On May 1st, at 10am, we left Australia with one backpack each to last us the next 8 months. 6 hours later, we arrived in Kuta, Bali – immediately decided it wasn’t our scene and the next day we paid $5 each for the privilege of being crammed, with 9 other people, into a 7 seater minivan for the hour and a half drive to Ubud.
Ubud is Bali’s Byron Bay. There is a yoga studio on every corner, organic cafes all around the place, organic soap, organic biscuits, organic coffee, organic… everything. For people less Eat Pray Love-ish (Brad and I included) there are the usual shops that sell the usual cheap trinkets to tourists, but there are also stores that sell beautiful, handmade, exquisite local crafts that you would own for a lifetime. There are art galleries everywhere, and, between organic cafes, there are enough warungs that it’s still easy to find a meal for somewhere between AUD$1 – $2.50, and between health retreats there are enough home stays that it is almost difficult to find accommodation for more than $10 or $15 a night. The pathways in Ubud (like, I believe, everywhere in Bali) are scattered with tiny baskets of offerings, which at some point you will invariably step on – although we were assured that once the incense in the offering has burned, it no longer matters if they are accidentally kicked. The pathways, shops, roads and warungs are scattered with dogs, however (unlike, I believe, everywhere in Bali) there also seems to be a bit of an animal welfare movement, and most of the dogs you see, while probably mangy, are generally collared and fed.
And, there is also the Monkey Forest Sanctuary, which is a fun draw card. Even without the monkeys the Sanctuary would be worth seeing. The temples, like so many of Bali’s old temples, look like scenes out of Avatar. Everything about the forest looks huge and other-worldly in a way that only forests in the tropics can.
Add the monkeys though, and everything gets hilarious. Before entering we were warned by a giant sign to refrain from feeding the monkeys, and definitely not to let them climb on us. Of course, as soon as we walked in, the staff were not only selling us bananas to feed the monkeys, but also encouraging them to climb on us. They’d even trained them to.
Until today, Brad and I have been exploring Ubud on our own, but today, we found Madi. Madi is a wonderful guide, and, for all you single white ladies, he has a self confessed weakness for western women. First, he took us to a temple, which I don’t even a little bit remember the name of (live update: Brad found the ticket, it’s called Gunung Kawi), which was built in the 11th century. Well, if we’re being honest, it wasn’t ‘built’ so much as carved out of mountain.
Then we went to drink some poo!
Let me explain that further, you may have heard of a type of fancy coffee made from civet poo. We drank that.
Okay, let me explain further still. The civet eats coffee beans, some fermentation occurs during digestion, and then poops the coffee beans. The beans are then cleaned, dried, roasted, peeled and then ground, and entirely unlikely to contain e-coli. We also tried various other teas and coffees that weren’t, as far as I know, formally residing in anything’s colon.
Finally, we went and saw the rice terraces at Tegallalang, which are just cool, and pretty, and somehow I’m happier knowing they exist.
Also, for anyone heading to Ubud, this is Madi:
His full name is I Made Sudira, he’s great value, a lot of fun, and, if you ask very nicely, he will climb a tree. So, if you’re in Ubud and in need of guide (or just a western lady romantically inclined) his number is 081999334502 and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org