If we had been a little bit on a waiting mood during our last days in Melbourne, not having real motivation to get out of the apartment until afternoon and just taking things at a leisurely pace, our trip definitely gained some fresh excitement as soon as we landed on Denpasar airport on Bali in the evening of May 24th. Suddenly being in totally different kind of environment, where hundreds of motorbikes occupy the streets (sometimes carrying entire families), and landscapes are dotted with Hindu temples, was exciting. Not to mention how nice it was to be in tropical heath again.
Our first stop on Bali was the town of Ubud. We were met by the driver of our hostel at the airport, and he drove us the 1,5 hour trip there. Ubud was quite busy and clearly a tourist town, even if it's not located by the sea. It's famous for many local designer and art shops, as well as for being the centre for Balinese culture. We took part in the cultural life by enjoying a traditional Balinese dance performance one evening. Our favorite thing about Ubud was definitely Monkey Forest and it's temple, as the name implies,
the place is full of hilarious monkeys. We didn't dare to buy the available bananas to feed them, though, and seeing what it was like for the other ones who did, it was probably best to keep our distance. For example, twice we witnessed an incident where a monkey forcefully grapped a water bottle from an innocent tourist, then managed to open it using its hands and mouth. That's where their skills ended, though; all they managed to do was to spill the water on the ground instead of actually drinking it from the bottle.
In Canberra we had been shown amazing photos of the Balinese rice terraces, so we decided to take the supposedly 6km walk from our hostel to one of them. We walked and walked and walked, along a street filled with artesan workshops full of work-in-progress wooden sculptures and other interesting stuff, but did not seem to reach the rice terrace. The distance turned out to be much longer than we thought, but eventually we got there. Beautiful it was, distantly reminding us of the Valle de Cocora we saw in Colombia, but much smaller that we expected, and we could only look at it
from the distance sitting at a café. But, we did see some people actually working on the field, and it looks as if rice cultivation is very manual work; at least these people did not seem to use any kind of machines, not even to carry the heavy rice loads.
We left Ubud by having the hostel's driver take us around Bali a bit, and then drop us off in Amed. It was a nice day visiting a temple, having lunch next to a volcano, but most interesting thing was visiting a small coffee farm. Or not really a farm, i guess the place was set up mostly for demonstration purposes. Anyhow, there we both tried a cup of civet coffee, which means coffee made of beans collected from civet cat's poop. The cat's digestion system gives the beans a treatment which results in super smooth tasting coffee. We also saw two civet cats on site; very cute animal looking something like a black mix between cat and fox, only smaller. Unfortunately, I later read an article online mentioning the problems related to the treatment of these animals in the civet coffee production industry. Not that we would be
drinking it often anyway, supposedly a cup in New York or London costs 30 USD, and it's hardly available in Finland.
First impressions of Bali and Indonesia had been positive based on our time in Ubud. Not that Bali is necessarily very well representative of Indonesia as a whole, being the only Hindu island, while most of the other 17,000 islands are Muslim. Anyhow, the people are friendly, the food is tasty (especially those fresh fruit smoothies are yummy) and the weather is great. For some reason a new kind of "holiday mood" kicked in for us as soon as we arrived here, and has stayed until now.
PS: We also had our first Balinese massage experience in Ubud. I thought it was enjoyable, but Leo described it more as an interesting experience, and found his back was more sore after the massage than before.
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