SYNOPSIS:  Moving from first rate to third rate homestay.  Museum Marathon on the back of Joman’s motorbike.  About a young doctor and a handsome stylist.

I had kept extending my stay at Putera’s homestay, but when I wanted to add yet another night, they were full.  I was in no mood to move far, so I just walked across the street and knocked on the door of Rona’s Homestay.  They not only had room, but they were empty.  That says it all, but for one night, I could not care less and they had a pool.  In this hot and humid weather this is definitely a plus.  The room was adequate and the bed sheets looked clean.  The bathroom… well, that was another story.  I decided to overlook the dirty sink, the lack of soap and focused on the working AC instead.  Pool and AC, I consider this luxury despite the third rate feel of the place.

As I enjoyed my welcome cup of tea, I sat with three guys who had appeared out of nowhere and saw nothing wrong with crowding “my front porch”.  One was Tutuk, who had lugged my heavy suitcase down some pretty steep steps and who seemed to be the helping hand around here.  The other was the owner and then there was Joman, who just appeared out of nowhere.  They just shot the breeze and did not mind me.  But why did this have to be on my porch?  There was a whole number of places where they could have hung out instead. 

Ready to leave, I walked by them just casually dropping that I was going to look for some “transport” now.  I knew it!  They jumped at this at once and Joman was designated to drive me around on his motor bike.  That’s just how it goes around here.  There is not much work in town.  That’s why throngs of men stand around at street corners holding up signs “taxi”.  That could mean car or motorbike.  Prices are approximately the same but negotiable.  And if the one you talk to doesn’t have what you need he will instantly produce a “brother” who will fill in whatever is missing.

I could not claim to have seen Ubud if I would not pay a visit to at least three more of the renowned local art museums.  I won’t bore you with the details or the myriads of paintings I had seen by the end of the day.  But it’s worth to mention a theme I noticed:  Either rich local art collectors, or enthusiastic Westerners who became long-term residences of Ubud typically in the middle decades of the 20th century, took it upon themselves to form the nuclei of various art museums with the explicit goal to preserve traditional Balinese arts and crafts which they saw disappearing during their time. 

Western influences changed Balinese traditional ways of painting by introducing shading, volume, realism.  The early Bali style is much more derived from shadow puppets, called Wayang style and therefore is flatter, more stylized and based almost exclusively on mythological subjects.

What was cool to see is that not only indigenous Balinese art is honored, but Western artists who influenced the island’s art also have found a permanent home here and are seen with their own works and with those of their Balinese students who often embraced their foreign-teacher’s styles.

Many of these museums also conduct workshops and regularly host Balinese Dance performances.  It is remarkable that Ubud, a relatively small city, is blessed with four major art museums and numerous noteworthy art galleries. 

For the art enthusiasts among you here is a list of the places and their respective founders:

NEKA ART MUSEUM  founded in 1975 by Pande Wayan Suteja Neka

AGUNG RAI MUSEUM OF ART (ARMA) founded in 1996 by Mr. and Mrs. Agung Rai


MUSEUM PURI LUKISAN  founded by a group of people including  Rudolf Bonnett, Prince Cocorda Agugn Sokawati and Walter Spies. 

A notable exception to this concepts proved to be the BLANCO RENAISSANCE MUSEUM founded by the Spaniard Don Antonio Blanco, an eccentric artist who married a Balinese dancer.  He seems to have created this museum for sure not to foster Balinese art but to conjure up a larger than life image of himself to the world.  This museum is the narcissistic vision of a wannabe cross-over between Jan Van Eyck – he always wore a red beret and Salvador Dali.  In one collage he painted a double portrait of himself next to Dali and drew a Dali-moustache on his own face… if that does not say it all!

His estate was saddled on a spectacular rim overlooking the center of town.  His original house was a fine traditional Balinese home with thatched roofs and an adjacent shrine-filled courtyard.  It now is dwarfed by a palace-like rotunda which seems to eye for inspiration both the Gugenheim Museum in New York in its circular 3 level layout and Versailles in its use of gilded goddesses and putties.  It is good for nothing but grand parties and a display of the numerous nudes he liked to paint amidst some collages and a few abstracts. 

And for all this excess and gaudy craziness, his place, of course was the most fun.  Photography was forbidden inside the house and so I only got two crummy hip-shots.

The day was hot and humid – what else is new.  Joman returned me safely to my pool which I used to cool off.  Heavenly, even if the effect only lasts for 10 minutes.

Joman was a nice guy who had never been to some of the museums he took me today.  I have to hand it to him:  He came in with me and was quite interested in what he saw.  When he dropped me off, he asked if he should come by at night for a swim.  I think he meant “swim”.  And as straight-face as I could I said:  No, you and I are finished.   His English was very limited but the word “finish” was definitely part of his vocabulary but I could be reasonably sure that he would miss the double entendre.   

I had another mission to accomplish:  I could not stand anymore what I saw in the mirror every morning.  The haircut I had gotten at home just a day before departing wasn’t worth a dime and the humidity here only added to the flurry.  I had to get a haircut.  Just a few houses up there was a salon.   But a young boy was sweeping the floor, obviously closing down.

As I continued down the street in search for another salon, I stumbled upon a doctor’s office, obviously still open.  OMG!  To hell with that hair cut.  All this time I had meant to find a doctor to get my malaria pill prescription, but I had completely forgotten about it.  In two days I was going to Kalimantan – it was high noon to do something! 

$35 later, I had had a “consultation” with a young, handsome doctor whose English was flawless.  I assured him that I did not need a consultation, only a prescription, but he wanted to earn some money and so I had to let his nurse take all my vitals and let him hit me on my back and my knees and squeeze my stomach in search for any internal pain.  Finally, I had my prescriptions.  Another $65 and another walk down to the main road, I also had my pills.  Now I just need to take them, hope for no side effects and that a week will pass without one of those nasty little buggers biting me.  Perhaps, I should make an offering to Bhaisajaguru or whomever else they worship around here for medicinal issues.

On my way back,  I passed the salon again.  This time, it looked open, but nobody was in sight but a young girl sitting at the steps texting.  She reassured me that the salon was open.  I should just wait for 5 minutes and her “brother” would come and cut my hair.  A young man on a motorbike appeared indeed.  Not to cut my hair though, but to  load me on his bike for a ride through town to his “brother” who would do the job.

That brother was not even from the same village, but indeed he cut my hair.  It was Ivan, with an infectious girlish giggle and movements as slick as to rival a snake dancer.  He was as gay as could be, dreaming of coming to America to go to a styling school, and of seeing New York.  For a quarter of the price of that worthless haircut, he did a fine job finally getting some hair off me to make travel easier. 

A late night swim in the pool made me wonder why I ever would want to leave.  For $300 per year, I could rent a little room here…  What a thought.

Good night.

2 comments so far

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  1. How you fit so much into your day is amazing and instead of dropping from exhaustion, you find time to write a fascinating blog. Thanks so much for all of the wonderful stories.

  2. Ha ha ha…I Iooked up Blanco to see the interesting cross you describe, and he really is a combination of Van Eyck and Dali. How funny!!!!