The sounds of Ubud
Anyone that visits Bali must visit Ubud. It is a city about an hour away from the popular city of Kuta. Here you can find busy markets teeming with people, monkey forests, and breathtaking rice terraces.
The markets consist of a series of buildings and alleyways which boast an array of handcrafted items for the tourist as well as the casual art collector. All around you can hear shop owners calling out their wares and customers attempting to haggle down prices. My favorite product was the Batik sarong, something that is native and sacred in the local culture. There were many great souvenirs and memorabilia to be found amongst the mazes of shops.
The monkey forest was a major tourist attraction, so don't expect an enchanting stroll into an undisturbed forest full of curious monkeys. These monkeys know exactly what you are and how to get food from the myriad of people. There are signs warning patrons to hang on to their purses and to remain calm if a monkey were to climb on you. Still, it was a great experience to interact with these silly creatures who approach you with no shame or fear.
My defining moment in Bali was climbing the rice terraces. If you're no more than a casual hiker, it is a bit of a precarious trek. The rice terraces offer little purchase for footing and you are met with rice plants muddled in mysterious water to one side, and a fall to a lower level terrace on your other side. Along the way, there are various stops where one must pay "donations" in order to travel further. Most people (including those with me) chose to stop before they reached the top of the terraces, but I was determined.
Near the top, I came upon a level plateau. There I found a woman named Wangsu, she greeted me pleasantly and offered to show me a route to climb even higher. I eagerly agreed. It was a short climb to the top as we swapped stories about where we were from and shared tidbits of our very different lives.
Once I reached the top, I was standing in knee length grass of the most vibrant green, staring across the bowl-shaped terraces from a significant height towards some semblance of civilization set against a setting sun. Silence all around me except for the faint sounds of human life across the way. It was really quite amazing.