Today was our first day in Bali, having flown in this morning from Singapore. Some aspects of the drive from Denpasar Airport to Ubud where we're staying, are distinctly African. Small craft shops spill over onto the road and rather like Benin, there are motorcyclists everywhere. I saw a young female rider with one hand grasping the handlebar while with the other she held a cell phone to her ear. Reckless but not particularly remarkable I hear you say. I must add she had a toddler balanced between the handlebars while she chatted away on her mobile. She was very lovely though as most Balinese women seem to be and reinforces my theory that beautiful women get away with pretty much anything they choose to get away with.
Ubud is in the middle of the island and is a more sedate location than the sun soaked frenzy of Kuta. I think I read somewhere that the "Love" leg of "Eat, Pray, Love" was filmed in Ubud? We're staying at the Villa San (www.villasanbali.com), a few minutes away from the town center. If I were a travel writer then I might be able to describe in flowing prose what it's really like here. But I'm not so I'll just say its absolutely heaven. And that's not because the villa belongs to a close relative and his wife. Now I've got the disclosure out of the way, it really is a tranquil and beautiful place with majestic artwork and sculptures against a backdrop of lush greenery. The only sound is the birds and the occasional frog in the undergrowth calling out to each other. The staff are absolutely wonderful and the chef is so good he should be on TV.
We went walking through the rice fields this afternoon. The farmers have built a network of pathways alongside the irrigation canals and everywhere you turn there are small temples with offerings of incense and flower petals to the Hindu gods. The temples also serve another purpose I was told: they mark one family's rice field from another. Somehow I can't imagine Balinese fighting but you never know. We walked by an old woman with a bundle of wood on her head who didn't want to be photographed at first, claiming she wasn't looking her best today. She didn't protest too hard though and I swear she sashayed down that pathway like she was on a catwalk in Milan. Apparently she's also the local madwoman and wails long into the night whenever the spirits come upon her.
We stopped at a crude café type structure at the top of a steep incline with an even steeper gorge on one side. There was no coffee though, just fresh coconut juice drunk straight from the fruit with a straw. It was quite strange to see art galleries nestled among the paddy fields, but come to think of it, what better place is there to view art? The kids and I weren't the only tourists but we were probably the only ones not whizzing about on rented scooters and motorbikes. Mind you, I didn't see anyone else talking on a phone with a toddler balanced on the handlebars. Only pretty Balinese women can do that.