Thursday, May 21, 2015

TOWN CENTER OF UBUD: WHAT TO EXPECT ASIDE FROM KETUT?


The moment I set foot in Bali, I was determined to find Ketut. As days passed by, we learned that in every family, there may be a man named Ketut.  The naming system used by the Balinese people and the western parts of the neighboring island of Lombok, Indonesia use only four names.  Regardless of sex, each person receives one of the four names based on birth order.  The first born is “Wayan”, “Gede” or “Putu”, second is “Made” or “Kadek”, third is “Nyoman” or “Komang” (Man or Mang for short) and fourth is “Ketut”.

So when you call out the name of your Indonesian friend out in the streets, there is a great possibility that many would look back.  This is just one of the many facets of the unique culture in Bali that a stroll around the town center would reveal the same.


The Tourist Information Center shall be our point of reference.  There’s a clinic and a money changer inside the premises of the center.  This was actually our pick-up point for a shuttle service provided by Bebek Tepi Sawah Villas anytime we visit the town center.


Two hours away from Kuta, Ubud is the complete contrast of the crowded and lively parties established in Kuta.  Truly, a peaceful retreat.  Ubud is known as the epicenter for arts and culture in Bali, the same is depicted by the aligned galleries, museums, art shops and simply the maintained Balinese architectural designs of residential and commercial establishments.


UBUD PALACE

One of the most prominent and accessible landmark in Ubud town center is the Ubud Palace.  It is dubbed as the artistic cultural life center showcasing traditional Balinese houses as residence of the royal family. 

There is no entrance fee (I suppose).  We immediately went inside the compound to scrutinize the details of every Balinese interior design and sculptures that surround.  Most of the sculptures are mythical and religious characters of Hinduism.








The Ubud Palace is situated at an intersection where pedestrians and traffic pile up.  It is surrounded by restaurants, souvenir shops and right across is the Art Market.






ART MARKET


The traditional Art Market is devoid of chaos.  Colorful display of paintings, clothes, souvenir items like scarves, woven bags, baskets or hats, and Balinese topeng (dance masks) surrounded a narrow alley on both sides.  Hand-crafted goods are a must buy when in Bali, as they say.  But for me, I only had the mandatory ref magnets, keychains and cotton-made shirts as I run out of clothes to wear.   

It was easy to navigate the whole art market.  And of course, the bargaining part comes into play, in fact it is encouraged as part of the shopping spree experience.  There are no barcodes on items for sale unlike other shopping districts of Bali, thus, the time to exercise the haggling skills.  But more than the purchase, the merchandise and crafts on display were sufficient treat on just walking by the narrow alleys.  It is truly remarkable.





The market is open from 8AM until 6PM and offers not only Balinese products but all sorts of merchandise, thus, catering to the varied taste of foreign tourists.





Adjacent to the art market is a vast open space where a marching band was practicing their routine.  Exhausted from the day tour, we sat in one corner to observe them and simultaneously inhaled fresh air.




CUISINE



A few steps from the palace and the market, the culinary treats that Bali, Indonesia offers is within reach.  Most tour guides and friends who have been to Bali have highly recommended and enlisted the Warung Ibu Oka as one of the best places to eat.  What are we here for?  The Balinese-style roast babi guling (suckling pig).  Though a bit pricey for me, to feed curiosity, there’s no harm trying their version than feel sorry for not trying at all.

It gets crowded at lunchtime and fortunately, we were able to secure a seat before the curious travelers came.  Wondering why there is Babi Guling in this part of Indonesia?  While Indonesia is predominantly a Muslim country, it is only in Bali where a majority of the residents are Hindus, thus, consumption of pork is not strictly prohibited.



Aside from Babi Guling, default orders for a meal in our group while in Bali were: ayam goreng (fried chicken), mie goreng (fried noodles), sate and nasi goreng (fried rice), considered as one of Indonesia’s national dishes that comes in different variants.



SARASWATI TEMPLE

Walking down the streets one evening to search for a cheap restaurant to dine, a branch of Starbucks came into view.  Fa├žade and interior design truly adapted to the Balinese architecture. Charming.  And it was the night view.






The following day we went back and even admired more of its surroundings, there is a small temple beside the shop.  The Pura Taman Saraswati.  To tourists, the same is known as the lotus pond for obvious reasons.  Res ipsa loquitor (the thing speaks for itself).




The temple is a walking distance and aligned from the Royal Palace, going left side, if you are stationed at the Tourist Information and facing the said palace.

Lotus ponds on both sides of the walkway leading to the temple is indeed picturesque and irresistible for photo shoots.  In fact, we witnessed a pre-nuptial pictorial while we had our own shots taken.  Aligned women carrying baskets on their head also passed by the temple making the panoramic landscape of the temple complete.



There are various art galleries and museums as well along the Ubud center. Installations vary and are truly unique but with a touch of Balinese architecture.  While we were not able to enter any museum or art gallery due to time constraints, the residential and commercial buildings composing the urban landscape of Ubud is already a peek of how rich and interesting the culture of Bali is.


For having discovered more than what I expected, I totally forgot about Ketut Liyer, the traditional healer popularized by the film Eat Pray and Love.  A number of galleries and art shops nevertheless are named KetutAnd I am already satisfied by it.
     

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