Bali is cultural. I realized that after my visit to Bali in June while the weather cooled down a bit and much more comfortable for a visitor to wander around. Tourist areas may be a bit too commercial for some, yes, but once they traveled to a more remote or secluded area, the breathtaking sceneries have a great variety from stunning volcanoes, dramatic coastlines, and lush forest to the layered rice field. I remembered my sunset experience at Uluwatu was quite a spiritual one. With such magical canvas as backdrops, they make the Balinese culture a more fascinating one, and more deeply connected with each visitor in many different ways.
Religion is part of the Balinese culture and they express these cultures through different forms of performance. The Barong dance is a performance based on a classic Balinese mythology. It is a story about Barong, the king of spirits and a lion-like creature (represents the good), triumphs over the demon queen Rangda (represents the bad). The Barong Dance is so endearing to the local culture because it ties to their ancient beliefs that once held sway over the island before Hinduism spread; For me, I also love the traditional Balinese music that featured legong orchestra amplified with large bamboo flutes, the sound of that was quite mesmerizing.
Amongst with some other performances like the Legong of Mahabharata, Kecak Fire and Trance Dance, Wayang Kulit, and Ramayana Ballet, it is a “must-see” for visitors. Legong and Barong Waksirsa Dance shows are available in different places in Bali, and one of the great shows is at the Ubud palace, just because the dance is performed in front of the traditional architecture. Ubud is a cultural and artistic area on the island; there are shops of traditional handicrafts, markets, nice restaurants, cooking schools, and cozy hostels and backpackers lodges. We arrived at Ubud earlier in the afternoon that day and explored the area before we watched the Barong Dance Show.
Many tourists visited Bali for an “Eat. Pray. Love” experience (and this is, still, everywhere in Bali) and they might recognize the scene where Julia Roberts was biking through Ubud and the Monkey Forest. It is actually a sacred sanctuary as the area is part of the natural reserve of a Hindu Temple Complex. The area is the home of over 600 long-tailed macaques and I was told the monkeys here are more “friendly” compared to those at Uluwatu, which are more aggressive. Some tourists bought bananas to feed the monkeys and they would be excited to pry the food out of the tourists’ hands. It was quite fun to interact with such brilliant and hyperactive creatures. Still, be careful as some Monkeys are very good pickpockets. Zip up your bags and keep distance as these are wild animals after all.
Afterwards, we walked through Jl Monkey Forest (Monkey Forest Road) which is a busy shopping street leading up to the Ubud Palace from the Monkey Forest. After shopping and dinner at the Café Lotus (a busy Indonesian restaurant next to the Ubud Palace), we watched the Barong Dance Show and it was a great way to relax and enjoy an afternoon!