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Bali: Tourism and Hinduism in Ubud

Bali is actually the only Indonesian island we are not eager to go to. It is very touristy in a way similar to the average beach destination. But we need to pass Bali on our way to the islands of Nusa Tengara, and decide to make a stopover in the village of Ubud. Once there the beauty of this island gets to us. The Hindu culture and beautiful landscapes guarantee a great stay, as long as it is not spoiled by mass tourism.

Sate Babi in preparation

Long trip

From Yogyakarta, the bus drive to Denpasar, including the ferry, takes 16 hours. The ticket we bought suggests a luxurious bus, but we are picked up by a crowded minivan. We wonder when we will make the transfer, and fear we have to complete the journey like this.

Terrorist attacks

Our visit stems from before the terrorist attacks in Kuta, Bali. These attacks harmed tourism in Bali and the whole of Indonesia. Although we think Bali is better of without mass tourism, we feel sorry for the friendly people in Bali and Indonesia, who lost an income from tourism. And we like to stress that Indonesia is safe for adventure travellers, since only the mass tourist destinations (like Kuta) are interesting for terrorist attacks.

So please visit Indonesia (including Ubud/Bali) for a terrific adventure travel vacation!!!


But after a few hours we arrive in Solo, and transfer to a bus. But it is not a luxurious one, but a crowded local bus.

The rest of the bus drive goes smooth. Around 2 AM we arrive at the ferry, where we eat a complementary noodle soup. It takes a while for the bus to get on the small ferry, but without mentionable problems we arrive at 7 AM in Denpasar, the traffic hub of Bali. Immediately we are attacked by the taxi drivers, who offer to bring us to Kuta, or elsewhere ("No Kuta?"). But we prefer to take the local bemo, although we need to negotiate at these as well. After an hour and another bemo transfer we finally arrive in Ubud.

In Ubud we are approached by someone from Eka's homestay. We are tired and decide to follow him and take the bungalow in the nicely decorated garden. We lie down and decide to catch up on some sleep.

Relatively expensive

We wake up hungry and head out for lunch. We discard some restaurants since they are very expensive for Indonesian standards. But after a while we realise we have to eat fancy, expensive, and little, compared to what we are used to. These are the first signs of a tourism environment. But when we walk along Ubud, it doesn't seem all too bad. In the center are many tourists, but in the outskirts of town we see more locals.

Hindu religion

Hindu temple in Monkey forest, Ubud, BaliContrary to the rest of Indonesia, Hindu is the common religion on Bali. Everywhere in Bali (well, apart from Kuta probably) the Hindu religion is visible. In our homestay, every morning offers are brought to the different gods. The good gods have offer houses hanging on the walls. For the bad gods, living undergrounds, small banana leaves with some rice are put on the ground. And as in every Balinese garden, a small part of the garden is reserved for a few temples.

And then there are the public temples. Every small community has at least three of them. One at the entrance for the founders of the community, one for normal services, and one at the end for the dead, including a cemetery. But mostly, there are many more, dedicated to one ore more of the specific gods of the complicated Hindu religion. Ubud consists of many communities, that used to be separate villages. Consequently, the number of temples is huge.

Monkey forest

The most important street in Ubud is Monkey Forest Road. At the end, it leads into Monkey Forest reservation, where many macaques live. Funny animals, who know what to get from the tourists, but are not too aggressive. A little further are a few temples. To enter these, we need to wear a sarong and a so-called temple-scarf. Unfortunately, many tourists ignore these rules.

Procession

Procession in Ubud, BaliOn our way back to the homestay we pass many Balinese people in their Sunday sarong heading to Monkey Forest. When we ask why, it appears to be some kind of holiday, and people will participate in a procession through the village. We hurry to take a shower and return to watch the procession. The first part consists of men wielding their keris (traditional Indonesian dagger), some kind of Chinese dragons, and musicians. They are followed by women carrying umbrellas, and the rest of the population. It is a nice sight, although we have no clue what the festivities are about.

Bicycle

In order to see the surroundings of Ubud, we rent some bikes. First we cycle to the east and up-hill. We pass many woodcarving shops and end up in the village Petulu. There is a large heron colony here, which we can watch from a distance. We move a little further up hill after which we descend through the beautiful landscape with rice fields and small villages.

Sabine in front of the ricefields in BaliIn the afternoon we head west. This road descends into a valley where a few rivers join. Then it goes steep up hill, end we are even forced to walk. But when it gets less steep we can cycle again. The road continues along a fast flowing river, but unfortunately the nice places along the river are taken by some expensive resorts so we cannot take a look into the valley. So we move back through some small villages and a steep winding road. On our way, we see a pig being transported upside-down, probably to be ritually turned into sate babi, a famous Indonesian dish that can only be eaten in bali since the muslim people cannot eat pig meat. A little tired we arrive back in Ubud.

The few days in Bali have surprised us positively. The unique culture has a lot to offer in a beautiful landscape. Staying away from the beaches and annoying tourists, a stay in Ubud can leave a great impression.



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