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Published: September 3rd 2007
The saga that is Bali continues........
On arrival in Ubud what struck us most was its size. Having started out as a small village many moons ago it has grown into a small town now swallowing up many villages around it with its many draws.
There is much to see and do in and around Ubud especially for those partial to a bit of art, wood carving, jewellery, kite making, clothes shopping or dancing. We had a week to soak up as much of this as we could manage.
We started by booking a couple of things as at this time of year there are many European and Australian visitors so things get a little busy. We made arrangements to go on a cycling trip, white water rafting (again!), a visit to an Elephant park and some mask painting lessons!
The cycling trip was a fantastic day in which we got to see and do so much. It began with an early morning trip to a local plantation where we took a wander around checking out the chocolate trees, coffee trees, vanilla plants and many others. This was followed by a tasting session in which we
were lucky to be able to try the wonderful Balinese coffee (no filtering!) and many types of tea and even hot chocolate. From here we headed to Kintamani where we had some breakfast overlooking the splendid Lake Batur (Bali's largest lake which the locals call their water tank as it supplies huge amounts of water for the thousands of rice fields) and the awesome Mount Batur, the most active volcano in Bali. It was this volcano that was responsible for the 1963 eruption we mentioned in the Amed installment.
After breakfast we started out on the bikes (so far we had gone by car). Now it is some time since either of us had ridden a bike so there was a fair bit of wobbling and weaving for the first few minutes but it is true that you never forget how to ride a bike!
The route of our ride meandered through small villages, along dusty tracks and past many rice fields. Our guide stopped us at various points to explain how life in the villages and rural communities works. We have learnt a tremendous amount about the Hindu religion while in Bali and it does seem at
first glance a very nice religion to be a part of. Upon entering one of the villages we were very lucky to be able to witness the preparations of a cremation ceremony. These only occur every 4 or 5 years as they are expensive, so the community clubs together to pay for and build all the offerings and various things that are needed. Due to the long gaps between cremation ceremonies anybody who dies in-between gets buried and then dug up when it is time for cremation!! The Balinese believe that up being cremated you soul is returned to God and you are free to be reincarnated for your next life.
The day finished with a very nice meal at the home of the man who ran the tours and his wife cooked us some fantastic Balinese dishes. It was a very enjoyable day and we were fascinated by the lifestyles of the rural people and felt privileged to have spent time with them.
Our next jolly saw us heading off for some more white water rafting, this time upping the ante with a grade 3 river which supplied a few more thrills and spills but this time
we both stayed in the boat!
We combined the rafting with a trip to the Taro Elephant Park, described by the late Steve Irwin as 'the best Elephant Park he had ever been to'. After this build up it did not disappoint with many chances to interact with the elephants, ranging from feeding them sugar cane to having a ride on their backs (felt a bit guilty about that bit). The highlight of the visit was watching a Frenchman drop something in the water by the elephants and when the mahout (elephant rider) instructed the elephant to look for it he plonked his trunk in the water and brought it back out loaded with water which he then squirted all over the Frenchman!!
On a spare day we had in Ubud we decided to brave the Indonesian roads and drivers and hire a moped for the day!! After getting our ridiculously small helmets shoehorned onto our heads we set out to explore the surrounding areas with the only goal being to cruise the streets and see what we found. We ended up seeing some fantastic scenery, some beautiful villages and me nearly killing myself and Vicky when trying
to do a 180degree turn a bit too quick!! We also stumbled across a place called Goa Gajah which was a very old temple unusual set low down in a lush valley (they are normally high up). It had a cave set into the rock with a couple of offering places to two of the Hindu gods.
Our final experience in Ubud was spent at the Art Museum where we had a Mask Painting lesson booked. The morning of the lesson the heavens opened and this led to us being perched on a raised pagoda in the middle of the museums lovely gardens surrounded by heavy rainfall while being taught the intricacies of Hindu Mask painting. Luckily the weather cleared up by the time we had to dry our masks! It was very interesting as the teacher explained all the meanings of the various masks and we then chose which mask we would each like to paint. He then talked us through step by step and mixed our paints for us until we had the finished article!
Overall our time in Ubud has been really good and we have learnt so much about Hinduism and the Balinese ways
of life. A big thank you to all the guides, drivers and teachers that have helped us along the way and made our week so enjoyable.
For our final 10 days in Bali we are heading back to the sea to spend some time in a village called Candi Dasa where we will hopefully get some tanning time in before we leave the island.
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