Bali. When mentioned, people conjure up images of killer waves, busy night clubs and overcrowded beaches running rampant with young suntanned partiers. But look beyond the surface and you will witness a land rich with tradition, superstition and a people whose dedication to their beliefs has helped the island to maintain their centuries old customs. Enduring the onslaught of tourists who invade their beaches each year, the Balinese continue to live their lives of deep rooted religion, important family values and respect for the spirits of the dead.
Farmers tend their paddy fields by hand as their flocks of painted ducks waddle on their land. When walking through a peaceful path, you may be stopped by a local boy who will climb a tree to offer you a fresh coconut.
Skillful artists sell their masterpieces to the casual buyer or to
the serious collector and handmade treasures of masks and statues can
be bought in the many family run shops. Or you can find a real bargain
at the colourful market in the centre of town, selling sarongs and
t-shirts to crafts and paintings.
It is famous for its traditional dance performed each night in one
of many ornate temples.. Masked performers dressed in colourful
costumes telling stories of their history and folklore in the outdoor
theatres under the canopy sky. Great dedication is given to the study
of this difficult craft and a highly skilled Balinese Dancer is revered
throughout the land.
Quiet cafes line the road leading to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary, a
protected portion of jungle containing long tail macaques. Unlike other
sanctuary's I have visited in south East Asia, this one does not
encourage the monkeys to fend for themselves. Vendors sell bananas and
peanuts for profit so that visiting tourists can feed these feisty creatures. They come to expect their treats
regularly causing fights among the monkeys and tourists alike.
Enjoy a luxurious massage at one of the many spas. For the
reasonable price of $12 you will enjoy one and a half hours of pure
heaven. Skilled masseurs work out your travel weary muscles with
ancient old techniques, finishing with an herbal body scrub and hot
floral bath. Pure decadence.
Choosing a meal at one of the many eateries can be a difficult task.
With food ranging from traditional Indonesian babi guling (suckling pig
roasted on a spit and must be ordered a day in advance.) to Italian
pasta and pizza or roasted duck. It is a playground for the taste buds
and eating in the candle lit setting while Balinese music plays softly
in the background gives a feeling of tranquility. You relax while
drinking a Bintang beer and think that you may never leave this
Ubud is well travelled on many peoples routes in Bali, but its laid
back atmosphere dedicated tradition and a thriving artist community
give it the facade of being the real Bali. Many will say that the
real Bali no longer exists, that it has been taken over by tourism and
western influence. But I see it thriving in the everyday lives of the
local people and the real Bali exists in their hearts.