From Volcanoes to Yoga – Ubud, Bali

Ubud has so much to offer in terms of natural tropical beauty, crafted and sacred architecture around every corner, and generally friendly people. The ride from Legion to Ubud was so full of local sights as the shuttle bus drove me and my hostelmates from South Bali into the heart of the island. We passed by endless rice fields and warehouses packed with Balinese Hindu and Buddhist statues. Alongside the shuttle were tons of scooters zooming by, and as chaotic as traffic looked, no one spouted road rage.

I finally got to trek a volcano today. Taking a well worn backpackers route to the top of Mt. Batur, I was woken up at 2am to join a group of other travelers for an early morning hike up to catch the sunrise. Trekking up lava ash left from previous eruptions, I could look up and down and all around me and see twinkling lights – above head were sparkling stars and down the mountain trail was a train of flashlights as many other tourists journeyed on the same path also hoping to catch the sunrise over the mountains. When the sun finally rose, it cracked its beams of light over Mt. Agung in the distance. Well worth the 6km or so hike, the crater at the top had steam vents that you could feel the heat rising out of, and gorgeous panoramic views over the surrounding caldera area. Black ash congregated where lava from previous eruptions had settled. Included with the tour was a visit to a tropical coffee plantation located in a dense rainforest. Then back to Ubud.

After that I was on my own, and after a fast lunch I made my way to the Sacred Monkey Forest, a humid green rainforest sanctuary where macaques played and dwelled among religious temples of the community. I think it’s forests like these in Southeast Asia that Disney’s Adventureland is based on, because the Forbidden Temple of Doom would have fit in perfectly with the the moss ridden statues and elaborate religious carvings. Macaque monkeys swung from tree to tree and playfully jumped onto visitors. One baby monkey inspected my shoelaces and tried to untie them. The best part of this forest though was the rainforest conservation section where there were signs explaining the different native species in the park.

After a quick gelato and considering whether I should try walking the hour long journey to Gao Gajah, my decision was made for me when it started to rain. Like tropical rainstorm POURING. Good I prepared by having my poncho but I wasn’t sure what to do while it was crying water from the sky.

So I figured I’d check out Yoga Barn – that place is an awesome retreat. The name doesn’t say much, but it’s a huge rice terraced campus dedicated to all things yoga with open air studios/huts and a relaxing cage serving health conscious food. I dropped into a Vissapa Flow and had a blast. Taking a yoga class in Ubud was everything I every imagined the Eat, Pray, Love experience would be like. I even met some friendly worldly people at their cafe and chatted with them bout lobal policy over a dinner of amazing Nasi Goreng.

Then night entertainment at the Royal Palace – an Ubud culture show. I didn’t understand most of it, but I was able to appreciate the elements of drama that I could recognize. For music, i could recognize in their traditional songs, elements like dynamics and rhythm in their orchestra made up of Balinese xylophones, clarinets, drums/bells, and a singing narrator. The dance was very stylized, preferring quick flicking movements to convey energy, and quick side to side glances with the eyes along with side to side head bobs. The costumes were ornante and extravagant.

I spent the end of my night wandering the live music bars and restaurants of Jalan Monkey Street, and decided to splurge in a 5000IDR half hour foot massage. Totally worth it, and I made some friends with he locals hanging out at the massage place who were really cool and for some reason also wanted to take a picture with me. One of the fellas gave me a ride back to my hostel on Jalan Bisma.

I met a lot of people today. The three guys I got grouped with in my trekking tour were from Europe and friendly and knowledgeable about travel and world politics. Then our Indonesian guide up the mountain who was a good natured funny 18yo girl. Then new worldly friends from the cafe at the yoga barn. And locals working in tourism at the massage parlor. It’s always humbling and exciting meeting so many friendly new people.

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