Hooray! We’re back in Ubud, our home sweet home, where we plan to stay for the remainder of our vacation.
We are welcomed home by a lovable Ubud pooch.
This time we decided to reside closer downtown on our favorite road, Monkey Forest.
Monkey Forest Road is the second-most busy street in Ubud and runs north and south from the Ubud Palace to the Monkey Forest itself. The arrow is pointing to our hotel and you can see the trees of the Monkey Forest beyond. Yes, there are plenty of real monkeys there, as you will discover in an upcoming article.
Many of the best restaurants and shops are along Monkey Forest road, a commercial street for sure, but you are never more than a few feet from the deeper Hindu world. Temples are everywhere, but you have to look for them, typically by raising your eyes. Most of them are on the roof.
Ubud has a bit of every thing. You can partake of the traditional, religious Balinese experience . . .
Or boogie down at the very “continental” Jazz Cafe.
And to continue the “continental” theme, we did not meet another American the entire duration of our second visit to Ubud. Lots of Europeans and Aussies, a few aristocratic Asians from Singapore and Japan, no Americans.
We booked rooms at the Ubud Inn on the southern end of the road, about 3 blocks from the Monkey Forest itself. Every now and then, adventurous male monkeys would run right over the roof of our hotel. These big boys, about the size of a chimp, made quite a racket. By the way, do not mess with large macaques.
No that’s not a macaque. One of the hotel gardeners is getting a coconut for the kitchen. Our second-story room is just beyond
Ubud Inn is “Best Western” in quality. Beautiful grounds, typical of most places in Bali, with a mediocre pool.
A breezy, open air dining pavilion.
The guys spent an entire day decorating the dining pavilion for the birthday party of one of the guests.
And a resident bat. This creature hung on the tree all day long, sleeping mostly, but flirting with the guests from time to time. It had been hanging there for years, not tied up, occasionally flapping to nearby tree. As a young batling, it had broken its shoulder, and it could still only fly a few feet. Rescued by the hotel staff, it seemed quite content to hang around, pampered by the boys, and put in its cage at night for safety. This photo does not do justice to the animal’s beauty. It is sleek, glossy, fat, and sassy. I loved this bat.
Rooms at the Ubud Inn can be reserved at a variety of prices. Here is the door to one of the more upscale rooms. Not ours. We chose a standard room that had a tiny TV with 3 channels, a marginal bathroom, and an air conditioner that would freeze your butt off if you let it run. Open the window, look out, what do you see? A roof-top temple on the next building! We were tucked away on a quiet corner. No roosters!
Cost? About $60 a night, pricey for Bali.
There was also a famous movie star staying at the Ubud Inn.
Soon after we arrived, one of the hotel staffers asked me where I was from. I had learned that Balinese familiarity American geography was . . . ah . . . sketchy, so I flippantly replied, “Hollywood.”
Without missing a beat, he said, “You must be a famous movie star.”
I replied, “Yes I am, but please don’t tell anybody or I’ll have women all over me and I won’t have any peace, that’s why (tugging on my goatee) I’m wearing this disguise. Shhhhhh. ”
“Shhhhhh,” my accomplice in secrecy confirmed.
For the next week, he and the other hotel guys would point at me and whisper to newly-arriving guests . . .
“Don’t tell anybody, but that man over there with the fake white beard is Clint Eastwood.”
During the next week, the guys passed me off as Harrison Ford, Kevin Costner, and (my favorite) Sean Connery.
Have I mentioned just how goofy these Balinese can be? The Balinese people I knew were adroit practical jokers, they loved pranks, loved to laugh.
CJ’s masseuse, giggling, tiptoed me in to the room to snap this flattering glamour shot. How could I not come to embrace these silly, light-hearted, Balinese? Light. Hearted. Capiche?
Ah. The guys. At every hotel in Bali (and Thailand and Hong Kong and probably most places in Asia) there are men who make their living providing services for tourists. These guys will book tours and events, give you advice, show you the sights, and drive you all over the place. They will fight over you when you arrive. They want to become your ”man.” Don’t try to avoid this system, just be sure you get someone you like and someone who speaks your language. These guys are not pimps or joy boys. Most of them are family men, and most of them are devoutly religious. All of the men who helped me were fair and honest in our financial dealings.
Here are the two guys who became our “men.” Little Abhut and Big Ketut.
Abhut is taking me shopping in a nearby village. Note the total lack of any safety devices, like helmets, for example. Oh, what the hell.
And away we go. On Bali, motor scooters are the preferred, and most efficient, transportation. You should let a Balinese do the actual driving.
I told Big Ketut that I wanted to get off the tourist beat, to get deeper into the traditional Balinese world. I asked him if he had any ideas? He told me that he would check it out. A little while later he returned and asked me,
“Would you like to go to a funeral?”
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