January 16th-21st: Senyinak, Ubud, Sanur, Padang Padang

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January 26th 2013
Published: January 26th 2013
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View from the cliffs by Padang Padang.
Here follows part 2: January 16th-January 21st

The morning in Seminyak was very pleasant, consisting of a lovely breakfast to the sound of an endless, playful Balinese melody and a swim in a beautiful pool. Then we were off in a taxi, to Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali. Some of you may recognize this as the place in the book/movie Eat, Pray, Love, though I assure you I saw no sign of Julia Roberts. Although, according to our guide book, you can visit the same old man and the same healer as in the movie. We did not. Our place of residence for our two days here in Ubud was Artini 3, which was quite a stunning place. As we were led to our room the ground dropped off down a hill, at the bottom of which was a pool next to a small creek. And, as with every relatively nice hotel here, there were carvings, statues and decorations everywhere. That first day was spent wandering down the main road in town, Monkey Forest Road. Aptly named for the Monkey Forest not far off that we would later visit. We stopped at a pretty little restaurant and had an afternoon snack, mine being a delicious peppermint tea served in delicate blue and white china. Krista had a jasmine tea that was equally delicious. We continued walking down the charming little streets, past shops and stalls full of the sarongs, clothes and souvenirs you see everywhere here. What disappointed me was that most of this area seemed over-developed and instead of an Asian-style marketplace where stalls crowded against one another and you haggle down a ridiculous price to a decent one, there were stores that resembled the ones back home in North America. All over-priced and all designated for tourists, as Ubud is definitely full of them even now in the rainy season.

That first night we attended a traditional dance, called the Barong, beside the palace. On either side of stage were a handful of musicians, armed with varying instruments foreign to my eye. As they began to play, they stirred up an almost dizzying sound with an alarming nature, which can only be appreciated upon hearing in person. The dancers were adorned with extravagant costumes, their faces painted into particular expression. Every small eye or hand movement holds meaning in these types of dance, and to be quite honest, the eyes frightened me at certain points. The play was a bit difficult to follow, being in another language, but we managed to get the gist of it all. Two giants were granted invulnerability and the gods created a plan to stop them by sending a beautiful goddess to seduce them. There were also some comical characters, with animated faces who played a small role and a big, dog-like creature who chomped his teeth and jiggled about. All in all, quite a fascinating experience. The next day we explored was the Monkey Forest, a series of trails leading through the beautifully green forest with enormous, and probably ancient, trees. As the name suggests, the place was overrun with grey monkeys. From all I have heard about mischievous and often aggressive monkeys, I was rightfully on my guard. But, these monkeys seemed to be incredibly tame, laying about on the paths as you walked right by them. They were more curious of you than anything, and I was startled when a little fellow grabbed my pant leg from behind, giving it a little tug. There was a particular area, by a giant tree, where the monkeys seemed to gather and it was here that one hopped onto my lap. Perhaps he was hoping to find a banana, as many other people had been feeding them; he lingered a moment and when he found nothing, went on his way. We all managed to snap a few photos and then left the monkeys to their business, as it were.

The nights were spent in and out of differing bars and restaurants, following the sounds of live music to and fro. We had the pleasure of seeing an amazing guitarist not once, but twice. Darcy had the chance to meet the band, and asked how old the guitarist was. He was amazed to find that he was only twenty one, for he played with a professionality far beyond his age. There is live music on a nightly basis in Ubud, and one cannot walk far down Monkey Forest Road without hearing a tune coming from some building up ahead. This creates a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere and coupled with the smiling patrons of the restaurants and bars who greet you with a pleasant smile as you walk down the street, one feels quite happy and at ease. Our next stop was south of Ubud, on the eastern coast of the peninsula, called Sanur. Our home there was Hotel Palm Garden, in which we had more of an apartment than a room. Krista and I had our own separate room, as did Darcy and Devy, which both connected to a living room complete with television and a fridge. This luxury was more or less part of a birthday present to Krista, who would have her birthday on January 20th, our third night there. The beach here was less than pleasant, scattered with debris and garbage from a recent storm. We spent the days exploring the roads near our hotel and took a look in some stalls and markets throughout. There were many restaurants lining the streets and finding a meal each night was a very simple task. One afternoon we had lunch on the beach, which was also the cheapest during our time in Sanur. Another afternoon we found a leathermaker and had him make duplicates of Darcy's money belt, a neat little holder for money or cards that looks like a belt loop and slides secretly behind your pants. This, of course, is an attractive item to have travelling throughout poor countries where robbery is not uncommon. We had two made, and I could not be happier with the quality. Custom-made leather good = $12.50 here in Bali. Krista also purchasedn a beautiful craft, covered generously by her mother as a birthday present. It is called a Kebayah, and is a beautiful shirt covered in intricately, hand-woven Balinese lace. There are pictures of her wearing it on Facebook, if anyone is interested. It was her birthday outfit, complete with a blue sash around her waist and white, flowing pants. Quite pretty if I do say so myself. She also ordered a handmade leather belt from the same leathermaker as our money holders, showing them a picture and choosing her preferred colours of leather. It will be finished by now and we simply have to pick it up before we leave. We are very excited to see the results. For her birthday we had a lovely supper at a purple-walled restaurant where we were incredibly well-tended to. To cap off the night, we ate chocolate, played blackball and gave Krista her nineteen birthday bumps to start off her new year.

The next morning, we took Devy to the airport and she flew to Manila, and then home. Then there were three. We continued in our taxi to the southwestern tip of the peninsula to a place called Padang Padang. Here we staying in a "homestay" called Bali Bule. I use the quotation marks, because the rooms were all in separate buildings and looked more like a private cabin than a room in somebody's home. The most enjoyable part of which, was the open-air shower; very refreshing. During our day or so here we wandered down to the closest beach, which consisted of countless stairs dropping down the cliffside. These led us to a beautiful, water-carved cavern where the waves crashed in endlessly from the sea. It was a stunning sight and my most memorable ocean experience to date. Stopping for a drink to segment the exhausting climb back to the top, we gazed for a while, out over the clear blue waters coming in from the Indian Ocean. When we got back, we went for a swim, cooled off in the air conditioned room and then decided it would be a good idea to rent out a couple motorcycles (closer to scooters). It was only five bucks for an entire 24 hours, and so we had them for the night and until check-out the next day. At around sunset we took a ride through the nearly empty roads to Uluwatu temple. It was an exhilirating ride, and one of my favourite experiences thus far. Gliding through the encroaching green on either side of the road, warmed by the gentle evening sunlight and a cooling breeze flowing past your face is a great feeling. We were at the temple for another traditional dance, this one called the Kecak, or fire dance. Instead of instruments as the basis, there was a melody of around 50 men, who created an incredible rhythm with nothing but their mouths. They also played a role in the story, being the trees or the magical circle that protected the princess. The story was of an evil king who kidnapped a princess. Rama, the hero, saved her with the aid of the White Monkey General and a humpbacked wise man. Again, with the precise hand movements, the striking eyes, the flamboyant costumes, though this time there was comic relief where characters interacted with the crowd. At this, I was slightly put off, because it did not seem genuine to me and cheapened the experience by catering to the tourist majority in the crowd.

Early the next morning we returned to the temple on our motorcycles, this time to explore the grounds. The temple itself was less impressive than we expected, with the main part blocked off to visitors. The view surrounding it, however, was extraordinary. The temple is situated on an enormously tall cliff, which stretches out on either side. We walked down each side, taking in the ocean far below and the majesty of the rock which opposed it. We were also protected by our guide from the monkeys who were less tame here than in Ubud. He wielded a sling shot against them, and held them at bay, though a few tried to sneak up behind us in an attempt to snatch something of ours. Our guide also had the monkeys jump up onto our shoulders, which was enjoyable for all of us except Darcy, as his monkey used his hair as a way to lower himself to the ground. Our companion explained that he was a guide throughout the day, but also performed in all of the dances that took place there daily. After I enquire as to which part he played in the one we watched, he says he was one of the chorus. Then we were off again, whisking up and down the paved roads. We went the other way from our homestay and came to a beach with another laborous descent and ascent, only compensated for by the pathway down which was basically a tunnel through the cliff's side. The beach was covered in litter and large amounts of seaweed, and so was not very enjoyable. We went even further, this time off the beaten path, finding our way down a small alley that I thought could not possibly be meant for our vehicles. At the end we found other motor vehicles, though, and a cluster of small homestays used mostly by adventurous surfers. This was perhaps our most tiring hike yet, and we did not even get all the way down to the beach. Another beautiful stretch of cliff and ocean ran off in either direction and after lingering for awhile, we were off. Just as we were getting back home we were surprised by a sudden downpour, of what felt like hail, as we raced to get to safety. Unpredictable rainy season at its best. It rained intensely and although we'd only been exposed for a minute, we were soaked to the bone. That was the end of our trip to Uluwatu.

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