Ubud: The City that Haunts

the roadside beauty

Although a lot of things impressed me during my ultra short vacation on the island of Bali, but a fortnight later, the place that leaves strongest impression is Ubud. Located at the foothills, amidst valleys and rice paddies, Ubud is a little town, which is unofficially the cultural district of Bali. Wikipedia says that the population of this town is only 8000, but when I stepped into the town on a hot Sunday afternoon, it seemed bursting of people. Understandably, most of them were tourists just like me.

As we drove into the town on the narrow road, I could only see small cottages lining up on both sides, with a display of art pieces outside. The art ranged from intricate statues of unbelievable sizes and skill to vivacious paintings. Every now and then the lush green paddy fields would peep from in between those cottages. It was refreshing to see colorful flowers on the roadside – it’s a forgotten pleasure.

We started our Ubud tour with a walk in the Monkey Forest, which true to its name was full of monkeys and their statues. The thick green forest had a few temples that one needed to climb up or walk down to; we visited two of those. The first one was an ancient temple that is not used by the locals any more. Its architecture and elaborate designs of demons and Gods held us spellbound. But as we continued to walk, we grew more and more accustomed to complex designs on the walls, parapets , and most importantly on the doors.

the ancient temple

There were also comparatively new statues to be seen around the temple. Some, like the one seen here, were actually work in progress. One can imagine that the government understands the need to continuously maintain the temple as it is one of the major tourist attractions in Bali.

the shiva-parvati statue

At the same time, one also notices that the actual temple appears to be in ruins without any repair work. Maybe they like to maintain the ancient look of the whole place. I found this particular demon head was very striking.

the demon head

As we walked down to a comparatively less frequented temple, we saw some more work in progress. Men were hard at work here creating really ancient looking new statues. Fascinating, is it not?

the construcion in progress

Around this point, I lost track of what was really ancient and what was created last year and began to enjoy the art for what it was worth. Right about then, we spotted the Indiana Jones’ caves. Well, this is just a name the husband and I gave to those caves because that is exactly what they looked like.

the Indian Jones' caves

The crocodile heads on the caves, complete with the green moss added to the mystical feel of the area. But soon as we stepped out of the Monkey Forest, we found ourselves surrounded my art and crafts shops with amazingly tricky designs. If you are a connoisseur of art, this is your heaven. We walked further into the town, and I spotted some very quaint lanes that lead one away from the market into the native houses. Just a peek, okay?

the lanes of Ubud

Next, we went to the Royal Palace of Ubud. The Royal family still inhabits it, so tourists are allowed only into a small part of it. The entrance is magnificent as usual, with a remarkable door that one cannot open.

door of the royal palace temple

We walked around the palace, looking at the various musical instruments at display and wondered into a quiet part. Soon as we spotted the gorgeously decorated porch, we went shutter happy. It must have been the sound of our fingers going click-click-click that brought out a very unhappy man who announced that we were in the private part of the palace. Seriously, we had no intention to be there, but somehow it had not occurred to the Royal Family to put up a sign somewhere. So, here is a stolen picture.

the royal palace temple

Once outside the palace, we continued to walk down the road and spotted this grand door, which is the main entrance to the private temple of the royalty. Speechless, yes?

the grand door

This door held us bewitched for many minutes; we stood on the street looking up at the door, sun in our eyes and traffic sounds deafening our eardrums. From there, we walked down to the other popular temple that the Lonely Planet had informed us about. And look what we spotted en route?

arjuna on the crossroads

A mammoth statue of Arjuna in the middle of the street. Located at a very busy crossroad, this statue is just one of many depicting some mythology or the other. Of course, being familiar with the subject of the statue made us appreciate it more.

the saraswati temple

Next stop, the Saraswati temple. The cobbled path leading to the temple is surrounded by lotuses on both the side. The temple holds certain events in the evening, but we were there at the wrong time. Nevertheless, we got to admire a few more architectural wonders and a couple of other gorgeous doors.

the Indian statues

Our last stop was the Goa Gajah temple, recommended to us by our driver. The temple was in a valley of sorts, and we had to walk downhill quite a bit. The temple is inside a cave, with the lingas of the Trinity. Outside the cave are the many destructed monuments reminding everyone of the numerous earthquakes that have hit the area. Seen in the picture above are three of the seven statues imported from India centuries back; only six stand now, one having been completely destroyed. We then walked down some more to see a couple of remains of the older structure and for a quick walk across the paddy fields. Bliss for the urban girl.

I left Ubud with these and many other beautiful memories and a tug in my heart asking me to come back. Maybe some day.

the battlefield of mahabharata

The last picture here is actually not taken in Ubud. This is a humongous statue (not completely visible here) very near to the Denpasar airport in Bali. It depicts the battlefield of Mahabharta and stands strikingly white against the green trees and the blue sky. All grand and compelling you to stay back.

Note: Most pictures (specifically the impressive ones) taken by my mild-mannered gamer.

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4 Responses to “Ubud: The City that Haunts”

  1. Wow, nice narration that is! I really like the statues. The demon head is very attractive. Incidentally, I saw an episode of the Mahabharata today.

  2. I am already there!

  3. LOVED IT

  4. Ubud’s got culture coming out of it’s pores. It felt like visiting a historical/cultural hub in a country with a lot of history – which it was, obviously.
    Didn’t feel like just another beach town with palm trees, knowhamsayin?

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