When the taxi drove into Ubud I immediately felt something different. I was excited to see the streets lined with unique shops and restaurants,which looked more like what I was used to in the States. It felt comfortable to me and I was excited for a bit of “normalcy”. Of course Ubud is not like the States and the further we drove to our hotel the more I realized how special it is. The outskirts of town are a beautiful mixture of rice paddies, rocky hills, temples, or handicraft shops.
There is so much to say about Ubud so bear with me if I get long in the mouth on this post. I am not sure if there are many places as special as Ubud. Not only is it beautiful, unique, surrounded by holy places, beautiful mountains, waterfalls and artisans, it is slow, comfortable, and embracing. The spirituality of the people who inhabit this gorgeous island, enhance every thing. There is nothing that isn’t gorgeous, or respected.
The seven days we spent in Ubud felt like a month and a minute all at the same time. I experienced so much, learned so much and relaxed so much but it also was over before I was ready. I left a lot still in Ubud, including part of my heart.
The first night we went out to eat in town. There are great organic, vegetarian, French, Indonesian, Italian and fine restaurants all through Ubud. Each one is unique and beautiful. After dinner we walked until we found a cute little gelati shop and then decided to head back to our hotel. This is when fate smiled on me. We hopped in a taxi and as he drove us back to our hotel he told us all the places there were to see in Bali and offered to take us to see them. (This happens with most taxi drivers) As happens when things are going the way they should we immediately hit it off with the driver and proceeded to spend the week with him. Kadak Ata was a blessing for us. He taught us so much, showed us so much and laughed a lot with us. He made our trip in Ubud, and helped me to realize very special dreams. I cannot write about our time there without thanking him for his kind, generous and beautiful heart that opened a beautiful world for J and me.
Deciding what to do in Ubud is not easy. There is so much to see and do. We decided to take the road less traveled and try to go with Kadak to see as much non-touristy places as possible. Instead of going to the Tegenungun waterfall we had Kadak take us on a two hour drive to a sight with 5 waterfalls. On the way we stopped on the road where there were two gorgeous columns, these are present when you leave one district, county or city and pass into another. At the stop there was a beautiful little area where fresh water ran from the mountains, which surrounded us. There were 2 cement “rooms” where the water would flow through pipes and create “showers”. There were no ceilings, and as we took pictures of the rain forest and mountains surrounding us we realized there were two women taking showers and washing their clothes in these “rooms”. (This is a very normal occurrence in Bali, we saw people bathing in the natural springs on the side of the road by the town of Ubud, in rice paddy fields and by rivers.)
Our next stop was a temple on a lake (Pura Ulun Danu Beratan). This is evidently a big deal but for me it was overcrowded. As beautiful as the lake and the building it was it felt more like a little tourist trap than a holy place.
Next Kadak wanted to show us an abandoned hotel, a very grand place, left abandoned before it was completed. It was falling apart despite the millions of dollars the Kings son had invested before abandoning it. The views over the valley were incredible, rice paddies, mountains, farms, and rivers in lush greens highlighted with beautiful flowers.
Finally (our two and a half hour trip had now turned into more like 3 and half hours) we arrived at the waterfalls. We hiked down for about half an hour, ignoring the fact we were going to have to hike up. The sheer majesty of the two waterfalls and their neighboring three was breathtaking. The powerful force would drench you just with the spray coming off of the falls. There were tiny bridges and rivers to cross on the way, all surrounded by gorgeous mountains covered in the beautiful forests only Bali can offer.
We spent time shopping, wandering, and visiting the monkey forest on another day. The monkey forest is right in the town of Ubud, but for me it was too much. The monkeys were aggressive and it was quite full of people even in the off-season. The scenery is beautiful, including one very Raiders of the Lost Ark looking area.
We also visited the various temples, Tirta Empul and the Goa Gajah or Elephant Cave. All of which were incredibly beautiful and quite serene (go in the mornings to avoid the bus tours coming from the beach). We were able to witness a religious ceremony, get blessed, and watch the locals do their purification in the holy water. There is so much respect for spirituality and religion here you can’t help but feel how special everything is. The beautiful flowering offerings adorn the temples, and people (including me) walk around with dried rice on their foreheads after blessings.
My pictures will have to suffice to describe the beautiful lush green of the forests, and mountains, which make up the island of Bali and surround all of Ubud.
Natural & Spiritual healing are a very big deal in Ubud, which means medicine. The locals seek out natural and spiritual healers for most things. The medical doctors here even refer patients to the natural medicine men. They also have a ton of yoga places and meditation places too. So I was very inspired to have my own personal experience.
On our last day Kadak picked me up early. He was taking me to a local spiritual medicine man. We had received permission the day before for him to see me. I did not want to go to someone who became popular from movies or was using his gifts for fame or wealth. Kadak brought an offering for me to give to the spirits and I brought money for the medicine man. It was a very special time for me, a gift Kadak will never understand he gave to me. Kadak sat in the room with me translating and helping to interpret everything the medicine man said to me. After our visit I was to get purified so we bought another offering and headed back to the holy waters at the temple ???? I had to go under each of the 13 fountains to be cleansed, purified and renewed. I can tell you it was an incredible experience, like meditation standing up.
For both J and me Ubud was more about a feeling than anything else so I apologize for not being able to represent that accurately here. Hopefully my pictures will convey, and if you ever get a chance head to Ubud, call Kadak and lose yourself in the beauty of this island and the amazing people and incredible culture. Hopefully I will see you there!
We stayed at this wonderful hotel: Hotel Villa Ubud (We loved it here!)
Call Kadak Ata!: Bali Belly Tours (He is also great for just getting around town too.)