20 September, 2015

Bali: Part 6, Ubud Finalé

One of the major attractions in Ubud is walking through the Monkey Forest. A section of forest has been left in the middle of the town for the monkeys to inhabit. The area is complete with a few temples and there is a road that passes through it, but it's closed to traffic and is instead used by the flocks of tourists who come to gape at our cute, though somewhat cheeky and occasionally annoying, cousins.



At the entrances one is encouraged to not carry any food or drink in. Monkeys have been known to snatch food from people's hands and even jump on people to get into their bags if they smell food. Of course this doesn't stop the locals from trying to turn a profit by selling bananas to tourists for the sole purpose of feeding monkeys and trying to get pictures taken with them.
A baby monkey enjoys the spoils of tourism.

The main temple within the Monkey Forest


Of course there's no guarantee that everyone will be perfectly safe simply by following the rules in the Monkey Forest. Monkeys are, after all, wild animals - as are humans - so sometimes there will be mishaps. This sign stands prominently outside the exit.

Ubud central would be Jl. Raya Ubud. It's the main road on the hill which contains the market place, several temples, the museum and various governmental buildings. A number of other important roads branch out from it and they make up the core of Ubud.

Jl. Raya Ubud, near the market place

Jl. Raya Ubud, one of the temples

One such road branching off is Jl. Monkey Forest which we found ourselves on when exiting the west side of the forest.

The west exit of Monkey Forest, facing north up Jl. Monkey Forest

I have previously mentioned that we were staying away from the louder streets on one called Jl. Bisma. It runs parallel to Jl. Monkey Forest, but until recently could only be reached by going all the way up to Jl. Raya Ubud, turning left twice and then coming back down the parallel road. However, due to prosperity brought on by tourism, that area is undergoing expansion, so now there is a small road that connects them very close to the Monkey Forest exit. It's also lacking signs or any indication of its existence.

 The road just out of the Monkey Forest

 The side of the same signpost visible in the above picture, displaying information about a guesthouse down the lane.

The apparent dead end, save for what looks like a pathway to your right.

Said pathway

The bridge you cross going into the south end of Jl. Bisma

As one heads up Jl. Bisma, one encounters quieter places to stay, more local houses and future guesthouses under construction.



Jalani Bisma does not reach Jl. Monkey Forest on older maps, even though they now connect.

I came across this scene - a traditional entrance being constructed.

Based on a few conversations I've had in Bali, I have been led to believe that there is a lifestyle choice actively encouraged by the government. If one does this, one is exempt from tax. It requires living in traditional houses - large-ish plots of land where the whole family lives, equiped with a shrine area where prayer is done.
It also requires that religious sacrements are adhered to. This includes (but is certainly not limited to) putting out Canang Sari, or daily offerings. They are to thank Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa. They are placed on small shrines and on the floors around the estates.

An example of canang sari. It's a small woven palm-leaf basket. There appear to be variations in what can be placed inside. I have even seen small sweets added to the contents. Traditionally there is betel leaf, betel nuts, lime and tobacco. Flowers are also added along with incense.

All festivals have to be acknowledged and celebrated, too. We missed a big festival by about a week when families take long lengths of bamboo (I think) and tie the ends over so a small eye is formed. These are placed all down the roads from every house and make a beautiful display.

While giving citizens a handy get-out-of-tax-free card can't be doing the government much good, it does wonders for keeping the culture alive. With capitalism working to change the economic mindset of the people, spurred on by tourism industry, culture suffers. Keeping Having both costs would pressure some to abandon tradition. The government has made one mandatory, but given each household the option of choosing which one for themselves.

The traditions and culture of Bali give us beautiful murals and architecture like this as common appearances on everyday walls, doors and other surfaces.

Tourism and commerce can also have its upsides and the people of Bali are learning to use it effectively. At this coffee shop flowers have been left out in a pattern  forming the word love, calling on both romantic and lost souls (the latter category being largely made up of middle-aged, Julia Roberts impersonating ladies). They are drawn to the flowers and often snap a picture. Then they notice something else.

There is a notice next to them on the table. It mentions a free biscuit to any who instagram a picture of their "love flowers" along with a certain hashtag. It draws people in, it makes them thankful (as indeed the notice hints at by first thanking them) and will often lead to sales as well as publicity.

While we're on the note of coffee shops, I'd like to give a shout out to Falbird. Popped in for a quick coffee and wasn't disappointed. It's located along a commercial street south of and at right angles to the main market street.

Ubud has adapted itself well to being a tourist hub. It has lots on offer and learns what customers like. There's also the added bonus of the people being very friendly.

There are also some surprising things on offer.

There's also a level of humour. Anyone who spends more than ten minutes walking around Ubud will learn to hate people calling "taxi" at them (yet also be secretly grateful of the abundance for those times one wants a taxi).

I felt like giving a shout out to BAWA, the Bali Animal Welfare Association. They are a great non-profit organisation that does lots of good and rely on donations to survive.

One thing of high importance in Bali is conservation. Due to tourism there is a big influx of plastic which is causing lots of damage to the environment. For this reason people are trying to find new ways to counter this. Here is one fantastic idea - reusable straws.

Glass straws

Bamboo straws

I shall end with mentioning this organisation, the Fair Future Foundation.

 They work with  the Bali Sari Foundation and it is their mission to give healthcare to all poor, sick, disabled and disadvantaged people regardless of race, religion, age, skin colour or origin.
Of course this requires funding, so where do they get their money? Well, they do get some donations, but 80% of their funds  from one place - the Fair Warung Balé. It is a restaurant on a side road off Jl. Raya Ubud (the same road that has the temple where we watched the fire dancing mentioned in the previous post).
Anyone visiting Ubud should have a meal here or, failing that, at least drop by to offer them a donation. Their work is vital in bringing free medical care to those who would otherwise receive none.

We learnt about them by accident. They are an organisation