Ubud is located centrally on the island of Bali. Unlike its noisy southern neighbor Kuta, Ubud is known for its arts and crafts. The movie Eat, Pray, Love was filmed here and according to locals Ubud has increased in popularity due to the movie. On the drive into Ubud from Canggu (where we are staying), you cannot help but notice the beautiful open fields and rice paddies that create tropical scenery. Everything, all the plants, are so green and lush here. When you are on the motor scooter in the city, you want to jump off the bike! But the drive to Ubud is relaxing and medative. Maybe that is why there are so many yoga studios in Ubud! As you get closer to the city, there are many places on the side of the road selling hand carved wood. The Balinese people are known for their skills with carving and sculpture. I can see why people come here from all over the world to not only vacation but to also buy furniture and collect art for their homes.
Our first stop was the Agung Rai Museum of Art or ARMA. We dropped by here first because we knew there was a cultural center – so we asked about dance lessons (traditional Balinese dance). We decided to hold off from taking class that day because there also were evening performances and wanted to do both in the same day. It was pretty early in the day and we were not prepared to drive home in the dark if we stayed for the show. Anyhow, like many other people here in Bali, the young man who worked for the museum asked to have a photo with Angelo admiring his tattoos. So many people love Angelo’s tattoos! When we were at the petrol station recently the man who was filling up the bike started to rub Angelo’s arm as he was admiring the tattoo design. Hehehe!
Off we went into the main part of Ubud on our motor scooter. Ubud is a lot hotter than Canggu and has more humidity. You can’t help but notice all the tourists and expats in the city. Lots of Australians, Chinese and Russians take vacations here in Bali. Of course there are people all over the world here, but these are the groups of people that I have noticed the most. We were looking for the post office so I could send off some postcards I had from Japan. Also, I was looking for a health store called Bali Buddha because I wanted to buy some coconut oil for my eczema and face. We parked our scooter right in front of the Ubud street market that sells everything you can think of – shoes, clothes, beautiful Balinese jewelry, handmade batik blankets, sarongs, glasses and etc. If you ever travel here, bring your fanny pack and bargaining skills!!! Let’s say that a pair of pants are 100,000 IDR, then you can ask for 50,000 – they will tell you that your crazy, but probably if you keep bargaining and you will get it for 60.000 IDR (which is about $6 US). In order to quickly figure out how to convert money to US dollars, just take away 4 decimal points. So easy! Like 100,000 Rupiahs (not Rupees -that’s Indian currency) is about 10 dollars. Of course, this is not perfect conversion because the higher the number the bigger the discrepancy!
Anyhow, Angelo and I both are HORRIBLE at bargaining. Well for one Angelo doesn’t like to turn down people who are selling items. He wants to contribute to the Indonesian economy as much as possible, which is understandable. I don’t like to bargain because I feel like they make so little income everyday and the price is already so cheap, why try to get even less? BUT GOOD LUCK TRYING TO NOT BARGAIN!! I went to a stall looking at some shoes, the woman mistook my shyness and non interest in buying a pair of shoes as a hard sell. Every time I tried to walk away and not bargain, she kept pulling my arm and quoting a cheaper price. Eventually, I unwillingly bartered the price down from 450,000 to 200,000 IDR. Angelo asked me “Do you want them? Are they comfortable?” I said yes, so he bought them for me. The shopkeeper was happy. From what I understand, they will never quote you less than what they can afford and a sell is better than none. So try not to feel to bad, bargaining is almost always expected. We walked down a couple of stalls and Angelo bought a nice sarong and sash to wear. A lot of the Indonesians still wear traditional garments not just for temple (you have to wear sarong to enter temple), but everyday – to school and for work. After finding the post office, eating at the cafe and shopping, we decided to head off to another part of Ubud where there is a palace and a Starbucks. The palace was beautiful, but we only saw the outside – no one was allowed in. In Bali I have noticed that many of the important sites have little or no description about it. It is difficult to determine how old or significant a tourist site is in Bali. Usually we just go home and google a place to find out more about where we had visited. After we got some drinks from Starbucks as it was very hot and humid outside. Then we took the motor scooter over to the monkey forest.
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary acts as a temple and nature reserve. It houses the Macaque monkey. They are considered sacred animals so you are not allowed to treat them badly or hurt them. Not that you would want to, but I was hesitant to go because people get bitten by the monkeys at the sanctuary all the time. We took off our sunglasses, hats, and our jewelry. And unlike others we decided against feeding them bananas. No thanks. No monkey hopped on me, thank god. But I did see a girl shake a macaque foot with her finger, another girl shriek when a monkey jumped on her and another woman scream and run when the monkey she thought was “so cute” show it’s teeth because it probably felt threatened. We really enjoyed the forest despite being a little apprehensive about the monkeys. It feels like you are walking thru a jungle! We were trying to imagine the types of insects that call it home! They also have some statues and stone carvings that have moss over it that is super cool. We also saw an adult female with her newborn which was pretty cute, the baby couldn’t have been more than a week or two old.
After we left the Monkey Sanctuary we decided to head home as the sun was setting and it takes about 40 minutes to get back. Of course we got lost, so it took about an hour. But its ok, it’s not like we were late for anything. By the way, for those of you who are very punctual, just forget about that while here in Bali. Everyone here runs on “Bali Time”. You can fight it like me, but it does not work. The heat and environment makes you late for everything. Even if it doesn’t, you can still pretty much blame it on that.