Gunung Kawi and artsy Ubud

After the drunken, touristic miasma of Kuta, the hill station of Ubud felt classy and refined, almost elegant. Though it was still touristy, shops were actual stores and not temporary setups, and there were more art galleries and cafes than wooden penis carvings and shirts with crude jokes.

We intended to spend a day in the cultural center that is Ubud, after visiting the 11th-century temple of Gunung Kawi (which was a few kilometers north of the town). Alas, we spent more time on the road than in Ubud, but even with that brief glimpse I’d recommend any weary traveler to spend at least a night or two up there—even without a beach to boast of, this verdant town has a calm and peaceful vibe.

Along the scenic roads around Ubud towards the south of the island, there are hundreds of shops selling a wide variety of things to sate the whims of any shopper. Whether you need something for a friend or relative at home, or something to complete your über-chic restaurant, they’ve got the perfect thing for you.

A short list of things for sale, from the short depths of my memory: Religious depictions of a thousand holy images/deities; paintings of oil, acrylic or watercolor; stone or wood carvings; antiques either left as is or refurbished; ceramics; fabrics (mostly batik and silk) and tie dye sarongs and cashmere scarves; masks; bamboo creations both original and run-of-the-mill; art made of petrified wood or painted wood; glass mosaics; gravity-defying fusions of glass and wood; kites big and small; ornate mirror frames; wind chimes made of a dozen different materials; furniture fashioned out of whatever the Balinese could dredge up; bamboo bird cages and baskets; at one place I saw totem carvings similar to those in the Pacific Northwest of the USA.

We spent a chunk of time just getting to Gunung Kawi, and it wasn’t until later that we realized we’d only seen one small part of it! The larger complex was 370 steps down the hill, to the burial complex of King Anak Wungsu and his many wives.

As we stood by the motorbike, readying ourselves to go, we did confess that we each thought there’d be more to it… but there were no signs telling us where to go so we’d assumed that was it and went on our way. Oh well—lesson learned— next time, when in doubt, ask!

Gunung Kawi– poet’s mountain
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laundry day is sacred too
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mouth of the sacred spring
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a priest blessing a wealthy family on their visit
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these buzzards were terrifying– and loud!
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the mona lisa of ubud?
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never seen an ugly smile
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well gee, way to celebrate the woman’s life-giving abilities
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ubud’s famous rice terraces
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this town popped up just to accommodate the leigons of tourists who come up here to see the rice terraces…i wonder what the local farmers think, when they see the huge crowds snapping pics and enjoying ice cream as they toil
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classy ubud hotel
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flowers are without hope. because hope is tomorrow and flowers have no tomorrow — porchia
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