The majority of our time in Bali was spent in the town of Ubud, which is known as the most traditional Balinese area of the island.
I would agree with that statement and add that it is, at least in the area we stayed, also completely fake and designed to appease tourists. Within a few block radius, hundreds of foreigners walk down the streets looking in stores, eating at restaurants, soaking in the culture and enjoying what appears to be a true Bali experience.
The reality of Ubud is that it is a fabricated reality run by locals to get every penny they can out o0f tourists. That said, traditional Bali no longer exists as it used to and Ubud really is one of the last places that at least FEELS authentic. Sure it’s guilty of rampant commercialism, but so are dozens of other towns we’ve visited in our travels and despite the negative start to this post, I actually had a very nice time there.
Every street in the touristic part of Ubud is filled with guesthouses, family homes and temples, all in the traditional style I wrote about earlier. All locals are dressed in Balinese clothing and look like they are on their way to a religious ceremony. Doorsteps and streets are adorned with little offering baskets filled with flowers, candies and presents to the Gods. The streets are narrow and the shops are quite chic.
Right next to the heart of town are local neighborhoods with normal cement houses and more of the third-world feel that is hiding behind the glitz of the center. Carrie and I spent a lovely day wandering around exploring these less-polished areas and got a great feel for the town.
Another evening was spent with Inyoman, our latest couchsurfing friend, who invited us along with his family to attend a traditional Balinese religious celebration.. After picking us up in his car, he took us to his house, fed us some snacks and then loaned us the Balinese religious clothing required to attend the celebration. Carrie had to put on a corset, vail-like shirt, dress and sash while I had to wear two layers of sarongs (beautiful sheets) around my waist, a sash and a head covering.
Our first stop was a temple where we waited for nearly an hour for other locals to arrive from further away. Carrie and I were pretty much stared at the whole time and we heard the words “American” used a few times in the midst of their foreign tongue. Finally, the rest of the gang arrived and I watched as they took out beautifully decorated boxes and a dragon the likes of which one would expect to see in a Chinese New Year parade. Dozens of men helped load these onto the back of a pickup for transportation to the temple.
And that’s where the story ends. Carrie was not feeling well so we had to call it an early night with hopes of a speedy recovery and rejoining the celebration on the third and final night. Sadly, the conclusion of the celebration was never in the cards, as she spent pretty much the rest of our time in Bali recovering.
Our final activity before leaving Ubud was to finally treat ourselves to a day at the spa, after the idea was ingrained in our head by countless hawkers saying “hello, massage?” to us every time we walked down the street. So, for $23 per person we went in for four hours of massage, manicure, pedicure, facial and hair cream bath (you can laugh now or later at the though of me getting a hair cream bath).
I guess you get what you pay for. The massage was very nice, as was the facial. However, the manicure and pedicure basically consisted of some dude clipping my nails and scrubbing my feet with a brush. Carrie at least got her nails did, but she tells me that part of a normal mani-pedi is a full hand and leg massage. Then, the hair cream bath involved the same guy washing my hear and giving me the most painful head massage ever…he basically just applied pressure to my skull and temples for 30 minutes. Ouch! I’m still willing to give more cheapo massages a chance, but thus far on this trip they are 0 for 3..
Ubud: Bali Hai
Carrie being sick: Bali low
Massage: Bali better luck next time
A walk through the back streets of Ubud next to a chicken coup
Geese walk through the street in Ubud
Getting ready for a religious celebration in Ubud