Published: February 13th 2008February 12th 2008
Bali Buddha restr.
William sitting in one of our fav. organic restaurant/lounge places in Ubud
...nor Connecticut, Florida, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming... by Christina
And honestly! what was I expecting anyway? As I reflected on that in our first week here in Bali I realized whatever pictures of a place I might have in my head it is always different. Well, for one thing I am always surprised by how much the modern world lives in these places. And how much our western culture has invaded and in some ways spoiled them.
But, I had gotten some impressions from a particular friend who had visited Bali 6 or 7 times. Only, she hadn't been here for 12 years. She had spent time in Ubud, a popular town where many foreigners like to hang out and told me that except for the main street none of the streets were paved and I should expect a lot of mud (it is the rainy season now).
Thongs are the best shoes to wear for this condition and indeed, this is the preferred footwear of the Balinese. Well... a lot can and has changed here in Bali in a decade...
no more dirt roads to drive on in Ubud or for that matter in any other town we
This is Adam sitting with some of the younger family members at Sania's family compound. There are many family members and generations all living together at this small compound. This is typical of Bali families. Each compound has a temple within and religious rituals are carried each day.
have been to so far. Though there are dirt roads that go off the main roads where you can walk or scooter and find many residences. In Ubud, the streets are good compared to the condition of the sidewalks. You have to really watch where you are putting your feet as you walk!
I would say, though I wasn't here 10, 15, or 20 years ago, that tourism has advanced greatly on Bali in that time. Ubud is a bustling large town with endless shopping. It is known for some famous foreign painters who lived here and so one can find many art galleries. This also accounts for how the town grew to be such a mecca for the foreign visitors. There are also lots of shops with textiles for any purpose, wood carved items, stone statuary, silver jewelry, beaded items to name a few things these folks are skilled at crafting.
We also like Ubud for the great food and huge selection of restaurants. Because we are very careful about the quality of our food, we find ourselves a lot at the places that cater to foreigner tastes for organic and natural foods. Eating out about twice
the "Ivory Tower"
Look at the very top of this building and you will see our porch in front of the room we have at Sania's House
a day we spend around $20./ day for both of us if we don't get too extravagent and have dessert or go to an expensive place. We like the Bali and Indonesian food sometimes but not everyday! It can often be too oily for us but we carry around a little placard that we present at restaurants that asks to leave out the MSG (ajinomoto), and to use less oil and salt. Many places in this town know not to use the MSG already. We could probably spend less on food but its not that easy in Ubud! Anyway, half the fun of the day is deciding where we are going to eat and then the enjoyment of sitting there for a while and perhaps finding some new people to talk to.
We even cook our own food in our own cooking pot a couple times a week as we are able to use the outdoor kitchen in the family compound where we have a room.
There are numerous little warungs
around Ubud - 'homey' places to dine - but not easy to find in other remote towns. Often they have a small number of tables and when you go
This is the view from our room and balcony at Sanias House Guest House family compound in Ubud. We look out over the rooftops of the city.
in the cook may take your order and then go make all the food from scratch for you right then (sauces are usually made in advance though). So the food is always very fresh.
Our original plan was to have Ubud as our 'base camp' and then to do excursions from
here. This is working out really well as when we go away for a few days we can leave our big bags at the family compound, not pay for the room while away but have the same room back again when we want to return. We have spent most of three weeks here except three nights last week when we went to the east coast on our scooter. Next week we are going to the north part of the island and then over to the north west. This will take us through the mountains and by two of the three volcanos to some remote areas.
Although it is the rainy season we can mostly manage to stay dry even on the scooter.
But I must tell you, it is amazing how accustomed the Balinese are to riding scooters in whatever the weather brings so that when it rains
This is one of the rice fields surrounding Ubud
they all just put on their rain ponchos and keep on going. Everyone wears helmets but sometimes you see a barefoot rider. Most people however are wearing their thongs. A funny scene is when you see two other family members on the back covered by the back of the drivers poncho. You will also see women riding 'side saddle' on the back as they are going to temple in their close fitting sarongs and beautiful lace Kebayas (a fitted blouse).
After we spent our first three days chilling out at the beach near the city of Kuta we came to Ubud. I do have a few stories from this time which I'm going to tell in a separate entry but for now I'm going to say a bit more about staying in Ubud. We looked around at a number of places including a hotel on one of the main streets just to get a feel for what some of the lodging was like. We ended up at a family compound on a little street behind the marketplace called "Sania's House". A family compound is the place where the Balinese extended family live and worship ~ there is always a
View from 'Sari Organic'
This is the view from another restaurant we like to go to that is out in the rice fields just north of Ubud.
large shrine area usually in the center of the compound ~ and many of these, especially in Ubud have some number of rooms and sometimes a pool for guests. In most cases a breakfast is included in the room cost. We have been paying $20.00 /night for an air conditioned room with a wonderful view ~ this is a deal we got for being a longer term guest. Our place has a nice pool and nice atmosphere. In fact it is so popular there are guests who have been coming here to Sania's year after year for many years.
There is a great-grandma, grandma and grandpa (that's Sania) who are in their 50's we think, several daughters and one who is married and lives here with her husband and two kids who are two boys under age 5. Some of the daughters are dancers and grandma (Theodora) also plays drum in the local women's music and dance group.
We originally thought we would look for a house to rent in or near Ubud. And there have been a couple possibilities in quieter rice field surrounds but we have come to like our room at Sania's so much that we don't
We don't know where Adam took this or what the building is but it's a cool shot don't you think?
wish to bother moving or having to pay rent when we go on an excursion. We call our digs the "Ivory tower" because it is light with lots of windows and looks over the rooftops and treetops and has a lovely breezy porch where we sit and gaze over everything and relax.
Here in Ubud you can see live music and dance performances of various shows almost every night. We also happen to be here at a time when there are a lot of religious festivities and ceremony going on. I will talk more about these later.
To date we have seen three quite different and wonderful performances. I will describe some of these in a separate entry. In the last week we have had the opportunity to learn a lot about the Balinese culture straight from them. Nothing I will tell you about is from reading a book. It will all be direct experience of them and their communication to us. This has been really wonderful and enjoyable and is due in part to the wonderful openness of the people, their generosity and willingness to share themselves and include us. On Saturday night we are invited to
Going to the temple
The women here are carrying offerings to the temple for yearly religious rites occurring this week.
participate in the procession and ceremony of one of the communities which will enable us to see and experience first hand their ritual dances and other aspects of their religious rites.
Their main pre-requisite for us is that we dress in the traditional garb of sarong and fabric tie at the waist (men also wear a simple fabric headdress).
So, this now brings me back full circle to the beginning when I said... Toto, we're not in Thailand anymore!
And here are a few interesting differences between Bali and Thailand.
For one thing, in Bali as you may have heard about 80-90% of the people are practicing Hindus. Their temples look very different than the large, lavish, very exotic Buddhist temples of Thailand. You see no Buddhas here except in the statue shops. The temples are all over the place, and numerous but they are constructed mostly of concrete block with concrete gods and demons which look old and shabby as they are not painted so that the black mold makes them look very funky and poorly maintained. Smaller temples are in every village but the island also has some very large ones. They are all used very regularly
for the many ceremonies and smaller religious events.
Last year a man told me that he much prefers to watch the dances of Thailand because they are more beautiful. Now that I have seen dances of Thailand and Bali I can understand what he meant. The Thai dances are very lovely and creative. The Balinese dances really are more like ritual and story.
Their movements are not as varied and there is less body movement and movement of the feet to move around. They do interesting things with their hands and a lot of movement of their eyes and heads. I think it would be accurate to say that it is more stylized than the Thai dances. But I love to watch it and personally would not compare these dances. They are just different. Many Balinese dances are based on or have themes from the Ramayana - Hindu texts. The costumes are rich, colorful and elaborate with close fitting fabric wrapping their torsos and always sarongs for the skirt. Some of the dances use fabric that they hold as wings. In some of the dances they are depicting various animals.
Currently there is a big procession of hundreds of
Ubud Morning Market
This market is close to our guest house
Balinese dressed in ceremonial attire all walking through town to the temple for the religious rites that are happening this week ~ a once a year occurrence for these particular ones. So, I have to end this soon and go to follow it!
I will continue with my contrasting of Bali and Thailand (a few more things I could say about this still) when I return.....
....So here is a short list of comparisons:
While Thailand had markets in the streets of the towns every night, day and weekend - markets, markets, markets everywhere we don't see that in Bali. Just shops in the towns and villages that specialize in certain kinds of things so that many of the shops all have the same things and many craftspeople making much of the same thing.
There are central markets in the towns that operate daily and sell many wares plus all kinds of foods prepared and for taking home.
There are no tuk-tuks here in Bali. Remember them from Thailand? Many people ride scooters though and there are lots of vans. The public transportation is not so varied.
If you want to go somewhere you hire a driver to
This is the open air part of the market where fresh fruit and breakfast foods are sold in the morning. Later other goods are sold here. Downstairs and inside is a meat market...including live chickens people take home. Kind of disgusting... the smells and all the chopping!
take you or catch a van. It is a small island after all! There is a region of Thailand where rice is grown and many other crops but only in Bali do they have terraced hills of rice all over which makes the landscape very interesting. They grow several kinds of white rice, as well as red and black rice.
The beaches here in Bali are not so remarkable as in Thailand.
Balinese food is a little simpler and not so varied as Thai food but does use
a variety of interesting spices also. They do not eat cows but keep them to help work the rice fields and they use the manure in growing the rice organically. They also do not milk the cows. Pigs are raised and used only as offerings and to eat for the religious celebration. We also saw goats raised for this purpose on the east coast. You can see the women carrying platters of whole roasted (baby) pigs on their heads as they walk to the temples bringing this offering. It is a strange sight to my eyes!
I never saw anything like this in Thailand but there were a lot more unidentifiable,
strange and exotic foods to be seen in Thailand - mainly at the markets.
Well, I could probably go on about how different Bali is from Thailand but I think you get
There are more photos below