Ubud, cultural capital of Bali!

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January 20th 2014
Published: June 21st 2017
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The drive from our beach-side enclave at Nusa Dua up to Ubud in the foothills of the mountains takes about 90 minutes - but we extended that with a stop at Sanur to see the mouldering remains of paintings by Belgian artist Adrien Jean Le Mayeur who moved here in the 1930s and ended up marrying a Balinese beauty 37 years his junior. The house and paintings were adopted by the Indonesian Government though they seem to spend next-to-nothing on conservation. High point was that the lady who ran the shop was the grand-neice of the painters Balinese wife. Great beach - and a nice cool spot to sit and drink/eat a young coconut each. Liz takes over here!
After the safety and luxury of the beach resort complex setting off in our little pink car was quite an adventure. The roads around the Southern resorts in Bali are very busy mainly with scooters and motorbikes whizzing around like insects in all dirctions, often with several passengers, including young children, rarely with helmets. There are also lots of minibusses ferrying tourists or officials behind tinted windows and small lorries with buiding materials and foodstuffs. After an escape from the south on a motorway the roads are 2 lanes and narrow, with shops and houses built close to the road and pedestrians to avoid as well. Half way to the central Bali town of Ubud we stopped at a bird and reptile park, with lots of exotic maccaws, pelicans, flamingoes, owls, eagles and elegant secretary birds. The komodo dragon, crocodiles and ignuanas were somewhat less active. It was a lovely place to wonder amongst the jungle flora with flamboyant flowers and runnning water.The tourist industry describes Ubud as a quiet cultural town, so we were surprised by traffic jams clogging the small streets and by the buildings being constructed everywhere, but the rural boutique hotel industry appears to be taking off here, together with villas built in the surrounding countryside for foreigners, mainly Australians. Yoga and healthy eating to engage you with the spiritual dimension, supported by the green jungle, terraced rice fields and ubiquitous temples are strongly promoted.Our own small boutique villa complex offered all these, together with a swimming pool and our own plunge pool, outside bathroom and sitting area. The staff were friendly, sometimes excessively so, but there were few guests, this being low season, so we monopolised their attention. We have experienced lots of heavy rain, this being the rainy season, but mainly at night and we only got soaked once. But when it pours you definitely need to take cover!Our two days in Ubud were spent exploring the town and countryside. The town was populated with shops and markets selling everything, beautifully presented and cheap, but quickly overwhelming. An art gallery provided another shady setting, but you can only look at so many pictures of gods and monsters. The hotel invited us to go on an early morning walk to explore the local village and tramp across muddy paths bordering the rice paddies - a little precarious but great fun. Julie, our guide, explained Balinese village traditions and lifestyle as we went and showed us preparations for the village festival, including washing suckling pigs and their entrails in the local river. It was great to see the villagers dressed up in their Sunday best- the women with sarong and embroidered blouse, and men with their distinctive scarf around their heads the next day. Julie also took the 7.00am Yoga session each morning. I had a private session the next morning, remarkably similar to my Friday morning class at home, but surrounded by calming sounds of the jungle. We also treated ourselves to a very relaxing massage and some very tasty dinners and breakfasts, with platefuls of fruit in the hotel.We also toured the countryside in our car, getting hopelessly lost for want of signposts. We found an elephant park in an attractive jungle setting and numerous wood carving businesses with all sorts of products, some balinese and some quite out of place. Hundreds of giraffes, in various states of completion, lay alongside the road, lizards, masks and totem poles apparently were destined for the USA. It was hard to tear ourselves away from this paradise island. It certainly looks beautiful, watered by an abundance of rain and populated by attractive, friendly people.Another 24 hour journey on planes and sitting in airports takes us via Singapore to Melbourne, where we look forward to Kieran meeting us at 6.00am after a year since he left England on Boxing Day 2013. to be

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