Jalan Ubud & Monkey Forest Road
"Jalan" is Bahasa Indonesia for street, and jalan-jalan is an oft-used phrase to ward off taxi drivers, meaning "just walking." When in Ubud one does a great deal of walking, and a sizeable portion of this walking is up and down these two major streets, combing the shops for bargains. They aren't difficult to find, as the recent slowdown in tourism since has produced spectacular deals on crafts as well as accommodations. What to purchase in Ubud? Well, shops such as those shown on the left stock a dizzyingly wide variety of baskets, wooden carvings, ikat textiles, paintings, and silver jewelry. [A note to friends and family members: while there were bargains to be had, rest assured that we spared no expense procuring your gifts, literally looting the villas of several royal families in an effort to secure only the very best]. While bargaining has always been a large part of the shopping culture in Bali, this time 'round it was largely unnecessary. Prices were lower than they were ten years ago. One of the best places to shop (not surprisingly) is our host's shop, Murni's Warung, listed in all the guidebooks. Naturally, tasks this physically demanding generate a healthy appetite. In addition to Murni's Warung, our favorite dining spot was The Lotus Cafe (a view from our corner table is shown uppwe left) which offered a variety of both western (mushroom ravioli to die for!) and Balinese cuisine. Lunch or dinner for two, complete with appetizer, entree, dessert and a bottle of wine can set you back all of USD 30! While there are people on the street hawking their wares and entreating you to visit their shops, the atmosphere generally remains friendly and low-key. The picture at the lower left shows two friendly schoolgirls who stopped to chat on their way home for lunch. One of the truly serendipitous experiences is captured on the right, a religious processional to a nearby temple. These are frequent, and take many forms--a ceremony anticipating the new year, a temple blessing, a tooth-filling ceremony. I was on my way down the hill to meet Tracy at Murni's Warung following her message, and when I turned the corner, I ran into this processional returning from the temple.
Balinese Culture: Gamelan Music and
Two very distinctive Balinese art forms are the highly stylized dances and the beautiful gamelan music produced from gongs of various sizes. One evening we ventured back to the Lotus Cafe to see the Legong Dance, with Gamelan playing. The performance was held at the Taman Puri Saraswati temple adjacent to the Lotus Cafe, shown in a photo above. The picture at the left shows the same setting at night, as it appeared during the performance The photo at the right captures a dance from the performance. Below is a short video of a Legong dance.
The Countryside: Temples, Desas, and Rice
There are numerous walks from Ubud out into the countryside. Barely a kilometer out of town the shops and cafes give way to more traditional Balinese life. While most families are in some way connected to the crafts industry and tourism, most of these craftsmen are members of families that remain tied to the traditional agricultural way of life. The walks take you from village to village along roads accessible only by foot, a patchwork of villages separated by rice fields, each with its own temple. This particular walk began beside a temple at the outskirts of Ubud. There are striking similarities between the temples; they are usually constructed from orange-colored brick, and are accessible through huge stone arches (photo at left). Inside, the temple is a series of small pavillions and shrines (the photo to the right). Consistent with the spirit of animism, Balinese religion is not limited to the temples, but is woven into all aspects of their lives. At Murni's (and everywhere else one goes) one can always find incense and offerings--on shop steps, at small shrines at home, on the thresholds of restaurants and shops. The photo at the bottom right shows the detail of the carvings that line the wall of the temple. Below is a diagram of a typical Balinese temple, showing the Jaba or outer courtyard at the bottom, the Jaba Tenga or middle courtyard next, and the Jeroan or innermost (sacred) courtyard at the top.
is no sight more typically Balinese than that of rice paddies ringed by
palm trees. The ten kilometer walk from Ubud to the tiny desa of
(home of the cottage industry involving painted wooden flowers) was
with the views of people laboring in the fields. It is back-breaking
that requires constant care, a livelihood which involves the
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