I've arrived in bali and have spent a few days in Ubud. Ubud has a reputation for being the epicentre of culture in Bali and I agree that it has a huge amount of culture and arts. However, it has seemingly become a bit of a tourist trap with coach loads of "culture thrill seekers!" arriving in hoards and descending on the villages which have merged together to form Ubud.
First impressions of Bali was that it was similar to Cambodia but with more order.... that was because I arrived in the dark! Impressions quickly changed. After driving for about an hour I arrived at my guesthouse. I was a little disappointed because I assumed that it would feel like I had travelled to a different part of Bali but the road was pretty much lined with shops/workshops and homes for the whole drive. I didn't sense there was any huge distance between Ubud and the airport. Totally different to Cambodia where if you were to drive at night you would certainly feel like you had made a significant journey if you were to travel to a provincial town!
My guesthouse was an excellent Internet find - "Narasoma". I was impressed with the room on the top floor which was furnished traditionally with a massive wooden carved bed. A front and back balcony meant I could watch both sunrise and sunset from the comfort of my own living space! I awoke early to enjoy the sunrise and wow! The landscape was beautiful with interesting buildings and the volcano in the distance! I was now impressed.
Next on the agenda was a rice field walk and after consulting with the guidebook I set off and immediately sensed I wasn't on the right track. I carried on regardless and for an hour and a half or so was enjoying the walk. I hen tried to cross a gorge to walk home on the other side. A friendly local pointed me in the right direction. Ummm I would have preferred to go back the way I knew but trusting him I set off.... and promptly got lost in a maze of rice in the hot, hot sun!
I was Ok and enjoying the adventure until a big, black snake decided to JUMP (really!) from his hiding position next to my foot into the small water irrigation system that was running alongside the path. I had no choice but to continue with my walk - now armed with a big stick. Then, I saw snake 2, 3, 4 and 5 and suddenly was not having a too happy a time! I then turned back and managed to find the way again. Strangely I stumbled across a painter and a small gallery so had a small chat and he suggested an alternative route - NO way! I was going back the way I knew.
OOOh snake, snake, lizard, spider, snake, lizard. I was looking forward to the town! After 3 hours of walking I arrived back. Phew! The rest of my time consisted of shopping and eating and browsing galleries.
I did pay a visit to the popular Monkey Forest Temple which I thought might be a bit of a tourist trap but it was actually entertaining with monkeys stealing tourists food and generally being a bit of a nightmare for those with monkey phobia! Particularly good was the monkey "swimming pool" which was a small pond which the monkeys were swimming in and jumping off statues onto each other and diving for fun!
Wet, unimpressed monkey - No zoom - you could point the camera right in their "unbothered" faces
With one day left in Ubud I decided to try another walk. I walked for 4 miles and then couldn't find the start of the rice field walk. Mindful of the previous experience I decided to just enjoy the walk on the road! My feeling was confirmed when I saw a massive lizard just walking in the grass (he was about 2 ft long). Even though I knew by this stage the black snakes were "no problem" I just didn't fancy stepping on one by mistake.
Luckily a luxury hotel provided me with juice (at a cost!) to prevent dehydration! After this and slightly more walking in back lanes I could no longer resist the cries of "transport" and got a lift back to the centre of the city!
A few unexplored areas later I was ready to hit the road and head to the mountain lodge on Bali's second largest mountain....