Day 138, Year 3: Great Second Day in Ubud
Date: Hari Rabu (Wednesday), Bulan September 24, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Broken Record . . . Another Beautiful Day
Location: Ubud, BALI, Indonesia

Spending the extra day in Ubud is paying off. Justin and I are both feeling better and we all spent a nice, relaxing day enjoying the many things Ubud has to offer. Jo took a silver jewelry making class this morning and after three hours emerged with a beautiful ring that she created. Justin, Mark, and I had breakfast at a restaurant with wireless internet and sent yesterday’s log and checked email. We then walked up Monkey Forest Road to the center of town doing a little shopping on the way. The little shops are just full of tempting things that lure tourists through their doorways. Justin was particularly taken with the masks that are an integral part of the dances here. And I have totally changed my mind about Ubud. The first time I came I felt like I was in a busy, busy tourist trap. And it is that. But it is so much more. Being here allows you to start to feel why so many people have always thought of Bali as a very special place.

We met Jo for lunch on the main street after her class and then Justin and Jo went shopping and Mark and I went to a place called Threads of Life. It is a showcase for the beautiful weavings done by women all across Indonesia. They have done a nice job of acquiring the very finest weavings and displaying them as in a museum with descriptions of the whole process. Things that we have paid $30US for in the islands are $450US here, so we didn’t buy anything. We just enjoyed looking at the array of weavings from the different islands and surprised ourselves by realizing that we have learned a lot about Indonesian weaving in our travels. Justin and Jo spent the early afternoon shopping. They found a couple of masks that they just had to have and they picked up a few small items for Jo to take back and sell in her gallery. The problem is that she keeps buying things that she loves and she ends up wearing them, so the gallery might not end up with new items! We all met back at Ubud Terrace Bungalows and enjoyed an afternoon swim and rest before heading further south down Monkey Forest Road to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. We had read in the Lonely Planet that one of the three temples within the sanctuary has an “Indiana Jones feel to it” and we had to agree. The Temple of the Dead is a place where people are temporarily buried until it is time for the cremation ceremony and the entrance to the temple itself has these monstrous stone creatures eating children. That was creepy enough, but as you wind your way through the forest the scenery is surreal. There are huge banyan trees and what I call cathedral figs with roots hanging down to the ground from three stories above you. There are deep canyons where the dark spring waters run and huge rocks completely covered with green moss. And the huge stone carvings are everywhere. We all decided that Maurice Sendak must have visited Bali just before writing his children’s classic, “Where the Wild Things Are.” They are in Bali in the form of stone statues. And of course, I can’t forget the monkeys. There are long-tailed Macaques everywhere. They are very cheeky and will jump right on you if you have food in your hand. One little monkey grabbed the pocket of Justin’s shorts and even though there was no food there, he kept trying to put his hand in. They tell you to have nothing in your pockets as these little monkeys are great pick pockets. We especially enjoyed watching the baby monkeys interact with their mothers. They are just so cute.

Our choice of entertainment for the evening was one of the dance shows that Ubud offers. There are different dances here and each one tells a different story. There is Barong and Rangda, Legong, Jegog, and Kecak and fire dance. We chose to attend a Kecak Fire and Trance dance, and it was fantastic. About a hundred bare-chested men dressed in black and white checkered sarongs sit in a circle about three men deep and provide the chant that is the background “music” for the story. This circle of men has a tall tower of flaming candles in the center and the dances that tell the story are performed between the circle of men and candles.. The men represent the monkey army and chant for a full hour and a half. Their voices rise to a crescendo at various times during the dance and as they all stand and sit and sway and wave their hands in the air with fingers fluttering, all in unison. While this is happening, Prince Rama is trying to rescue his beautiful wife Sita who has been kidnapped by King Lanka. The costumes are phenomenal and the dancing graceful and beautiful. After the story has ended, the stage is cleared and a huge pile of coconut shells is lit. As it is flaming hot, a fire dancer enters and proceeds to kick the burning coconuts, walking on and among them. At the end, his feet were black but he showed no signs of actual burns. We left the Pura Dalem Taman Kaja (temple) in awe and then went for a late dinner at a restaurant called “Three Monkeys.” You enter from the street and go back to an outside terrace surrounded by rice fields right off Monkey Forest Road. We had another wonderful meal and are going to miss the culinary delights of Ubud.

I am finding it difficult to describe Bali adequately. It is just so different from anyplace we have been. The Bali style of Hinduism is fascinating and permeates life everywhere you look. Every morning fresh flowers and fruit are strewn about on sidewalks in the little woven temples that are everywhere. As you walk up steps from our bungalow to the street, the steps are adorned with flowers. Beautiful batik cottons and silks are draped everywhere and the surreal carvings are everywhere you look. Pictures don’t even convey this. I think you have to come to Bali to see for yourself.

080924 Day 138 Bali, Indonesia–Ubud's Sacred Monkey Forest
080924 Day 138 Bali, Indonesia–Kecak Trance and Fire Dance