March 30, 2009

Bali Vacation - Ubud

On Tuesday, our check-out day from the Hard Rock, we chartered a car, with a driver and tour-guide to take us on a tour of Ubud, and then on to our hotel in Nusa Dua. (You can do this really cheaply in Bali.) We really packed it in -- this day of touring felt like two days (but in a good way).

Our guide was a very sweet local Balinese woman who, despite never having left the island of Bali, spoke excellent English. She had a very sweet way of answering our questions by gently saying "It is true." Driving around Bali gave us an appreciation of the number of temples. Each family compound has a temple, ornately carved from stone and decorated in bright yellows. Flower and incense offerings are placed pretty much everywhere.

We also saw many of the women of the town walking to temple carrying various (very large) offerings on their heads. Quite the balancing act.

And what would a drive through Asia be without the obligatory guy-on-motorbike-carrying-dead-chicken?

Ubud is known as an artist colony, and is absolutely brimming with stone carving, wood carving, silver, batik, and other art. The streets, lined with artist studios and little cafes and restaurants, were very lively. Ubud has a really interesting feel - a blend of artsy, hip, and traditional Balinese. Our first stop was at a batik artist studio, where artisans were making batik clothing, which are made by layering wax (klowong) over designs and then dyeing it.

They also had a beautiful display of batik art; we loved the uber-vibrant colors. Mike is always a sucker for the bright orange; we came really close to buying this piece.

Stop number two was at a wood-carving studio. There were a whole bunch of artisans outside, sitting in a circle working on carving and polishing the various pieces. While we browsed, Jacob and Lauren held court with the workers, and soon were put to work. They felt very comfortable there, and made fast friends.

The surrounding rice fields are lush and beautiful. One of the best sights of the day were the Tegallalang Rice Terraces. This super-green large terraced rice-field is quite the spectacle. We actually learned a lot about growing and harvesting rice and wheat from our guide. (You would think that living in Japan, we would know something about it by now!)

Here is another drive-by shot of some of the rice fields:

After the rice fields and a nearby scenic waterfall, we hit the highlight destination for the kids - the Sacred Monkey Forest. This was a really cool place. Very docile monkeys roaming all about - including onto you, if they think you have food- amazing banyan trees, and some ancient temples. Great combination.

Afterward, we hit the very crazy, crowded, multi-lingual, colorful, and overwhelming central market in Ubud. These places are fun, but a bit overwhelming if you spend too much time there!

After the market, we drove on to see a dance exhibition of three traditional Balinese dances in an outdoor stage. The first dance, Kecak, tells the famous Hindu story of Rama, Sita, and the golden deer, that includes a chanting a-capalla type male chorus.

The second dance, Sanghyang Dedari, is a "trance dance" that features two young girls who dance with their eyes closed, but in unison. The grand finale that blew us away was the Sanghyang Jaran Dance, another trance dance that involves a guy who dances barefoot on fire. This was insane:

We saw more dancing at dinner, this time Legong dance. The costumes for all of these dances were very beautiful. The movements seem very Indian-influenced.

All in all, it was quite a day. We arrived at our new hotel late in the evening, and Lauren quickly passed out on the lobby couch while we were checking in. The Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Spa is a beautiful resort. The lobby has reflecting pools with huge fish, stone-carved Balinese temple-architecture (backlit at night), and beautiful orchid displays. Our room has a great balcony that overlooks the pool and the beach. There was a clear starry sky. And it was pin-drop quiet. (Quite a contrast from the Hard Rock and Kuta). We went to bed excited about spending the next three days relaxing here.


jmgesq said...

Sorry, Ilena. It would appear that Michael was heavily influenced by the 1970's orange couch that Marcia and Abe had in the family room for many years. While it may be a chronic issue it will probably only crop up every once in a while. ;-)
I for one hate orange....tho I have grown mellow on the subject of coral and salmon.

Mike said...

Hey! I wrote that about orange. What's wrong with orange -- I loved that couch.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike -- sorry, this is very Gai-Jin of me and completely unrelated to the post, but my curiosity is getting the best of me.

Is Yoshihiri Shimizu working at Panasonic now? He and I were colleageues, and he does not yet know, I'm heading for Kobe in 12 weeks. When are you planning on leaving?