With as many spas and salons offering all sorts of massages at really great rates it wasn't long before we started taking note of various recommendations. Our neighbours told us about a truly unique experience. The Boreh Pijat Salon & Sauna is owned by a traditional Balinese healer named Ketut Jaya. The signature treatment incorporates a 1-hour plus healing massage, a herbal scrub called Boreh, a herbal tonic and the use of a sauna for a full body work up and detoxification.
Our afternoon appointment was perfect. Ketut worked on Dennis, a Balinese woman on me. Side by side, we lay on a covered bamboo mat platform that was open to the garden. The treatments take place in the family compound; background noises included roosters crowing, children playing and other family members chatting and going about their business. This is typical of an authentic tradition and only served to increase our enjoyment of the whole experience.
After two and a half hours of being utterly pampered we felt so relaxed we just wanted to have a nap! What a fabulous time for only IDR326,000 (about US$27) and yes, that was for BOTH of us!
Later on, feeling refreshed we were ready to see what central Ubud was like at night. Up to this point we'd resisted riding the scooter after dark other than Dennis making short solo trips to buy dinner. The first noticeable difference was the reduction in traffic. We made it all the way down the main street without having to stop and wait even once. We parked the bike and within a few minutes had spontaneously decided to seize the moment and watch a traditional Balinese dance show. The stage was open-air outside a temple, a rich lustrous backdrop.
The accompanying music ensemble, perhaps forty women, played mostly percussion-type instruments that created a pleasant sound totally unfamiliar to our ears. I can't really say that we could tell the difference between one piece of music and the next but the talented dancers were exceptionally good in hitting the key notes with their gestures, head and eye-jerking movements. It was amazing to watch, especially as all the seats were close to the stage.
After the show we found a quiet garden restaurant down a small street and had a wonderful meal to cap our wonderful day. It was surprising that, upon leaving the restaurant around 10pm, the streets were almost deserted. We know Ubud is considered the cultural capital of Bali but we had assumed with as many tourists as there are in town, there would also be a nightlife scene.
The following evening we saw a completely different show after a scrumptious Indonesian dinner, served tapas-style on banana leaves. This is one of the tastiest meals we've had in Ubud and we're hoping there'll be time to eat there again, perhaps after the next massage we're promising ourselves. The restaurant, 'biah biah' was on a small street and looked across at a family temple. Dennis, who has been keeping track of beer prices, noted that this was the cheapest large 660ml Bintang at a restaurant so far - IDR28,000 (about US$2.30).
The dance show was called the Kecuk Dance and took place inside a temple, covered but open on three sides. The show features a large group of men wearing checkered sarongs and chanting "ka-chuk, ka-chuk, ka-chuk ..." over and over and over with a few variants and nuances. The sound of so many male voices in unison has a sonorous timbre that reaches ones inner depths. They went non-stop for 40-minutes and soon after started on the next piece. It was incredible.
The story behind the dance is the battle between Sugriwa, the King of the Monkeys and his brother Subali over the goddess Tara. It is derived from the sacred Hindu Ramayana text. The dance troupe members imitate our primate ancestors and either sit or scurry around crouched down on their hands and feet, chanting all the while. Their shoulders move up and down in time with the chant and the resemblance to a troupe of monkeys is uncanny.
The finale to the show was a crazy fire dance. To the background chant an animated male dancer went into a trance and walked over the hot coals of coconut husks. Not just once but several times, kicking them this way and that and not seeming to feel anything. When at last the coals were only glowing faintly, he dropped down and lay still until being revived with holy water and a blessing. The show lasted just over an hour and we had been thoroughly entertained. Once again our seats were up close and personal, only a few feet behind the chanting men. Great show!
Note on current exchange rate: US$1.00 is about Indonesian Rupiah IDR12,160 is about ZAR10.60