In early April, Kate and I left on our dreamy, 2 week trip to Indonesia to celebrate the end of our teaching contracts in Thailand. The city of Ubud on the island of Bali was our first stop, and we knew from the second we arrived that we would fall hopelessly in love.
We quickly figured out that for people like us, Ubud was paradise: healthy food, endless yoga classes, a hefty dose of culture, and a smattering of all things spiritual. My mind began to unwind from the stress that the end of a school year brings; I slipped into the bubble of bliss that surrounds Ubud like an ozone layer.
We spent a great deal of time goggling over menus with dominant vegetarian and gluten free options. Lattes and organic strawberry pancakes at charming Kué seemed like a good start.
We also enjoyed Nasi Campur several times, an Indonesian meal with a dome of white rice landlocked by peanut sauce, tempe, tofu, corn fritters, and gingery salads.
It wasn’t just the food that was exciting. I wanted Ubud to be my personal closet- this city had my style pegged: flowy, summer dresses and slouchy shirts in tie dye and pastel colors. “Oh my gosh, that is so cute!” Said Kate and I as we passed every single clothing store. (That’s a phrase I had to dust off after living in Thailand for a year.)
Other stores were a smorgasbord of phallic items coexisting with new age spiritual things-prayer beads draped over stone Buddha heads, prayer flags, tapestries, candles- the kind of items that call me to visualize my future home inside my head.
Ubud’s architechtural treasures were just as prevalent as it’s small morning offerings. Walking down any street landed us marveling at old structures, which weren’t deemed useless and torn down, but served as the framework for new businesses or simple, empty sights, if nothing else.
Ornery macaques ran amok as we explored the old Balinese Hindu structures in Monkey Forest Sanctuary. As we descended, the air was dense and heavy around the moss coated concrete, but the light peeking through the forest was ethereal. Hello, I had wandered into a fairytale.
We took a stroll through the rice fields, which also felt remarkably like a fairytale with vibrant, green rice fields. I drooled at the occasional spotting of prayer flags tangled into baby palms.
We came across the local coconut man whose smile coaxed us into buying a fresh coconut; he even talked us through his process of making coconut oil, which he slicks into his hair everyday. When we inquired about how he got the coconuts down, he pogoed effortlessly up the tree; the barefoot soles of his feet gripping the palm like they had since he was a young boy.
He led us on an small expedition through the rice field, pulling off blades of citronella and lemongrass, and holding them up to our noses after he had rolled them between his fingers to unleashed their scent. Even with puffy, grey gums and missing teeth, his smile was beyond sweet. Our interaction with him would be akin to our other encounters with Indonesian people… uplifting and informative.
He contributed to the good juju already swirling in Ubud’s air. Ah yes. Our days were pleasure and leisure. When we weren’t strolling through the rice fields, we filled our snippets of time with small, blissful things like passionfruit filled coconut macaroons from Bali Buddha, sweaty yoga classes at Radiantly Alive, and lattes from Sari Organik, whose food ingredients are grown in the garden right outside the restaurant. Ok, Elizabeth Gilbert… we get it now.
Beloved Ubud takes a top spot on the list of places that I would venture to again. It’s touristy, no doubt, but it’s a tangible slice of heaven on Earth. Seriously. Even our toilet at Gerhana Sari 2 was awesome. It was a half bathroom, half personal forest combo complete with a little pond.
Well done Ubud, I’m impressed. You have managed to tastefully and harmoniously grasp the old and the new. You have embraced the grip of globalization tactfully while allowing the most important aspects of culture and tradition shine through and drive the city forward. I’ll start the slow clap.