I am renting a lovely little bungalow just off the center of town.  This is a local neighborhood full of all the wonderful ambience of life here in Ubud…but that also means…I awoke to a very early rising rooster who must have gotten confused because he began his lovely …good morning… at 4am! That, of course, brought a response from the many dogs in the community and the several thousand other roosters(at least that’s what it sounded like) … No worries… because of my jet lag, 4am seemed like the perfect time to get up. The birds began their songs around 5:30am and before I knew it we had a cornucopia of natures music. The night before, when I arrived, I was met by Made at the airport and then greeted at the house by Ketut, Komang, Kala and I-Luh…now other than Made & Ketut, I can’t tell you who is who at this point. The way the Balinese name their children is based on birth order: first born is Wayan, 2nd is Made or Nengah, 3rd is Nyomen or Komang and 4th is Ketut…this goes for either male or female and can be quite confusing…what if they have more than 4 children, you ask?…well then the sequence repeats with the addition of Cenik(little), Balik(return), Tagel(multiple) tagged after their first names…Most Balinese have nicknames and go by those too. I can see this adventure may take a lot of studying so I don’t embarrass myself. (-:
Well back to my 1st days impressions.

Ketut & I agreed that a 9am breakfast seemed reasonable but I think Ketut must have seen the lights on early in my house because she had breakfast ready by 7:30am.

The house rental comes with a breakfast and if you want her to cook you dinner it’s an extra 25.00/week. I signed up for dinner for the first week.

Ketut made a wonderful breakfast of eggs, toast, tea and an array of fresh fruits which I could only recognize a few…but I will tell you that they all tasted delightful. I enjoyed breakfast on the terrace and in the company of some rather energetic chickens and roosters…When Ketut asked me if I would like chicken for dinner, I could only look down in hopes I wasn’t condemning one of these fine creatures to my dinner plate. I guess I will see if we are 1 short at breakfast tomorrow!

After breakfast, I decided to walk into town and explore…now mind you, I am doing this without a map…it seems with all my preparation, I forgot to download a map of Ubud!..and well all know what a good sense of direction I have! (-:

With great determination and a little trepidation, I headed down the lane that my house is on…more dogs and chickens greeted me as well as the locals…3 little girls all about the ages of 3-5 greeted me with a wave and a “hello”…I replied in kind…they returned my reply and then I realized this was a fun game for them…so I continued my “hellos” all the way down the lane for as long as I could hear their little voices responding with “Hello” back! I found my way to the main street and turned in the opposite direction of my instincts…this doesn’t always work but today I ended up going in the correct direction. The first thing I noticed is that the sidewalk is at best questionable and at worst the reason I got Travel Insurance!…It is made up of concrete slabs shaped like round bricks in a square…some of these squares are loose while others are missing altogether…and from what I could see of the area of the missing stones, if I fell through the sidewalk, I could end up lost in another world. The street is busy with motorbikes(bigger than a scooter and smaller than a large motorcycle)…and vans…the streets are narrow so you don’t want to step off the questionable sidewalk and into the street without great care.

Ubud is considered the cultural center of Bali…so there are lots of museums, galleries and local music abounds…as well as incredible shopping…both the market type and the more upscale of those stores you’d find on Rodeo Dr…although the atmosphere is definitely that of a small village. It has quite the hustle and bustle of a bigger place but not quite the feeling of a city…I hope that description helps…

As I walked along the street I smiled and said hi as I usually do…and I was greeted back with big smiles and multiple requests for me to use their transport…”Transport” is the big street business here…and I will admit freely that I am already so tired of saying , no thank you..The Balinese are naturally very friendly and it is hard to say no to such bright smiles…Today the streets are quiet of tourists…they usually don’t come in full force until July..and a man I met told me that he has seen very few Americans in recent years and wonders if when we get a new president that will change. Even here you will find an interest in our election… I can attest that there are plenty of Australians, Germans & French here…although it really is quiet for what I am used to seeing when I travel in June…I did run into a couple of college aged girls from Hawaii in the Monkey Forest.

OK, now there is a place that freaked me out, as it did these 2 women…as many of you know, I have a bad history with monkeys…and during my trip to the Amazon in Ecuador, when I let a spider monkey crawl all over me, I thought I had conquered it…but being in a dark forest full of monkeys reignited the old phobia…I also made the mistake of buying some bananas they sell to feed the lovely little critters…just as I was generously throwing a small guy a banana, the little tyke decided one was not going to do it so he came flying at me and crawled up my leg(yes the same leg a previous monkey had taken chunks out of)…. Yep, this guy knew what he liked and that was BANANAS…all of them. Well far be it for me to stand in the way of any primates goals in life, I threw the whole bunch to the ground…doesn’t the Monkey Forest sound like fun?! Once I ridded myself of the food, the path cleared away and I was able to enjoy the walk and the beautiful lush foliage and huge trees that this small nature preserve had to offer. One path leads past the sacred “Waringan” tree, it symbolizes physical protection and divine blessing…it’s in the Banyan family and it is believed to never die, constantly replenishing itself with fallen seedlings…it is believed that powerful spirits  live with in it so it is never to be cut down…once I passed this tree I entered into “Pura Dalem Agung” which means Great Temple of the Dead…this is a sacred Balinese Hindu site…Balinese Hinduism is different from Hinduism practiced in other areas…Balinese Hinduism combines aspects of Animism, Ancestor Worship, Buddhism, and Hinduism…As I entered this area I noticed a bunch of these monkeys jumping on headstones..leave it to me to find a cemetery on a nature walk…this is also one of the places that they do their public cremations. As I watched these rambunctious creatures on the tombstones,  I noticed that each tombstone had a swastika on it…puzzled, I asked the nice guide, Wayan, who had been giving me a free tour(well not so free…I did buy a small drawing from him)…he told me that the Swastika is a holy Hindu-Buddhist symbol for Good Luck…that I did not know…it still shocked me to see it everywhere…

After the Monkey Forest, I headed back home to do some relaxing…I think I earned it after my monkey battles!

On my way to the Monkey Forest, I walked through the main center of town…all the stores had “Offerings” outside on the ground…some were simple and some were quite ornate with lots of food and various other things…I asked Wayan about these and he told me that they were for good luck…

I like the little house I have rented for the month…it is a small 1 bedroom on a lane just off the center of town. The house is traditional Balinese in that it is very open air…the bathroom(and this one actually has 2) is called a Garden Bathroom…well… because it is in the garden…not really but it is outside and surrounding the wall is a garden that is quite lush…but I am serious when I say outside…the wall is the wall separating this house and the neighbors…there is a roof…over most of it…It reminds me of the eco lodge in the Andes…all quite natural…but it does take a bit of getting used to…and for those with inquisitive minds, it has a western style toilet…but it is still outside…

I am also learning to share the living room with a creature that I would normally spray without a second thought…but being that I am trying to respect the concept that all life is sacred…well, yep, I am learning to live in harmony with a wasp or Hornet( not sure which) and it’s lovely nest…Ketut assures me that the wasp is harmless..So, I will take her at her word…and consider my wasp friend a pet…I wonder what to name it…OK, so I shiver every time I go by the thing but I am sure we will bond in time…if it doesn’t kill me in my sleep…unless the gecko in my bedroom gets it first…but I think it is getting it’s fill of the black ants who also keep me company…yes, tropical life in an open air house is an adventure at it’s finest. (-:

Seriously, this place is really a tropical paradise with or without the various living creatures I share my abode!


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