17.03.2010 - 22.03.2010
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Ubud is a very new age, shop til you drop town, with an assortment of foreign restaurants, health food stores, yoga centers and spas. There are many small boutiques, art galleries, fabric stores, and even chain outlets such as Ralph Lauren. We saw more Americans here than in any other part of our travels, and there seem to be a significant number of folks who spend the winter. For me it would be too touristy and too hot, but at the same time, there is a vibrant cultural life , with dance and music performances almost every night, several good museums, and opportunities to take arts and craft courses.
The main streets are jammed with motorbikes and people, though nearby Monkey Forest is calm and serene, especially in the morning. This is true unless you happen to be carrying a bunch of bananas, in which case the monkeys consider you fair game.
There is a stream running through the park, and many stone sculptures.
On one day, while Nanette took a batik class, I went on a bicycle tour. After we were dropped off by the van, it was blissfully all downhill. I was the only customer as Dewa had recently started his own company. We began with breakfast at a restaurant over looking two very green volcanoes. The lower one had a major eruption in 1975 killing thousands, and I could just about make out the lava track.
The higher of the two, Gunung Agung, was mostly in the clouds.
It was partially overcast for most of the ride, helping to shield us from the hot, tropical sun. The narrow road was bumpy, though mostly paved with little traffic, and led through rice fields and villages. Each village had three temples, Dewa explained, one for Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
We had a couple of intentional detours through narrow dirt tracks in the jungle, as an added thrill, and wound up back in Ubud for a Balinese lunch at the family compound, prepared by Dewa's wife. Just now I am sitting on my terrace back at Raka's place, overlooking the gardens and koi pond, surrounded by banana palms and other broad leafed vegetation. I gaze out at sea of rust colored terra cotta roofs as a cool, moisture laden breeze blows, and the first shower since the beginning of our trip in Burma, falls gently from the sky.
That evening we attended a dance performance. The first part was a retelling of the Ramayana.
The second and very spectacular Trance Dance was next, with one dancer scampering and jumping amidst burning coconut shells for what seemed like 20 minutes.