As I mentioned at the end of the previous post, the place that we are staying is only accessible by foot, bicycle, or scooter. It’s about 2 km off the main road. On our trips to the local places on “our street” and in to town, we’ve been amazed by how many things are transported back and forth on these scooters. There’s a guesthouse across the street that’s being expanded right now, and to start the day the guys do run after run back to road picking up construction materials – like multiple bags of cement! This is only mildly interesting on other roads, as scooters are definitely more common than cars here, but on this street it’s two way traffic, both scooters and pedestrians, on a track that’s narrow enough that Elinka could block traffic by standing in the middle! We’re at the head of one of the local rice paddy systems – called Subaks. The Subak systems are amazing. They were built by hand over 1000 years ago, and have a water source at the head, which flows downhill irrigating each field with just the right amount of water for growth. All of the work is done by gravity and basic diversion tools such as wood, or sandbags.
On our first day going into Ubud itself, we immediately noticed a lot of vendors selling sarongs to tourists for an upcoming ceremony. Unfortunately, we didn’t find out until much later that the ceremony was for the cremation of a member of Ubud’s Royal Family. Funerals and cremation are very important events in Bali, and the bigger the celebration your family can muster shows the status of your family and your life. As far as I understand, the deceased person(s)’ body is placed in a coffin which is installed inside a sacred symbol – in this case it was the Balinese Ox. Then, the elaborately constructed symbol is burned at the end of a ceremony with body inside, and the soul is considered purified by fire. On our walk to the supermarket, we got our first glimpse of the famous monkeys of Ubud!
On our second full day in Bali, we hooked up with our awesome driver and tour guide, Made (pronounced Ma-day) first thing in the morning to go out for a tour around the area. Our first stop was in Batu Bulanat a temple to view a traditional Balinese performance: the Barong and Kris Dance. Made really seemed to have the inside track to get us “backstage” before the show where we could see the performers getting their costumes and makeup ready, and we even got to try on some of the ornate masks! The show was about 45 minutes long with wonderful Balinese musicians playing on the side, and although Elinka was covering her eyes when the “scary monsters” came out in the beginning, she was transfixed on the stage, Tuci was dancing to the music, and she gave a big round of applause at the end!
Next, we hit one of the man local craft villages and chose a silversmith shop to visit. We got to see the whole process from raw silver being converted into beautiful jewelry by skilled craftsmen and women. Of course, we couldn’t leave without a couple of purchases…
Sustenance awaited us at our next stop at Pangkon, which is a restaurant that has its seating pavilions set directly in the rice paddy. Surrounded by serenity as you eat a delicious lunch!
After lunch we made our way to a Luwak coffee plantation. There were actually many different types of plants on this farm – cacao, fruits, herbs, spices – but coffee was definitely the focus. You may have heard of civet coffee before… Luwak is the local name for the same furry creature! If you haven’t heard of it, these little guys eat the coffee cherries – and they know the best ones to pick, apparently – and partially digest them, leaving behind the best part to be picked out of their fecal matter, cleaned and roasted, and then made into a very tasty (and expensive!) cup of coffee! After a walking tour of the plantation, where I even had the chance to try my hand at roasting the beans over a wood fired stove, we were served with a flight of all of the teas and coffees they produced. Delicious!
The next stop was Gunung Kawi Sebatu Temple – a beautiful, local temple surrounded by natural gardens, pools filled with fish that are fed from a natural spring behind a wall of ferns, and many ancient shrines. We got a splash of purification from the crystal clear spring water. Elinka refuses to be in a lot of photos these days, so here’s a rare one where she cooperated.
Our last stop for the day was at the famous Tegalalang Rice Terrace. This is one of the most photogenic rice terraces, covering both sides of a steep ravine, surrounded by jungle on all sides. There were a number of the famous wooden Bali swings here, but we didn’t partake of them – although swinging out over a verdant gorge dozens of metres in the air looks pretty cool!
That day was action packed enough for Elinka and it was time to go home after that. She really enjoyed the scooter ride back from the main road, it seems to be a highlight! We’re doing the walk most of the time, but today she was just too tired. Now, for a few photos of where we are staying and some of the delicious meals we’ve been eating. It’s not only us dining sometimes though – we counted 22 lizards on the ceiling over our heads last night!