I’m pretty much located in the center of Ubud, so it’s easy to walk anywhere I want, but then I don’t have to if I don’t want to. Apart from the free motorbike I can use, there is a guy every dozen feet with his own motorbike or a taxi who asks you, “Tak-si?” or “Transport?” while making hand gestures like he’s driving a car.
There are Hindu temples every fifth building or so (Bali, unlike the rest of Indonesia which is Muslim, is mostly Hindu). They are made of stone and usually have a coating of moss on them. There are shrines inside, usually the same kind of stone, with small containers containers made of bamboo reed and banana leaf, stitched together into a square with thorns, and will have anything from flowers to rice to small pieces of meat in them, usually with a lit incense stick. Gustee puts one on the altar on my porch every night and morning as well. As I understood from a local they are offerings to the gods to bring good fortune.
I suppose you could call the city dirty, but I don’t really notice that straight away. Instead I notice all the friendly people, all the shops and varieties of eateries scattered all over the place. Even though this is a highly touristed area people will still talk to you even if you don’t plan on buying something from them. There’s usually garbage lying in the gutters (they sweep the streets and sidewalks every night) and there are dogs everywhere. Most are simply lying in the absolute middle of the sidewalk sleeping, most look like they have mange, but most appear otherwise healthy as many of them actually are pets I believe, or are simply fed leftovers all the time.
There are a lot of cats too but they are not as prominent, but many of them have broken or entirely absent tails. This is seen all over Southeast Asia and yet no one that I meet in any country, whether local or tourist, seems to agree on exactly how or why the tails end up like this. In Ubud I am told the tails are purposefully cut or broken to differentiate them from strays. It’s the first of many explanations that I hear.
Every few years the government sponsors a program to round up and de-sex cats a dogs. This is only done when overpopulation becomes a problem (who can say when enough is enough though?) and the program fizzles out when the problem has more or less receded. Then they start it up again a few years later.
There are lots of Westerners around. They congregate at the nicer looking restaurants, not realizing that in a place so touristy most of the eateries, even the not-so-posh ones, have a higher standard of hygiene than those bad places they’ve read about. The restaurants that cater to Westerners always have much less spicy dishes and always have things like pizza or spaghetti and meatballs on the menu. I have a much better chance of meeting an English speaking local eating suckling pig at Ibu Oka or at the foodstall down the street. Meals anywhere range from US$1-8 with drink(s), averaging at around US$3 total.
My favorite night spot is a stone’s throw from Loka House, where I’m staying, called the Deli Cat. Run by an Icelander, one is sure to find plenty of musicians, writers, artists, and other various ne’er do wells of society, both local and Western, to have a fun night any night of the week. I even meet one of the most popular Bali artists (emigrated 15 or so years ago), Jason Monet. He doesn’t care to talk about his ancestral connection to Claude Monet nor his paintings, which are found in the finest resorts and museums around Bali and all around us in the Deli Cat. Instead he stops women passing by letting them know how devastatingly beautiful they are. Later he makes this noise for me, a gutteral noise from his throat, which sounds exactly like a digeridoo (those things aboriginals play). Of course, he also makes a similar noise when growling at the previously mentioned devastatingly beautiful women with differing effects.
Originally published July 11, 2007