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A crackling time in Ubud – caves, temples, paddys & pork

April 12, 2012

A crackling time in Ubud – caves, temples, paddys & pork

April 12, 2012

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by Kt

12.04.2012

We ended up staying in Ubud and in the same accommodation for 2 and a half weeks.
It was so nice to just be somewhere for a while and Ubud is such a great and easy place to be, it’s difficult to ever leave I think. We ate in lots of interesting places, braved the market, wandered down some out of the way streets. Wandered back the other way down some out of the way streets when an unfriendly dog clearly wasn’t going to let us past. There’s always something going on in Ubud and I swear everytime we walked down the street we saw a new store or business that we were sure wasn’t there the day before.

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Blackpool and pork
In our second week a couple turned up at our accommodation who we ended up having a right old royal craic with. You know when you just meet people and you just find you’re on the same wave length? Well that was Steve and Michelle. Hailing from Blackpool, this pair take a month off every year and take interesting, definitely not run-of-the-mill holidays. Fabulous for us as we got lots of great tips on places we are yet to venture to. Steve is an action man. He’s an ice-climber. He goes climbing in winter!?! Yes, I know – barking isn’t it? Michelle is newer to the more adventurous type of holidaying, much like Mark and myself, having previously enjoyed more upmarket holiday experiences but over recent years she has become well and truly bitten by the bug – although she did take a hair brush up with her when she climbed a mountain once, but that’s another story! Michelle’s mum and dad run an old skool b&b in Blackpool. The same guests come back time and time again – and the same set of guests go there every christmas and swap presents with people who were at one time strangers. How cool is that? I love it that these places still exist – long may they thrive. Mark lived in Blackpool for a while, back in his yoof, so the guys swapped stories of the various salubrious establishments and how they had changed over the years. It’s definitely time for us to go back for a visit – sounds like lots been going on in recent years – and now with our new found friends – the perfect excuse!! A Blackpool knees up is definitely in order when we get back. We ended up a few evenings in a row, at the restaurant down the road having a right old gas and giggle. Believe it or not, this was with Mark and I still not drinking. Get us! Unheard of! We went crazy on water and ginger tea. Anyhow, it was so great to meet these guys and to have a few days of chatting and belly laughs – something you miss when you’re so far from you friends. It was a shame that they couldn’t stay longer but they were off to the Gili Islands off Bali for some further adventure. But to top off our bonding, we did all share a pretty special pork experience. Intrigued? Well read on….

For those of you with clean minds, yes you guessed it right, I’m talking about the meat. Pork is big in Bali and is used for special occasions generally as they like to roast a whole pig. There is a place in Ubud that is pretty famous for it’s pork. Steve and Michelle had been there but were up for it again as it was so good, so next day we met up for our pig-fest. The place has some high tables, but mainly low ones where you sit on the floor, which is where we were. They are open from 11- 3 everyday and in that time they basically just roast a couple of oinks. Now I don’t really like pork but Mark does so I thought I’d maybe see what else was on the menu. Umm – nope – just pig. So I went for the pig special, which consisted of pork meat, pork meat fried in flour, pork blood sausage, pork skin and stuffing and a bit of rice for good measure. It was actually fantastic. The pork was so tender – really yummy. The fried stuff I didn’t like so much but the blood sausage I also surprisingly did. It was kind of like a spicy black pudding. I had to draw a line at the skin though – i tried it but is so not my cup of tea – but Mark was more than happy for any of my left over and the guys worked through a couple of plates of what can only be described as roasted pork skin. You could also get some pork scratching like crackers too – so why not? I seriously thought Mark may go into cardiac arrest then and there.
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We really must give a special mention to our favourite eatery in Ubud.
It is called ‘Yummy Yummy’ and they do the best Nasi Goreng and Satay and in fact everything they do is …. well… yummy, yummy!!!! We’ve spent a lot more in town on food but it’s never been quite as good. It’s a brightly painted place and the uber friendly owner likes his rock music and donned an interesting range of cool t-shirts. Once again, there’s not much more to say than.. yummy, yummy!

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Green, Old, Steep and a Dud
No, I’m not talking about Mark!! I’m talking about the places we saw when we did eventually venture out of town. First up, we went to what’s known as the ‘Organic Cafe’ (but I think it’s got a proper Warung name too). Anyway, the point of going to this cafe is not so much for the cafe itself, but for where it is. To get to it, you go disappear up a lane from Ubud’s top main road and walk for 15 or so minutes up a track through the paddy fields. So you have the green and ordered rice fields growing on either side of you and it is really quite stunning.
On the way up (and back down) the path you meet a few people. The odd person going to or back from the cafe, some on mopeds carrying stuff up to where they are doing some building and some tending to the paddy fields. The women, as you see all over Bali (and much of the world) carry stuff on their heads. It is mind blowing the weight of stuff they can carry – large buckets of sand and breeze blocks for instance! There are also ducks tinkering about in the fields – they eat the pests so are a useful part of the process. There was a woman who Mark though was raving mad, shouting things, until I told him (as I’d read about this previously) that she was actually shouting at the ducks as they surprisingly comply with such orders. I would comply with anything this woman shouted – she certainly meant business!! Along the way there is the odd small building where they were selling things such as masks and kites. Stuff you obviously don’t need but they know that the tourists traipsing up here may be tempted. Although it was only a 15 minute walk, it was very exposed and very hot. It also took a lot longer as we were taking photos and videos, so it is a great relief to reach the cafe and some shade. The cafe is raised up a floor, so you have amazing views over the paddy fields. There was lots of wholesome food, most of which is grown in their own gardens and it was decced out with lots of big, loungey cushions. You could probably easily lose an afternoon there.

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We also went out to see a couple of things in the Ubud surrounds. The Elephant Cave (Goa Gajah) is a temple complex which was uncovered in the 1930s. It was ridiculously old – from the 11th century. It included a cave that had been dug out of the rock, god knows how, in which people went to meditate. There were chunks dug out on the side a foot or two from the ground, in which people would meditate which only a candle to keep them company, for days on end. The area was built next to the river and had lots of sources of water, which is why it was built there. Years after finding the Hindu temple, they discovered that on the same site, just a little further along there was also a Budhist temple – from a few hundred years before the ‘new’ hindu one. It’s mind blowing how old this stuff is. When we were in Australia and New Zealand it was always interesting to see what was described as a ‘historic site’ as generally our house was older than such things. Wer’e used to things being old in Britain, but these temples trumped all that – times 100!!! It’s a whole other realm of old!

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We also, briefly, went to see the Ceking Rice Terraces. These are basically just paddy fields built on a hill, so the land has been terraced so the water can sit, as the rice needs. There’s not much to say about them. They are worth a visit as they’re pretty amazing when viewed from the high ridge opposite.

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Our next stop was a bit of a non-event, but interesting none the less. Well that’s what I tell Mark when he implies that it was a boring waste of time. He’s probably right but a life of no regrets and all that – I won’t allow myself to regret sitting in a field watching not much happen for a couple of hours!!
The village of Petula, since the 60s, has been home to a kind of heron called the Kokokan bird. Every night at about 6pm, these birds come back from where ever they have been to roost. There is apparently 15-20,000 birds in this one small village. The villagers believe that the birds presence brings them luck as before they arrived the village was very poor. Oddly, they do not move onto any other village – they stay only here and also don’t roost in any of the residents gardens. Whatever the reason for them being here, it has become a bit of a tourist attraction. You get a sprinkling of people turn up for it in the evening and I think pretty much every person there was a bit under enthralled. The idea of these thousands of birds coming in sounds amazing until you get there and realise that they don’t literally descend at the same time and land in the same place. It is spread out in time and area. They trickle in and certainly, at the peak time of 6pm they are definitely more impressive in number and coming in from all angles. So, it was a bit interesting but not much. Reading about it is probably more interesting than being there. Another boring place I have dragged Mark to and I’m sure it won’t be the last. The village itself is very simple and traditional. My interest was piqued to see a big Westlife poster in one of the small stores which was out of place to say the least.

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Driving around I actually realised how big Ubud was. It is a bunch of villages all joined together but it really does go on for miles in various directions, yet at the same time you can be out into quite paddy fields in no time. The huge carvings you find all over the outskirts are truly amazing. I wonder if the fact that so much is created – art and craft, in Bali and in particular in Ubud, is why it’s such a laid back, aggro free place. Lots of people are creating beautiful things and all around you are colourful and bright art and objects. I personally got extremely excited at the huge disco ball selection we saw – disco ball buddhas too – oh I’m so having one of those one day!!!

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