Ubud, the spiritual and artistic capital of Bali. Ubud the Sweet. Ubud the Cool.
Thanks to the Goddesses and Gods (especially you, Ganesh!) that we are in Ubud and away from the sleazy streets of Kuta.
Ubud is only an hour north from Kuta, Denpasar, and the airport, but it is a world away in mood, or as we say in Sanskrit, in the bhav. If you are going to Ubud, there are three or four roads you can take. Tell your driver to take one of the back ways through the countryside, otherwise he will drag you along the tourist strip, one market town blending into the next, and insist that you stop at the “best” batik factory, “best” goldsmith, “best” wood carver. The one hour jaunt can easily stretch into three or four hours. You will be tempted (or pressured) into buying a bunch of stuff you will have to haul around with you for the rest of your stay. Remember that your driver gets a small commission for anything you buy.
By the way, how much will the driver cost? There are several options for getting around, from the cheap little Bemos (semi-private vans), to the cheap Parama busses, to the cheap taxi cabs, to the cheap private drivers. We wanted to make our own route to Ubud, long stops along the way in Uluwatu and Sanur, so we hired a private driver for the day. Our tab? $25 including gas and non-stop narration. We did buy him lunch on the beach at Sanur and tipped him an additional $5. Total, about $35.
Finally, we arrived in Ubud. We planned to stay for three days before heading out to the beaches on the Gili islands, but by the end of our three days, we realized that we had lots of unfinished business in Ubud, so we planned to return to Ubud at the end of our vacation. A good plan that was, and I’ll talk about the “Return to Ubud” in a later note.
Friends Gil and Kathryn Lazier recommended that we stay at Family Guest House, a “homestay” in the village of Tebesaya, snuggled up next to Ubud. We took the Lazier recommendation and booked a room in at FGH where we had the opportunity to live in a traditional Balinese home and get a small peek into Balinese family life.
After several amusing misadventures in getting lost, our Kuta-nese driver Chun had no idea how to find Tebesaya, we found the right Jl (pronounced Jellan).
At last, Family Guest House!
Note the sign touts BROWN BREAD BREAKFAST. What’s the big deal? This is a RICE culture. The sign also promises a NICE GARDEN, and, baby, that is one promise they keep.
Here’s the gate into Family Guest House. Like so many of the Balinese establishments, Family Guest House is non-descript from the street, but once you get inside . . .
First, you come to a pool inhabited by koi and other fishes. Then you enter the compound itself. This is a central pavilion where the family gathers to hang out. I took this shot at a rare moment when the marble floor was not the playground for wall-to-wall children.
Family units (and I never quite understood all the different arrangements) have their own semi-private quarters surrounding the central pavilion.
The family compound also features what can only be a stage or formal presentation area.
After checking in, guests are led down the garden paths to their own digs.
Every little area is finely attended and nurtured. Here’s a small section of a garden wall.
The Balinese are really, REALLY, good at gardens, and at landscaping in general.
The garden path photo above leads to our room.
Here’s the view from our balcony.
Look around the garden. Everywhere you will see some Hindu shrine or altar.
Yep, that’s Ganesa. I’m used to calling The Remover of Obstacles “Ganesh” or “Ganesha,” but the Balinese pronounce the great Elephant’s name as “Ganesa.” When in Bali . . .
Note the “canang” offering at the foot of this altar.
These “canang” are set out every day, usually by women, with great reverence and solemnity, incense, prayers, lovely dance-like gestures, and sprinkling of water. I loved to follow the women around to meditate and bask in the shakti of these rituals.
At least a third of the Family Guest House compound is devoted to the family temple, an area we never entered. Below is a closer look I photographed through the gate.
The homestay also featured its own spa and salon next door, facilities of which we took advantage, both of us, several times. Traditional Balinese body massage for Bob, one hour, $10. For CJ, hair cut and wash, $9, and pedicure $5.
Early morning roosters notwithstanding, we had a wonderful time at Family Guest house. As for our adventures in and around Ubud, I’ll save that for the “Return to Ubud” blog.
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