Friday, November 4, 2011


25.-27.10.: Ubud

On Tuesday, we took an early shuttle bus by Perama (10am) to Ubud, another tourist paradise, albeit a qquieter one, known for its artists (including European expatriates) and unspoilt (by tourists) countryside. The wait was made nicer by free tea, coffee and wi-fi in the nice, open-walled waiting room.

The bus itself was not airconditioned, so the trip was hot and sticky. Baggage was simply thrown up front between driver and door. The trip itself was short enough, 2h.

In Ubud, we were immediately surrounded by people trying to get us into their hotels, offering rooms from Rp150k. The speed with which they accepted our demand for Rp100k told us we were still paying too much, but accommodation was infinitely better than in the Rempen: We chose Petri Inn, right next to the Perama station, with a spacious room, bathroom with shower and squatting toilet (flush by ladle from sink), a small porch with a table and wicker chairs, and breakfast (banana pancakes with honey and some pieces of banana, papaya and pineapple on the side, everything covered with coconut flakes). The people there were friendly; the owner and cook introduces herself as Ibu, which means "mother" in Balinese and Baha Indonesia.

By 1pm, we had settled in and were walking along the streets of Ubud, in no particular direction. In the city center, we found a man selling a dish of rice, tofu, soy bean sprouts and hot peanut sauce (gato-gato, but slightly a different recipe, Rp 5k), and coconut juice (with ice, some sugar syrup, and a piece of lime, delicious, Rp 3k).

We headed up the street the vendor was in, venturing into small paths going off; the houses were surrounded by elaborately decorated walls, with statues of demons (gods?) at the entries, so the whole quarter looked full of temples - only the washing lines in front of the mundane houses further back told us that people lived here (ordinary people, too, no priests, as far as we could tell. Schoolkids came home while we were there, and the grown-ups passing us seemed mundane). We also found narrow stairs down a deep gorge to a lonely temple in a rainforest-river setting.Walked out of the center, along the sparser houses, although central and southern Bali are never really uninhabited. Even if you find a road not lined, city to city, with houses, in the rice paddies the buildings are seldom more than 50m apart. Along the way we bought cooled water (1.5l for Rp4k) at one of the small shops/stalls owned by non-english speakers, which is only slightly more expensive than in the supermarket (generally, supermarkets are even more expensive for most goods in these, poorer, countries than markets or street vendors, or even hawkers in trains and buses). Each rice paddy has a shrine, almost all houses more elaborate ones, sometimes with multiple statues and small buildings, and every so often there is a fully fledged temple, with crazy statues and decorations galore. Bali is architecturally extremely interesting.

Back to the inn by 5pm, after a quick stop to get chow along the road - rice with green vegetables (beans, chili, onions) and soy sauce for D, mine had fish, egg and pressed soy beans added, for Rp5k and 8k.

Wednesday: To market, mostly touristy stalls full of batik clothes, watches, jewellery (local and international styles), and wood- and ivory carvings. Some fruit and food stalls, got a delicious meal with some kind of dark, sweet(ened?) rice.

Coconut at Goa Gajah. That's the life.

The "Elephant"

Walked 5km, more or less, to Goa Gajah , the Elephant Cave, were some obviously benighted person mistook a quite human demon face around the entrance for an elephant. The temple precinct is quite expansive, lots of pathways through the rainforest. A ten minute walk to a temple ruin in a river down a gorge is especially worthwhile.

The walk to and from Goa Gajah was interesting for the views of Bali we got, but not particularly pleasant, the traffic being heavy on the road not designed for pedestrians.

Thursday: Found good coffee and mango juice at a Warung on the way to the market (3k and 8k, respectively. Fruit juices get a lot cheaper off Bali). Visited the Sacred Monkey Forest, a small forest overrun with makaques being fed by visitors. There also are 3 temples there, with multi-day ceremonies going on right now, but tourists are barred from the temple grounds during prayer times. Nice setting, though, and watching the makaques was good fun (entry Rp20k).With their beards, they look quite human. Being used to us means they will jump at bags that contain food, and we saw several instances of water bottles being stolen. Often, they don't know how to use them, but every so often, you see a monkey that can drink in a human way. We ourselves lost a mango we just had bought from the market to a monkey while debating, in front of the forest, if we should enter with our fruits despite the warnings...

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