Arrived at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, I can feel a decent feeling immediately hit my mind and senses. I can tell that I am in Bali, ever if I am blindfolded with the hints: as soon as my face meet the hot breeze, my nose's sense is catching a familiar fading scent of burning either jasmine or frangipani incense sticks floating in the air, a heavenly welcoming aroma, mixing with humidity, and softly played Balinese gamelan that my ears are friendly with.
There were a lot of people, I mean, a LOT of people, going to the same destination, to go through the customs that is, and that made a long line of human bodies when you can expect all sort of overwhelming odour spreading about. The humidity does not help. No matter how quick you fan yourself to get rid of the heat and smell, you still can feel sweat tricking down your back, and your nose can faithfully trace back various odour mixed with scents. Pungent, fragrance, mushy HOT air.
Then, as there might be One God, He was the One who helped us, to change our luck. One of the crews at the airport approached us and gestured to follow him to go straight to the front line. Just because we traveled with children (gee, thanks kids!), we sort of had a privilege to use the shortcut. Don't mind other people staring at us, really, we just need to get to the front line and breath the fresh air. Can't believe our luck, either. What was waiting for us in the front line you can't even imagine than just gave yourself a good surprise! There was a small box, looking like a metal detector, guarded with people in uniform wearing medical masks, like those ones in the surgery. Oh, we felt like an insect when they started to disinfect us from what bugs may have been attached to our skin, clothes, or hair. What the heck, we just close our eyes and mouth, then put our hands in two small holes prepared for the hands, and let ourselves sprayed with whatever they use. Hey, do we need to take a shower afterwards?
Happened got through that line was just like getting out of a hell pit, and we deserved to wear broad smiles on our face once we were out. We went out of the arrival chamber happily, counting our luck to give the fact that there was still a very long line back there (which I felt I might be fainted if we were standing there long enough) with every half an hour perhaps more passengers from other planes were adding up. What a good start, ey? Our driver, Kadek, was there waiting for us with a broad smile on his face, waving his hands up to give us a sign that he had been there. The rain was pouring thinly in the background as we exchanged our greetings. I looked around. Dark faces and figures of Balinese are somehow an exotic scene to capture, with their high cheekbones and strong jaws, you might want to get a snapshot one or two, once they're willing to show you off their the white ridge of their teeth?
Denpasar, as the capital city of Bali island, is busy as usual, but we had got no business in there, so we went straight to Ubud, the place that we love to live in. Looking at the sides of the road, I realized that there has been more building development here and there. There are more shops, restaurants, beauty salons, gallery, everything. More tourists, I can see, were strolling along the sidewalk, some were standing in front of the shops windows, and many of them were sitting in the cafe. I believe, the volume of visitors this year can be much more exciting rather than the times we went back in 2004 and 2006. I suppose this is a good sign for Indonesian tourism, especially Bali's. More Balinese will be helped by the income of selling goods, hospitality business, food, and others; which is a good news.
Once we arrived at the Monkey Forest road, more shops we can witness are piling up there. New shops which we had seen there were there three years ago. And some activities were quite dynamic on the road, as usual, where tourism buses, cars, and bikes are crammed with people. It is not as bad as you think, though it is by comparison with New Zealand traffic. New Zealand's traffic is nothing compared to any traffic in any parts of Indonesia.
What is Ubud?
Ubud once was only a forest, situated in the heart of Bali island. Rsi Markandya, a Hindu priest from Java island made a holy journey with his followers to a place where the Wos Timur (East river) meets up with the Wos Barat (West river) in Campuan river, which is situated in the outskirts where Ubud is located. He found out through his religious meditations that this place had to be a holy place to settle down and build stronger power of Hinduism teachings throughout Bali. The river itself has been believed to have a healing power to the sicknesses. Like Hindu people who bathe themselves in the holy Ganga river, India, these Hindu people in Bali do the same in their own land. This river has not only attracted religious visitors, but also has done artists. Antonio Blanco, to name a few, had been inspired by this river and Balinese on his many outstanding masterpieces that you can view at The Blanco Renaissance Museum Campuan.
As the importance of this river to heal those who are sick, it is then believed that the water is to be an ubad, which in Balinese language means medicine. Ubad is then pronounced Ubud, as how people name it to be until today.
Because it is the place where you can express your artistic values, minds, and talents that can be creatively transformed artistically in the artistic atmosphere into any dimensions your art of sense may take a lead. I, specifically, regard Ubud as the most artistic village on earth. It is as colourful as what a diversity can ever mean for. Even if you feel you're not artistic, you can immediately agree that you can enjoy the arts instead.
If you love tranquil surroundings, you still can find it in Ubud. Your choice of bungalows can be those of standing in the middle of paddy fields, or of the accommodations resting peacefully located near the forest of Campuhan river in the outskirts of Ubud. Suits your needs and personal preference, I suppose. There are good villas about, you just need to google I suppose. But here they are to name a few: Ibah, De Ubud Villas and Spa, Kajane, and many more.
There is Tjampuhan Hotel if you want to enjoy the luxury of life located in the outskirts of Ubud, and there are also many villas, inns or bungalows offered in different styles you may prefer to stay at. If you are feeling humble you may be just happy to stay in with the locals in their compound, to get access to their daily routines, religious activities, and perhaps learn Balinese language.
If you are hungry, depending on where you decide to stay, you may certainly be instantly able to find a nearest warung, cafe, or restaurant and bar. There are scattered about in Ubud and you don't have to worry that you may get starving. Because you won't! There you can taste the flavour of Bali, Indonesian meals, or Western food.
If you are someone like me who loves to be entertained by the elegant movements of curly hands and toes of Balinese dancers, you may be wanting to spend the rest of your evening watching various performances held at many places in Ubud. The places that we often go to are Ubud Palace and Ubud Water Palace near the Lotus Restaurants. There are always stories of religious and the way of Balinese see the world behind each performance. I provide you some photos I took from many performances we had watched.
There are also many things you can do in Ubud. When you are with children like we are, you might want to make your quality holidays suit everyone's interest. I took my children to the Museum Puri Lukisan to admire professional paintings which most of them are oldies. I also took them to painting and dance workshops. For one time, we also learn Balinese dance at the museum as well.
When you need adventurous journey, you may want to go to the Ayung river to do white water rafting. Or perhaps, you want to retreat yourself with a series journey of healing energy? There is a yoga retreat to suit your needs.
So, why Ubud? You now know the answer.
Note: You'll find descriptions under the photo on my Flickr if you click each of the photos.