Bali – the charms of Ubud

Unhurriedly, we reached Ubud. It has nothing to do with the area around Amed – the pristine and not-so-touristy Amed – captivating with its unspoiled nature and people unaware of the outside world. Ubud’s center was the complete opposite – a traffic jam of cars, motorbikes, and teems of people. Stalls, pubs, restaurants, people, inviting you for massages, performances, and whatnot. This was the art and culture center of Bali, known and popular destination that became even more popular after “Eat, Pray, Love”.

Hotel in the jungle

Our hotel in Ubud was exemplary for interesting architecture. It was constructed in a valley at the confluence of two rivers at several levels, jungle. Our “rooms” were different in size and exterior one or two-story houses. They were so numerous that even the many signs, guiding the way, were not enough, and one could easily get lost until he/she finds its house.

But getting lost was not only accompanied by heavy breathing and fatigue. It also included exploring different fascinating objects and places – pools, ponds, temples, and interesting houses. Even the noise of the congested street in the vicinity was hardly audible. The only thing one could hear were the songs of the birds, the humming of insects, the sound of the river singing, and the dance of the wind and the trees.

trip to the hearth of the island of Bali in Indonesia
trip to the hearth of the island of Bali in Indonesia
trip to the hearth of the island of Bali in Indonesia
trip to the hearth of the island of Bali in Indonesia

The mysterious jungles of Ubud greeted us with a hearty breakfast buffet. Alright, it was the hotel where we stayed at after arriving from Amed. A hotel in the Ubud jungles – classy. If you turn away from the plate, you’ll see a river under overgrown terraces of wild vegetation.

We continued our day with lounging near one of the pools. The red hibiscus trees all around us made the atmosphere so exotic. Multitudes of statues with the most bizarre of faces were commonplace in Bali. In the garden of the hotel, there was a variety of different half-animals, half-humans, guarding or just monitoring the area. The red hibiscus was perkily placed behind the ear of a frog or in the hand of a monkey.

traveling to the Udub jungle in Bali
Here, one can also observe a traditional gift to the Gods – a bowl of woven palm leaves with flower petals, grass, a few grains of rice, as well as a burning incense stick. Two minutes after it was placed, a “representative” of the gods – a bird – stole the rice 🙂

Аn evening walk in Ubud

In the evening, we decided to visit the center. Initially, we had liked a restaurant that was within walking distance in the opposite direction. We even started walking towards it, but a friendly dog we met on the way made me change our plans and our direction. Most dogs were so calm and even ignored the people passing by – even their owners let them go around and look for their own food during the daytime. And this even applies to the watchdogs of the houses. With this said, all of them were friendly and did not bark or attack the passers-by. However, the one we met on our way was the unpleasant exception.

We hopped on the shuttle bus from our hotel which took us to the city center and we started strolling around. In the end, we chose a café which had some tables, neatly placed near the dance program of the night. We killed two birds with one stone – not only did we stuff ourselves with delicious dishes, but we also enjoyed local dances, such as barong and trance.

The dancers’ costumes were exquisite and lavish, the dances were quite complex and required control and coordination of hands, neck, eyes, etc. And the make-up and the cunning movements of the dancers made you think that they were only looking at you while dancing. The orchestra was playing in an unmatched unison, and the music was intoxicatingly trancing.

trip to the hearth of the island of Bali in Indonesia
trip to the hearth of the island of Bali in Indonesia
trip to the hearth of the island of Bali in Indonesia
trip to the hearth of the island of Bali in Indonesia

One of the waitresses started chatting with us and gave us valuable hints about things that we can do on and around Ubud. We loved it that on Bali, there was always somebody to talk to – be it the guide, the chauffeur, or a waiter – collect ideas, learn something new, and understand the way of thinking and living there. We learned so many things from the people there that I’d love to never read books about a certain place and its people again. I want to get the idea by simply speaking with the locals.

Even communicating with other tourists was beneficial. An example would be an Australian couple who, I am not sure, were either “stoned” by the clean air or they had purchased “tickets to the moon” (there’s a place in Ubud where one can buy these things 🙂 ), but they were sincerely enjoying their way back to the hotel that night.

Monkey Forest

We jumped on the minibus and reached the Monkey Forest in no time. This is one of the most famous attractions of Ubud, and Bali as a whole. I would not say that it was a fascinating visit, though. Before we entered, we bought bananas to feed the monkeys. The very first monkey sensed our presence and because it was old and had a bleeding mouth, we did not want to see what would happen if we did not give to it all the bananas. Anyway, we went deeper inside the forest where we encountered three monkey tamers.

The monkeys were awed by them and did not reach for the banana bunches, and we were walking with empty hands…

traveling to the Udub jungle in Bali
traveling to the Udub jungle in Bali
traveling to the Udub jungle in Bali

It was not difficult to make a monkey “pose” with you – you just have to show them a banana, put it (or something else which is food) near you, and they will immediately get on your head. The majority of the people would scream and shout when a monkey hopped on their heads, but they (the people) would not stop smiling ridiculously just for the photo. 🙈

While I was ambling through the woods that looked like a park because of the cobbled lanes, I was constantly on pins and needles. I was wondering when a crazy, aggressive monkey would decide that I had something it wanted, and would come to attack me. It was good that we adhered to the recommendations before entry that we should not carry any food/drinks (even) inside our bags because the apes have no problem to nose them out and steal your belongings. We also hid our sunglasses because they were usually taken by the monkeys in exchange for food. 🙂 🐒🙈🐵

A few days later, we experienced a dramatic situation with a monkey that sniffed some chips. In Bali, we saw monkeys several more times – mostly in places where you do not pay an entrance fee and they do not pursue you. Therefore, I rate our experience in Ubud’s Monkey Forest as quite intense, and as a thing that I would not repeat. Perhaps, the problem was that I realized that the monkeys can conquer us as has happened in some movies. They only need to wish for it. However, sights as those below can make you sentimentalize…

traveling to the Udub jungle in Bali
traveling to the Udub jungle in Bali

Kecak and Fire dance

The soothing stroll in the city ended with a performance at one of Ubud’s palaces. We watched the prominent Kecak and Fire dance. The men of the village gather and they, armed with their rhythmic and poignant songs sung ensemble (without any instruments), are the only musical accompaniment. On stage, there was an interpretation of the story of Ramayana. The fire dance is performed by a hypnotized man.

Only very few, selected people can fall into this kind of trance. The man with completely shut eyes puts out the fire by kicking the burning shells with bare feet, leaving the audience in suspense not realizing what condition he is in. He almost literally put the first line of spectators “on fire”. It was good that the “fire extinguishers” were quick enough to act with the brooms. In the end, two burly young men needed to bring the fire dancer back to our world.

traveling to the Udub jungle in Bali
traveling to the Udub jungle in Bali
traveling to the Udub jungle in Bali

The day ended with another great, traditional dinner. We were interested in tasting the dishes from the Balinese / Indonesian cuisine. After all, we were not there to eat European food. Therefore, we audaciously ordered various dishes with the most interesting content which all proved to be quite tasty.

traveling to the Udub jungle in Bali
Bon Appetit!

Falling sick in Bali

It was quite delicious to try the huge variety of exotic dishes in Bali, but apparently it was time for our first unsuccessful experiment. Even before midnight, our bellies signaled “trouble”. Quite calmly, we opened the big drugs and medicine kit and swallowed what we thought would help. However, it didn’t. Nace hit the ass gasket/big white telephone, while I was stuck with the sink… After a couple of hours of vomiting and diarrhea, without any signs of the latter stopping soon, we decided to look for a doctor.

We had our medical insurance ready so I made a call (7 BGN per minute as usual). They told me that they could not help me. You see, in Bulgaria, it was not a working day, they could not check our insurance, but she hurried to inform us to find a doctor to treat us, and, eventually, we would be reimbursed. Well, what a better thing than to seek a doctor at 3 in the morning when all the hotel staff was sleeping …

How fortunate to have a big gong, which served us greatly. The doctor team – Dr. Made (what a coincidence of names 🙂 || In Bulgarian, Made would translate as scrotum and in Bahasa Indonesia, this is the name of every second, sixth, tenth, etc. child in the family) and her male nurse – was with us in no time. They examined us, prescribed some drugs and left. This came with a bill of $200 for both.

Rainy day in Ubud

On the next day, for the first time, we had something light for breakfast – a toast and some tea.

The weather was with us – it was raining. It was not difficult to nap for several hours. This was the first serious rainfall in Bali for months.

relaxing on a sick leave in Bali
relaxing on a sick leave in Bali

This is how you dress when it is raining. Other not-so-good alternatives are nylon bags, raincoats or large leaves (the best out of the three).

The island has two seasons – dry and wet. We arrived there during the dry – which runs from April to October (also called summer 🙂 ), so all in all, we saw rain only twice. Experiencing rain is quite interesting there – it comes in cats and dogs, and is quite refreshing since the humidity before it is almost unbearable. Otherwise, year-round temperatures are 22-30 degrees Celsius, and it is quite humid – meaning that whenever you go there, you only need shorts and flip flops, and you can jump on a surfboard.

After we slept for quite some time, we spent the rest of the day wandering around the hotel, lying on sofas, and playing backgammon. It was relaxing and it was time to point out some interesting things until this moment.

relaxing on a sick leave in Bali

Time to recap Bali so far

The weather smiles as humans do. When it rains, it is just magical. The people in Bali are friendly and worship tourists as Gods.

The Gods are idolized and every day there are ceremonies and gifts that are bestowed before the Gods. The ceremonies and dances are the most authentic “performances” a foreigner can see or randomly attend one. The temples are numerous and each and everyone is different from the others – from the most spectacular and full of tourists to the normal not known to anyone temples in the country. The food is delicious and comes in large portions (if you are not a local and you only eat rice), but extra care must be taken to the different dishes in order to avoid seeing your dinner twice…

The juices are to die for – diverse combinations of fruits and spices. You can even forget about chocolate.

relaxing on a sick leave in Bali
Delicious juices, Toyota – in the background. We have never seen so many Toyota cars (especially Toyota Avanza was almost omnipresent on the island).
relaxing on a sick leave in Bali
Sweet treats to feel like you are in heaven. The chef was providing culinary lessons too 🙂

The most developed sector of the economy is tourism, which provides the majority of the population with an occupation.

Moving around is done with scooters or small motorbikes because driving a car is slower, less convenient, and more expensive. Cars and larger vehicles are used for transporting baggage and cargo. If you drive a car, bear in mind that the motorbikes are always a priority and are more mobile. We nearly got acquainted with the driving habits – the advantage stands with those that are at the front and the traffic lights are not respected very much … a lot of attention and concentration is required, but for three weeks in this travel “chaos”, we did not observe a single incident. What’s more, our moving around with a scooter added a lot of charm and authenticity, as well as adventure, to our trip. This is why we often talk about them.

By the end of the day, we felt almost like new, and we were excited by what lied ahead. The human body handles best what it is used to digest. Surely, we already had in mind what snacks and drinks we were going to aim for in order to avoid the incidents of the previous night. And Bolognese spaghetti is not to be missed 🙂 🍝 🍝 🍝

If you only have just a couple of days to explore the area, we suggest that you look at this cool two-day itinerary in Ubud.

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