All in all, I had a love/hate relationship with Bali. The good things were brilliant, yet the bad things were awful and nearly ruined my whole experience. I have already chronicled the good, the bad, and the ugly from my time in Bali, but now I want to focus more on the spiritual heart of the island: Ubud.
I am not religious myself, but I find myself fascinated nonetheless with Balinese culture and its omnipresent Hinduism – not to mention their reverence towards Hanuman: God of the Monkeys! It’s amazing that there are statues of monkeys everywhere in Ubud, and all around Bali in general!
You should always visit the local marketplace when you go travelling to immerse yourself in the atmosphere. In Ubud, the sights and smells are quite unlike much of the rest of Bali, and I suspect unlike most of Indonesia as a whole. There are two major Balinese delicacies that I enjoyed: Babi Guling, which is spit-roasted piglet, and Bebek Betutu, which is roast duck cooked with an added spicy twist. In any market in Ubud you can better your bottom Rupiah that someone will be offering these two dishes for you, and with Bebek Betutu in particular you can eat it on the move as you carry on browsing the souvenir stalls! Keep a look out!
The Ayung River runs straight through most of Ubud and is the longest river in Bali. I had heard about white water rafting here, but on this occasion I was happy to stay dry and enjoy my stroll along the river’s edge.
I had noticed on TripAdvisor that the Campuhan Ridge Walk is one of the top-rated things to do in Ubud, so I took no time at all in arranging a tour with my hostel soon after I arrived in the area. It was a great walk to see the rural Ubud countryside. One of the iconic sights of Bali is the rice paddies, and nowhere on the island can you see them in more resplendence than in Ubud. They looked amazing!
There are many things to do in Ubud, apart from admire the scenery, such as visiting some of the innumerable Hindu temples. Some are more rewarding than others. Do not visit Pura Besakih, as the temple has practically been taken over by the mafia who pressure tourists into “donating” money (which obviously goes straight into their pockets). I was hounded quite aggressively at Pura Besakih, although I pretended I was Chinese and began speaking Mandarin, which eventually thwarted their persistence and thus they went to pester someone else. Other temples in the area such as Goa Gajah, Pura Saraswati, and the serene Taman Ayun are amazing and you should make an effort to see them – remember to ask if you can keep the sarong you used as a memory!
You cannot come to Ubud and not take a few photos of the local farmers using their cows to plough through the land. It is one of the iconic sights of the whole area!
As noted before, monkeys are revered in Hindu culture, and one of its gods is Hanuman, who is depicted as a central character in the Hindu epic Ramayana. So in central Ubud, there is a piece of primary rainforest where a sacred monkey kingdom exists. Tourists can walk freely in and out of the forest as they please, but be warned that the monkeys are also roaming around freely, and have been known to sit on people’s heads and steal their food! I was always wary of the monkeys, but some of them were eyeing up my camera, so I didn’t stay long in case I was ‘attacked’! I also wonder about the morals of tourism in Ubud’s Monkey Forest.
I thought the traditional Kecak dance of Ubud was amazing. It is mainly performed by men although apparently some women have been recently incorporated into this traditional Balinese pastime. The spiritual ramifications of this Kecak dance I do not know about, but it was wonderful to witness.