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Archive for Scenery

Exploring Ubud

After getting a great first-taste of Bali with our tour, we decided to explore a little closer to home and see what the city of Ubud has to offer.

A leisurely morning stroll through Ubud’s hidden rice fields was a great start to the day. It was amazing how secluded and remote the countryside felt despite only being about 15 minutes from the city’s bustling main streets.

There's a well travelled walk through the rice terraces just off the main street in Bali, but you can take virtually any side street away from the centre and before long you will end up surrounded by views like this

There’s a well travelled walk through the rice terraces just off the main street in Bali, but you can take virtually any side street away from the centre and before long you will end up surrounded by views like this

We also had a quick look around at the many boutique shops and craft markets, but it seems if you don’t have the budget for splurging, there’s not much in the way of souvenirs besides the general novelty bottle-openers and fridge magnets.

We managed to find one pretty street that wasn't (quite) filled with tourist stalls

We managed to find one pretty street that wasn’t (quite) filled with tourist stalls

After a long morning of walking, we wanted to try and give our bodies a bit of a rest by sampling something that Bali (and Ubud in particular) is famous for – it’s massages.

Ubud is a good place for massages and beauty treatments as is full to the brim with spas. From full-on resorts with sweeping views of the rice terraces to a small back room in a shop off the main drag - there should be something for everyone

Ubud is a good place for massages and beauty treatments as is full to the brim with spas. From full-on resorts with sweeping views of the rice terraces to a small back room in a shop off the main drag – there should be something for everyone

Now, maybe we chose a bad place (or maybe I’m just not a massage kinda person) but it seemed that for every nice thing about the massage there was something not so nice that followed… After lulling me into a false sense of security with a soothing leg rub, I suddenly heard a great ‘thwak!’ and felt the sharp slap of pain as the masseuse gave a swift punch to the sole of my right foot. It brought me right back to earth with a thud. “Why is this woman hitting me??” I thought to myself. “Is this meant to be relaxing??”

I almost thought she’d lost it, until I heard an answering “thwak” across the room from Dale’s table. Then I couldn’t stop the giggles from bubbling out of my mouth, imagining what must be running through his mind too. Thankfully Dale managed to keep his composure (or had fallen asleep)…

Lots of places also offer interesting extras like flower petal baths, which look almost too pretty to climb into!

Lots of places also offer interesting extras like flower petal baths, which look almost too pretty to climb into!

Apparently Balinese massage is one of the more relaxing varieties – but it does include elements of reflexology and acupressure (that’s stretching and poking in layman’s terms). Besides yanking my shoulder blades, punching the soles of my feet and pulling my hair it was a nice experience and I did feel more calm and relaxed afterwards!

Something we were lucky to see while exploring the city was the preparation of the annual ceremony for Ubud’s Saraswati temple. We found out later that ceremonies like these are done every year to celebrate the ‘birthday’ of the temple.

It was amazing to see these ladies in beautiful traditional dress taking offerings – towering above their heads – into the temple everyday.

It was amazing to see these ladies in beautiful traditional dress taking offerings – towering above their heads – into the temple everyday.

That evening, we managed to get a seat in the Palace to watch the legong and barong dance, performed with the accompaniment of traditional Balinese Gamelan music. My favourite was definitely the legong dance – I’d never seen dancing like this anywhere before.

Every part of the body was involved in the dance, from the dancer's eyes to the tips of her toes!

Every part of the body was involved in the dance, from the dancer’s eyes to the tips of her toes!

It was refined and understated, with the dancers using every part of their body to make the strict and precise movements. From their expression and eyes right down to their fingertips and toes, every move was calculated and rehearsed. At times, the minute movements looked deceptively easy but I’m sure the training for this form of dance takes years.

In contrast to the small, modest movements of the dance, the costumes are beautiful and bright, with shining gold and vivid colours. Historically this dance would have been performed for the entertainment of royalty by young girls.

In contrast to the small, modest movements of the dance, the costumes are beautiful and bright, with shining gold and vivid colours. Historically this dance would have been performed for the entertainment of royalty by young girls.

Although it doesn’t have sandy beaches and flashy nightclubs of Bali tourist hubs like Kuta, it is clear to see that Ubud is a busy tourist town. It’s hard to imagine it without all the spas, shops and trendy cafes, but when talking to locals, we were told how Ubud has changed drastically (and relatively recently) with the boom of tourism.

‘Before it was very small’, we heard time and time again. ‘It was a village with mainly dirt roads and not much traffic’.
I wondered if the people here were unhappy about the change in their environment (thinking about how development and change often brings out the worst in people at home), but this concern was greeted with smiles and we were told: ‘In Bali we are positive people. Yes the city is bigger, there is more traffic and more people, but there is a good side to everything bad. The tourists share their money with us – tourism has given many a new life. We also get to share our traditions, so everyone can learn about Bali and our culture. We are thankful for this.’
Obviously we have a lot to learn from the genuine positivity of the Balinese.