Tuesday, December 15, 2009

yoga break, or break from yoga

Last week, the Yoga Barn and the Little K had been closed for 4 days for renovations. The entire Ubud seems to be preparing for the Christmas holiday crowd; cafes, guest houses, spas are in a hurried renovation/repair effort nowadays. Bricks and sand are laid alongside the roads, there's a constant noise of hammering, cutting, unloading, … If you can somehow disregard the high manual, labor-intensive and low tech nature of the construction work, unfortunately Ubud very much resembles Dubai nowadays.

However my problem was beyond the construction disturbance. This renovation meant that there would be no yoga classes for 4 days... First I thought I would take off to some island for the duration, but none of the places I wanted to visit would be sufficiently covered within that time. Just before I was about to turn this into a major drama, a very innovative idea came to mind; why don't I stay in Ubud and explore the town like a tourist? There were a few workshops that I wanted to attend but their schedules crashed with yoga, or wanted to walk around aimlessly in the afternoon hours, sit in a cafe without trying to rush to the next class after 45 minutes. I would still do a home practice in the mornings, but the rest of the day would be totally empty.

First on the list was Threads of Life, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserve the disappearing batik and textile weaving methods of Indonesia. Tuesday mornings, they offer an introductory course to the Indonesian textiles. Most of my friends who visited Flores was raving out about the textiles there so I wanted to get some insight into the patterns and techniques.

On the day of the course, I headed out well in advance with my camera and started shooting photos as soon as I entered. The venue was smaller than I expected and by the time I finished my photos, which was 20 minutes after the announced starting time of the workshop, I was still the only one waiting. The rest of the participants who registered just didn't show up. They asked me if I would like to have an individual workshop but the idea didn't really appeal so I said I may join to one of the future sessions. So much for jumping into other activities when there's no yoga... I spent the rest of the day just walking around, exploring some streets However the combination of the heat and the humidity did not help my newly-discovered enthusiasm for exploration; with sweat dripping off my face I ended up back in my room for a long afternoon nap.

The next day was no different. Starting energetically to walk around and soon enough ending up in my room exhausted by the heat. Either being the wandering tourist wasn't in my blood or I chose the very wrong season to do it, don't know. However the next day, I had a tour scheduled with my neighbors and a friend. Most organized tours from Ubud to southern parts of Bali require at least two people to book at the same time. I wanted to do a sunset tour for Uluwatu (more info here). for a very long time, and just when I found one person to join me, my new neighbors were also interested. So instead of going with an agency tour, we customized our own tour with a driver and a car with a much lower cost per person.

The early parts of the tour weren't really fun, we visited some villages near Ubud that were famous for paintings and silver work. One of the girls was about to return home so she was in the mood for Christmas shopping so we spent some time in the galleries, looking at “art” and possibly purchasing some.

I read in one of the guidebooks that Balinese did not have a word for art in the language; painting, batik, wood carving and the like was something they did everyday as a part of their life, not as some conceptual activity. However as Western people came and started to show an increased interest, art became more important in the society. Now it definitely has a commercial importance too. The first art gallery we visited in Peliatan was huge. It was made to resemble a Balinese home, but had more than 15 rooms, none smaller than 30 m2 and full of paintings of all sorts. There were oil paintings of rice fields, next to very abstract paintings, all same style but in different colors; made to fit the mood of your living room whether it was earth tones or bright red. The guides were all traditionally dressed, fluent in at least 3-4 languages and of course highly motivated to sell. The place felt more like a conveyor-belt production site than an art gallery so I managed to escape the guide tailing me and sat in the outside garden. The silver galleries in Celuk were no different; outrageously expensive and surprisingly lacking creativity in their designs. I really what made bus-loads of tourists come to these places to buy things that are already available in their home countries with possibly lower prices?

When we finally arrived to Kuta for some beach time around noon, I was relieved. After spending 3 hours in good old Kuta, we headed out to Dreamland beach. Dreamland is a myth among advanced surfers and the view is supposed to the amazing. However it seemed to have a private owner now and we needed to pass through a big luxury golf-course and residence construction and pay to enter the beach. The waves were strong, almost too strong for swimming and the cliffs surrounding the bay looked impressive. The beach itself was busy, mostly with colorful stands of sarongs and t shirts but the good news was that hawkers didn't go around harassing tourists to buy stuff. Yet, Dreamland doesn't appear to hold its old fame nowadays. 

Close to sunset, we headed out to Uluwatu. Due to our miscalculation of the distance, we arrived just at sunset. By the time we got tickets, put on sarongs to enter the temple and found our way inside the temple the sun was already down. The light is still amazing, the view of the temple high on the cliffs is impressive but I missed the sunset. I try to take some quick shots while struggling to keep the monkeys away. They are notoriously interested in gadgets, sunglasses and of course food.

In photographic terms, that wasn't my most lucky day and adjusting to “idle time” mode wasn't easy. Still it was fun to be doing something different. Had it not been for this involuntary break, it might have taken me several more weeks to see Uluwatu.

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