The Sentinel Newspaper
27 January 2010
It was my good fortune earlier this month to go to the small city of Ubud. Its natural beauty, friendly people, exotic views, culinary delights, rice terraces and spiritual aspects fascinated me.
As I stood outside my room at Murni’s Houses and said to myself, “everyone should see a place like this before they die.”
Highly spiritual Bali is described aptly by Ni Wayan Murni, of Murni’s Houses and other travel-related facilities in the Ubud area, as highly spiritual.
“The vital thing to appreciate is that there is hardly any division between the religious and the secular world. God is everywhere and in all things,” she wrote on her Web site, murnis.com.
Preparation for the trip started months ago when I booked a flight for about $1,500 with Japan Airlines, and later, a jaunt was taken to a medical travel office in Annapolis for immunizations.
For five days, my goals were to see and experience as much as possible in this land of the gods.
After landing at the airport in Denpasar, I was met by a driver from Murni’s Houses and taken to the place I would call home for my short duration in Bali. He was extremely friendly and made me feel welcome in his country.
A magical place.
Murni and her husband, Pat, own and operate the guest houses, where I stayed, as well as a warung (store) with a four-level restaurant in the Ubud-Campuhan area. They also maintain Villa Kunang-Kunang, a 10-minute drive outside Ubud.
To me, Murni’s Houses was a magical place to stay, especially at night when insects chirped and animals howled outside as I slept. The first night, the loud noises frightened me but by the last night, I couldn’t wait to hear all the wonderful sounds just beyond the door.
The bottom portion of the house was similar to American homes, but the top was different. It was screened to allow air from outside to circulate throughout. The huge, decorative and colorful umbrella and painted wooden angel above the bed provided a nice sight to wake up to each morning.
Each morning at Murni’s, breakfast was a much-anticipated thing. The plain yogurt with different types of fresh fruit and honey was divine. Coupled with tea, it was the perfect way to greet a new day.
Stunning views of the palm trees beyond the guest houses, and sights of statues and shrines on the grounds of Murni’s is a photographer’s delight.
About a three-minute walk down two streets is the fascinating town of Ubud, a place known for artists, temples, very good food, batik items, and a wide variety of stores.
One place with several interesting areas is the temple Pura Taman Kemuda Saraswati on Ubud’s main street. Every part of this temple has different things to see and possibly photograph, with very stunning bright colors, coupled with the terracotta color of main portions of the temple dedicated to the goddess of art and learning, Saraswati.
Feast for the eyes
One of my favorite memories from my visit to this temple is a woman who was on her knees, bowing to pray. It was a beautiful sight in a lovely place, with the Café Lotus and large, pink lotus flowers nearby.
Another highlight of a trip to Bali was the talented dancers in their breathtakingly beautiful costumes.
The Legong “Jobog” and Ramayana dances by the Bina Remaja Troupe at the Ubud Palace Court Yard in downtown Ubud were a feast for the eyes.
The Legong dance is based on the story of two brothers, kings Subali and Sugriwa, who are turned into monkeys. They wind up fighting and eventually recognize each other as brothers, according to the dance’s program.
The Ramayana dance features Rama, Sita and her brother Laksamana, who enter the jungle of Dandaka for a journey and are discovered by demonic minister Maricha of Alengka Kingdom.
Another interesting site in the Ubud area is the Petulu Village, where the white herons live. There are three different types of herons residing in this village.
The herons arrived in Petulu in 1965. A large ceremony was held at the pura desa, or village temple, shortly following their descent.
A pamphlet explains: “It came as a surprise to the villagers the herons arrived after their ceremony and consider it as a blessing from God. In order to encourage the herons to live in Petulu and increase their population, the villagers make special ceremonies called memendak kokokan.
Thanks to my motorbike guide who took me to the village, I have some treasured photos of these gorgeous birds, some of them with the orange-colored necks. One of them gracefully spreads its wings in a photo.
I Nyoman took me to Santi Agrowisata in Gianyar. It is an awesome coffee and tea plantation operated by I Wayan Sudarana, who is most welcoming to tourists from all over the world.
I Wayan treated me like an honored guest, as I sampled some of the best drinks I’ve ever experienced – Bali coffee, Bali cocoa, lemongrass tea and ginger tea.
Since a few days have now passed since I returned from the trip, I think about the natural beauty of the Ubud area and the things that make it so wondrous – the dancers, the folklore, multitude of craftsmen, the music, the orchids and the temples.
I remember my new friends and hope their beautiful surroundings in Ubud/Campuhan will never change due to development to strip the land of its natural beauty.
As Gede, I Wayan, I Nyoman, the folks at Murni’s and others showed me hospitality, peace and gave me wonderful memories, I wish them the same in return.
I wish for the exotic sounds of animals and birds to continue and all the array of traditional things they treasure to carry on for generations to come.