Blissed out in Bali
After the intensity of Yogyakarta and Java, our week in Bali felt almost like a vacation. It was about 15F cooler than Java both on the coast and in the mountains, so for the first time on the trip we weren’t drenched in sweat from dawn to dusk. We weren’t gawked at like we had three head as on Javas. The insane traffic and seething human population was far less evident. There was much more of a sense of art and culture . Indeed, the entry into Bali’s International Airport from the runway was framed by a huge, ornate, koi-filled pura, a Balinense Hindu temple. There were digital displays reminding arrivals that they were in Bali and duty-free stores out the wazoo. The bling stood in stark contrast to the outdated, tiny airport in Yogyakarta.
Bali is partial to gigantic public art installations, such as the huge white statues of Hindu Gods and Heroes along the main highway leading out of the Denpasar Int’l Airport.
We started in trendy, upscale Ubud, where half the people we saw were Western tourists. And half of those looked like they had just come off a fashion runway or a movie set. Lots of beautiful boutiques selling local art and sculpture, but also a lot of International brands. We counted five (!) Polo/Ralph Lauren shops. Maybe Ralph’s frequent visitor and likes to see his name on the town? We opted to stay in a villa in Jungjugan, one of the many rice-farming villages surrounding Ubud—turned out to be a good move. Our villa was beautiful and quiet; Ubud is artsy and hip but very noisy and busy—subject to scooter-dominated, anything goes traffic like Java.
Ubud Highlights included great food (Including excellent Indian at Ganesha Ek Sanskriti, and our first really good Tex-Mex in Asia at Taco Casa), and beautiful countryside featuring rice paddies and a popular waterfall.
We also spent a morning at the Monkey Forest, which was an experience not for the faint of heart. Monkeys occupy a special place in Hindu mythology—the monkey God Hanuman once helped Rama (an incarnation of God) by dropping a mountain on his enemies. In the Monkey Forest a huge pura is dedicated to the monkeys which live in the forest surrounding it, which is now home to more hundreds of long tailed Macaques from five different family units. There are conflicts between the families and the monkeys can be aggressive with one another and with humans. Fin took a nip on his shoulder from an unfriendly Macaque, and one big male decided Whit needed to see a display of his massive canines after Whit moved his tail off his foot. No harm done, but the monkeys aren’t exactly house pets.