Wednesday, May 26
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
A small island measuring just 69 x 95 miles nestled between Java and Lombok in the vast archipelago of Indonesia, Bali is covered with lush jungles, rice terraces, mountains and beautiful beaches, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Some come for the sun, sand, surf, and world class resorts and spas, while others enjoy the predominantly Hindu culture that is celebrated daily with highly evolved dance, gamelan music, art and architecture.
Since I hit the hay so early last night (which is unheard of for me), I woke up super early at around 4:00 a.m. Not long after, the local rooster started crowing and some weird-sounding birds joined in a little bit later. I spent the day just walking around central Ubud, having a hellish ball soaking in all of the chaotic sights and sounds of the streets while my clothes had a jolly good time soaking in gallons of sweat.
I shot a bunch of photos, including myriad merch shops, and the Ubud Palace, which is the compound of the local royal family. The pecking order in Bali runs on a caste system and these folks are definitely higher-ups. It was funny to see their gamelans all covered up for a dayime nap. There were a shit ton of Japanese tourists there, none of whom sweat so much as a drop. How do they do it? Or not do it, as the case may be. One photo op that I was really bummed to miss was a guy toting a glass display case full of donuts on the back of his moped. I'll get him next time. At least I got the cardboard guy.
In the evening, I relaxed for s spell at the Three Monkeys, a swank yet totally affordable eatery, where I chewed on a really tasty meal consisting of noodles, rice, spicy carrots and some odd cracker thingies all wrapped up in a couple of huge coconut leaves. The presentation and insanely low price of just $5.00 blew my mind. It would cost at least three times that amount at home. I finished the night by taking in a classical dance performance by the Panca Artha troupe at Ubud Palace. The program consisted of Legong, which is performed by three young girls who employ subtle hand and facial expressions and body movements to tell the tale of a tragic love triangle. Accompanied by the ever-present gamelan ringing away, this dance is very lively and jerky yet graceful at the same time.
Next up came a character study of the Barong, a powerful and benevolent creature (performed by two people in one costume.) "He is the king of the spirits, leader of the hosts of good, and enemy of Rangda in the mythological traditions of Bali."--Wikipedia. The ender arrived in the form of Sunda Upasunda, which is taken from a Hindu epic called the Mahabharata. This is the story of two brothers, Sunda and Upasunda, who are merely on a quest to conquer heaven and rule the known universe. Amazingly, a downpour ensued just a few minutes after the show as I was walking down the street. I wonder if they would have aborted the performance if it had happened a little earlier?