Monday, March 6, 2023

A Bit of Bali and Ubud

The weather co-operated and stayed pleasantly cool, but without more than a couple of minutes of rain for our entire day of touring with the friendly English-speaking Mr. I Wayan Sukayasa,  “Suka,” who picked us up at the Conrad in a comfortable Toyota SUV promptly at 9 AM.

Much of our route around the Ubud region comprised congested streets and roads that were narrow, twisty, and sometimes hilly. Suka’s skillful driving kept us relaxed and able to enjoy the sights, including extensive rice fields.

As in other parts of Asia and India, motorbikes abound. It’s not uncommon to see up to three or even four passengers on one bike, or young passengers like this one.

Our first stop was at a traditional Balinese dance production of an ancient and rather complicated legend in five or six acts, accompanied by a Gamelan orchestra, a dozen or so musicians performing on metallophone (played by mallets) instruments, drums, a bamboo flute, and one or two other instruments that produce distinctive sounds that are melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically unlike anything we have heard.

Even with a printed plot summary in English, it was challenging to follow. The tiger below was just one of several important characters.

The hand movements of the female dancers are impressive.

We think that good finally overcame evil, but we’re not completely sure.

From there we drove to a Hindu temple. While Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country by population, is a Muslim majority country, Bali is largely Hindu. We cheerfully covered our exposed knees with the obligatory sarongs to step inside.

Suka, himself a Hindu, suggested that the low rate of theft in Bali is due to the belief in reincarnation and karma.

From there it was onward to the Ubud Monkey Forest, a nicely tended sanctuary populated by about a thousand Balinese long-tailed monkeys, known also as Macaque Monkeys. They are cute little rascals.

This mother proved quite capable of turning on the water tap to get a drink while her little one looked on from above.

The monkeys are fed three times daily and one can presume live an idyllic existence in this simian welfare state.

Under the banyan tree…

Mother and child…

Our next stop was Uma Ceking, a restaurant and entertainment complex that includes zip lines, swings, and a spectacular view of some rice fields.

We settled for enjoying Beef Rendang, a recommended traditional dish reminding us of  a pot roast with exotic spices.

Our final stop of the day was a coffee, tea, and spice plantation remarkably similar to one we visited some years ago in Kerala India. Suka points out a spice to us.

We saw vanilla and turmeric, among other spices. He then turned us over to a young guide who poured us a variety of coffees and teas, all available for sale.

Coffee roasting here…

Why the Poo-Hunter shirt?

Their featured coffee, among the world’s most expensive, consists of beans eaten, partially  digested, and excreted by Asian civet cats.

We paid extra to share a cup of “cat-poo” coffee, and thought it was actually quite tasty.

We bought a minuscule amount to bring home. We’ll be thankful for the nocturnal efforts of civets such as this one, sleeping by day and working its magic on coffee beans by night.

After an hour’s drive that included an extensive afternoon “rush” (how can a non-native speaker possibly understand such a self-contradictory description of slow stop-and-go traffic?), Suka dropped us off safely at the Conrad, and we agreed that he would drive us to the airport Wednesday to start our homeward journey.

Thank you, Suka!

Today we spend time relaxing around the suites pool, and enjoying the pineapple smoothies delivered from time to time.

Thoroughly pleasant! 

We enjoy our final happy hour on the lobby terrace.

We’re going to miss this.

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