Barongs and Sarongs
Trip Start Oct 12, 2010
84Trip End Mar 24, 2011
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Where I stayed
I've availed myself of all the Balinese hospitality and cultural pursuits that I could fit into a week and still had oodles of time to just lie back on my terrace and while away the hours reading too
Shopping could be a full time hobby here in Ubud - from window shopping at the fabulous galleries and craft stores that line the main streets to wandering around the Ubud Market in the heart of downtown where you are surrounded by colorful sarongs, scarves, baskets, bracelets, wooden statues and picture frames, cool summer clothes and local food. The bartering is gentle and good-natured, not aggressive or loud. The jewelry shops have beautiful silver pieces but also pearls and lots of wooden beads and trinkets. I especially liked the shops that sold Balinese puppets - marionnettes and shadow puppets on sticks - so very Bali and so intricate and beautiful.
One of the best things I did here this week was a day at a Balinese spa called Eve - what an incredible deal for a perfect day of pampering. I paid $45 Canadian which included 5 hours of spa services such as a lulur massage (massage, herbal scrub, yogurt slathering and bath in flower petals), a full facial, cream hair treatment and scalp massage, manicure, pedicure, fruit and tea snack and a full lunch and drink plus transfers to/from my hotel. Now, that's a deal! What a perfectly relaxing day. I felt like a limp noodle for the rest of the evening
I've also attended several dance performances - Balinese dances are the best! They usually tell stories from Balinese and Hindu mythology featuring King Rama and his queen, Sita with amazing costumes, beautiful dancing and gamelan music (the gamelan is a Balinese orchestra featuring drums, bells and a xylophone type instrument hit with a hammer). The first one I went to featured a Barong, which is a playful spirit that looks like a cross between a big shaggy dog and a dragon. There were lots of antics but the best part of that performance was the young girls doing a Balinese dance to welcome the audience members. These dances are characterized by beautiful costumes, precise hand and head movements and lots of flashing eyes. The second dance performance was really exciting - it was called a Kecak and Fire Trance dance. In the Kecak, rows of men sit around a fire chanting while other dancers and characters perform a story from mythology. This is set outside at night in a dramatic temple setting - very cool. Lastly I went to a Balinese shadow puppet performance. These use amazingly well made leather or paper puppets that perform stories from mythology behind a white screen and in front of a flame to create their shadows
I took an amazing cooking class mid-week which was so much fun and so informative. Again, for about $40 Canadian, you were picked up and dropped off at your hotel and throughout the day, we had a tour of the local Ubud market, a really informative tour of a rice paddy farm and then spent hours in an amazing outdoor kitchen in the jungle, creating and eating fabulous Balinese dishes. This was hosted by a lovely couple, Puspa and her husband Wayan who gave us a tour of their home where the cooking class was held and in so doing, also taught us about Balinese family and community dynamics. The Balinese are very family oriented and have a family temple at their home where spirits of family members come to stay after they've been cremated and before they are reincarnated. Elders in the family are really well respected and taken care of by younger family members. This was a 6 hour day shared with about 15 other travellers who were also taking the course and we all agreed it was the best cooking course we had ever taken. You couldn't help but be moved by our hosts' hospitality and warmth.
Between all of these outings and activities, I wandered around Ubud, taking in the sights and colors and enjoying the smiling, friendly locals as well as the terrific restaurants throughout the town - I could spend weeks here, dropping by all the cafes, warungs (small local restaurants) and incredible organic restaurants that are everywhere here! I've so enjoyed trying the local dishes and drinks - lots of healthy, local goodness.
Bali is a magic place - I would come back here in a heartbeat and stay for as long as I possibly could. I somehow feel I will be back here someday (hopefully sooner rather than later).