After our arrival at the airport in Denpasar, we hired a taxi to take us to Ubud, a traditional town in the mountains north of Denpasar. Ubud is known for its crafts, temples, markets and home of the royal palace.
We arrived at the Dewangga Bungalows, in the center of Ubud, after a harried drive of about two hours. Once checked in and settled, we took a walk around Ubud, to get acquainted with our surroundings. Our initial reaction to Ubud was one of shell shock - we had expected a serene, zen-like village with yoga studios and art galleries, but what we found was a bustling community, crowded and touristy, full of scooters and cars whizzing by everywhich way.
Not far from our hotel was the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. We spent several hours walking through the lush and enormous park full of entertaining monkeys. At times it was hard to tell who was the observer because often, monkeys would sit and stare at the humans passing by. Sometimes they’d sneak up on an unsuspecting woman and try to snatch something out of her purse. We really enjoyed the sanctuary.
We had arranged for Nyoman to pick us up for a day’s journey to the areas surrounding Ubud. We visited the Nungnung Waterfalls, then drove to the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple (which resides on Lake Beratan) and lastly, drove to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Jatiluwih Rice Terrace, where we walked along the lush rice fields.
The next day we took it easy, walking through the main market and later in the evening visiting Ubud’s temple. We had lunch at a restaurant Nyoman had recommended - the Warung Babi Gulung. The restaurant is known for “Babi Gulung” or suckling pig, serving only lunch. They prepare one pig a day, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.
The temple in Ubud was holding the monthly full moon ceremonies. To enter men needed to wear a sarong, a colorful sash-like belt and a cap. Considering the ceremony was held monthly, it looked like quite an undertaking. Afterwards, the people all gathered to eat.
The next day, Nyoman again picked us up for some more adventures. First on the list was the Mas village, the center of the furniture and wood carving crafts. We had hoped to find a dining room table to ship home. However, we never found anything that suited our taste. Afterwards, we then stopped at a huge and impressive batik store.
Next, we went to the 9th century temple of Goa Gajah. The compound has a cave, known as the Elephant Cave and a pool in which there are statues of women holding urns that pour water. As you approach the cave you can see eerie looking faces carved at the entrance of the cave that are meant to ward off evil spirits. Inside the cave it was pretty dark and smoky from the incense. It had a mystical feel to it. Note the photo stating that women who are menstruating should not enter the temple.
The last place we visited with Nyoman was also a temple. Founded in the 10th century, the Tirta Empul temple is known for its holy water spring that, to this day, produces water. People bathe in it for cleansing of the soul. The spring water eventually finds its way to nourish the rice fields.
Nyoman wanted to take us to yet another temple, but it required walking up about 750 steps. It was hot and it had been a long day. We were templed out and opted for the comforts of our serene cottage with a pool.