Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bali Days

UBUD, Bali, Indonesia-- "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a tourist on foot must be in want of a taxi."

OK, I didn't make it up; the line came from my husband after we had walked the main streets of Ubud for a while and had been asked hundreds of times by touts whether we needed transit. There cannot possibly be that many taxis in this relatively small town-- especially since the locals (grannies and kids included) all seem to use motor scooters for transportation. On very narrow paths.

Aside from that, though, Ubud is indeed a lovely spot, tucked up in the hills, surrounded by rice paddies and studded with temples. While the temples look ancient, they all seem to have fresh offerings each morning.

As I began composing this, I was sitting in a little internet cafe, watching the sacred monkeys from the adjoining sacred monkey forest as they climbed along the top of a fence. They come right up to humans, trying to steal food. They play out in the middle of the road, fearing not even the scooters. I guess that's an upside to being sacred.

(That computer crashed, so I have moved down the street to a computer with what I suspect is a slower connection. It's in the peaceful outdoor lobby of our hotel, the Saren Indah. Local gamelan music--which is trance-inducing--is playing. So I'll type fast.)

Last night, we went to view a traditional Balinese dance performance. The sounds and movements are hypnotic, even though as a westerner, I wasn't familiar enough with the basic story to follow all the action. (Good and evil battled; good won.) I did, however, recognize Haruman, the monkey god. He was on the side of good, along with his monkey army. Considering how fearless monkeys can be, it helps to have them on your side, it seems.

This morning, while Keating went on a birdwatching hike, I took a cooking class where we made Balinese-style chicken salad; chicken curry; nari goreng, which is a type of fried rice with a distinctive Balinese taste; sweet-and-sour shrimp and black rice pudding. My two classmates were Japanese women who didn't speak English, so we nodded and smiled a lot as we chopped vegetables. But it all tasted right when we finished, so I guess that didn't matter.

(We have spectacular photos of Ubud and especially of the dance performance, but they will have to await a faster computer connection.)

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