Monday, February 29, 2016

Ubud, Bali {Markets, Temples & Monkeys}

Walking everywhere around Ubud worked for us most of the time, however, we loved that we had our hotel's free shuttle to rely on when it was raining or a long walk. We jumped in and headed for breakfast at the Lotus Cafe. This was right in front of Sarasawati Temple - which I thought was the most beautiful of all temples we visited in Bali.

This temple was right across from Ubud Market, so we explored a bit in here as well. We had visited the previous day as part of our cooking class as well. In the morning, the market is produce and meat - in the afternoon, the market turns more touristy with souvenirs, bags and $3 "ray-bans". Ha. We picked up some beautiful wood carvings, silver jewelry boxes and an ornamental necklace. And then some fun cheapo things as well, like a woven bag and those previously mentioned sunglasses!

 After, we walked along Monkey Forest Road (one of the main roads in town) to the Monkey Sanctuary. There are a few notices up, but basically, don't bring anything shiny, don't hide food because they monkeys WILL find it, don't make eye contract and don't feed them anything other than bananas! We saw some guy giving one candy and it made me SO angry. The monkeys here weren't particularly aggressive and we enjoyed walking around enjoying their cuteness.

It was rainy, so you can see a super cute picture of some monkeys huddled under cover. We wandered around for a while, working up an appetite. We had a super delicious and boozy lunch at Three Monkey's Cafe and watched the rain falling over the rice paddies. Afterwards, we had them call our hotel to come pick us up.

That afternoon we had arranged a driver to take us to the rice terraces, Royal Temple and Tanah Lot temple. It was still pretty rainy out, so we were glad to have someone driving us around. This was the first time rain had really impacted us at all - surprising since we were traveling in rainy season - so we weren't really all that upset. The rain was definitely on when we arrived at the Tegallalang Rice Terraces. They were beautiful, but there isn't really a ton more to see than this. You weren't able to walk down the rice terraces or anything. 

Next up was the Royal Family Temple (Pura Taman Ayun). Interesting sign before you walk into the temple. Apparently menstruating women (or anyone with an open wound) are not allowed in the temple! Tanah Lot was really the main attraction, but due to the CRAZY umbrella destroying winds, we weren't able to get very close.

The rain impacted our drive to our next hotel - we were probably in the car for about 2 hours, just trying to avoid flooded roads, getting detoured and generally just sitting in terrible traffic. The infrastructure in Bali is just...horrible! This is what is keeping a lot of places "off the beaten path" though, since it really is hard and takes a long time to get anywhere. We were pretty happy to finally arrive at our hotel in Legian. We grabbed a quick and easy dinner, had a soak in our outdoor bath tub and called it a night!

Up Next: Our Last Bali Post - Beach Bars, Yummy Food and Relaxation!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Ubud, Bali {Biking and Cooking Class}

Our next morning in Bali, we woke up bright and early for our bike tour with Jegag Cycling. It was low season in Bali, so the tour ended up only being Jason and I! We were picked up from our hotel and driven out of Ubud. Our first stop was some beautiful rice paddies. 

Our guide explained to us some of the symbolism in the common sights we were seeing all over Bali. We were approaching a festival, so everything was in the process of being decorated. In the pictures below, you will see a long bamboo stick. This symbolizes the journey through life and the journey to enlightenment. The bottom is naked, the middle is decorated and the top...well, it's droopy and frail but closer to god. In addition, there are offerings left all over - these are done 2 times a day as a way to give pleasure to the gods. 

Our next stop was the a coffee & tea plantation. We got to try 12 teas/coffees for free, but had to pay 50,000 rupiah (or about $3.50) to try Luwak coffee. They jokingly call this "cat-poo-chino" because the beans are eaten and then...recovered from an animal called a civit. It was actually a delicious coffee, but we left with tea souvenirs here. 

We drove another 15 or so minutes and arrived at Kintamani crater, where we had a pretty simple breakfast. The best part was obviously the view of Mt. Batur!

Finally - the biking! Now that we were on the top of the island, we basically had a leisurely coast (with a few hills) back down to Ubud. We made our way through small villages, stopping at the rice paddies, main gathering areas and really anywhere our guide thought looked interesting. It was a really great way to see the local village life and hear more about their culture. My favorite part was biking through town and literally everyone we saw, yelling "hello!" and giving us a huge smile. Balinese people are so incredibly friendly, and I loved getting this glimpse into their lives and culture. 

Our day ended back at the family compound, where we were treated to the best meal we had in Bali. The amount of food they had for the 3 of us (our guide included), was honestly ridiculous. We did our best to finish the Nasi Goreng, Sate, Gado-Gado, Tempeh, Mie Tek Tek, Urab Salad. etc. So many of my favorite dishes were veggie-based...with tons of peanut sauce on everything!

That evening, we walked around downtown Ubud. It was a bit rainy, but we caught a respite with gelato! That evening, we found a cute little sushi place and had a delicious (but small) dinner. We were still recovering from lunch.

The next morning, we were picked up for our cooking class with Paon. It started with a tour of the market (which will be covered in our next post), and then we headed back to the family compound to get to work! We made everything from scratch (including my favorite - peanut sauce!!) and got to chat with some awesome travelers. We even got some great trips from two lovely Irish girls for our trip this summer.

It was a really well-run class and we definitely enjoyed getting to learn how to cook some new food. I would love to do a cooking class everywhere we go! So fun! We need to have a night where we cook all of the amazing food we learned how to make...any takers?!

That evening, we had our hotel shuttle drop us off at Naughty Nuri's. This place was recommended by Anthony Bourdain as having the "best martinis in the world". We paired these with some ribs and OH MY GOD, this meal was amazing. It was a little warung (home-style local eatery) filled with cheekiness and charm. We are not light-weights, but after 1 of these martinis, we were glad we had our hotel shuttle to pick us up!

Next Up: Ubud Market, Monkeys and Temples!