Coming straight from the sedate, tranquil countryside of west bali to Ubud was a bit of a shock to the system. We were used to seeing a grand total of maybe 50 people per day, and arriving in what felt like the seething, sweaty masses of a big town was overwhelming. It appeared we had traded the hypnotic warbles of the call to prayer and sublime, empty landscapes for the endless entreaties of street vendors and masses of travellers.
Try as I might, I cant think of much to say of Ubud, and it left little impression in my mind other than being a nice town similar to what you'd see in one of a hundred places in SE asia. Its a beautiful place, particularly the surrounding country side, the cuisine is as mouth watering as it is cheap, you can get massages as good as anywhere on the planet for the cost of pack of incense in Sydney, but still, for whatever reason, the place itself just didn't make me feel much of anything.
The highlight of this part of the trip was easily a sunrise hike up Mt Batur - the second largest mountain / volcano on the island - the peak of which sits at the not so dizzying height of 1700 m (Mt Warning eat your heart out). Sitting on top of a mountain in the - welcomingly after a few weeks of inescapable humidity - frigid pre-dawn air, watching the sunrise with Bali's highest peak, Mount Agung, able to be seen in the distance over a sea of cloud was one of the most breathtaking, ephemeral vistas I've ever seen. Perhaps because of the shelf of cloud directly below us, with a layer of lower clouds over the ocean, it quite literally looked like we were watching the sun rise of the edge of the world (photos below). It was the kind of sight the word majestic was invented to describe but fails utterly at doing so.
Feeling inspired and stunned and everything in-between and beginning the scrambling descent back down the mountain, I asked our guide who ferries droves of people to the peak everyday where our particular sunrise rated in his experience. He thought for a second and replied 'Hmm, maybe 3 out of 10'.
Context is everything.