We don’t usually plan too far ahead, but we knew for a long time that we wanted to visit Bali. Our first destination was the cultural center, Ubud. Located about an hour or two north of the airport depending on the traffic, a private driver is the way to go. It was $30 for a transfer to Ubud and we made it into a half-day tour. Visiting a monkey forest, temple, and some art shops along the way.
Ubud City has become a crowded central area, so we opted to stay in a surrounding village. Just a 10 minute drive and 1 hour walk north of the center, we stayed in a village called Payogan.
Our homestay was in the family complex of a man named Ketut, who is also a tour guide and speaks English very well. Many members of his extended family live within a walled complex with about 12 one or two bedroom houses inside. Each family has a few chickens and a cat or dog hanging out in their yard. In total, about 40 family members live in the complex and 3 of the villas are rented out to tourists through AirBnB.
As soon as we arrived, Ketut did all that he could to make our stay comfortable. His wife and sons would stop by our room to check if we needed anything often or to chat a little.
He also used his local connections to arrange some activities for us at great prices. We went rafting and saw the beautiful river, rainforest and a rock formation with ancient Hindu stories carved into it.
Ketut set us up with his niece to teach us batik. Batik is a traditional Balinese art technique where hot wax is drawn onto fabric.
The highlight of our stay in Payogan was the early morning ceremonial procession from the temple in Payogan to the large temple in Ubud. We woke up at five in the morning to the sound of drums beating. Ketut and his wife dressed us in their celebrational sarongs and we joined them, their family, along with hundreds of others from the villages and headed towards the center. The people of each village dressed in matching festive outfits, carried their most extravagant temple offerings and played instruments throughout the walk.
We also had the opportunity to see a fire dance show, Kecak, where a group of men chant around dressed up actors re-enacting a Balinese fable.