reflections from ubud

Do you ever feel like you need a change of space? Like the environment around you is somehow causing you stress and you're not sure why? Or maybe it's something about you - maybe if you can quickly change something about your appearance it will relieve your inner critic or monster or entity - whatever name you've given it. That's how I ended up with bangs in Ubud.

I really like Ubud a lot. It's a very spiritual place with plenty of opportunities to do some yoga and meditation (neither of which I participated in while there). The streets are packed with shops, boutiques, street markets, restaurants, places for entertainment, coffee shops - Ubud is a thriving little hub. It's about an hour north of Denpasar - where we were staying before - and it feels like a totally different vibe. It's more in the jungle, so no beaches or malls or clubs, I don't think I've ever been anywhere like it before.

We left Denpasar and hopped in with our driver Bon-bon to make the trek up. Bon-bon was awesome. He had so many things to show us on the way, we stopped at a textile factory where we had a mini tour of where they do the weavings on a huge loom. The work looked tedious and time consuming - but meditative too. The woman making the fabric sat and worked the repetitive motion over and over again. It gave me great respect for the textiles that we use and see everyday. Also, for Erica who spent so much time at a loom in college - this experience instantly brought me back to those long nights. A woman there also walked us through another process of dying fabric called "batik". In this process wax is used on the fabric and then dyed, then where the wax was is left untouched leaving a design on the fabric. The work displayed on these fabrics was beautiful and intricate. It was really amazing to see.

After we left the textile factory, Bon-bon took us over to a coffee plantation. That was really cool. We hopped out of the car and a guide took us through the plantation where he showed us the different kinds of coffee beans growing. We saw Robusta beans and Arabica beans - coffee wasn't actually brought to Bali by their Dutch colonizers, it was brought through trade with Lombok (another Indonesian island) in the early 20th century. So, coffee has a rich history in Bali. Everywhere I go, coffee sellers boast that Bali coffee is the best in the world - and it is really good! They are most famous for their "shit coffee". This process includes a little critter called a Luwak who feasts on coffee beans. Coffee processors collect the droppings, clean the beans off, roast them and grind them. They say it creates a richer taste - personally I don't taste a huge difference but the process is very interesting (though, I'm really not sure it's very ethical because of treatment and containment of the Luwak's).

After taking us through the tour and history of Bali coffee they brought us like 15 free samples of tea and coffee. They were all amazing. Some of the teas tasted like candy! Bon-bon, Erica and I sat and chatted while we tasted them, some of the favorites were the ginger tea, mango tea, lemongrass tea and coconut coffee. So good!

At the plantation, they had one of the ever famous Bali Jungle Swings - my Mom sent me a video saying it was a must do, so we did! It was pretty cool. It's a swing attached to two trees and then they send you flying over a ledge to see the jungle floor below. A very cool experience! I have now learned they are all over the place here and you have many options of which jungle floor you can swing over.

After seeing the sights, Bon-bon dropped us off right at our homestay. The homestay was so incredibly charming. It's set in a temple style garden and we were in the very back. It was awesome because we had access to Ubud and were in walking distance to everything but we were so tucked away back there that we couldn't hear the sounds of the busy streets just outside. The room had no AC which was fine - the temperature was never too hot BUT it was so humid it caused my laptop to break... twice. Bright side though: it seems to be working fine now (knock on wood).

Now that we were settled in Ubud, we spent a good few days just walking around and exploring the area. I feel like everyday we were there we were discovering new streets to walk down and new sights to see. Ubud is an endless maze. There were so many, SO many amazing vegan restaurants and warungs. I feel like the first few days we were honestly eating our way through the town. Ubud is much more laid back than Sanur, Kuta, and Denpasar. Aside from eating everything in sight, we also treated ourselves to some massages. They range from about 5-8 $ USD - so we got more than a few. Before Bali, I have never had a massage before - I can report, they are awesome.

After hanging out in Ubud for a few days, we finally got around to checking out the Sacred Monkey Forest. What an experience. It is NOT a relaxing experience. I was on edge pretty much from the moment we walked in. Those monkeys are rascals! They steal people's stuff, the can get pretty aggressive, and they are scary. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience to watch a monkey jump onto a mans backpack, open it up, steal his water bottle and go on his merry way. In the Monkey Forest, there was an art gallery displaying creations and work by local Balinese artists. You can learn so much about a culture through their art. I really tried to spend some time in here looking and soaking in the culture through the paintings. The images I saw depicted hardworking people, a strong Hindi and Buddhist faith, and local mythology about monkeys and spiritual dieties. It was really cool to see.

The final thing we went to see in Ubud was the Tegallalang Rice Terrace. This was by far my favorite thing that we got to do here. The rice paddies were so green and lush. It's indescribable. Apparently, at other times of year its actually even more beautiful - we're in the low season for their growth period. The pictures don't even really do it justice. We spent some time here just walking around. The stairs are steep and there are many of them but to see the way this whole intricate system works was well worth the trek down. There's a water flow system that starts at the top and drains down to the bottom - it's called a cooperative irrigation system or subak. This system has been used since the 8th century.

Now, we are enjoying the amazing southern peninsula and Uluwatu. I love it here so far. Anytime I am close to the ocean (or any body of water) I feel so much more at home. I feel that water is part of me, that I am born of it, I understand it and I am totally unafraid of it. From the water I was born and to the water I will always return.



spencer mcintyre