Stay longer than a day, she said. Ubud has a lot to offer, she said. That’s mostly true—the crowd here is different than down at the beaches of the south. Young and fit backpackers or wealthy pensioners, shipped in with air-conditioned coaches. And monkeys, so keep your food stashed safely.
Ubud landed at the top of Milena’s Bali checklist after she read Eat, Pray, Love, because it was home to Ketut Liyer—the book heroine’s spiritual guide and healer. Turns out, Ketut played a trick on us and passed away back in June. Perhaps for the better so, since we would’ve surely died from the heat waiting in line to see him. The queues apparently became unwieldy following the book’s and film’s success.
Sudden passings notwithstanding, Lonely Planet dedicated considerable space to cover Ubud, so there were clearly other reasons to drop by. So we did, staying overnight at the delightfully hospitable Baruna Guest House, slightly off the center, right next to an active temple that afforded us a 6AM wake-up call with ten minutes of overtone prayers and chanting.
First ones on the list were the monkeys. Balinese macaques—sweet little devils chilling in the Sacred Monkey Forest as if there’s nothing in the world that could ever bother them. Highly misleading. We were asked to pocket our jewelry, leave any food we may have outside the gates and never, ever touch the animals. Even so, one of the monkeys took interest in Milena’s water bottle, but luckily wasn’t too persistent in pursuing it.
Downtown Ubud is dense and busy. No wonder real-estate prices here are second only to Kuta’s. Three narrow streets, part filled with parking scooters, the remaining space taken up by a constant stream of passing cars, motorbikes and occasional coaches. Tons of restaurants, cafés, shops and every ten meters a man offering taxi services to the throngs of passing tourists.
The Art Market afforded us a chance to practice our bargaining skills and I daresay we came out reasonably well. Paid half of the original asking price and close to what the items should fairly cost. My fear with these negotiations is always that I’ll either:
- start too high, anchored by the shopkeeper’s asking price, and end up overpaying, or
- bid too low and offend the other party.
(1) can easily be managed by watching out for the anchoring bias, and (2) seems to be an overblown fear in countries, where bargaining is the norm and the shopkeeper wants to sell. I might end up enjoying the process in the end.
Other than a stroll around town, that’s pretty much all we found for sightseeing in Ubud itself. There was a Kecak Dance performance in the evening at the Ubud Palace (as advertised to us by at least four persons selling tickets in the street), which we might’ve considered attending if it wasn’t this obviously tourist-oriented and grossly overpriced.
Off to see the greens then, we were. Located north of town is the Tegalalang rice terrace—second best rice terrace in Bali, we were told (“number one” being and hour and a half further into the island—an escapade we chose to pass on). It’s a very pleasing sight. Layers of green, stacked one atop the other, with a finishing of palm trees touching the pale, blue sky.
The terraces can be climbed, if only to get a better angle for the photos, providing one’s prepared to walk a steep, narrow path down and up, doesn’t mind passing through a few piles of trash from the local restaurants, and is prepared to pay up at several booths requesting “donations” for the upkeep of the hill. The name’s misleading—they won’t let anyone through without payment, at every post you’re passing.
Heading back to Sanur, we wet our feet at another one of Bali’s green wonders—the Tegenungan waterfall. Again, apparently the second most beautiful waterfall around, but we didn’t catch which one was first.
Most of the visitors opt for dipping their whole bodies in the pond where the water splashes into, and for good reason—the water is pleasantly cool, unlike the shallow seawater at the beaches, which resembles a warm tub and offers little relief from the daily heat.
We’re back in Sanur, with its local, expat-friendly vibe, plotting our next moves. After seeing the land, it’s probably time to descend underwater.