Ubud explorations! I have been getting more and more little peeks into the nooks and crannies of Ubud, venturing further and further out of the village center each day.
My first few days here have primarily been a walking tour of Ubud, due to the rain, and my resistance to driving a scooter. Life has been sprinkled with random adventures with friends who are experienced trusted scooterers.
My buddy Eli Call has been a generous tour guide on several occasions. Yesterday he picked me up and took me on a ride through the Monkey Forest. (What??? Yes! It is exactly what it sounds like!)
You just don’t expect it … one moment you’re driving down a perfectly normal street, and the next, you turn off onto a path where you find 8 tiny rambunctious monkeys high diving off of a statue into a water fountain. Wrestling with each other and playing like roughhousing puppies, throwing each other off the high perch.
Brain. Blown!! (See video below for a tiny visual snippet of this mayhem)
Then you look up, and just a foot above you, hovering on a branch, is a grandfatherly looking monkey with furry eyebrows, piercing eyes, and a scraggly grey beard (i swear I saw him stroking it contemplatively) ….
He sits there eyeing you like a sneaky thief who is scouting his prey, as if he is about to pounce at any moment and run off with your valuables. Apparently this is a very real problem, as these monkeys supposedly have a proclivity for kidnapping iphones, sunglasses, and various other personal possessions from unsuspecting tourists
While normally I would jump at the chance to get up close and personal with a monkey, there is something adolescent, aggressive and a little questionable about these creatures. It’s not exactly the “cuddling with sweet little baby monkeys” scenario I had imagined. These seem far more like the type of pranksters who might throw excrement or pull your hair. We shall see…
It began drizzling rain as we paused to watch them frolic, so we hastened down the path towards our lunch destination. Eli has promised to bring me back to visit the monkeys, next time with bananas as some offering of fealty, for the privilege of a closer interaction.
We zipped through the impending rainstorm, and pulled over to wait out the downpour at Sage, a delicious plant based restaurant with white stucco walls and high ceilings. The rain lasted for hours, so I ordered a kitchari “burger” with sprouted mung beans, on a “bun” of grilled plantain strips. It was mouth melting, creamy dreamy tastebud ecstasy.
I had been eating mostly raw food since i got here, so this was wonderfully grounding for a cool rainy day. I swear, Ubud has more gourmet organic mind-blowing restaurants within a small radius than anywhere i have ever been, and the cuisine is better here than in any major cultural hub I have been to. Ever. Hands down. (Ubud for the Win!)
Once the rain let up, we headed off to our original destination – a raw food eatery called Moksa. The chef there had studied at the Living Light Institute, and everyone had been raving about the food.
Eli informed me that in order to get there, we were going to have to take the route i had fondly dubbed “the path of terror,” which we had braved the other night … a narrow pot-holed path that ran up a hill, sandwiched between watery rice paddies.
He assured me it wouldn’t be as difficult this time if I just sat straight upright behind him on the scooter. Apparently the last time we took this path (unaware of scooter balancing etiquette), I had been leaning over his shoulder the whole ride, which made it far more difficult for him to balance and get us up the hill and over the rough patches.
This time, I filmed it. Evidence, just in case we went toppling in. (a snippet of this is also in the video below, although trust me, the actual experience is far more harrowing than the one dimensional video can show).
We arrived at Moksa for dessert, and reveled in the exquisite genius of dehydrated banana crepes, wrapped around luscious local fruit, topped with cardamon and durian vegan ice cream.
The chef and founder of the restaurant came out to talk to us, and he was the warmest, most charming human! Whatever food this glowingly goodhearted man is making, I will put in my body! Yes please!
Eli realized that time had flown and he needed to get back home for a meeting, so we postponed our second monkey forest plan, and he dropped me off back in town.
In the middle of a busy street full of storefronts, I came upon magnificent statues that guarded the entrance of a tiny deserted temple. It’s like being in a huge city full of skyscrapers, and coming upon a tiny lighthouse, a remnant from a leftover era … holding its space firmly in the midst of modernity.
There was a group of women sitting with a shaman in the middle of a walking street, ringing bells and preparing to pray in front of an impromptu flower altar. I then stumbled upon a pavilion full of uniformed Balinese people doing some form of Tai Chi.
I went home and rinsed off the day, and sat down for a few hours to write and integrate. As the sun set, I received an invitation to an ecstatic contact improv dance.
I generally have strong boundaries around my personal space and don’t welcome touch from strangers. I hadn’t enjoyed the stickiness of contact improv in the past, but I decided, hey, I’d been pushing so many of my comfort zones recently that i may as well give it a shot. When in Rome …?
Suffice it to say, in synopsis, that i lasted in that environment for exactly 10 minutes.
The class was held at the Paradiso, a ballroom style space on the upper floor of a health food store. The facilitator guided us rapidly down a wormhole of intimacy building exercises with partners, which escalated quickly into a “game” where I found myself being teamed up with a shirtless stranger, who was rubbing his skin against mine in a decidedly contacty, touchy, sweaty way, while emanating some seriously intense body odor.
I gritted my teeth and tried to just surrender into the experience. It was interesting to observe how even though I was feeling a strong “no,” my inner polite nice girl didn’t want to hurt his feelings by rejecting him.
Once I got hit by an intense waft of distinct pungent pheromones, my whole being just repelled into Game Over mode …. “Annnd Nope!” We’re done here.
I extracted myself as graciously as I could, bowed, and peaced-out. Grabbed my bag and slipped out the door as fast as I could, leaving an orgy of bodies behind me, writhing all over each other.
More power to the people who love that kind of convergence. It is just vividly Not my thing. I’m always down to share that kind of touch, movement and intimacy with someone I love, desire, and have a container with. But with a random stranger? Not happening.
When in Rome, try the pasta, and if you prefer…, maybe stick with the fruit. I went to Rome. I left Rome. And came home solidly assured of how very deeply i value the fortitude of my boundaries, my personal space, and my love of not being covered in random people’s funky sweat.
I think perhaps I prefer witnessing traditional Balinese cultural experiences a bit more than i enjoy participating in some of Bali’s imported tribal community experiences …
However, the individual people in the community here have been epic to connect with on a soul level, and a highlight of my experience, so i’m excited to explore other outlets where they converge. Just not that one.
Feeling grateful for all the dynamic, comfort-zone-pushing experiences of life, and the ways they make us stretch ourselves, and fortify our preferences, all at once.
I’m looking forward to playing violin at a sound healing concert tonight, visiting with elephants tomorrow, and someday making it back to the Monkey Forest, armed with bananas and a good sense of humor. I suspect that will be another opportunity to assert strong boundaries. I’m ready!
Here’s to trying new things, whether we like them or not! We never know until we try. Life is always an adventure, whether blatantly so, or simply within the subtle crests and troughs of mundane reality.
Explore we must!