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Published: August 18th 2014
Great gardening hat.
We finally made it to Bali and we have found a gem of a city! The fast boat from Gili Air worked out great and a minibus was waiting on the other side to take us to Ubud, the cultural centre of Bali. Ubud is inland so no beaches but this is one of the main spots to experience Balinese culture. We pulled into town and found a little homestay to rest our heads.
The first thing we noticed in Ubud was the number of expats that live here, there are loads of tourists obviously but there are also tons of foreigners that have set up shop here with restaurants, hotels or are just hanging out here to live a simpler lifestyle. The city is super laid back for an Asian city. We wandered up a road that took us away from the city centre and ended up walking through some really cool quiet neighbourhoods with families preparing supper and hunkering down for the evening. We found a great restaurant that was set up to provide funding to a foundation that provides free medical care to poor people in Bali. The food was great too so we ended up eating
Some random cool shrine entrance into some families compound.
here a few times. Check out the Fair Warung Bale if you're here for a stay.
The majority of people here are Balinese Hindu so there are little shrines everywhere and the ladies set out offerings of flowers and incense every morning in front of their shops and houses and throughout their courtyards. Family is a big deal here and many extended families live together in huge courtyards set back from the road by thick concrete walls. These places are totally serene with no street noise and many little nooks to hang out and spend the afternoon. The two home stays we stayed at were super cool as we stayed in rooms inside these courtyards so you got to see how the family hung out together. The other neat thing here is the number of well loved dogs throughout the community (Muslim traditions do not support dogs and they are generally not kept as pets). We got to hang out with some pretty cute puppies which was nice for a change on this trip.
We checked out a few of the Hindu temples here as well as the palace where the royal family still lives. Hindu culture is
This is one of the offerings they put out every morning.
so fascinating and we were reminded of many of the things we saw in India although it was cool to point out some of the differences that have developed locally. We happened upon a big parade for what seemed like a funeral procession of an important religious or royal figure. We didn't know what was going on but it was an awesome display with some huge float where they paraded the casket up to the top of a 30 foot tower while bands marched along side playing some traditional gamelan music. After the parade passed we had a look at some Balinese art in a museum and decided that we weren't huge fans, but hey you can't win em all! We also did a bit of shopping for knick knacks and cheap clothes. There's no middle ground here either it's cheap junky stuff that's kinda neat or super expensive nice stuff that's slightly more neat. We steered clear of the Monkey Forest sanctuary because grey macaque monkeys are the most evil beings on the planet. They're fun to watch from afar though as they harass other tourists. One evening we caught a Balinese dance performance in the palace. The dance
The parade we dropped in on.
tells a story while a live band plays the bells and drums of their traditional music in the background. The dance was impressive but like most cultures, the women were better than the men. The women were mesmerizing with each movement of their wrists, hands, feet and even eyes perfectly choreographed. There is no wasted movement in Balinese dance.
Another highlight of Ubud was the fantastic coffee shop we found that roasted their own Indonesian beans and actually made great coffee. Another one of those cultural oddities that makes no sense is that for a country that produces great coffee beans, and has such a rich coffee tradition, nobody drinks real coffee. Everybody drinks tea and if you want coffee it's always instant coffee. Some of the most prolific historic coffee trading ports were on Java hence the nickname we gave the stuff in the western world. That's my coffee deprived rant for now. We did manage to get our hands on a small bag of Luwak coffee though which are the coffee beans that have bean digested and pooped out by wild cats. It sounds weird but it is the most expensive coffee in the world. $20 for
There must have been a couple hundred people involved in the parade.
200 grams here and $120 for that back in Vancouver. Coffee party when we get home!
We extended our stay to 4 nights in Ubud but could have stayed longer. I see why this is a place where people come to settle down and live their own Balinese lifestyle. Life is simple here and I can only imagine what it would be like in some of the more rural smaller communities in Bali. Now we have to move on though and tackle the beaches and mayhem that awaits in Kuta, the beach party hub of Bali.
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