We arrived in Bali after a short and uneventful ferry ride from Java. At the ferry terminal we were picked up by Acok, the private driver Maya had arranged to take us to Ubud. It was about a 5-hour drive (with a short lunch break at a little surfer town), so we arrived at around sundown. In Ubud we were staying at a lovely guesthouse where we basically had the whole upper floor, complete with our own kitchen and open-air living room with a nice big couch. Since we were pretty tired from the drive and last two nights of not much sleep, we didn’t do anything else that night but go to bed.
Ubud is known as the cultural capital of Bali and is quite touristy, making it one of the few places in Indonesia (but one of the many on Bali) where there seem to be more tourists than locals. This was fine with us though, since a lot of our trip had been more “off the beaten path”. We entertained the idea of going on one of the many temple/rice terrace/market/sunrise/sunset tours being offered, but decided that we were kind of all toured-out at this point in our trip and would rather spend the next few days just wandering around checking out the sights in the city, shopping, and eating.
However, we first (after lunch and gelato, obviously) HAD to go to the Monkey Forest, which is probably Ubud’s top attraction. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a forest full of monkeys. The are semi-wild (being used to so many humans) and thus quite mischievous, as evidenced by the many signs telling you NOT to carry any food or drink into the park. We immediately saw why – there are tons of monkeys in the park and they have no problem jumping and climbing on people, grabbing food and water bottles out of people’s hands, and even know how to unzip backpacks and purses. I was kind of freaked out (because I SWEAR TO GOD a monkey charged at me earlier in Sukamade, though Chris doesn’t believe me) but Chris was pretty confident in his ability to fend off a monkey. We wandered through the forest, which while being quite busy (mainly with European tourists it seemed) was nice and well maintained, with many fun carvings, trails, temples, and rivers to enjoy.
There are also a number of stands were you can buy bananas to feed the monkeys, which explains why they are so friendly. There are also a number of park rangers around, who are there in case the monkeys get too aggressive, but will also give you bits of food to hold in the air so monkeys will climb up your arm and give you a good photo op. We had no incidents, though we witnessed a woman have her water bottle stolen and the monkey drinking it like a person – pretty cute if annoying for her.
That night we hit up a place called the Laughing Buddha, which had tapas, a live band, and lots of people who were way better salsa dancers than us.
Since Ubud is the cultural capital, the next morning we decided to get some culture and went to the Museum Puri Lukisan to look at some Balinese art. 95% of Balinese art seems to depict scenes from the Ramayana or Mahabharata epics, so we learned a lot about those stories (or felt proud that we recognized things from the Ramayana, since we had seen the ballet). There were also a lot showing village life in Bali or various Barongs, Chris’ favourite. There were also some tremendous wood carvings that were super thin and delicate.
Balinese art is pretty complicated and busy (they don’t seem to really be into the idea of negative space, so usually something is happening on every inch of the canvas), so we were pretty tired after we were done at the museum. We had a relaxing lunch, then decided to do the Campuhan Ridge walk, a popular trek among the rice terraces bordering town. The scenery was lovely and there is an adorable cafe partway where we stopped for coconut milk and lumpia (a.k.a. Indonesia spring rolls).
On the way back we also strolled through the market, but got quickly overwhelmed by the amount of haggling you have to do to get a decent price. Since we were pretty tired from the hike, we decided to forgo eating out in favor of having some instant noodles and delicious baked goods on our couch.
The next day we continued getting cultured and went to the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA). I liked this one a bit better because there was more modern Balinese art, a nice change after looking at so much traditional stuff. You couldn’t take pictures of the paintings, but you could take pictures in the nice museum gardens, which were full of all kinds of weird plants.
We had some delicious crispy duck for lunch, then decided to do some shopping and end the day with another visit to the Monkey Forest for fun. There was a pretty exciting moment when Chris asked me to hold his water bottle and a monkey, apparently sensing that I was the weak link, jumped up and bit a hole in it to get a drink. Due to being started I immediately threw the bottle back to Chris and the monkey, not wanting to follow it, decided to sit on my head for a bit instead. Chris was THRILLED because he had not-so-secretly been hoping for this moment the entire time we were in Ubud.
We had a second exciting moment when Chris threw a vanilla bean to a big monkey who interpreted this as a sign of aggression. He started hissing and running at Chris, who fended him off by spraying him with our leaking water bottle. He was then very proud that he had successfully defended us. The rest of our Monkey Forest walk was thankfully uneventful, but we got lots of cute photos.
The next day we were leaving for Amed, but not before a final rice terrace walk, and buying Chris a Barong t-shirt, of course.