Bali: Eating, Praying and Loving around Ubud

What Julia Roberts does not convey in the movie is that one actually does not need to pass by Italy and India, but can get a complete package and "eat, pray and love" all in Bali. Well I did not encounter Javier Bardem (not even anyone nearly as charming, cute and attractive as him) but I did find many things to love there (including Macaques, Geckos and other living beings).

So here I am in Ubud, just arrived from my cute little Canggu village and I am in complete culture shock. The central streets are overcrowded with tourists, scooters, taxi scooters and taxi drivers literally pulling me to get on their taxi scooter (at some point I even get offered a coffee, just to get on the scooter - sweet people...) - I am a little intimidated and the crowd is stressing me out. But it does have its charm, people are pushy but not too much, it is busy but not too much, it is chaotic but not too much. Everything is just at my good level of tolerance.

Anyway, I am eager to get away from the center as I have gotten convinced that the most interesting spots are always hidden somewhere unexpected. In the travel blogs people share that Ubud is surrounded by rice fields, which is difficult to imagine, given the urbanized central parts but that's indeed Ubud's magic. I walk for 20 minutes away from the center, all the noise suddenly disappears and I find myself in the middle of a steep road through the rice fields. I simply can't believe my eyes. I have seen many rice fields but probably the contrast and proximity with the city makes these spectacular. Coconuts trees, little huts, villas, small cute cafes, painters by the path...and all that is happening in between the rice field. 
The tranquility quickly penetrates my mind and I feel I can walk for hours without any direction. Out of nowhere I find an impressive coffee place - Sari Organik - which I feel very drawn to and I feel ready for my daily doze of mangos (I did abuse with my mango consumption in Bali). I order the local specialty green pancake with mangos and coconut flakes. It is worth to mention that everything in Bali is so organic that even the straw in my lime juice is made of bamboo, and not plastic. 
I normally don't get into details for what I eat and where, and I tend to mock people who do it - but OK, food in Bali is an experience. As I taste this pancake, I stay for a few minutes in complete disbelief and I am not ready to continue as I fear it will finish, I am literally making love to my pancake. Is it just the pancake, or it is a combination with the view of the rice paddies, I am not entirely sure but I know that this is what happiness tastes like :)

Ubud is also special for its art, culture and yoga environment.
One could find numerous art galleries with local artwork around the streets. Actually, many artists go to Bali just to draw. I meet an Australian who tells me that every summer he comes to Bali for a few months not only because it is so affordable but he says his muse only awakens in Bali - apparently many people come, rent some studio, where they could paint and give wings to their talent in Bali.

All the typical Balinese traditions of going into trans, healing by singing to the Gods, dancing over the fire, are recreated in evening shows, where Ubud's visitors can witness everything. They are normally held in the temples themselves so the atmosphere is very authentic. I visit a fire dance show, which is over an hour but passes within the blink of an eye. One thing I have read about but witness myself is what a special part the look and the eyes of the female dancers have in the show. Sometimes they would not change anything in their facial expression, but their are eyes are so captivating and expressing happiness, fear, anger, love. It is really special as I have never seen something like that before (also, I have never seen a main actress in her performance dress and covered in jewelry from head to toes jumping on a scooter and going a seller at the near night shop, which I will later figure out - I guess you do what you have to do.)

Finally, there is yoga literally everywhere in Ubud, so I would say that if one wants to do yoga they should better find either a studio in the surroundings or elsewhere around the island. It's a bit oversupplied with yoga indeed. I am personally not into the commercialized idea of yoga, but OK - I it depends on the viewpoint. It is definitely better for a place to be oversupplied with yoga than with McDonald's, for example. So again - Ubud does have its charm here as well. I do take some yoga & meditation classes, but the groups are a little too large and there is a little lack of a communal feeling. At the same time, I absolutely love the whole yoga vibe around the city, I love that everyone is walking in some wide yoga pants, the city has a bit of a hippy "love and peace for all" environment and it makes me feel safe and comfortable.

I leave some time for some touristic activities, too, although I am so good and immersed in my wandering around and exploration days.
I visit a few temples. All of them are Hindu temples and there is a Buddhist part in one of them "The Elephant Cave". As always trying to avoid the crowd, I walk long to find what is supposedly the temple of Buddha, I jump over some stone fence and find myself in a wild jungle - it's fabulous. This is more interesting than the temple itself - it is so quiet, and at the same time so loud with the sounds of birds, beetles, trees. I stay there for quite some time. My driver (Kadek) is a wise man - he said that he will scold me if I am in a hurry, so I take my time and sit and listen.

At the "Holy water" temple there is (obviously) holy water, which is believed to heal all diseases. People soak all together in the holy water (something I am not tempted to all), and wait for their turn to wash their faces in the different fountains. I just sit and observe. Next to me sits a gentle French woman, probably in her 50's. She is looking at the pool attentively and I see she is staring at a man approaching, he comes by us and tells her "You know how much I love you, right?" , she responds "I love you too darling" and he goes back to the water. I am simply fascinated by the sweet picture and strike a conversation with her - she is ready to tell me everything. She and her Australian husband have been together for 18 years, moved from Australia to Bali 8 years ago. They are so much in love with the island and she says "it is just so easy to be in love when you live in Bali, I can't imagine spending the rest of my life anywhere else." I am no longer surprised, she is not the first person to tell me this - it is rather a repetitive pattern, which seems like the real truth.

My housing is 10 minutes away from the Monkey forest, I can actually see monkeys invading the neighboring street. They are funny creatures, I love observing them as I think there is a lot to learn, especially when they are in their natural habitat. I find it truly amusing though when people feed them with the desire to take a photo with a monkey on their shoulder. I somehow have the feeling that it is the monkey in those situations that is having more fun, particularly if they start pulling someone's hair, jewelry and if they actually scratch them...I am thinking that's what they are looking for :) 
I even feel a little sorry for the macaques over there cause they seem to me truly disturbed by all these people. I decide to take more uncommon paths where there are almost no other find out there are almost no monkeys either! I realize that actually the monkeys ARE seeking this tourists' food...spoiled macaques, so I no longer pity them that much.

I sign up for a volcano night trek with the aim to meet the sunrise on the top of the volcano. We start at 2am at night to be there at 6am for the sunrise. I am placed in a trekking group with 3 other women - one gets tired at minute 10 already, so we have to stop every 10-15 minutes, I literally pull her up the rocks, one is super cold, I give her my spare clothes which I am supposed to wear on the way back, the third one relies on some essential oils to help her get to the top but she is quite cranky for not getting the effect she is supposed to. Our trekking guide is also a woman, hardly speaking any English and not bothered for anything but to get to the top, not really the most friendly person. 
As we get to the top, there are a few stunning moments but then some clouds appear and there is almost no sunrise to watch. On top of everything, a macaque steals my breakfast and laughs in my face. So I laugh and I am thinking that what was supposed to be a true highlight turned out to be rather an experience testing my patience and positive attitude. Test passed - so I am ready to go.

Bali is a little heaven on Earth for so many reasons, but one thing I will always keep in mind is the repeated statement by different people that "nowhere your soul could be as happy as it could be in Bali".

Popular posts from this blog

Costa Rica: The volcano shaking all senses - Arenal (Part 1 of 5)

Costa Rica: Why you should go and immerse in nature...literally (Part 5 of 5)

Costa Rica: From Moon landscapes to a Moon house (Part 4 of 5)