We’re back in Bali. We’re back in Ubud. In fact we are back in the very same, beautiful joglo (Balinese teak house) where we ended our stay in Ubud last year.
Bali has remained one of those places that make up, collectively, our home in Asia. After 18 months of travel in 2013-2014, we declared several places our “home”. These were Hoi An, Viet Nam; Luang Prabang, Laos; Pushkar, India; and Ubud, Bali. And so it is with some trepidation and excitement that we return. Will Bali be as magical as it was the first time around?
We anchored our fond memories of Bali around the Balinese spiritual life and its aesthetic manifestations, such as the architecture, the daily offerings and the rich ceremonial life that one encounters every day; It was also about the amazing food we remember having in Ubud – a mecca of creative, healthy, delicious vegetarian food. Add to this the multitude of yoga, massage and related activities, and we had a near perfect potential home base. What took it over the top for us, was the Sacred Monkey Forest, as we are both passionate animal lovers.
So, it is time for us to revisit Ubud and to branch out to other parts of the beautiful island. We haven’t decided how long we’ll stay or where exactly we’ll go. We are reminded of Lao Tzu (Tao Philosopher)’s observation ““A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” This sure fits our way of traveling.
The heat and tropical humidity are a surprise after the temperate climates we have just experienced in Myanmar and Thailand. Still omnipresent in Ubud is the loud symphony of frogs and toads, crickets, and other nocturnal insects – Even louder than we remember. We recall the smell of incense and sticky rice lingering in the air from the small offerings that are put out during the day.
Our jewel-box of a mini-house.
Ahh we are back! Chilling on the front porch of the little teak home with its faded painted wood and carvings.
This is the view from the front door ~ Tropical lush green foliage all around the little house, rice fields are the front and back “gardens”.
The deep intensity of the greens, and the humidity are like a thick blanket which envelops us as we walk along the path to a nearby small restaurant we frequented last time.
Balinese Spiritual life ~ Frangipani flower offerings
An anomaly in the archipelago of Indonesian Islands, Bali is the only island which is primarily Hindu Buddhist, while the rest of Indonesia is primarily Muslim. Balinese Hinduism is central and core to all activities and all daily life.
Offerings are not limited to temples and statues of gods and goddesses. In fact, they are ubiquitous. The practicality of offerings translates to every day need for protection. Witness our motorbike in the morning, which has been properly blessed for the day:
These “Canang Sari” are small miniature baskets of woven palm leaves, filled with flowers and or flower petals, rice or other small treats, and accompanied by incense sticks. Everywhere in Bali, there is a combination of remnants, and of fresh offerings (“canang”) on the ground, on sculptures of the gods, inside shrines small and large.
The offerings are made daily at the market place and piled up high in their different shapes and configurations from square, circular and shaped like a flower. The market sells brightly colored flowers, all intended as part of the offering basket. Offering woven baskets are also made at the open air temples and in people’s homes.
It’s all about appeasing the spirits and keeping bad spirits at bay. Deities are omnipresent. Almost all homes have their own temples, small or large, they are the most important component to a dwelling. Many have two sculptures at the entrance, often quite scary looking, which are intended to scare off the bad spirits.
We never tire of watching and feeling the intensity of spirituality that is so very present and so much an integral part of life here.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” (Hippocrates)
Ubud has long been recognized as a center of health and medicine. Starting in the 8th Century, the town became important as a source of medicinal herbs and plants ~ “Ubad” in Balinese language means medicine, and thus the noun “Ubud”.
Peta is passionate about securing an organic, fresh (live) food source, wherever we are. This is not always easy, especially when you are traveling. We always manage to find fruit and vegetables but nowhere in the world has achieved the level of culinary creativity for health-conscious eaters as Ubud. There is a multitude of choices, commensurate with the thriving yogi community that congregates in Ubud. It seems as though every restaurant has a full menu of juices, health drinks, organic teas and elixirs. That’s just the beginning. Want cappuccino? Would you like it with almond milk? cashew milk? or coconut milk?
Lest you think that Ben is eating only raw vegan food, think again. Duck and suckling pig are specialties in Balinese gastronomy. There are many types of duck preparation (smoked being the most famed and taking the longest to prepare) and suckling pig is often incorporated into ceremonies and celebrations.
“Betutu” ~ Fried duck, mixed rice, crunchy vegs, curry, condiments, crunchy toppings, chili sauce. Classic Balinese dish. Delicious!
The setting for many of Ubud’s restaurants are worth noting. Some of our favorites have views of rice paddies, most are open air. There is floor seating on pillows in almost every restaurant, perfect for chilling when waiting for your “slow food”.
And then there’s the yoga and yogi culture that is at the core of Ubud.
Three yoga studios, the largest and most well known being “The Yoga Barn”. Classes are scheduled every hour of the day. It’s become more crowded and there is less a feeling of yoga community now and more one of a yoga factory. Still, it’s great to have the flexibility and selection of times and types of yoga. If you miss one, no worry, there is another one and another. We take full advantage of the classes as well as an evening of Tibetan gong meditation. We enjoy movie night ~ lying on yoga mats in the open air huge studio watching Yangsi, a movie about the life of a young child, recognized by leading Tibetan monks as the reincarnation of a revered former master/monk, in Buthan.
Life is good in Ubud. Stress free days where the only decisions are which yoga class to take, what healthy concoction to consume and what type of $15-20 massage to have.
Another magnetic pull for both of us in Ubud, as passionate animal lovers, is the Sacred Monkey Forest, which is right in the center of the town. (But that’s the next blog post).
So… how is Ubud faring the second time around? Still resonates. Still feels like a place we can spend extended time in. No doubt we will be back.