Travelogue: Ubud, Bali

After entirely too much surfing in Kuta, I took a break to Ubud, the cultural capital of Bali. Whereas Kuta is filled to the brim with surfers and drunk Australians, this city is a more laid-back destination, with lots of European tourists.
Ubud - lily pond

As a result of Eat, Pray, Love book and movie (where the heroine comes to Ubud to practice Yoga and find love), this city is also filled with 30-some women fleeing from a midlife crisis and trying to find meaning in their life. I had the pleasure of chatting with one Californian gal who boasted of practicing Yoga with the very same Yoga instructor mentioned in the book, and I got the impression she had a really bad case of midlife crisis. I wonder though, was my own trip also inspired by a midlife crisis of sorts?
Ubud - portrait in sarong with temple

Here in Ubud, $10 per night got me an amazing view, hot water showers, and a banana pancake and fruit breakfast.
Ubud - view from guesthouse

Monkey Forest:
It’s monkeys in a forest, surprise! What’s special about Monkey Forest in Ubud is that the monkeys are completely fearless. They’ll sit there right in the middle of road, doing their business as you walk around taking pictures. Some of the more adventurous ones will even use you as a tree:
Ubud - with monkey 1 Ubud - with monkey 2

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil:
Ubud - monkey speak no evil

Monkey and baby monkey (monkey breasts are just long erect nipples):
Ubud - monkey suckling young

Monkey eating from a banged-open coconut:
Ubud - monkey banging coconut

Monkeys grooming:
Ubud - monkey grooming

Monkeys getting it on (for all of 5 seconds):
Ubud - monkey mating

Ubud is famous for its cultural dances, which are fairly cheap ($8 for an hour performance) but also fairly repetitive. I found that Indonesian dance is characterized by swinging the head back and forth, hand movements, and intricate costumes.

Puspa wresti – welcome dance:
Ubud - welcome dance

Cendrawasih – bird of paradise:
Ubud - bird of paradise dance

Baris – a warrior’s manhood (played by a girl??!?)
Ubud - warriors manhood dance

Panji Semirang:
Ubud - panji semirang

Kelinci Рrabbit dance.  Extremely cute!
Ubud - rabbit dance

Balinese Art:
As the cultural capital of Bali, this city is home to several museums of Balinese art. Some art on display was contemporary and modern, indistinguishable from I would find in the West.
Ubud - comtemporary Balinese art 2 Ubud - contemporary Balinese art 1

Other paintings were more traditional – I notice that traditional Balinese art is quite complicated and crowded, with as much artwork squeezed in as possible.
Ubud - traditional Balinese art 1 Ubud - traditional Balinese art 2

I also saw dance classes being taught at the museum!
Ubud - Balinese dance classes

During my time in Ubud, I had the pleasure of watching several Balinese Hindu ceremonies, and and found them to be fascinating. In Balinese culture, in order to watch or take part in any ceremonies or visit any of the temples, you need to be properly dressed – in a sarong in sash, for both sexes. So yes, I got myself a sarong. I must say, I look dashing / very manly wearing a skirt:
Ubud - portrait in sarong

During home ceremonies (every 6 months), home alters are dressed up in skirts, and a priest comes to bless the home and shoo away demons.
Ubud - Balinese temple skirts

During the ceremony, as well as in everyday life, offerings of food, flowers, and incense are placed out to protect the home from invisible demons:
Ubud - Balinese offerings

In another ceremony at the market, waves of vendors took turns attending the ceremony, listening to the priest, getting blessed with holy water, and sticking grains of rice to their forehead:
Ubud - Balinese ceremony

Speaking of which, Ubud has a pretty big market, mostly catering to tourists, selling everything from clothing to trinkets and Bali-unique penis-shaped bottle openers:
Ubud - market view Ubud - market penis wares

It’s odd, walking around the market – if you’re not wearing a sarong, you get innundated with offers of “sarong?”. If you’re already wearing a sarong, you instead get offers of “another sarong?”

At another ceremony that I attended, I saw dancers perform as a drum ensemble provided background accompaniment:
Ubud - Balinese ceremonial dance

What really impressed me was that these ceremonies and dances weren’t meant for tourist eyes – we were welcome to observe if properly attired, but for the most part it was something that locals did for themselves.

Something else I found fascinating is that in Balinese culture, there is a teeth filing ceremony – much like how in the West, people get braces to align their teeth, in Bali they get the tops of their teeth filed so that the tops of teeth are smooth and aligned.

Bits and Bobs:
– Since Ubud is known as as the arts and crafts center of Bali, I saw a good number of artisans around carving:
Ubud - Balinese stone carving Ubud - Balinese wood carving

– “Good Karma”, a charity helping Balinese street dogs. 95% Scam.
Ubud - good karma charity scam

While staying in this city, I hired a car and driver, and started traveling around Bali!

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