It lay lifeless on an elevated platform, with its sides already being eaten. Its mouth was partly open, possibly its last scream. Packs of hungry carnivores sat next to it waiting to get their share. The crisp crackling of the roast pig glistened in the glow of the filament lamp and lured us in. Babi Guling is to Bali as what haggis is to Scotland!
We sat in the warung or food stall to try some of the famous suckling pig from the Gianyar area, next to Ubud. It is eaten with lawar, which is a mixture of spices, scrapped coconut, vegetables and rice. It was not my favourite thing in Bali but at least it was off my bucket-list. It was a pig and not a spider! https://biswadarshan.com/2014/09/01/lost-in-beijing-part-1-spiderman-2/
The previous day, whilst walking down the street of Ubud someone offered, “We have Indian food… come in for lunch”. It sounded enticing but I gave it a pass. I would rather have something local. I had grilled marinated fish wrapped in banana leaf served with fern-tip salad, it could be called a neo-Balinese dish. Fern tip salad is steamed edible fern mixed with spices and coconut. The taste was refreshing and reminded me of rain-washed tropical forest foliage.
Talking of leaves, Ubud used to be abundant in medicinal plants. Hence, the name Ubud is derived from Ubad, which is Balinese for medicine. Centuries back, it was a centre of traditional healing. The town’s history dates back to eighth century, when a Javanese monk had meditated at the confluence of two rivers at Campuan, presently west of the town centre.
At the heart of the town, right next to the road Jalan Raya Ubud, was the Puri Saren Agung or the Water Palace. The palace has been the residence of Ubud’s royal family since its establishment in 1823. The royal family were a patron of arts and literature, so it was natural that the palace was home to Ubud Art’s Market and an auditorium, for daily Balinese dance shows. The palace also hosted the annual Ubud Writers & Readers Festival.
In a corner of the palace gardens was Starbucks Café. It overlooked the palace entrance and its design complemented the regal structure. One must try the Red bean frappuccino, and green tea latte from there, a quick break from the din of the nearby market.
Ubud was set amidst paddy fields. But gone were the days when rice contributed majorly to the local economy. Tourism was the new winner; thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book ‘Eat, Pray Love’, tourist influx has multiplied many-folds.
Ubud is at the confluence of creativity and consumerism. Its hospitality is marred by the fact that they charge tourists way more than the local Balinese. We paid a premium for our lunch at Gianyar. Before heading back to Depansar, I stared at the babi or pig for the last time. I do hope that Bali never has a last scream…