A Few Days in Ubud
Days 245-248 (March 29-April 1):
After Nyepi was over and we were allowed to travel again, we headed north into the center of the country to visit the town of Ubud. Ubud is known for its handicrafts, rice-paddies, and laid-back bohemian vibe. The temporary nomads split up as far as our lodging during this time, Katie and Justin opting to stay at an awesome resort on the outskirts of town and Adam and I opting to stay at a smaller boutique place just off the main drag. We were to split up a couple days in, with Adam and I heading north to Amed after a few extra days in Ubud, and Katie and Justin setting off for the island of Gili Trawangan (or Gili T). But we made the best of our time together in this idyllic little town.
We spent our first few days in town hanging out together. We decided to relax our first day in town, arriving a bit late and wanting to get a feel for the place before we began our adventures. After filling our bellies, we opted to sign up for a sunrise volcano hike up Mt. Batur for the following morning. We were picked up from our hotel at 3:30 a.m. and driven to a small lodge where we downed tea and fried bananas before beginning our trek. We met our guide, who looked to be no older than fifteen, and began the hike. It was pitch black most of the way up. In fact, all we could see was a line of headlamps stretching up along the path to the top of the volcano like a glowing trail of ants. We followed that trail until we reached the lip of the volcano and waited for sunrise. As the light slowly grew, stretching over the lake in the basin and the blackened lava field from its most recent eruption, we opened our brown paper bags to enjoy a light breakfast. Little did we know, this was an extremely popular spot for a group of brazen monkeys determined to share our snacks. These monkeys were so bold, in fact, when Katie pulled out her banana, one of them jumped straight on her back from behind causing her to scream and throw the banana down the hill beside her. I chuckled at the scene, but made sure to keep my own banana hidden after that. We walked around the lava field and the volcano’s craters before returning to the car and heading back to Ubud. For the most part, the rest of the day was spent relaxing by the pool and eating. Adam and I opted to do a small hike from town called the Campuhan Ridge Walk before sunset, enjoying the jungle views and small rice paddies along the way, before returning to town for some shut-eye.
We all decided the next day to meet at Pura Tirta Empul outside town. We wanted to see one of the temples the locals used for their water purification rituals. We donned our sarongs (yes, all four of us) and wandered around the temple, taking in the ambiance and watching the Balinese people going through the ritual, moving from spout to spout. Afterwards, we drove through the jungle on some back roads to the Tegallalang Rice Terraces. We got there earlier in the morning, before they were busy. It was perfect. The soft light of the morning made for great pictures, and the lack of crowds made it easy to navigate the narrow paths. It was like something out of a movie. The paddies are so vibrantly green it looks fake, and the terraces provide structure to the color. I thoroughly enjoyed this stop. We spent almost two hours wandering around the different trails before heading back to the scooters. We took our time riding back to Ubud, stopping at a couple handicraft shops to examine the locals work. We also had some of the best Mexican food we have had outside of the United States at a place called Taco Casa, so if you are ever in the area and craving something different from the local cuisine, I seriously recommend it.
The next day, Katie and Justin left for Gili, and Adam and I stayed for a couple more days to enjoy the great vibe of this little Indonesian town. During our extra time there we visited the monkey forest, which I thought was awesome. We had heard some mixed reviews of the place and it was a bit expensive to visit for Bali at $10 per person, but we thought it sounded neat. I liked the idea that it was a kind of sanctuary for the monkeys, but that they were free to travel in and out of it as they pleased. We got to observe some really interesting monkey behaviors, our favorite being watching a group of teenagers horse playing on the ground, one of whom stole my map out of my hand and then sat down and attempted to read it. I also had one of them climb up my back and onto my shoulders, eager to examine the contents of my hair. You could pay for bananas to feed them, but we chose not to as I don’t always condone this practice when it involves wild animals. But the park itself was gorgeous and is worth a visit even if you are just looking for a nice walk.
We also paid a quick visit to the Tegenungan Waterfall. If you have some extra time in Ubud it may be worth seeing, but I would not rank it above anything else we did there. And that includes just walking around town. We visited the central market, where Adam once again added to his impressive watch collection and made a game of counting the number of Polo stores (in case you are wondering there are seven (7!) just in Ubud). Overall, Ubud is all about being chilled out. You don’t rush to do anything; you just enjoy your surroundings. And that’s what we tried to do with our time here.