Day 214: Enjoying Ubud

For our first two nights in Bali we stayed in Ubud at the Komaneka Rasa Sayang hotel… it was wonderful! The hotel was new, clean, modern, and the customer service was some of the best I’ve ever experienced. They gave us a welcome gift, a surprise birthday cake for me, and taught Michael how to use a motorbike (after getting us a one-day rental for just $7). And the best part was that this property is located right in the middle of Ubud town on Monkey Forest Road, walking distance to both the actual monkey forest and Ubud Palace.

They must have snooped my birthday from my passport at check-in. Surprise cake!

We spent one morning walking around the Sacred Monkey Forest taking photos. This place was chock full of monkeys! It’s home to more than 300 long-tailed macaques that belong to four distinct families. We were there for maybe 5 minutes when I felt 20 cool little monkey fingers climbing my bare leg and reaching into my purse. I shook the would-be thief off before he was able to find anything worth steeling, and got a hiss and a dirty look in exchange for my interrupting his search. This was an uneventful encounter compared to what we would see at Uluwatu two nights later.

Sleepy Momma in the trees

Baby monkey! Wishing he were riding backwards on a pig, no doubt.

The next morning was spent exploring the area around Ubud on our rented motorbike. We visited the rice terraces in Tegallalang and shopped on the street leading back to Ubud where wholesalers make their purchases. This was done mostly in the rain, but it didn’t lessen our enjoyment at all. In fact, it was pretty fun! We were soaked when we returned to the hotel so decided to take advantage of the spa facilities. After glorious couples massage we headed to south Bali for the last part of our trip.

Before our Motorbike Adventure

Bali’s beaches are nice, but its cultural heart resides in Ubud. It’s here where you’ll find the best handmade crafts, the best gamelan troupes, and the best traditional dancers. Ubud in central Bali is a part of the island not to be missed.

Rainy Rice Terraces

Day 213: Traditional Balinese Dance

When I visited Bali with my friend Megan in September we caught a quick performance of a traditional Balinese dance while eating dinner at our resort. I was so intrigued that I sought out another performance on my next trip. Michael went along to humor me (“Sure Cass, of course I’d like to see a dance performance. Sounds almost as cool as Muay Thai boxing.”), but even he was impressed.

There’s something about the gamelan music, elaborate dress, and the dancers’ movements that take you to another place. We went to see the evening performance at Ubud Palace and enjoyed a series of dances, each telling a different story. I had my camera ready this time and was able to capture some photographs that will always help me remember that enchanting night. Here are some of my favorites!

Days 100–104: Megan in SE Asia Part I, Bali and Singapore

At the end of September Michael and I welcomed our final visitor to Singapore, as we’ll (most likely) be moving to Europe soon after the holidays. Megan arrived from Chicago after a summer filled with long hours at the office and weddings spread throughout the Midwest. She needed a break from it all and requested a relaxing itinerary. I was more than happy to oblige. We spent two weeks doing little more than laying by the ocean, reading, eating, and getting massages. It was bliss!

Jetty into the Indian Ocean

One day of visiting tourist sights in Singapore was followed by five days at the Laguna Resort and Spa in Nusa Dua, Bali. We didn’t leave the resort on our first day, opting instead to sample the resort’s restaurants for lunch and dinner and explore the expansive pool and beach area. At dinner we were treated to Balinese traditional dance accompanied by a gamelan troupe. The music was haunting and the dancing was mesmerizing. Elaborate costumes accompanied the dance that was as much about the shifting movement of the dancers’ eyes as the jerky movement of their bodies.

Traditional Balinese dancers

Our second day on the island was more of the same (food & beach) with a couple of new elements added in for variety (shopping & massages). On our third day Meg and I broke from our relaxation routine to explore Ubud, Bali’s cultural center located an hour and a half inland from our hotel. Ubud is filled with charming cafes overlooking rice terraces and shops selling all manner of local handicrafts. Wooden carvings, mosaic glass plates, stone sculptures, and batik sarongs had the strongest presence in the shops lining Monkey Forest Road. We both ended up with some unique souvenirs to take home.

At a traditional Balinese home "compound" on the way to Ubud

The Balinese are incredibly friendly and many spoke excellent English. More than a few times we were asked where we were from and how long we were staying. Our answer of “just five days” elicited cries of disappointment and pleas to stay longer. The locals seemed proud of Bali’s reputation as an exceptional holiday destination.

An offering on the sidewalk - the locals are very spiritual!

Back in Singapore for just a day, I took Megan to The Chocolate Bar at the top of the Marina Bay Sands resort and casino. Our outdoor table gave us a great view of the Singapore skyline while we indulged in three trips each to the all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet. My favorite treat was the green tea and white chocolate tiramisu… heavenly! A close second was a raspberry cake topped with gold leaf. We then retired early to prepare for Part II of Megan’s trip: Thailand!

Chocolate Bar plate #1