Wednesday, February 29, 2012
A day in Ubud
I'm staying in Ubud, which is in the interior region of the island of Bali. I'm not much of a beach person anyway, so staying in this area, which is more known for its plethora of shops selling wooden carvings, silver, and paintings, is definitely the way to go for me. As I learned, I'm also close by the Monkey Forest, as I'm staying in a place called Adi Cottages on Monkey Forest Road. A note on my lodgings: it isn't for everyone. There are tiny ants crawling around in the bathroom, which has a somewhat used-looking tub, and I'm not sure when the last time was they cleaned behind the toilet, even though they likely have cleaned the toilet itself. After staying in all the chain hotels for work, I'm used to a higher standard, but then I remembered back in the day when I was living in Mexico, a few ants in a local hotel never bothered me then, so it's really nothing I should be complaining about. There are just a few, and they seem to contain themselves to the bathroom, for whatever reason, so as long as they're not in my bed, I'm not too concerned. Besides, they provide water and a decent breakfast of either nasi goreng (fried rice) or eggs and toast. It's humble, but it suffices, and I'm not unhappy to be so near the Monkey Forest, about a 10 minute walk down the street from where my hotel is. I can't wait to post those photos. Of course, my camera battery just had to die halfway through my little walk inside the forest, so I had to rely on my phone for the rest of it, but I managed to get some decent ones.
Anyway, before I get too far into the Monkey Forest, I should describe my little walk up and down the street. I walked along Monkey Forest Road for a while and continued to be solicited by people trying to offer taxi services, massages, or simply their products. I've been really good at controlling myself and not buying anything. There are some really beautiful things here, but some of them are difficult to transport, and some are actually similar to things I can find in India or Pakistan, like silk scarves and pillow cases, and some are just plain undesirable. I started noticing that a lot of the places selling wooden carvings were selling carved phalluses. There was one with tiny legs on it, even. Most of them were key chains, but some looked like they were meant to be displayed on a shelf. Freud would have been in his glory; my clinical psych prof said Freud's office had a display case that was filled with such things, phallic symbols and fertility gods and such. In any case, I'm not sure if the culture here is obsessed with such things or if they think that westerners are, but I can't see why anyone would buy these items other than as a gag gift because they're not even symbolic in any religious sort of way. I decided to take a turn down a street and ended up on Karma Street. The road was quiet, and I actually saw locals there, not just tourists (though there were many of those, too), and there seemed to be many temples along the way. The road ended in a big tourist street market, though. I did relent and buy some silver bangles, mainly because they reminded me of some Indian ones that my parents gave me that I can't now find for the life of me through several moves. They weren't expensive, about $15, so I didn't feel overly guilty. I got myself out of there because there were also a few beggars there, since there were so many tourists, and all of those things combined mean it's not a place I want to be in. Although the temperature here doesn't feel overwhelming, after walking around for a while I had become quite hot, so I stopped at an air-conditioned café for some local coffee and ended up meeting a couple from Seattle, the husband having gone to university at McGill, which I thought I was neat. They were the ones that told me where to find the Monkey Forest, though I would have asked at my hotel if I hadn't found it, but then it gave me impetus to get my butt in gear and get a move-on rather than wiling away the afternoon checking Facebook in the café.
One thing I can say is that the street I'm on is an interesting mix of old and new. Aside from all the artisan vendors, there are a number of places selling Polo Ralph Lauren shirts (maybe fake ones, I don't know) and surf gear, and many are built underneath/within what are old houses made of stone and beautifully carved with the intricacy of Indonesian design, dragons, gods, gargoyles, all detailed with scales and feathers and patterned ridge-poles and crown molding (if that's what it's called on the outside of a building--I'm no architect expert).
Down to the Monkey Forest. The couple told me that there are tons of monkeys there. They were not kidding! I don't know what kind of monkeys these are, but there really are a lot of them. Almost everywhere you look, you'll see one, in trees, on the stone walkway around the forest, on fences. There are signs saying not to touch them and letting you know what to do in the event that one tries to touch you or jumps on you. You're just supposed to ignore it until it goes away. They don't tell you what to do in the even that one wants to attack you. I was trying to get a good shot of one in the trees eating what appeared to be a potato or perhaps a sweet potato, and this other monkey jumped out of a tree and tried to grab my bag (which I always carry messenger style, so he couldn't have got it). I tried to back away, but he stood there showing his teeth and hissed a little, which I took to be an aggressive maneuver, and I stepped back slowly to get away from him. I was indeed standing near a pile of those potatoes, so he probably thought I some sort of threat to his food supply. He watched me for a while backing away, and I watched him, too, not daring to turn my back while walking away lest he run up from behind and attack. Don' know what to say the monkey won' do! You have to see that video to understand my reference, although when I did the search on YouTube to see if that video clip exists, it turns out this song is originally by Harry Belafonte. I'm assuming his version is not nearly as silly as the Animaniacs version ;o)
I seem to be very prolific these days, with all my entries here. I suppose it's partly boredom since there isn't much else to do in my room, but I also usually don't get as much chance to tell my stories as they happen, or at least within the same day or two of my experiences. I think I'm also just tired and would rather not stuff too much into one day, opting for a light adventure or two and then relaxing in the evenings. I'm hoping, my dear readers, that you'll forgive me for it!