When I came across the Royal Palace in Ubud, I didn’t really believe it was a palace. Like most homes in Ubud the outside was ornate and a little difficult to discern if it was a residence or a temple, as I found most doorways in Bali are. However, the palace’s most prominent quality is that it is located directly in the centre of Ubud, conveniently across from the Tourist Information “centre.” I say “centre” because it’s literally just a desk with two people seated behind it selling maps and answering questions.
I entered the palace grounds and found them to be quite pretty. The ground had a noticeable amount of litter and of course I stepped in a piece of gum right off the bat, brilliant. As I looked around the palace grounds my right foot kept reluctantly lifting from the ground, annoying me quite a bit. I began to ignore it and take in the sights around me.
The palace is a prime example of the time and effort that the Balinese people put into their ornate buildings. Each pilar, post, and doorway is carved with such detail and every other corner has a detailed statue of a deity or other religious figure or guardian.
There were a few tourist there with me, taking photos and wandering about. The palace is still inhabited by the royal family, who really just have the title and the palace left. The grounds seem a little touristy and cold, understandably since it is one of the main tourist attractions in Ubud. I could still appreciate the sights however, but I really didn’t spend more than fifteen minutes there.
Next, was Pura Saraswati or The Lotus Temple.
Before going onto the grounds I sat down at Cafe Lotus, which overlooks the lotus gardens of Saraswati. I walked in and a few people were seated close by the garden view, I too took a seat there. I ordered and looked out at the lotus garden. It was not in full bloom and while a few of the bright pink lotuses were opened to revel in the sunlight, the garden looked quite bare. I felt as if the city and years of tourists had taken its toll on these beautiful plants and they were struggling to keep a float.
A very informal photo shoot was taking place in the garden as I ate my delicious lunch. It looked to be a Japanese photoshoot for a wedding dress. It definitely wasn’t for a wedding because it was literally the photographer, a bride and groom, and a few crew people. They spent about half an hour taking photographs with Saraswati as their backdrop before packing up and moving on.
After journaling a bit and finishing up in the cafe I walked over into the garden to see the temple. Again, the inner sanctum of the temple was closed so I walked the well worn stone walkway around the garden and temple entrance.
As much as I can reveal in the details of the intricate work on all these buildings, at this point they did start to look very similar. What sets Saraswati apart is the lotus garden which it overlooks. The temple itself was not overly impressive, just another temple really, but still worth a look if you’re in Ubud. This was only another fifteen minutes or so.
The market place is really just shop after shop of the exact same souvenir products in various qualities and prices. Literally every shop had the same things. Basically, it’s choose who you want to barter with.
I wasn’t too big into purchasing anything, but I watched as the tourists gawked and yelled and talked with the locals. Some tourists were far more savvy than others.
I myself finally saw something that someone at home would love so I stopped to purchase it. I asked the lady how much it was, and she gave me a dazed look and answered. I said nothing and stared at the product in my hands, hoping she would lower the price the longer I stood there. She looked at me and said “You can negotiate price. Say lower.” Th nice woman was teaching me how to haggle. Her kindness to my ignorance with beautiful so I didn’t go nearly as low as I had intended to originally. Despite trying to make a buck everywhere, the Balinese are very kind hearted in the end.
The term “museum” is used loosely here, as the building seems to be a random building with paintings sparsely hung up on the walls where they fit. There was no information on any of the paintings, no dates or names, no signs of any kind. I felt as if I was walking through someone’s home that was fiercely over decorated but had little to no furniture.
When I walked in, I felt as if I wasn’t supposed to be there. The door was open, but I didn’t see another person at all. However, the paintings caught my eye and I began to move slowly throughout each room, taking a good few minutes to take in each painting.
I was grateful to be out of the sun, but the air in the museum was still hot and think. It was amazing the range in artistic style that the Balinese have in their artwork. The more traditional paintings were hung up in the first room and the intricate details in the paintings only rivalled that of their buildings. It’s clear that the Balinese take their time when it comes to their art.
As I made my way around, taking in each painting and allowing the images to provoke a little something in me, a family of four walked into the gallery. I had barely finished the second room when I saw them walk out again, roughly ten minutes later. I ended up spending an hour and a half looking at all the paintings.
The styles were very different. Some of the intericate traditional paintings blew me away, I could look at them for hours finding new and unique details. Others were more conceptual and you had to take a step back to take in the whole of the scene and understand what you were looking at. Most of the paintings depicted traditional Balinese scenes.
My favourite were among the still life style, they were so beautifully and skillfully done. Others of course where more of a modern art style, which I still don’t understand. If I, with the art skills of a four-year-old, can produce a similar if not identical painting then it’s not art to me. It needs to have emotion and skill behind it, case closed.
The Neka Gallery was definitely a great choice to see and if you’re ever in Ubud and take delight in paintings, go see it. It’s amazing.
(More posts to come soon, my internet connection is unhappy with the picture uploading process. Please stand by as I try to find suffiicant technologies as I travel about.)