Third time’s the charm! Because that’s how many attempts Manuele and I made to visit Bali.
Lets start by confirming that Bali is amazing. The people are friendly, everyone seems to smile all the time, and the atmosphere is a relaxed kind that I haven’t sensed since my last trip to Bosnia (no irony, Bosnians are about as chill as they get).
Bali is also a little bit crazy, from a western perspective. But I always say a bit of crazy is good for you.
We decided to spend the whole trip (3 days) in Ubud, and chill out, practice a bit of yoga and drink healthy smothies and go for long walks in the rice fields.
Now that I’ve shared with you my idea of Ubud before going there, let me introduce you to the REAL Ubud.
Ubud is a very busy place. It’s packed with people, shops and cafe’s everywhere. There are about as many scooters as there are cars, and the side walks aren’t always walkable.
But it’s also packed with traditional Balinese houses and temples. The first day Manuele and I kept walking into peoples houses by mistake – and at one point a public school – because they were so beautiful we were convinced they were old temples!
Religion is really important to the locals in Bali, which you can figure our pretty quick from the statues depicting different gods.
There are flowers (pic above) on all the streets and stairs in every corner of Ubud. From what I understood it’s an offering to their gods. A local explained that the women in each household make them, and they are placed outside every home twice per day with incense and prayer.
Ubud feels like it’s just a few chaotic streets, and it’s hard to imagine any peace when you’e walking around there. But somehow, lots of places, both our hotel and several cafe’s (like the one below) have their entrance on the busy street, but when you come out back you find yourself surrounded by nature.
Ubud is really confusing!
The Monkey Forest Sanctuary holds around 600 monkeys and three temples. The monkeys live freely in the sanctuary, but are fed bananas and vegetables by the sanctuary staff.
A little monkey jumped up on me, and I thought it was love. But the little critter was using me! I had stupidly put some tissues in the side pocked of my backpack because of my runny nose, and the monkey found them! I was devastated and felt like a criminal for a long time after. Next time a monkey jumped on me I was prepared and didn’t have any “loose objects” but my phone, which I held firmly in my hand. The little monkey became very curious about what I was holding and spent a few minutes trying to take my phone, as I was moving it from one hand to the other. Finally I gave the phone to Manuele to hide. When the monkey realised I didn’t have a phone any more it left me for some other nearby tourists.
As Ubud wasn’t exactly the peaceful place we were expecting – the healthy smoothies were made from concentrate and the Yoga Barn was lost in the mess of buildings – Manuele and I paid to go on a bike tour on the north part of Bali to see the rural Bali. The guide drove us to the starting point facing the volcano Mount Batur where we had coffee, breakfast and a break, before getting our bikes and getting ready to roll…down the mountain?!
The Indonesian traffic, and the 5 of us (1 tour guide, 3 very experienced bikers and myself) were flying over roads that were likely around 60 degrees steep. We flew past cute little villages, rice fields and amazing looking temples.
The guide brought us to his friends place, to show us how a traditional family lives in Bali.
Homes in Bali are made up of stone walls surrounding a huge outdoor space. Instead of the western houses that I am used to where we have one house with multiple rooms, Balinese homes don’t have “a house”, but rather lots of little houses within those stone walls that I mentioned. One house is the kitchen, one house is the parent’s bedroom, one house is the children’s room, and so on.
The roosters are kept apart by being trapped in cages, so they don’t kill each other. They’re later used in cock fights. 😦
Bale dangin is a pavilion used for ceremonies like birth, weddings and death.
Locals are mainly Hinduists, and they pray twice per day, every day, so they build temples in their homes.
Another thing which appears to be important in Bali is family. When a couple have children, the youngest son inherits the home. If the older son(s) can afford it, they will buy land somewhere else and build a new home for themselves, but if they can’t afford it, they will build a little house for themselves on the existing property.
Villagers usually have rice fields, where they sow and reap rice every 3 months. Here is a family reaping the ready rice. A man is cutting it with a sharp knife, a woman beats the rice grains to fall out of the…grass? And a third woman then cleans the rice by pouring it into a little pile, so all little grass particles fly away in the wind, and the rice corn lands in the little pile.
Ubud is great, but after 2 days Manuele and I felt we’d seen enough. Our flight was leaving at 7.30 pm on Monday, so we booked a cab to take us to Kuta – the famous surfing area where the airport is located – and spent a few hours walking around and drinking beers in different bars by the beach. While Ubud is a bit rough, with broken roads and cheap market-like shops, Kuta is a real tourist place with big brand shops like Rip Curl, Quicksilver, Religion.. etc.
I love Bali, and we both hope to come back one day and take some surfing lessons. 😉