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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Indonesia: Ubud

The Monkey Forest, Ubud
An inhabitant of Ubud's Monkey Forest

Stepping out of a bemo from Kuta into a chaotic street in Ubud, how the hell do you know where you are? The guidebook has a map, and a blob saying where it thinks you should be, but how do you find somewhere to stay that won't break the bank? So I wandered aimlessly for half a minute, and then a man on a motorbike came up to me and asked if I was looking for a room. 'How much?' I asked. '10,000rp a night,' he said. 'I'll take a look, then,' I said. 'OK,' he smiled, taking my pack and stuffing it between him and the steering wheel, and indicating that I should sit on the back.

The Sights of Ubud

Pura Dalem Agung Temple, Ubud
The Pura Dalem Agung Temple is tucked away in Ubud's Monkey Forest

After soaking up the central Ubud scene, I wandered south to the Monkey Forest, a small and almost dead forest populated by a large Balinese temple and an even larger population of monkeys. If you imagine that scene from Disney's Jungle Book then you're not far off what the Monkey Forest could be; huge trees slowly being crushed by strangling figs, pesky monkeys attacking tourists for peanuts, vines hanging off temple buildings – it could be so wonderful, but it's actually rather sad. The forest is dead, the monkeys are only after one thing – food – and the tourists are only there to take their pictures so they can say they've 'done' the monkeys in Bali. Never mind, I suppose it's one way to fill up the afternoon.

Around Ubud

A thatched hut near Ubud
A farmer fixes her tool shed in a paddy field not far from Ubud

My second day in Ubud turned out well, too, despite a rather unpromising start. Waking up leisurely and enjoying a breakfast on the veranda felt pretty damn luxurious after all the lame breakfasts I've had to make for myself over the last two years, but on visiting the centre of the sprawling metropolis of Ubud, I found it comparatively dead. The public holiday that was in force, set to coincide with September's full moon, turned out to be more of a holy day than a holiday; everyone disappeared into the temples, leaving the shops closed and the streets rather quiet, except for the beautiful bamboo poles set up by the sides of the road, which bent over the streets like decorated street lamps, with wind chimes dangling off the ends and gently tinkling in the breeze. I suppose it would be similar to a non-Christian turning up on expecting a riot, only to find empty streets stuffed with Santa decorations, Christmas trees, and closed shops. Never mind; if the town centre was sleeping, I'd simply go exploring the surrounding countryside.

The main street in Sayan
The main street, Sayan

1 Throughout Bali you'll see these little offerings on the street, in the houses... pretty much everywhere, in fact. Consisting of a small tray made of woven leaves, filled with dried flowers, a couple of rice balls and an incense stick or two, they're put out every morning outside the front door, where the dogs come and eat the rice, the motorbikes drive over them and the ravages of the world turn them into a squashed mass on the highway of life. Still, the next day there's another one, and they're a pretty pleasant way of littering the streets with biodegradable art.