Our time in the small town of Ubud was relaxing and enjoyable. It’s small enough to go pretty much anywhere on foot, which is good, because there really aren’t any taxis (or taksis as they’re spelled in Indonesia) or public transportation. Desak Putu Putra Homestay was one of the nicest, friendliest, and most pleasant hotels we’ve ever stayed in. The closest American analogue to a homestay would be a bed and breakfast, and the breakfasts here were quite good.
Just a few doors down from our homestay was a delicious restaurant where we ate almost all of our meals, Mama’s Warung. Mama and her staff were so welcoming, and the food was so good, that we ate all of our meals except breakfast there while we were in Ubud. Jeff especially loved the tuna satay, with extra spicy peanut sauce, please! While we were in Ubud, in addition to visiting the monkey forest and scaling Mount Batur, we also took a bicycle tour of Bali. There were several interesting stops along the way. We were very fortunate that our tour guide, Doty, spoke excellent English and was happy to answer all the questions we had about daily life in Bali. Before embarking on bicycles, the tour took us to a traditional coffee farm where coffee and other produce is grown and beans are roasted over an open fire before being processed using a tremendous mortar and pestle.
A unique kind of Indonesian coffee called Kopi Luwak is possibly the world’s most expensive coffee. The beans are gathered from the droppings of a small, catlike animal called a palm civet, and the digestion process supposedly lends a unique and spectacular flavor to the finished coffee. We tried a cup, and it tasted rather… bland. The palm civet, however, was quite cute.
Doty showed us a traditional Balinese home, which was laid out in the same way as our homestay, with a covered area in the center for ceremonies and family relaxation; a temple area where offerings are made for prosperity in life; a kitchen and dining building; a building with bedrooms for each family member; and a large garden full of greenery (and a cow). Doty told us that while most of Indonesia is Muslim, Bali is 90% Hindu, although the Hinduism practiced here has nods to traditional animism as well.
The weather on the day of the tour was cloudy, with rain threatening all day. This is the rainy season in Indonesia, and rain can come quickly; scattered clouds can change to a monsoon-like downpour in a matter of minutes. Luckily, the only hard rain of the bike trip was while we were stopped admiring an extremely old and tremendous banyan tree. Its sprawling 500-year-old branches and large leaves were the perfect cover.
Later on in the tour we stopped by a workshop where ornate door frames and doors were carved by hand. Each door can take a month to carve, depending on the complexity of the designs. It must take a tremendous amount of skill and patience…