Biking around Ubud: the Royal Palace, the Monkey Forest, and a Visit with a Mask Carver
Ubud Travel Blog› entry 12 of 23 › view all entries
Today was the first bike ride of the trip, and I was anxious to get out and explore. I tried out my outdoor shower at 6:30. Breakfast was at 7, and we all came dressed in our biking gear to enjoy fruit, fried eggs, orange juice and coffee.
We rode out from the Hotel at 8am after stocking up on snacks to get us through the ride -- we were provided with nuts, raisins and some of the local fruit -- I picked ramatan and mangostein! The planned ride is 21 miles today. The traffic was pretty heavy -- lots of trucks, cars and motor bikes, but it all flows very well, and the motorized vehicles don't get too close to us. We all got along really well for our first day! It was hot and humid, and I went through three bottles of water on the ride.
One of our first stops was at a place where preparations were underway for a mass funeral cremation. Our local guide, Wayan Narta, explained that often communities wait until several people have died and are ready for cremation, as it is quite elaborate and expensive to have a funeral. The deceased's family must pay for the ceremony and feed all the local community that comes to the funeral. Because many are very poor, the dead bodies are stored until several are ready and they do them all at one time to split the costs. The bodies are put into painted bulls made of wood and paper mache and then put onto the funeral pyre for cremation. The place we stopped was to be used for that purpose on this night.
We rode to the Royal Palace in Ubud and stopped to walk around and take some photos.
We stopped at a local mask carver's workshop along the way and got a demonstration of this long standing Balinese tradition. Our carver is a member of the Brahmin class, which most traditional mask carvers evidently are. Masks were used in ceremonies and theatre. It was amazing to watch him at work -- at one point, he was even holding the mask by his feet as he worked away! Hope the knife does not slip! We got to try on several masks, and it was a great place for photo opportunities.
We rode through Ubud's famous Monkey Forest. It is full of macaques that are quite brazen in their attempts to get food from people. We were encouraged to empty our pockets of any food, and to keep our hands away from them. One of the monkeys went after Ted -- someone suggested it was because of his bright orange jersey, but I am sure it was the smell of some food he had originally had in the pocket of his jersey. Another one of the monkeys stole Irika's water bottle and ran off with it! They are vicious little things -- hissing and snarling as they made their raids! Some were cute -- the little one with their mothers in particular.
Lunch was on our own today in downtown Ubud.
From there, everyone went shopping. I bought six sarongs for about $4 each, several pairs of earrings for mom and sisters, and an original oil painting from a local artist. I love the painting -- lots of red and orange, abstract in nature, but clearly tropical. They took it off the frame and rolled it up for me and put it in a traveling tube. I got a great deal on it too! As I was leaving the artist colony, I got a great photo of a local boy playing with a carved wooden snake. It turned out to be one of my favorite pictures of the trip.
I got back to the hotel around 4:45, and had time to shower and relax before heading to a cocktail party thrown by the hotel for our group. After the cocktail hour, it was time for dinner. I joined Jo and Courtney (the trip leaders), the Canadians (Irika, Jundre and Francoise), Jody and Ellen. I ordered a bottle of shiraz and shared it with the Canadian ladies. It went very well with my Nasi Udang Sambal, spicy prawns. I left the restaurant around 9, and headed to my room to crash. It was a busy day, and I was ready to sleep!