of the island.

DSC02547WA considerable effort has been put forth to maintain an atmosphere with temples on every corner while restaurants and even the Starbucks keep up the facade.

DSC02321WIt felt somewhat touristy, but I still enjoyed the ambiance.

DSC02322WWe popped in and out of temples including the royal palace,

DSC02310Wall of which include sculptures and characters quite different

DSC02312Wand more aggressive,

DSC02306Wthan those that adorned the walls of the temples in Angkor Wat.

DSC02309WAs we passed temples, restaurants and artist workshops we continually found ourselves stepping carefully over the Balinese-Hindu offerings called canangsari that are put out each morning for good and bad spirits alike in front of every home and business.

DSC02305WThe canangsari consist of a tray made from a palm leaf and are filled with small offerings such as flowers, maybe some rice, incense, lime and nuts among other things.

DSC02327WThat afternoon we found a large walking loop that took us just outside of the village into the surrounding area.

DSC02326WA few meters beyond the last restaurant the landscape opens up into the most beautiful rice fields that I have ever seen.

DSC02366WGreener and flatter than those we saw in Nepal, it was hard not to feel lost among the ocean of emerald. The narrow palm lined paths had me constantly thinking about Julia Roberts on her bike in the film “Eat, Pray, Love.”

DSC02365WApparently, as much of the movie was filmed in the area, the tourism has increased considerably since its release, and opportunists have taken notice with “Kiss me Ketut” t-shirts, and signs to Ketut’s house around the village.

DSC02367W

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