An Unplanned Ubud
As Bali’s cultural capital and a city-village of many charms, Ubud ticked off all the right boxes for me – female-friendly, vibrant yoga scene, healthy food everywhere, Balinese massages for a song and a half (as compared to Bombay’s spas), and loads of art and sculpture at every turn. Drawn there by the Bali Spirit Festival held every March, I decided to stay on another ten days in Ubud to get a bigger bite of it. Having misplaced my little notebook (i’m old-fashioned) in which I’d been listing all the must-do’s and must-see’s I’d gleaned from weeks of online trawling, I decided to let the place have its way with me, rather than re-plan everything all over again. The sights and the surprises found me nonetheless, and that fortnight turned out to be a pretty well-spent one, give or take a monkey bite. Here are some of my fond memories from that fortnight, in a not-so-chronological order. Which makes sense, considering it’s one of those places that does make one lose all sense of time.
I don’t always catch the sunrise but when I do… it’s for views like these atop an active volcano with a breakfast of volcanic steamed eggs after a predawn hike under a starry sky. An intermediate-level hike, the trail begins as a dirt road that soon leads to a steep path of loose rocks and slippery sand. Lit by a dozen flashlights, a ton of stars, and a few heat lightnings, the view from the top was going to make it all worth it. As the sky began to wake up at around 5.45 a.m. it showed us a sunrise like no other. Considered Bali’s most active volcano, Mt Batur last erupted in the year 2000 and has its share of steaming vents and a volcanic ash slope with chunks of black rock puffing away, to remind you that you are on explosive land in the midst of all that serenity.
Happened to see this huge wood carving at Mas, an art village in Ubud, on my way to the Bali Bird Park. Came back to get a really good close look at the sheer ‘mindblowingness’ of it. Intricate and massive, artful yet natural, it was quite the example of the Balinese way of combining human artistry with natural beauty. Took three wood carvers three weeks to carve this out of the roots of a litchi tree. Sometimes ‘epic’ is too small a word.
At the Bali Safari and Marine Park this massive iguana made quite the statement. Hopefully it will live to check itself out in a mirror someday in all its wicked bizarre glory.
Several heart-stopping moments of beauty in the streets of Ubud, and some with more than a touch of humour in them, such as the monkey sculpture below, outside a crafts store. Cracked me up every single time I saw it.
Speaking of monkeys, what’s a trip to a tropical island without a little run-in with some wildlife? And given how aggressive the monkeys (long-tailed macaques, actually) of the Sacred Monkey Forest are, snatching away anything they fancy, wild is an apt description. The lady at the inhouse first aid center told me all those monkeys had been vaccinated against rabies. Something I’d rather believe than doubt, especially after getting bitten (‘mildly’) by one while feeding it. She said those monkeys send about five people to the first aid center there everyday, and that day I happened to be among the select few. It was a tiny bite but getting clambered over by a ‘hangry’ screeching monkey is not everyone’s cup of tea, so if you do want to pay the monkeys a visit, you’ve been warned.
Next thing I know…I’m entering my name in the Monkey Bite Register at the Monkey Forest First-Aid Centre, after getting a bandaid and some amused reassurances from the nice lady there that my little (yet very scary) monkey bite was nothing to worry about. I was told that there was no rabies in the monkeys there so I’d be fine. And well, turns out I’m fine now so they were right 🙂
While we’re on lessons learned, nuggets of wisdom are never far behind in Ubud’s gift shops. This one really struck a chord one bright sunny morning, and still does 🙂
Inside a traditional Balinese compound on another wonderfully slow afternoon
In other news, a flamboyance of flamingos at their watering hole at the Bali Bird Park. That’s quite the collective noun they’ve been accorded by the English language, and quite aptly.
A day’s work at one of Ubud’s busier junctions…
Possibly the most artistic store I’ve been to in a long time. Run by the Kupu Kupu Foundation, it houses a broad variety of handicrafts reasonably priced and imaginatively created by the physically challenged using local materials, with the proceeds going towards improving the lives of the latter. The artist’s profile and photo are displayed next to each piece. For details visit http://www.kupukupufoundation.org/
In a concept that most of us city-bred souls would do well to imbibe, the Balinese allot a special day for silence every year, when even their airports pull their shutters down. Called Nyepi and celebrated with much gusto on the preceding evening, its larger-than-life preparations make for quite the imposing sight. As this little boy just found out.
Nothing like a dimly lit lily pond to soothe the nerves. At a uniquely tradition-steeped resort called ARMA, short for Agung Rai Museum of Art.
Legong dance lessons in progress at ARMA. Legong is a refined dance form characterized by intricate finger movements, complicated footwork, expressive gestures and facial expressions. Way more co-ordination than I can ever handle, while these graceful six-year-olds seem born into it. In the spirit of preserving culture, free lessons were on offer in the lobby of the museum.
A short quad-bike ride through the rice fields led me to this. Green grass, blue skies and black coffee. Under a post-rain drizzle. Some afternoons have perfection written all over them.
And now for some Bali Spirit Festival, the bait that hooked me in the first place to this island and its many charms.
And just when I was wondering if there’s any Indian teaching here at Bali Spirit Festival, the beats of the maddest punjabi music drew me to a massive bunch of people from everywhere getting their punjabi freak on – with the kickass Sarina Jain’s Masala bhangra workout. Wickedest dancing awesomest energy. Extreme exhaustion took a hike on day 5 of the BSF, thanks to good old bhangra madness 😀
Here’s a Balinese ‘offering’ that you will see more times than you can keep count of in a day here, not just in temples but almost everywhere. While I’m not wild about organized religion, the kind of reverence the Balinese have for artistic beauty and the amount of care and effort they put into creating beauty in their daily rituals is something I could get behind. From homes that could well be ancient temples, to sculptures that seem as intricately worked as nature, the orchestra of frogs and crickets every night outside my room, beauty was simply in the air. I’m sure I’ll be back for more, and with even less of a plan than a lost notebook the next time.