Arrival in Ubud
The mini van to Ubud actually picked us up at Samsara and then had to putter its way through the bumper to bumper traffic that could always be found on Jalan Legian. The drive to the island’s interior showed another side of Balinese life, almost as soon as we got away from the tourist heavy streets of the Kuta area. Temples became more abundant and small shrines lined the streets and neighborhoods. The road to Ubud is lined with vast outdoor stores, selling statues of gods and goddesses, of every size and shape. Some are already covered in a gentle fur of green moss, while others are polished and shiny. Orchids and lush greenery became the scenery and it was evident that we were on a fertile and thriving island.
We arrived in Ubud, a bit disoriented and it took quite a while to find Sania’s House, the guesthouse I had chosen from the Lonely Planet. But the walk and time was well worth it. Never sure what a place will be like, Sania’s was one of those little gems that shines above the rest. It was a family compound with several private bungalows. The LP I think used the words “Babylon” to describe the property and would say that is not an exaggeration. Our private bungalow, with 4 poster bed, private bath and porch was really a dream. Not wanting to leave, but feeling hungry and antsy to find anything I recognized, we set out. The alley led straight to the market and the Palace. We ate, we bought tickets for the nights Barong dance performance and we just enjoyed the beauty and tranquility that permeates this place.
The night’s dance performance was at the Water Lilly temple, a beautiful temple on the main road. The light mist of rain at times grew in fortitude, but the dancing persisted and the audience simply covered up their digital equipment. The dancers, the whites of their eyes, the colors of their costumes, the almost mechanical hand motions and the methodical dance moves were intoxicating. The clinging of the traditional instruments made a light and almost ethereal sound, making the evening a perfect introduction to the mysticism that permeates Balinese culture. Ubud is not a place of wild partying or bar hopping, so instead we waited out the rain shower that followed and then headed back to Sania’s.
Bike ride in the rain
It was not the best day to go on a bike tour – really it sucked. We were hopeful and optimistic at first, even though we packed our rain jackets. We were again picked up for the tour and then headed out to pick up the three other participants for the trip. The early morning drive to the restaurant overlooking Lake Batur gave us a glimpse to the world waking up in Bali. We stopped at the cascading rice patties etched into the hill and were able to observe them without the usual hawkers selling sarongs and handicrafts. Breakfast was enjoyed overlooking the lake and the active volcano. The clouds were darkening and hanging low, though we hoped they would just stay there. We visited an “organic” plantation and coffee grower – showing us the cottage industries that are sustaining Balinese life. Our guide was well informed and engaging – pure Balinese hospitality at every moment. We finally reached the location at which we boarded the bikes and as we got out of the van, the first drops started. And then they just kept on going. We chose bikes, helmets and rain gear (of the latter there was none left for the two of us) so we braved the wet roads without protective gear. At first it was fun, then it was wet, then it was miserable – but mostly it was unfortunate because we missed the gaggles of children who usually greet biking tourists and the locals who go about their daily activities without paying them much heed. A few shining faces waved from underneath the awnings, while a few braver ones ran to the streets shouting “Hello, hello” and slapping a high five. There is something special about how these children say hello in English – if you only heard it you would know that there were smiling from ear to ear.
We toured a family compound in the rain and saw the weaving that creates the material that makes the ceiling in traditional homes. We learned how important family is to the Balinese and what happens when you are not willing to be part of the community. We saw women gathered together, braiding flower offerings and chatting about world affairs, or perhaps complaining about their husbands. It was not the perfect day to explore the rice paddies or experience Ubud, but somehow it was still sweet.
We were dropped off at the Monkey Forest Sanctuary and it was as I remembered. The monkeys are revered and treasured as holy and they have no problem grabbing a whole clump of bananas out of your hand. They rule the land, you can feel it.
Sacred Monkey Forest Temple - Mandala Wisata Wenara Wana
According to Balineese Hindu philosophy, peace and liberty are obtainable in our lives when we respect and observe the tree harmonious relationships known as the Tri Hata Karana doctrine:
1. The Gods blessed life and created nature and all of its contents
2. Nature offers sustenance to support the needs and activities of human beings
3. Human beings have an obligation to establish a traditional village structure, to build temples in which to worship, to hold various ceremonies, to make daily offering, to preserve nature and to solve problems together.
This doctrine can be seen practiced during many special ceremonies, like those that take place in the Monkey forest, honoring the forest (Tumpek Kandang) and all of plant life (Tumpek Nguduh).
The Balinese Macaques
There are over 300 monkeys living in the sanctuary: 35 adult males, 95 adult females and 170 youth, each with its own territory, that moves throughout the forest at differing times in the day.
They are matrilinear and life for the monkeys is determined by different groups of females.
Itis of the utmost importance to treat the monkeys with respect: it is their forest and we only visitors. These monkeys are very imporatnt to Balinese culture and this imporatnce is reflected in the many dances, statues, carvings and traditional stories.