Reminiscent of a scene from the Jungle Book we arrived at the Township called Ubud- inland Bali. Many colour greens surround you and compete for your eyes with lush rice- paddies- the many fruit and palm trees and the cheeky wild monkeys running loose from Monkey Forest. We stayed at a great little spot called Frog Pond Inn off the main street- Monkey Forest Road. Not a traditional inn as a Westerner would recognize but a collection of 8 small Hindu- style bungalow rooms with stunning outdoor bathrooms. Ubud is known for two things- firstly the monkeys and temples of Monkey Forest and secondly its arts and crafts. With many art galleries and shops with original paintings (no fakes) with artistic talent beyond anything I could conjure up it is hard to resist buying one. In the end I managed to barter for five beautiful pieces of art all representing different scenes of Indonesian life: All originals with exceptional talent behind them. As my Nan is an artist this is a place she would love with amazing art- galleries on every corner (so as a treat I have picked up an original painting for her). The first night we arrived we booked to see the Royal Ballet perform Lebong Dance at the Royal Palace: Immense colours of reds- oranges and gold’s with “dolled- up” dancers telling traditional Hindu stories. The beauty on show here is a sight to behold with the traditional musicians beating away at their chimes and drums dressed all in red. It literally is eye- popping so sit back- relax and enjoy. From Ubud we originally planned to climb Mount Agung and Mount Batur however as far as Mountains and adventure go they were a tad disappointing. Due to roads leading to near the tops then just a small walk to the top this was far from what I was expecting and because of this we opted out. Instead we decided to do a cultural tour of Bali via a mountain bike trip. Weaving through the lush green rice- paddies with the volcanoes of Mount Batur and Mount Agung as our setting this really was a day to remember. Getting to see the real Bali away from the towns- seeing the traditional ceremonies taking place in the Hindu Temples and having small boys giving you high- fives as you cycle passed them this is defiantly a trip I would recommend. The tour is with Bali Cultural Tours and the two Balinese men taking the tour constantly keep you entertained (especially with their confused English). We stopped off at a coffee and cacao (cocoa bean) farm where we sampled the amazing coffees- rich chocolate and exotic fruits. The world’s most expensive coffee is here of which the coffee beans are excreted out of a Mongoose after they have eaten them. This supposedly gives the bean a richer taste? The one we preferred was the ginseng coffee; delicious. We cycled through small villages where amazingly intricate stone masonry and woodwork of traditional religious icons were being created in wooden- bamboo shacks with palm leaves as roofs. Pulling into a small art gallery in one of these villages we met a local famous artist mentioned in articles all around the world. Greeting us with coconuts with a straw in he showed us his art and the class he was mentoring to follow in his footsteps. To think such wonderful- beautiful art was being created in this small village of a third- world country. The art would then be sold to towns such as Ubud where tourists can pick them up. As an example a traditional religious scene taking the artist 6 months to paint could sell to a shroud bartering tourist in Ubud for 1million Rp (approx 60 English Pounds): Bargain! (see image below) On our final day we could not resist a trip to go white water rafting along the Agung River through the tropical jungle of Bali. With ancient Hindu carvings in the rocks as we tackled the rapids we finished the day off with a ride of rescued Sumatran elephants – it was what it was- amazing; the gracefulness of this lump of an animal with us being allowed to feed and walk with them finished off a great day, with lifelong memories.
Ubud is a must visit for anybody who goes to Bali just to soak up the realness of what this beautiful Island has to offer; which is much more than just beaches and sun.