Arriving at Ubud I was met by some people touting business as I hadn’t planned anywhere to stay, I went along with one guy who had a homestay. Ubud is like a conglomeration of seven small villages. Still a small fairly quiet place, especially after Kuta. I headed down to Monkey Forest for a stroll along past the snatching monkeys. Somebody had their bottle of water nicked. Some people were feeding them bananas, which were quickly munched down. Some just look kinda bored. Among the shaded trees is a large real-size sculpture of two komodo dragons, you wouldn’t want to meet the real thing on a dark night, they are huge! One of the locals was telling me they have a poisonous bite, if bitten you have ten minutes to live! Not sure where legend meets fact here.
The owner of the guesthouse was one of the singers of the Kecak dance at night which I went along to see. Set in a small temple it plays out a story from the Mahabharata. Lots of singing and some dancing, some strange costumes, more chanting. A bad guy appeared looking strangely like the Grinch. Then after the story, a man did some firewalking, well sort of. More like kicking the fire apart! The fire was started with some coconut husks liberally doused in petrol and left to burn down. Then the guy came out riding a wooden horse, like a witch rides a broom. Strangely reminiscent of the Muslim ceremony I saw in Singapore, except this was Hindu. Seems to be in a trance, as at the end a couple of people rugby tackled him off the horse, and he flopped down on the ground sweating.
The next day I took a long walk between some of the villages in the outskirts of Ubud. Very nice scenery of green forest and lush paddy fields, terraced over the hills. I reached a small temple where a carved wall depicts Ganesh and some of his mates. An old lady quickly flicked water on me and then hand out for the 1000 rupiah for the blessing. Huh, what? Oh well I gave her the money and she let me take some photos and then she was all smiles. I clambered out the end of the temple and along a small stream and emerged in a rice terrace, I ascended up the ridges and then I came back to the road. Not quite the way I planned to continue but at least I was back on track for my next stop Elephant Cave. Not much of a cave, it must have been a fairly small elephant as the cave wasn’t that big! I had a chat with one of the people in the temple, she was learning Japanese so she could be a tour guide, and of course English too. Back on the road I nipped into a small museum where the curator/security guard showed me round as I was the only visitor. Of course a small donation was required at the end! But no entrance fee, so I just gave him a little and he seemed happy enough. Not that much to see here, a few archeological exhibits with some sarcophagus for the formerly important people.
Another day and it was off for nosy round the new botanical gardens. After a long walk I eventually reached it, seemed a lot further than the <2 km I had read. Anyway I went to the ticket office and it said it seemed expensive at 50,000 and instantly I got special price, out with the 40% discount stamp. Prices do seem very variable here, although sometime they have a take it or leave attitude, other times they are happy to barter. Like the geezers on the beach selling necklaces, pendants, watches, etc have their “sunset price” for the end of the day! Anyway I had a stroll round the gardens which were nicely set out although the tropical section had been closed due to flooding. Spotted a strange long-toed lizard with a yellow flash along the side. Eventually I managed to get my photo of it, before it disappeared into the undergrowth. After strolling around the gardens I again set out on foot up past a small village and round to the place where the herons sleep. I asked somebody at the gardens about it and they didn’t think there was that many birds, but they were wrong, hundreds if not thousands crowded the trees. Very distinctive with there white body and red spiky feathered head, like Punk birds with red mohicans!
Back into town, and after working up a thirst birdwatching it seemed like a good chance to try the Bali Hai beer. A bit on the smooth frothy side, I’ll stick to the Bintang which is crisper, yes I’m a lager connoisseur!