Saturday, May 9, 2015

Goa Gajah and more Ubud

We left the Monkey Forrest and headed out to explore more.  We knew we wanted to go see Goa Gajah so we hopped on our scooters and just started to head in the general direction.  This was a bit more outside of town so we were traveling father on our scooters than we ever had and we were in busier traffic.  I was a bit nervous but the adventure was exciting.  If there are road signs, I still haven't seen them so we are traveling on pure instinct!  I did stop once to ask for directions and the guy I asked mentioned that there is another amazing site just past Goa Gajah that we will have to go see so we will add that to our list.  We finally found the site, got of the scooters, and had our second scooter accident (my first one was by myself when I got my foot pinned between the scooter and a rock and couldn't get up).  Addyson's leg touched Brad's exhaust (which didn't have the protector on it- we never realized it and we have yet to travel far enough to really heat up the scooter) and she ended up with a bad burn.  It was super sad.  I rushed her over to the line of stores and the people were so helpful!  They kept mentioning to get polident.  I had NO idea what it was but I asked the guy to help me find some.... and he came back with toothpaste!!!  Yep, here they use toothpaste to help with burns!  After a polident treatment and ice cream we were ready to go explore!
Goa Gajah, also known as Elephant Cave is a spiritual place of meditation on the island of Bali, outside the city of Ubud. The site dates back to the 11th Century but continues today to be an active archaeological site. The site was built as a place for meditation. There is a meditation cave, bathing pools, and fountains.
Before you enter the actual site you will pass a lot of stalls of people trying to sell you sarong wraps telling you that you have to be covered to enter the spiritual site (like you have to do to enter temples).  While it IS true that you need to be covered you DO NOT need to buy a wrap!  With your entrance ticket you will also be given a wrap to borrow to wear while you visit the site!  Save your money!
The outside of the cave is depicted by various “scary” images in hopes to warn off the evil spirits.  Addyson was still a little worked up from her burn so you won't see her in many pictures this trip.  Poor girl!
It was hot and humid outside and we had to walk down a lot of steps to get to this site so going inside the cave and checking out the different meditation alters set up inside was a nice break from the heat!
Another alter inside the cave.  Goa Gajah not only has the meditation cave but there are several bathing pools (known for healing) and fountains but we did not wait in line to go take part in that.
The area around Goa Gojah is beautiful and green!  As we were walking around we came to an area where there was an older gentleman that would show you all of the steps of how an offering is made.  The process is beautiful to watch.
However, the kicker is that when the "process" is over he lifts up his mat where there is money and asks you for money.  I had a feeling that was coming but for Brad it took away the authenticity of the process.  So just know if you visit Bali, everyone is out to make a buck and carry a lot of small bills around so you can quickly leave your tip and run before you get hit up for more money!
After the fake offering site, I saw a sign for another cave so we got off the main path and set out to explore in the lush green!  Isn't this just beautiful?!?!
We found another cave with a meditation/ offering site set up.  We were the only ones here and it was so peaceful! 
After exploring Goa Gajah I wanted to go find Yeh Pulu, the another site that was mentioned to be when I stopped to ask for directions.  Yah Pulu is suppose to be more beautiful that Goa Gajah and not as many people know about it so it is not as touristy and it is more peaceful.  This is the rice field right outside of Yah Pulu.  Instead of paying to go into another site (we were also getting hot and hungry and I don't think the kids would have handled more walking and site seeing), we watched this guy plant rice and enjoyed the peaceful scene!
To get to Yeh Pulu, we drove our scooters through back roads through a little community and we were able to see more of what life is really like in Ubud!  We also came across a couple of temples and saw floats left over from Ogoh-ogoh parade!  A highlight to the day was exploring without a map on back roads and finding things that most tourist don't!  Here are eyes were opened to what life is like for the locals and memories were made!
As we were driving to Goa Gajah we had seen what looked like a nice African style restaurant that we wanted to try out for lunch!  When we walked to the back we were so impressed with the beauty of the place!  There is a little lake in the middle with tables over the water all around!  Amazing!
You get a table where you sit on the ground and beside your sitting area is a little ledge over the water that the kids could sit on to get a closer look at the fish!  To top it off, you can buy a big bag of fish food for $1!  The kids had a blast feeding the fish while we waited for our food!
 Happy, entertained kids give mommy and daddy some quiet, "alone" time!!  Win/ win for everyone!
 So many fish!
 We went through one bag of food quickly.... so we ordered another one!  Cheap fun!
 We ordered a shrimp platter and a noodle dish!  The food is so amazing!  Really, we haven't had anything in Ubud we didn't like!  Not only is it delicious, it is SO cheap!  We are able to splurge and enjoy a little of everything from the menu and it doesn't break the bank!  This is turning out to be the vacation of indulging!
Bale Udang Mang Engking is the name of the restaurant and if you are in the area it is highly recommended by my family and I!  As we were finishing up lunch we saw dark clouds rolling into the area in the distance off in the direction of our villa!  Being "far" from our villa and new on our scooters, I wanted to quickly leave so we weren't driving our scooters in the daily downpour!  I am glad to say that a minute after making it to our villa the rain came!  Afternoon rain after a morning of exploring and full bellies equals nap time for the Brewsters!
 We had to rest up for our afternoon/ evening of exploring!  We spent the afternoon walking around the main area of Ubud!  On the way though, we had to stop to get petrol!  A scooter fill up!
 For our dinner we found a restaurant called Black Beach!  This came highly recommended from our guide book.  The scene from the top floor was amazing!  You could see the volcano off in the distance!  It was amazing!
The pizza was super yummy!  We added bacon to everything!  We had a pork fest!!  We also indulged in the local craft beer that had in bottles!  This is something that isn't served at many places in Ubud so it was a nice treat!  The service isn't super fast but the scene and yummy food sort of make up for where they are lacking!
We thought our evening was over and we were headed back to our villa when we realized that a local dance performance was getting ready to take  place at one of the temples.  We seized the opportunity and went to enjoy the show!  Perfect ending to a full day of exploring in Ubud!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ubud Monkey Forest

This morning we wanted to go check out the Monkey Forest.  We have heard from several people that the monkeys here are "aggressive" and the experience isn't that great so we set out with a bit of hesitation.  We went early, first thing in the morning, and I think that ended up being key for a nice experience!
When we pulled up on our scooters we saw monkeys relaxing about so we started to take a few pictures not knowing if this was "it" for the experience or if there was more to come.
There are a couple of different entrances but I think we went into the main one.  You buy a ticket to enter the forest (About $2 US) and then start walking through the forest.  I have to say it is BEAUTIFUL and COOL!!!  There was LOTS of shade!  A welcomed way to stay cool because Bali is anything but cool right now!  I just remembered being in awe of all of the green that surrounded us!
As you first enter you see a monkey here and a monkey there.  You also will see a stand of someone selling bananas.  Once you open that door and buy bananas the monkeys will be all over you.  Here, there wasn't a monkey handler so I suggest, if you plan to feed bananas to the monkeys, that you wait for a main area where there is someone that is trained to help with the monkeys unless you want to brave the alpha monkeys on your own!
We weren't ready to jump into that whole experience yet so we skipped the bananas and continued to walk around and it was so peaceful!  The monkeys kept their distance.  Another key is to have no food on you and nothing in your hand that resembles what might be food!
If you have nothing of interest, the monkeys which are crab-eating macaques (Macaca fascicularis) or the locals call them Balinese long-tailed monkey, will go about their morning eating the sweet potato that they are fed by the park staff!
The Ubud Monkey Forest describes its mission as conservation of the area within its boundaries according to the Hindu principle of Tri Hata Karana ("Three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being"), which seeks to make people live harmoniously during their lives.
The "three ways" to this goal under the Tri Hata Karana doctrine are harmonious relationships between humans and humans, between humans and the natural environment, and between humans and The Supreme God. Accordingly, the Monkey Forest has a philosophical goal of creating peace and harmony for visitors from all over the world. It also seeks to conserve rare plants and animals for use in Hindu rituals and to provide a natural laboratory for educational institutions, with a particular emphasis on research into the social interaction of the park's monkeys with one another and their interaction with the park's natural environment. (wikipedia)
Nature, monkeys, and my family.... I was one happy girl!!!!
The Monkey Forest has 3 temples inside of it that were constructed back in 1350.  The temples are not open to visitors, only those that are wearing proper Balinese praying attire and are willing to pray.

We did, however, get to peak inside one of the temples.
We were there close to prayer time so we got to see people from the local community dressed for temple and carrying their offerings head to the temple!
The other fun part was here.  Doesn't look like much but let me tell you.  As we came around the corner we heard and splash and couldn't figure out where the noise was coming from...
then we came across this group of young monkeys playing around.  They would chase each other up the tree and the jump off the branches, sailing through the air, and land in the water with a big splash!  It was SO much fun to watch.  We probably stayed here for 10-15 minutes!  A highlight of the morning!

Once we decided that we had seen enough and had enjoyed a relaxing visit, we told the kids we could buy bananas if they wanted to!  Of course, they all say YES!!! But who ends up being the one to feed the monkeys?!?!
So we purchased some bananas at a main area where there were a couple of monkey handlers around to help if we needed.  See, once the monkeys see you leave the banana stand an alpha male will come over to grab your bananas!
The key is to hold just one banana at a time!
They also tell you to hold the banana up in the air so the monkey climbs to get it.  Otherwise they just grab them out of your hand without you evening knowing!  They are SO quick!
Really, once you have a banana it all happens SO quick!  And it is mainly the large males that come get the food.  The little guys are too scared to challenge the alphas!
Ethan was being SO brave and wanted to try to feed the monkeys!  A large male was eyeing him but I knew Ethan wouldn't be keen on that.  This is when the handlers came in handy.  I asked a handler to help me get a little monkey to come to Ethan.  To do this, the handler had to scare off the big monkey (which he did by just raising his hand to the monkey) and I took Ethan to where this little monkey was hanging out!
I think both Ethan and the monkey were a bit nervous!

The monkey made a quick jump and ended up leaving without the banana!!!  So funny!  Ethan was a bit surprised but he gave it another go!  The next time with success!
This is what happens when monkeys start figuring out you have bananas!!!  They team up!  They are NOT afraid!

After much encouraging, Owen also decided to try to feed a monkey.  He went for the hand off approach!  Addyson, she just sat back and watched the whole thing!  She was also my picture taker for when I was feeding the monkeys so many of these pictures were taken by her!
I have to say that I am SO glad we didn't listen to some of the advice to stay away from the Monkey Forest, it was a really fun morning!  Again, I think going early is key and also not having any food on you or anything that resembles food!  Here is a funny story- as we were leaving I realized we had some dirt on us from monkey paws so I went to get some wipes out of my bag.... I should have WAITED until we had left the forest!   NO, I did it on the way out!  A monkey hear me wrestling with a wrapper and came right over to me to get my package!  I freaked out and threw the package at Brad (hitting him in the back of the head with it), what I thought he would do with it I have NO idea, the package bounced off Brad, landed on the ground, and before we knew it the monkey had it and was up a tree!!!  Ugh!  Ethan is crying because our wipes are gone and I have to flag down a handler to let them know a monkey is about to eat a package of wetwipes!  Way to go, Ambre!!!! 
SO, note to self, don't take out any packages of any kind until you have LEFT the Monkey Forest!
Such a fun morning at the Ubud Monkey Forest!  If you are ever in the area, this is a MUST DO!