Saturday, 6 October 2012

Ubud: Day Two

This was our  day for exploring the market, sights  and shops around Ubud. Nothing can prepare you for that.
Despite our relatively early start, we found ourselves moist with perspiration soon after leaving the Jangkrik Homestay. We wandered down Hanoman Road, poking into a few shops, but only made it about half a kilometer before stopping for a lusciously cool watermelon juice, freshly blended with ice. Our will to spend was weak and enthusiasm for bartering was low, but at first we enjoyed the maze of market stalls on three levels, losing ourselves in what seemed to be endlessly repeating rows of sarongs, wooden penises, intricate carvings, silver jewelry, baskets and plastic footwear. More rows of spices, vegetables, mystery foods and colorful clothing, wooden puzzles, masks and dried fish all merged into the confusion of sellers who called out for our attention, pleading, "You come look, I give you good price!  Morning price!  You be first.  Where you from?" Such bombardment of the senses takes a certain kind of stamina, which we were low on. Meanwhile,  Gina happily hunted for small gifts to take home for friends. We soon  had to escape to the auto-misting coolness of a nearby restaurant, oddly named "OOPS".  We must have seemed somewhat frazzled, as gorgeous young waitresses, with gracious manners and beautiful, shy smiles made sure we were served refreshments promptly.  They moved us to cooler seats and were even kind enough to retrieve bags and purses from the table we left....we must have been zombies! In no rush to leave, we sampled light fare and more liquids before venturing again into the midday heat.  By this time my hands and feet felt like tight puffy sausages, with heat rash setting in.  Gina had the start of blisters on both feet, but Kees was happily sloshing along after quaffing a few Bintang, his new beer of choice. If he had any aches or discomforts, we never knew.
A few sights to see down the main street included the Lotus Gardens and an interesting temple, open to the public during the day and used for traditional Balinese dance performances at night.
We headed south to the Ubud Palace, which is now used as museum for traditional Balinese art.  It was a good choice, as entry included a cold drink and the cool buildings had smooth marble floors, perfect for wandering in bare feet.
The art was relatively inaccessible to me, as the intricacies of Hindu tales remain a mystery.  Gina caught on better than I did, gaining a solid appreciation for Barong, a kind of king of Balinese good spirits, who appears in many paintings. I enjoyed the fine wood carvings and beautiful gardens the most, as well as the demonstration of woodcuts and intricate writing on dried palm leaves. And the cold drink.
Heading out into the blazing late afternoon heat and traffic was not a pleasant trip.  We considered taking a taxi back to our rooms, but spotted a chance to make a break for the very appealing tanks of cool water in a shop across the road.  I had read somewhere about foot massages given by schools of tiny fish, which actually nibble gently on tired toes to remove only the dead skin cells on your feet.  Guess what-it's wonderful!! All three of us plunked down on comfy padded benches that surrounded a tank of wee anchovies, submerged our hooves, and PRESTO! Ten minutes of cool bubbles and our sore feet were happy again.  It took some courage to get over the tickles of a thousand little mouths, but the testimonial of the previous happy clients made our decision easy. Plus, it felt like a cool bath of bubbling Sprite. Plus it was only about $4.50! Check another one off the bucket list.

Our trek home was a bit cooler and much more energized. We felt pretty good about getting a bit of exercise, after all the delicious food we had been enjoying. In some of the shops, it was even pleasant chatting with the sellers who didn't seem as aggressive about pushing their wares.
After showers, fresh clothes and a chat with our new friend, David (who also had a room at the same homestay) we all headed off to find the Wayan Cafe, one that had been made famous by the movie, "Eat, Pray, Love."  Our plan was to meet fellow exchange teachers there for dinner.  It was also David's birthday, so we were happy to treat him to a meal.  We found Louanne, Keith and their son Konner settled into a low table surrounded by cushions.  Although it looked comfy, sitting on the floor to eat is not, really.  We managed, but with average food and stiff legs, we were relieved to dine quickly and head out. Streets were not well lit and notoriously uneven, so we made our way back to Hanoman Street with care. There was more celebrating going on at the temple, the last night of a three day Full Moon Celebration.  We listened to Balinese music and watched the crazy comedy for a while, not understanding much, but enjoying the colourful costumes and interesting dances, festive crowds and traditional clothing.
It had been quite a full day.  We tumbled into bed, dreaming of bright colours, cooler places and quiet nights. I  was very pleased to have a fan over our bed and fresh sheets to rest on.

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