North to Permuteran, Bali



[Bali Travelogue continued from Excursions from Ubud]

When it came time to leave Ubud, we were truly sorry to go. When you’re planning any trip, it can be hard to know just how to divide your time. Usually we like to keep moving, and seeing new places. But we had found ourselves settling into a heavenly routine, and could already tell that we would hard-pressed to find comfort and beauty of the likes we had found in Ubud.

And yet, at the same time, we had great things in store.


We all climbed into Nyoman’s car and began the drive north. He had an especially lovely blessing on the dashboard from his wife for the long drive.

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To do around Ubud: birds, ridge walks, and music


We looked into various guided bike rides and treks in advance of our trip, but ultimately decided to wing it once we arrived—not being one hundred percent sure of how easy or difficult each day with Hudson may be. In general, we tended to try and be more carefree about when and where he napped than we would be at home and that worked out really well. He might fall asleep a bit later, or sleep for a shorter time, but he got to be pretty good at napping on the go.

One day, following a description of the Campuhan Ridge walk we found in our Rough Guide, we asked Nyoman to drop us at the Ibah hotel near Campuhan bridge and then pick us up where the path rejoined the road. A man was waiting near the top, beside the hotel, looking for guide-work. At first we were going to decline, it sounded easy enough, but he convinced us that the trail could be a bit tricky and we got a good feeling about his character. We negotiated a rate (still hoping we weren’t being mislead) and started down an incredibly steep path toward the Agung river.


I was so glad that Aron felt comfortable carrying Hudson on his back for the walk, and even he admitted that it was incredibly nerve-wracking at times. Ultimately, we were so glad we had a guide, even if just because there was someone else to occasionally lend me a hand when Aron needed both of his.  He was also so kind as to take our bag for the descent.



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Excursion from Ubud: Tampaksiring and the Water Temple


Water Temple Bath
Drive to Tampaksiring
Gunung Kawi

One morning, we started out early to see the eleventh-century carved site of Gunung Kawi in Tampaksiring. Though it is just 11km outside of Ubud, we were happy to find that we arrived first that day, as I hear it can get crowded as time passes.

The village of Tampaksiring was virtually silent as we entered—roosters’ crows were of course a constant soundtrack as they are throughout the island. A few men were gathered, working to make coconut shavings, and the street was shrouded in a light fog.


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Cremation and Ceremony in Ubud, Bali



We were fortunate to witness a cremation ceremony while we were in Ubud. Rather, I should say “part of a cremation” as the ceremony itself is spread over a period of time. Balinese believe that the body is returned to the five elements after death, merely a carrier for the soul. Cremation ideally would happen immediately, but it’s too costly for most families to hold the elaborate event on their own, so cremations are joined to share expenses.

The body is purified and buried until cremation can take place, often for years, and then brought home to be prepared for the ceremony. We saw the remains being brought to the cremation site in a loud procession, wherein they (now placed within a sparkling tower) were spun around to confuse the soul. Much attention was given to the sarcophagi (large bulls and other animals) by members of the family and community, before it is closed and set ablaze.



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Markets of Ubud



One of my favorite things to do in any new city is to visit a local market. From the greenmarkets of Manhattan to the bazaars of Bombay, they often give you such a colorful perspective of local culture.



Much of what was for sale at any of the markets we visited was material useful for making offerings, a small canang filled with flower petals and incense and usually some sort of nourishment, like rice. It was interesting to see the motorbikes line the entrances early in the morning, as local workers would pick up the materials (and sometimes premade packages) before heading off to work.

In fact, one of our guidebooks noted that the average household spends at least half its income on offerings. At the same time, much of what is offered is often later consumed in the household’s meals. Offerings may be to ask for blessings, to give thanks, or to ward off demons, and they can only be used once.

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Central Ubud



Virtually every guidebook will describe Ubud as Bali’s cultural center. And virtually every person we spoke to who had previously been to the island recalled the town as their favorite stop. We will join the ranks.

Indeed, this popularity means congested roads as the city has experienced a huge growth in tourism (and commercialism) over the past decade, but away from the main roads we were still able to find quiet on lush, terraced paddies. We, frankly, enjoyed the mix of easily accessible shops and restaurants and serene vistas.




One of Ubud’s best known attractions is its Monkey Forest Sanctuary. We passed through on a couple of occasions—it sits about 15 minutes down the road from Palace.


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Welcome to Ubud



Last August, between moving from New York to California, we stopped for a month in Indonesia with our then 13-month-old. The movers came to pack up our apartment on the first of the month, and we boarded a plane on the fourth. We thought the promise of flying around the world to a beautiful place might dull the sting of leaving New York—and it did, especially the part where we slept on an air mattress in an empty apartment for three nights.

If you ever need a little extra encouragement to start a multi-leg, forty-hour stint of air travel with a toddler, just move everything practical out of your apartment for a few days.


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Travelogue: One month in Bali (August 2012)



I’ve been wanting to share a true, extensive (over-the-top, in typical fashion) travelogue from our month in Bali for, oh, almost a year now. And I think it’s time! Here’s the plan: I have multiple posts on where we stayed, what we saw, where we shopped and ate, for each of our destinations. There was just too much to tell for me to put everything into one long post this time.

I’ll spend the next week or so sharing different aspects of our trip, give each the tag “Bali Travelogue,” and you can see them all grouped once I’m done. I’ll start with Ubud next week, and then pause for a while to finish up posts on Permuteran, the Gilis, and Seminyak (see updated list below).

Those of you who have written me asking questions about traveling to Bali, often with young children: I’m sorry it took me so long! The rest of you with no plans to go there anytime soon: Um, sorry? Indulge me? And start saving your miles for a ticket! It was amazing!

First up, the 40-hour journey and arriving at our first destination, Ubud.

Updated posts list: 
Welcome to Ubud
Central Ubud
Markets of Ubud
Cremation and Ceremony in Ubud
Excursions from Ubud
North to Permuteran
Amed & Gili Trawagnan (Lombok)

[photo of our first home, Harvest Moon Villa]

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