Why is it that there are places that just seem to have a certain creative and transformational power that others just don´t? Places that burst with a certain je ne sais quois, an almost magnetic force that draws visitors in like bees to honeycomb or like wild souls to seawater. Ubud in Central Bali certainly belongs to the list of seductive places that lure you in with their promise of healing and artistic delights.
It might be because Ubud is literally named after the Balinese word ubad for medicine, making reference to its function as a crucial source of medicinal plants and herbs. Or maybe Ubud´s mysterious attraction can be traced back to its founding legend which surrounds a Javanese priest by the name of Rsi Markendya. As the eighth-century legend goes, the priest chose to meditate at the confluence of two rivers in Campuan, Central Bali, which inspired him to create the Gunung Lebah Temple. Up to today, this site remains a place revered by pilgrims and seekers.
Be it as it may, there are certain places in Ubud where you can easily get a taste of its legendary creative charm yourself. Let´s start with majestic ARMA-museum, the Agung Rai Museum of Art. Founded by Balinese protector of the Arts and Culture, Agung Rai, it houses permanent exhibitions of inspiring paintings by Balinese, Indonesian and foreign creative mavericks. On top of alluring traditional and contemporary visual art by Balinese masters such as Ida Bagus Made or I Gusti Made Deblog – no, he wasn´t blogger to my knowledge, even though what a spot- on-name that would be- there´s a space dedicated to German painter Walter Spies.
Ever heard of this crafty fella? Well, don´t fret if you haven´t, his fame didn´t make it to a global level, but he did rock Bali´s world and had a major impact on the development of the arts on the island. Spies was an ethnic German born in Russia and the whole artistic package: a gifted teacher of music and painting, he also experimented with dance and excelled as a visual artist.
Spies, who lived an intense and short life, and kindred spirits Willem Hofker and Rudolf Bonnet were also real olden-day-celebrity-magnets. They came to entertain and delight global stars such as my beloved Charlie Chaplin, British Science-fiction-writer H.G. Wells or Austrian-American writer Vicki Baum, to name a few. And the foreign artistic groundbreakers also used their influence and popularity to gather the creme-de-la-creme of artists from all over to teach and train the Balinese in arts. This is actually what led to Ubud becoming the world-famous cultural center of Bali known and loved by so many today!
While you are at the ARMA- museum, don´t miss out on the magnificent tropical gardens: Let your newfound inspiration work its magic within you while wandering past orchid-lined water-ponds filled with lotus flowers. You´ll also pass by enticing traditional stone sculptures frosted in green moss and adorned with typical Balinese flower offerings. The soothing sounds of the picturesque fountains will create an irresistible auditive melange with the exotic Gamelan-music that can often be heard in these peaceful surroundings. You might even get a glimpse of children practicing their Balinese dance skills! This is due to ARMA also housing an outstanding center for performing arts which regular hosts Balinese-themed workshops, classes, and performances.
- The ARMA museum is located on Jalan Raya Pengosekan in Ubud.
- Opening hours: Every day from 9 AM to 6 PM
- Admission: IDR 80000, which includes a tea or coffee
- Peckish? There is also a fabulous cafe and a restaurant on site.
- Is there more? Yes, there is a stunning resort located on the compound, Cultural workshops to delight in, musical performances to attend…
Have you ever been to Ubud, or to any other place that for some reason really stirred your soul? Would love to hear about your experiences!
Photography: all rights reserved © A gypsy at heart