We got back to Bali from our diving trip to Wakatobi on Friday afternoon and rather than go straight back to Singapore Vicky had the great idea of a couple of nights in Ubud. Vicky had driven through here a couple of years ago and several people had told us it was a good place to stay. Vicky got to work on Trip Advisor and came up with the Tanggayuda hotel - part of the Komaneka chain of boutique hotels in Bali. We were not disappointed. Very private walled villas set into steep hillside with an infinity pool, beds and loungers outside and beautifully furnished inside. You don't really want to venture outside your room!
However we do head into central Ubud to check it out. As we expected the main street is lined with tourist shops, some quite classy, selling clothes, pictures of various quality and carvings. The market is packed with tourist nic-nacs. In between the shops are many Balinese temples and shrines and the homestays and guesthouses are traditional Balinese homes with big stone walls and shrines in the gardens. As we head up a side street to walk round the rice fields we find a very nice fabric shop selling fine woven 'ikat' fabrics as well as pretty batiks. We buy a couple of smaller pieces and admire some real masterpieces (below).
Once out in the rice fields you could have gone back in time a couple of hundred years. Mostly women working with backs bent, weeding the rice or cutting and winnowing. Thatched barns for storing the hay, cows in simple shelters and chicken and ducks running everywhere. A taxi driver told us that he was the first member of his family to work in the tourist business - everyone else still worked on the family farm. Tourism has made a huge change to this country - it is now clearly more profitable to grow houses than rice and it is hard to know who can buy the huge number of stone and wood carvings that you see lined up in shops along the road.
On Sunday morning we venture out of the hotel again, this time for a walk around the villages and fields nearby. Again it is very pastoral. Farmers in their barns making thatch, a man making concrete bricks and drying them in the sun, and men and women working in the rice fields and chatting away as they weed and hoe. In the villages we peer nosily into the family compounds (below), packed with little houses, barns and sheds. Signs on each doorpost (we think) show the number of different families living there. There is religion everywhere with a temple every few hundred metres and little shrines on the corner of every rice field.
On Friday night we had dinner with some friends who have rented a fine house and are living here. I can see the attraction with the beautiful scenery, good food, but still access to every modern amenity. However for me it is a little too touristy and congested - the traffic was pretty dreadful coming from the airport and not just because we got stuck behind a religious procession at one point. However a great place to spend the weekend being pampered.