Ubud, Bali’s cultural Heart

After five days in Nusa Dua we had charged enough energy to explore the volcanic island in the Indian Ocean in detail. A few years ago we would have done this in the real backpacker style by jumping in the cheapest possible local bus, squeezing between chickens and pigs. Now, due to the amount of luggage and the concerns for our child we required a more personalized solution. Fortunately, the taxi prices in Bali are so cheap that we rented a private chauffeur for half a day, who comfortably and safely drove us for around 17 Euro to the cultural heart of Bali, Ubud. Here we had prebooked a small but nice family hostel. The price for a beautiful room in the Pondok Kutuh Guesthouse including breakfast: 18 Euros.

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In the following days, we finally merged completely into the hustle and bustle of the Hindu dominated Bali. It started with the World Heritage temple Goa Gajah, whose name translates as "Elephant Cave". The entry of this prayer room chiseled into the stone is framed by a finely carved relief full of mythical demons, making the entrance a real test of courage. But our brave India was not impressed and walked inside all by herself with the joyful exclamation "CAVE". But also the other parts of the temple complex boosted exciting architecture, ornate carvings and bright colors.

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This triad continued in the coming days when we visited other temples in and around Ubud. Especially the Saraswati temple with its lake full of blooming lotus flowers was a feast for the eyes. But in addition to ancient cultural monuments, the surrounding area of Ubud provided the opportunity to explore the centuries-old rice terraces, nestled on the valley walls of the volcanically shaped mainland. Thanks to the climate the rice grows all year, so you can see the grain in different phases of maturity and therefore also in different colors - from the brown unplanted earth through the lush green of the densely packed young stalks up to the yellow color of harvestable rice. From Ubud we went to the nearby Campuhan Ridge Walk. On the way there we stopped for a geocache, which also led us to a hotel with a beautiful shady pool. A nice wet rest for India before we continued to the delicious and idyllic Café Kasa. On the way back we all needed a 1 hour massage for not even 7 Euro each! That's life!

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But as beautiful as the temples, rice fields and the sea are, the most impressive part of the more than 5,500-square-kilometer big island are its inhabitants. Although we met only a fraction of the more than four million Balinese, everyone of them was open and friendly. Probably also thanks to India, because children are still welcomed here with open arms and it was not rare that India was entertained in restaurants by the staff, even if the interest from our daughter was usually rather restrained. The deep-rooted spirituality which manifests itself in daily offerings and prayers, regular visits of temples and in-house shrines, is another unforgettable part of a Bali visit.

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This became apparent during our visit of the Tirta Empul temple, one of the most sacred and important of Bali's temples. Located in the center of the island at the source of the river Pakrisan, it is best known for its holy spring water. This attracts daily hundreds to thousands of Hindus, who bathe in the spring water to become clean and get rid of diseases and other problems. Despite the many people there, including tourists, the atmosphere was very relaxed and people had mostly a smile on their faces. Just like the graceful young dancers that entertained us that evening with a traditional Balinese dance in the Lotus Temple.

The rest of the pictures of Ubud can be found here: Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali