On our 3rd day, we opted to go on a rice terrace walk with the group we had been sharing our days with (minus Tom and Laura who had moved on but now including 2 more english guys; Ollie and Alex). Surprisingly the rice terrace walk was only a 10 minute walk from the town and proved to be a thin trail away from the hustle and bustle of the town.
We passed beautiful scenery of rice terraces and witnessed many people in the fields tending the growing agriculture. It was very calming watching life here unfold. The fields had such a lovely tranquility. That is until motorbikes veered the paths. Yes that's right motorbikes were going down narrow trails in between rice terraces. It surprised us too.
This along with the art and tourist trinket shops along the way tainted the idyllic beauty of this place. For lunch we stopped at an organic food place, mainly ordered drinks and continued on with our journey. On the way we were stopped by a guy willing to take us to a river. With nothing to lose we followed him and for a price he climbed up a
Offerings for Buddha
Everyday shops and residents will put offerings on their doorsteps for Buddha
coconut tree for the group and got us 2 green coconuts. These coconuts held the best coconut water we have ever tasted (as usually the two of us don't like the taste of it).
The river was a nice treat and had a strong current flowing. While 3 of the others hopped in 3 of us never brought a change of swear gear and so only got our feet wet.
That evening was spent enjoying a yoga class for P whereby she met Christina from Switzaland who became another member of our ever evolving group. Chris however stayed behind and instead opted for a message costing only 65,000 Rupia (£3.25) for a fully body massage for an hour. Not a bad deal at all.
On our 4th day we woke up earlier than expected as we overheard that someone had found bed bugs crawling all over their beds. You didn't have to tell us twice. We were packed and out of Hostel Ubud before you knew it. As our whole group could not fit into a new hostel, Chris and I opted for homestay elsewhere.
We found a really nice homestay just
around the corner, Pica Sedana homestay that came with a beautiful temple on its grounds, a lovely balcony outside our room, an inviting spacious ensuite with an intricately carved king size bed and also included a lovely breakfast each morning. We asked ourselves why we had not moved to this place earlier. After all it was the same price.
Today like most days in Ubud we hadn't planned much and to everyone's surprise we reluctantly agreed to join the rest of the group for a motor bike tour to the spring water temple (Tirta Empul/Tampak Siring) and elephant temple (Goa Gajah). This was one of the best things we could have done here.
Getting to the spring water temple was not to difficult as equipped with our secret weapon, our offline map (maps.me; a must while travelling) we agreed to lead the group and arrived at the temple an hour later. Chris opted to drive, while P hopped on the back navigating the way with the 5 others in tail.
As we rode the bike we had to navigate really busy traffic with lots of bikes and cars coming out of small side streets
at full speed refusing to give way. It was only when we left the confines of Ubud that we could relax a little and ride more calmly on the quieter stretches of road. On the way, we passed many beautiful green rice terraces along with many local villages that were somewhat developed but still retained a lot of culture in the way they dressed and carried baskets on their heads.
Overall the ride was enjoyable and generally smooth sailing apart from Chris moving from left to right to avoid potholes and P constantly reminding him to be careful. What can I say we are a team.
When we arrived at the water temple, we were provided with brightly patterned sari's that we had to wrap around our legs before we entered. As we stepped into the holy water area we were all fascinated and drawn in by the calm and lovely feel about this place.
With barely no other westerners insight, we knew we had stumbled upon somethings special and immediately felt very rewarded with being able to witness this sight.
In front of us lay a huge atmospheric pool with a
pebble base, huge fish swimming around people's feet and rows of carved stone in the form of a imaginary animal heads, all spouting water through their mouths.
What made this even more special was the amazing spiritual atmosphere created by locals who were fully dressed and submerged in the water that was around waist deep. They took their time as they prayed and washed their faces under each fountain or lined up in the pool awaiting for their turn. On either side of the banks of the pool were people praying and providing offerings of burned incense flowers, and sometimes food in small wooden woven trays.
With not many other tourists in sight we knew we had stumbled on a treat. This place just felt magical and we felt honoured to be able to see this place unfold. At the same time, being a sacred place we were aware of our own presence and did not want the locals here to feel watched with their time here being compromised by us tourists.
Just as we were questioning the impact of our presence we were approached by a local man. He explained that he was
responsible for guarding the grounds and preparing the pools each morning l. He explained for a small fee of $3 each he could provide us a guided tour whereby we could take part. We all agreed nothing to lose right. First however we needed to change again into our swim gear and new saris. The girls in the group tied the sari's around their necks while the men tied it round their waists like the local men.
Before we entered the pooled area the guide explained we would first undertake an offering and then go through a process of purifying and cleansing ourselves in the water.
We were all clearly excited. He provided us each with a small offering with burning incense and flowers and instructed us to sit down holding these offerings. We all were then told to bring our hands to our hearts in a prayer like position, close our eyes as we breathed in slowly and deeply. We were then asked to clear our minds and were instructed to say aloud our names (in no particular order) where we were from, our religion and then make a silent prayer, praying or wishing for
Afterwards we placed the offerings provided on a stone ledge alongside other offerings on the raised bank of the pool. This felt really special and the locals looked on with a slight smile on their faces as we took part and respected their practices here.
Before we entered the pool we were informed that the pools are meant to cleanse us as it rids away evils. It was hard to fully appreciate the meaning of it all as the guide's englishcl was somewhat limited. Putting things together slightly we gained an understanding that the rituals carried out here is meant to connect with the protector, creator and destroyer to cleanse our mind, body and soul. Everything appeared to be in 3's as we were told once we got to our first fountain we should make a hummm sound 3 times, wash our faces 3 times, drink the water 3 times and place our head under the fountain for as long as possible. This was to be repeated in 10/12 fountains in the first pool. 2 out of 2 fountains in the second and 8/8 fountains in the third.
We were told to stay
calm and focused as we did so and were instructed to go with tradition with females entering first in age order (also taking out any hair bobbles) so with P being the eldest she lead as the men followed with Chris leading the men. One by one we repeated this act in each of the fountains, avoiding the ones our guide said were used for cremations and not meditative prayer and cleansing.
Locals can only do this once a lifetime at this sight so you can understand how special it is for them and how privileged we felt to be welcomed to take part. At the end we all felt calm, relaxed, and honoured and quickly got changed as we were beginning to get cold. This was certainly an experience we will forever remember and again hope too much tourism does not take away how sacred this is for the locals. We are not spiritual ourselves but engaging in the process of cleansing and purification felt very relaxing.
On the way back we stopped by the Elephant Cave temple which was a cluster of small temples (containing a small row of water fountains), a cave and
rivers nestled among a green forest trail that led to a small village with a larger temple. On the way some of the group stopped to explore a cave, others got drawn into a Chicken fight while P and Christina was directed to the village temple by a heavily pregnant women. It was nice but nothing too spectacular.
Our final day here was spent relaxing, strolling around the town, buying some clothes to replace some over-stretched worn out tops and admiring and capturing the essence of Ubud on Camera. Ubud was indeed touristy but charming and we really enjoyed our time here and can see ourselves coming back again.
We said farewells to the rest of the group who we had shared our time with. Onto some more culture but before that a pit stop in what we hear is a not so pleasant tourist destination; Kuta.
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