After a few days of encountering many waves and many Australians in Kuta, we decided to leave the coast and explore other parts of Bali with Ubud as our jumping off point.
On the way to Ubud we visited two temples: Thana Lot and Pura Thaman Ayun. Thana Lot is one of seven temples on the coast which were sited such that one could see the next temple from each one. These are famous and very touristed (including the obligatory souvenir shop village that one has to walk through to get to the temple from the car park). I love that Bali doesn't allow tourists into the actual inner parts of each temple, and that these historic places are such active scenes of daily ritual.
I was deeply struck by the serenity of Thaman Ayun, which has three sets of courtyards, with an inner and and an outer moat surrounding the site.
As a place for contemplation, it seemed perfect to me. The family had to keep stopping so that I could catch up at my zenned out slow pace.
Keegan and I had to wear sarongs to be able to go on the temple grounds. I won't share that picture here, but, of course, Laura was not so bashful about featuring it in her Bali article.
Inspired by the happy coincidence of Jennifer also being in Bali at the same time, we decided to look for a place to stay near the homestay where she was staying and ended up finding the beautiful Duggul Hidden.
In Bali, Hinduism is woven into every feature of everyday life, and nowhere is this more true than in Balinese homes.
When we first arrived in Bali (even amidst of the craziness of Kuta Beach) I noticed that even the buildings that weren’t temples looked like temples. I thought this was architectural and design empathy but learned that, in fact, all buildings are temples. Homes are places of active worship, with shrines, reflection ponds, incense, and pictures of ancestors. To find Duggul Hidden, we had to walk through Nick’s Homestay (also a beautiful converted home/temple) and into an oasis within this bustling jungle town. The first thing we noticed was the greeting committee.
I'll be honest. I've never much cared for very small dogs. They've generally been nippy, yappy, annoying, and useless for both exercise and intimidation. I'd far prefer a cat. Even our friend Wendy's little Pomeranian, Chloe, was hard for me to deal with. Our Springer Spaniel Rieta, would put Chloe in her place, basically ignoring her the entire time they were together. I took secret delight in the canine snubbing. Ok, not so secret (sorry, Wendy).
But, the greeting committee at Duggul Hidden consisted of 6 adorable Pomeranians, including a four month old puppy, Mike, whom Naomi affectionately referred to as “Mini Puff”. These dogs were quiet, playful, and very affectionate. For our dog-deprived family, they were sorely needed.
The Homestay also featured a beautiful shaded courtyard pool fed by statues of waterbearers, and an amazing sunset view from the deck outside of our third floor room.
Ubud is a bustling center, with a strong tourist presence, which is much more international than Kuta. Our favorite feature of the town was the much needed pedestrian street (pedestrians plus motorbikes, of course), which hosts multiple beautifully designed coffee bars, restaurants, and handmade goods shops.
We were very pleased to meet up with our friend Jennifer who was scheduled to meet with us in Australia, and who had also thrown in a Bali trip at the last minute on the way.
We chose Ubud as the starting point for some other excursions. Laura, ever the organizer, had managed to get agreement from a dive operation (Scuba Dooba Doo) to pick us up in Ubud and take us to Panang Bay.
Our guide Tinnus was an excellent dive master, avid student of English, and super nice. The dive boats in Panang Bay are unusual being low draught and low in the water. Keegan was apprehensive about the rear roll entry until he saw Tinnus and Laura do it. For Jennifer, this was the first diving she had done since getting certified in Zanzibar, and she was eager to get more comfortable with her skills before we went for our live-aboard on the Great Barrier Reef toward the end of October.
On the second day, we went white water rafting on the nearby Ayung river. This was an easy float compared to what we've done on the US West coast, but was beautiful, refreshing, and kept entertaining by the inter-raft splashing battles started by the guides.
Our time in Ubud was perfectly capped by the Kecak Fire and Trance dance performance we went to on Sunday night. This made me desperately miss signing, and the idea that this performance happens every Sunday night gave me some ideas for balancing practicing and performing when I get back.
Our whole time in Ubud I was struck by the successful blending of a bustling tourist city with a strong spiritual set of community practices. We were there during the fire moon festival (every full moon is a celebration in Bali, but this is special) and the restaurants and bars were correspondingly low on staff, as all of the Balinese were already at, or preparing to go to, the temples.
We were able to watch and appreciate, but from outside. It made me think about the lack of community and meditation in my own life. More than other places, Bali seems to be modernizing without losing traditions and community. I hope that stays true.