I’m splitting our Ubud experience by topic rather than days. We visited the markets and the monkeys on several occasions, but I’m grouping them all together to give a more concise review.
Surrounded by all the skilled and talented people of Ubud, the Monkey Forest is a beautiful rainforest sanctuary. There are several temples on the property and as you can see, hundreds of monkeys. They are very well fed by both the visitors (you can buy bananas on the way in), and by the staff in addition to their scavenging. The offerings put out at the temples are quickly enjoyed by the monkeys. There are so many bananas that many of the monkeys don’t even bother with them. Even the ones who like bananas do not accost you to get one – they are happy to just approach and take from your open hand.
Mike watched this one mother and baby (at left) at length. She found a whole coconut, and then as he watched she proceeded to crack it open, drink the milk inside, and then peel it open and eat the meat. It was fascinating.
Although they will take food from you, they are definitely wild animals. There are staff walking the grounds ‘keeping an eye’ to make sure none of them get unruly. It is amazing to walk among them and watch their behaviours – and it is very noisy. They are so used to humans that it is like we aren’t there. They groom, eat, nurse, mate, play, bathe, fight, and socialize all around you. Every now and then they will hear a call or fuss and they will all run off to check out what’s going on – often a dispute between two or more others. But just don’t get them mad – I saw several occasions of aggressive teeth baring at visitors if you anger them.
The temples in the Monkey Forest were varied – there was a funeral temple and a graveyard along side. The graves were interesting as they only bury their dead for a short time until they hold the cremation ceremony. So the headstones merely marked the date of death (not birth), and the oldest was just a couple of years ago.
While we were here, it was a full moon, and in addition to the full moon ceremony, it was a 6 month celebration at the local temple. Each temple has it’s own cycle of special celebration dates – but they occur every 6 months (the Balinese calendar has 35 day months and is very complex). On these dates, there are 3 days of larger ceremonies and family members return to celebrate. There are 3 days of special offerings including animal sacrifices – which are eaten after the ceremony. Since there were ceremonies ongoing, we could not enter the temples. But as you can see from a couple of shots, they were very nature oriented and rustic. It felt like we were walking in an Indiana Jones movie!
Back out on the streets, Ubud is the cultural capital of Bali. You can take courses of many kinds, and the stores and markets are full of wonderful handiwork. Just prior to our arrival the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival was held, so we missed out on that one. There are many shops, just as there were in Legian, but here they are much more upscale and the quality of the wares is much better (and less harassing to buy).
And at the top of the main street, is the market. Both tourists and locals shop here. There was everything from food to furniture, clothing to crafts. And everywhere the women (and some men) carried their loads on their heads.
The market opens around 5am with the food sections, and while they close up by about 3pm, the rest of the market stays open till at least 6pm or later for the tourist booths. We spent both time and money in market!
Kyle and I took a Balinese cooking course on Friday (Mike went photo shooting of course). Our lesson started with a trip to the market to discover the local ingredients and spices. They use many of the same foods we use, but their varieties are quite different and unique. For example, their eggplants are about the size and shape of a plum, their cucumber much smaller, and their beans much longer (about 3 feet!!). So despite having the recipes and learning the techniques, we will never be able to totally replicate the dishes since we don’t have the right stuff 🙁
Hopefully we’ll still be able to whip up some decent dishes though. We learned how to make the base gede (spice), and several dishes, all of which we enjoyed. And Kyle has become quite the pro at origami napkin folding. Any restaurant we visit where the napkin folding is unique, Kyle deciphers it and learns to create it. He now has 3 or 4 decent designs under his belt. Can you tell he is getting bored of his parents company?