I managed to find a copy of the Lonely Planet guide to Bali at the Homestay I’m currently living in. It’s proving to be an invaluable resource! After reading the section on Ubud several times over, I shortlisted a few options and enjoyed a full, self-guided tour today. Here’s what I got up to.
First stop was the Water Temple. Entrance to most temples in Bali are free. Although donations are encouraged, I didn’t feel obliged. The only criteria (for men) is to wear a sarong, which I had duly packed. Rules are stricter for woman – no entrance if they are menstruating, for example.
The temple wasn’t mind-blowing, but worth a visit. I have grown accustomed to Balinese statues and design, so that was nothing new, but the temple was lined with lotus flowers in semi-bloom.
Next stop was Bali Buddha – an organic market that sells a varied range of edibles and is a popular stop for tourists and travelers. Just browsing the shop was rewarding enough and I made a few gift purchases. I did however sample a blueberry muffin on Lonely Planet’s recommendation, which was pretty sweet.
The great thing about Ubud is that everything is within walking distance. What’s more tiring than walking, however, is keeping ever vigilant of scooters and gaping holes in the sidewalks. I continue to be astounded that I have not yet seen one accident (or even a close call) since being in Bali! The locals clearly learn how to drive young. There is always the option of hiring a scooter for the day (at just R50) but I think I’ll stick to my bi-pods for now.
Lunch was at Mama Warung (another Lonely Planet recommendation). A friendly mama welcomes regulars with open arms, and their avocado chicken salad (R18) is fantastic.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the more laid-back vibe of Ubud. The locals are super friendly and always offer handshakes, waves and toothy smiles. I have however had my first sighting of beggars since beginning my travels. Ubud (central Bali) is clearly one of the poorer regions. Stray dogs are common. Strangely enough I have come across several white-haired Australians who have decided to retire here. One wrinkled geezer told me that his reasoning is purely the lifestyle.
“The locals don’t do much around here and the food is my favourite in the world”, he said as he quaffed down another Bintang beer.
To sum up Ubud in a few sentences, it is first and foremost compulsory for art lovers. It is the cultural centre of Bali and the range of artwork is astonishing: wooden carvings, glass artwork, paper kites, paintings, instruments, jewellery, beads and fabrics come in colourful and varied shapes and sizes.
I have also thoroughly enjoyed my ‘1-star’ home-stay. It is run by a group of teenagers! R200 per night gets you a double bed, en-suite bathroom, patio, garden, room cleaning and breakfast brought to your room. You do live among the locals (which I find great) and dogs, cats and chickens share the accommodation. I am currently listening to bells, drums and chimes (which I’m assuming is some kind of religious ceremony) and the odd firework exploding.
Ubud can be experienced in a day, but I’m glad that I have chosen a more casual, slow-paced experience. The only thing I have missed out on is seeing some traditional dance. I was hoping to find a place with free performances, but the going rate is around R80 per ticket. I did however catch some local girls in practice before being caught in my first Indo downpour! It was wondrously refreshing.
After having read the Lonely Planet guide almost cover-to-cover, I have decided to stick with the more relaxed vibe. I have booked a shuttle bus for tomorrow, which will take me to Sanur – a place on the south-east side of the island that boasts calm, moonlit beaches at night and is said to be more popular among retirees and family expats. I’m hoping to find basic accommodation on the beach and to enjoy the serenity before heading back to Kuta in the hopes of getting my new bank card.
After a couple of nights in Sanur, followed by a couple back in Kuta, I hope to reunite with my local friend Andre and learn to surf. Thereafter it will be time to take the plunge and do some proper snorkelling and diving! I’m quite sure that the highlight of my trip is yet to come.