Our hotel was located in North Ubud, therefore our first glimpse of this beautiful city was of tiers and tiers of rice terraces. In Ubud, you can scooter for 20 minutes and ride through three small cities (adorned with penjor), a variety of rice terraces, shops with decorative art and endless views of beautiful nature. We rented our first scooters here, and spent a day exploring the town, terraces and local roads. Ubud moves at a much slower pace, so its perfect for learning to drive on the left, honk courteously when passing, and gently nudge your way past oncoming traffic. Robin and Nikki only almost got hit once, so that’s not bad for three scooters in an unknown land!
Downtown Ubud offers a ton of shops to barter at, restaurants, and the monkey forest! For a $4 donation (or 40000 rupiah) you can enter the monkey forest and have hundreds of monkeys surround you! They sell bananas within, and if you buy a bushel they will definitely pay you attention. We all took turns holding bananas over our heads so the monkeys would climb up you, retrieve the banana, and sit on your shoulder to eat it. Leigh Anne quickly became the monkey whisperer, with multiple monkeys on and around her, relaxing while she calmly fed them. The rest of us were in awe as we did not keep it that cool. Unlike I expected, the monkeys are soft, well groomed, without sharp claws or nails, just soft cuddly little creatures! Within the monkey forest, there are beautiful banyan trees, sculptures, bridges and temples. Apparently the monkeys reside there, uncaged, as it is the only rainforest within in the area. They are Macaque monkeys, or long tailed, and have families or groups of monkeys ranging from 100-120, with six different groups throughout the monkey forest. There are tiny, adorable ones (the ones we wanted to climb on us), considered infant and juvenile, then slightly larger ones that are sub adult males and adult females. The ones we stayed away from were the adult male, who clearly ruled the rest, would watch from a distance and fight for their territory.
Our first day in Ubud was Galungan, the Balinese holiday that happens once every 210 days, therefore, lots of temples only allowed entry if you were Hindu. On our second day in Ubud, we decided to check out the water temple Pura Tirtha Empul. It is one of the larger temples, or Holy Temples in Ubud, and houses multiple pools with water flowing from decorative fountains. The fountains represent a spiritual cleaning that you undergo after dunking your head. The day after Galungan is also a day to worship, so there were hundred of locals in the pools. A line switchbacking 5 times proceeding the first fountain, we decided just to observe.