Bali, Indonesia – Life in Ubud

[ 0 ] June 2, 2012 |

Ubud, Bali had us wrapped around its little finger from day one.  This town oozes with charm and accessible comforts. It was the perfect place to settle into a routine while still exploring new things daily.

Ubud, Bali

We wanted to be as independent as possible and transportation was a big part of making that happen. So, after having Nengah (the driver) take me on a few loops around town in a car I realized we could definitely do this on our own- there was only light traffic and not that many roads to get lost on. Motorbike it was. Once we rented our bike, Pat and I both took turns getting a feel for it in a temple parking lot across from the house. (Seemed appropriate since I learned to drive a car in a church parking lot.) After some laps I decided Pat should drive! Over the month I did become a much more relaxed passenger. By our last night in town, we were cruising down rough roads, in the dark, in the pouring rain. With my chin on Pat’s shoulder and arms around his waist- it was a fantastic feeling- no fear.

running errands on the bike

heading out on the motorbike

Our days in Ubud weren’t filled with rushed activity; instead there was lots of lounging and eating. Pat was incredibly diligent studying so we stayed at the amazing house a lot of the time- which was wonderful.  I spent my days reading, researching and planning details for our future adventures.

not a bad place to study


Wayan, our precious housekeeper made us a healthy breakfast every morning and many other delicious meals of local foods. She would run to the “traditional market” to pick up special ingredients on almost a daily basis. She even brought us some special things to try from her village.

healthy start breakfast

We made it a goal to get to the gym, Ubud Fitness Center, as often as possible. When we arrived in town we joined for a month and did pretty well taking a healthy break almost everyday to get out of the house and keep the brain juices flowing. We’d ride our motorbike the 15 minutes each way.  Only a few days were we caught in the rain.

Ubud Fitness Center

off to the gym

I went to town several days on my own to walk the streets and watch the people. I saw a flood of kids running to buy snacks from the street vendors when school got out and then squeezing 5 or 6 deep on the back of a motorcycle for the ride home. Artists were in their studios painting, monkeys were swiping things from tourists; shop owners were waiting for customers. I never cease to be amazed by what people are capable of carrying on a motorbike: eggs, dogs, chickens, children, tires, bamboo, flowers, groceries, boards, stoves, propane tanks- these are common. When my legs got tired, I’d settle into one of the many quirky cafes in town, each which boasts their own list of exotic juice blends and smoothies and pensively sip away the afternoon.

Monkey Forest Road

Ubud main drag

Ubud Main Street

art galleries

Monkey Forest

retail down, temples up

rooftop temples

Ubud soccer field

egg delivery

mobile florist

quaint cafes

We spent two separate days making trips to Sanur to drop off and pick up our passports at the Indonesian Embassy. We had to have our visa extended and they have created an obnoxious process- all done by hand of course, no computers. The process involved purchasing red folders and having copies made, waiting in random lines to be told to move to the next line to wait again- all really inefficient. Watching your passport being stuffed in a random folder with half of your name written on it with a handwritten thin paper receipt being the only thing connecting you to it any longer and that folder joining a large stack of other red folders on the floor in the corner… whew. This was the longest we’ve been apart from our passports since we left home, and I must admit it was a bit nerve-wracking. On the second trip we showed up really early to complete the middle step in the process and then begged to be able to pick up the passports that same day. After getting special approval to get them back just before closing time, we made our way to the beach and found a café to spend our day at instead of in the government office lobby. (Accidently another Bali beach day without a camera.) Finally, we did get that important stamp allowing us to stay a few days longer in this piece of paradise.

Denpasar intersection

large statues at intersections

Driving between Denpasar, Sanur and Ubud you see rice fields all around. We were told there are many fewer rice fields now than there were just a few years ago. Development is certainly taking its toll on the land. Nengah explained that by using fertilizers the rice is now harvested four times a year, in the past it was twice a year with a longer growing season and a more nutritious rice. From his perspective, people in Bali use to live to be very very old and now they don’t live as long. He connects this to the change in the rice harvest- quantity over quality.

rice fields

flooded rice fields

Woodworking and sculpting shops pop up frequently right next to the road. Most of the wood is imported from Java, but the artists are in Bali. Random art galleries line the streets. In some areas, it’s hard to tell where one town ends and the next begins.

door making woodshop


funny sculptures

stone sculptures

table tops

traditional bale used for yoga, meditation, relaxing

art galleries

traditional doors

traditional entrance to a home compound

Most Balinese people are Hindus unlike the rest of Indonesia. They have a naming system where regardless of being male or female each person receives one of four names, based on birth order. First born: Wayan, Second Born: Nengah or Made, Third born: Nyoman, Fourth Born: Ketut. There are a few variations based on the caste system- but pretty much everyone has these 4 names. If you are the fifth born- you are Wayan again. It’s rather confusing, but easy to learn. Alison is a really tricky name for Balinese people to say- they don’t have the same A or I sounds in their language making it difficult to pronounce. Wayan and I practiced some words she has trouble with over and over- my favorite was “lizard.” When she started working at the house, she didn’t speak any English and has learned all she knows just from listening to guests. Once I realized just how different the sounds are, I was so impressed that she can speak as well as she does. I had a hard time repeating some words in Indonesian right after they were said.

Wayan and Alison

sweet parting gift from Wayan

Each night in Ubud there are traditional dances performed at the Ubud Palace. We stopped by, but didn’t ever go to an official show. An unexpected find was a large lotus pond right in the middle of town outside of a temple.

lotus pond

Ubud lotus pond

We left many things undiscovered in Bali- beaches, volcanoes, holy spring water. There is plenty to keep you busy if that’s what you’re looking for. The country is full of culture, art, and natural beauty. For this month, we enjoyed a different pace – skipped the tourist attractions and instead moved closer to the rhythm of the locals.

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Category: Alison's Blog, Blog, Featured Posts, Indonesia

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