2016
06.16

UBUD I

BASKET ON WOMAN'S HEAD

BASKET ON WOMAN’S HEAD

SYNOPSIS:  Walking Ubud.  A Hindu day of prayer and offerings for the god of commerce, business, success, and money.   A visit of the Monkey Forest.

By the end of the day, all the lovely, handmade offerings that had been set out on the streets in front of shops and businesses all across Ubud and presumably across Bali this morning, had been trampled on, driven over, swept aside.  I asked about a handful of people who the god is who was worshipped today.  I got no recognizable name but gathered that he is the god of commerce, business, success, money — in other words, prosperity.  In a tourist brochure, the day was marked at Budha Umanis Klawu but without any Bahasa language skills, I had no way of parceling this out. 

Every morning, the lady of the household goes around from shrine to shrine inside and outside the home and puts offerings down for the gods.  Some offerings go on the floor, at times placed almost carelessly, as if in disgust.  Those are for the bad spirits which are meant to be stopped by the offerings.  One has to concede to their powers, but one does not have to love them, right?  Others are placed up high.  Those are for the good spirits who are invited to come down.  Their offerings are placed carefully, accompanied by a prayer and a sprinkle of water.  These offerings range from a leaf with a handful of rice to the most elaborate woven objects made of leaves, colorful threads, and trinkets and accompanied by fruits and flowers.  None of them are meant to last.  They are renewed every day.  Yet, they are labors of love, made by hand, daily.

Today, on this special day, the focus of offerings was not on personal homes but on shops, workplaces, cars, motorbikes, tools, and anything else that brought people prosperity.  And all day long, people filed into the local temple of Ubud and into smaller neighborhood shrines to bring large amounts of offerings.  Women were dressed in their finery.  The most typical outfit was a sarong topped with a laced, single colored blouse.  The men wore white turbans.  Tourists were not allowed inside the temple.  I climbed around on a few of the upper balconies to catch a glimpse into the temple with my zoom lens.  From all I could tell, the priest would take the baskets of offerings, place them in front of the temple deity and sprinkle them with water.  Then, the worshippers would line up in prayer.  Again, the priest sprinkled water onto them, lead them in a short prayer during which the worshippers would raise their folded hands over their hands in unison and then it was over.  The people would leave and make room for another round of people who had been lining up at the door of the temple.  There was no music, no chanting, just a few murmured words and a bell ringing here and there.

I roamed the streets of Ubud.  Obviously, this is a prosperous town.  The center of town is filled with villas of the type I live in.  These were estates, not just homes.  In addition to that, picture clothing boutiques next to silver and handicraft boutiques, a few shlock stores in between, fancy and not so fancy restaurants, bars, ice cream parlors, money exchanges, banks, the occasional mini mart and temple, here and there a museum, hotels and homestays, and groups of men advertising their services as taxi drivers at every corner.

Ubud has a resort-town, tourist feel which is both charming and disturbing.  How are the locals carving out a living in the midst of all this?  This is tourist overload.  In Banda Aceh, all tourists greeted each other; or even talked to each other — you only saw one or two per day. Here, there is no getting away from tourists!  I might as well take it in as this is the last place where this is likely happening to me.  And I knew Bali would be like this. 

The climate, the nature of the people, and the easygoing Hindu tolerance makes indeed for a paradise.  Books and movies like Eat, Pray, Love did the rest…  No, I have not read or seen it, but I have heard of it. 

Prices are accordingly steep.  My homestay is not bad at all, in fact only 1/2 the price of Linda’s place.  But food and drinks, taxi rides, etc. reflect the tourist income levels.

Still, it does not cease to amaze me that you are greeted at every shop and every restaurant with smiles and kindness.  There seems to be no tourist-fatigue on the side of the locals.  How do they do this? 

And one more question may be on your mind:  Are there Muslims here?  Yes, I have seen exactly one hijabed woman working as a cashier in a supermarket.  And I have seen one neighborhood restaurant in a side-street advertised as Muslim and halal with the owner/cook not wearing a hijab.   But I have not seen a mosque nor heard the call to prayer anywhere.   I am told that a handful of Muslims come to work here.   And I have been told (but only by one source), that no locals eat at the halal restaurant because “they don’t like Muslims”…  

Dress code here resembles beachwear more than anything.  But tourists entering temples or palaces are required to put on a sarong to cover their legs, shoulders and midriffs. 

One of the obligatory stops in Ubud is the Sacred Monkey Forest with its three temples.  All of the temples, small as they are, were closed.  But the forest buzzed with monkey activities:  screeches, hordes of them sitting attending to each others’ lice, many of them swinging around in trees and surely all of them having an eye out for the unsuspecting tourist who dared to pull a banana out of their backpack, or a snack, or left their sunglasses unattended for a moment.  Warning signs everywhere alert the visitors to remain calm when jumped on and not to fight for any belongings, but to give up — monkeys here, rule.  I had seen what these creatures are capable of and put away everything, even my earrings.  But the visit was uneventful.

The heat midday is unbearable, and after 6 hours of strolling, I called it a day. 

Time to tend to some of the many photos I took yesterday and today.

And time to head over to Mama’s Warung, a small local eatery where a mother-daughter team cook tasty and healthy local meals.

Bon Appetit.