We were glad that we made time to soak in the cultural aspects of Ubud, and explore the abundant nature all around.
Since this is our first couple trip in more than 6 years, so apart from getting some great shopping finds, we made sure we did loads of stuff that we wouldn’t be able to, if we had to lug our kids around. (We do actually love you, kiddos!)
Padi Field Trek
The most refreshing thing we did was the Padi Field and Village trek. Armed with a simple black-and-white map from our hotel, we started from the main road of Ubud, and trekked up the hilly slopes of vast padi fields at the northern side of Ubud town, and then wound our way through a little village, passing by its school and many local homes…
The air was crisp, and we had such a good time just walking, walking, and walking (for some 2 plus hours!).
A caucasian lady, in a sarong skirt, and barefoot no less, exchanged hellos with us, and walked so quickly she passed us! As we strode on in our track shoes, I soon lost count of the number of times we said Selamat Pagi to all the locals we met. I felt so ASEAN. 🙂
There were organic eateries, houses that conducted yoga classes, and a charming silence all around, broken only by birdsong, the rustle of ripe padi sheaves or the quacks of a large duck community.
We saw padi in all stages of growth. What would become rice, the staple food which sustains most Asians. The hard work that goes into planting and harvesting rice hit close to home, and we developed a newfound appreciation for each tiny grain.
Museum of Agung Rai (ARMA)
We were so glad we carved out an entire morning to visit ARMA. It was such an interesting place, with a similarly interesting history. Founded by Agung Rai, it houses his private collection of works by locals and foreigners, mostly art of Bali.
Its sprawling grounds were very serene, and house not just two blocks of art, but also a resort (many villas and a hotel block with swimming pool), a cafe, and many pavillions to rest in, and stone structures with water coursing through.
The very reasonable price of entry (less than SGD$10) comes with a free drink at its cafe, and a very informative little guidebook that I wished I had read as I walked through its grounds.
We couldn’t quite recall when the last time was, that we had time to just stroll in a museum, and stand in front of a painting for as long as we wished, without little hands tugging at us to move on. So those were moments to relish. The art of German artist Walter Spies features predominantly in Agung Rai’s collection, so it was interesting to see both european and local balinese depictions of the same land.
We wondered whether to watch the Palace Dance (at the main palace along the main street of Ubud), or to watch the kecak (ker-chak) performance at the local temple in the village that our B&B belonged to, only 5 mins drive away. Ultimately, we decided to support local!
The Kecak dance is so named for the ‘monkey chattering’ sounds made by the performers, who all hail from the same village. It was a bit like beat-boxing, a bit like acapella, but mostly like a haka. 😛
For each performance, every family in that village offers one male participant. Most of them have learnt this since boyhood, so it was like a tribal tradition, re-enacting the folklore of the Ramayana battle. It also incorporates blasts of fire, which made for a rather entertaining evening.
This was something we wouldn’t have brought the children too, giving the timing and its associations, but we did find it interesting to observe.
Most of Bali is steeped in Hinduism, and apart from the ubiquituous architecture which harkens to various deities, it was through this dance, that I caught a glimpse of how this religion must have made its way from South Asia to the isle of Bali, generations ago, and persisted through the years, passed down from father to son.
It is interesting how this island is so very Hindu, in a country that is predominantly Muslim. I prayed for the island of Bali as we travelled through its streets, glimpsing the flower incense offerings outside every doorpost, that the Good News will reach each household too, that all will hear and the elect, believe.