We landed in Bali and immediately went about getting our visa extensions, which ended up taking longer than expected. We didn’t care at all because Ubud ended up being the perfect place to laze about and recharge and we did just that for two weeks. This town made popular by “Eat, Pray, Love” with sinewy yogis and young women trying to “find themselves” was also chock full of good, healthy, organic(-inspired) food and a great vibe for creative inspiration.
Every morning we woke up to a beautiful sunny day and ate a leisurely breakfast on our balcony in our pajamas. We eventually left our room to get lunch, explore and walk around the town. Maybe we should’ve been less lazy and done stuff like see the traditional dances or gone on tours of the coffee plantations and temples in the area, but we seriously needed some down time. It’s strange because while we never felt like we really needed to take breaks during the Europe leg of our adventure, Southeast Asia’s been a little more mentally taxing for some reason. We love it here in Indonesia but sometimes we need a “taste of home”. Ubud was perfect because it gave us just that and then some.
The afternoons were hot. We walked around the quiet town peeking into cute shops selling organic soaps and clothing, and stopped into cafés and restaurants when we were hungry. During the day, van loads of pale Chinese tourists descended on Ubud from the busier parts of the island like Kuta and Seminyak, fanning themselves under the identical cheap straw hats they probably bought for too much somewhere.
The bussed-in day trip tourists mostly wandered around the northern part of the town, so the center was generally quiet and the cafes and restaurants were pretty empty, where yogis (all of the Caucasian sort) sat all twisted up on cushions, mindfully picking at their vegan salads. They were a refuge from the sun, and we ended up at one place or another to eat. We did a lot of eating, and the eating’s real good in Ubud. It was the first time we dared to have salads and fruit shakes (without fear of serious gastric repercussions) in about five months. Our appetites kicked right back into gear and we ate so much gorgeous salads and drank so many delicious fruit shakes that we became extra regular.
A big Hindu festival was going on and fresh flowers and daily offerings were everywhere. By day, women walked around with crushed shells on their foreheads and necks, while men in white shirts and sarongs had small flowers tucked behind their ears, which I found to be very charming. By night, they visited the temples with offerings of food, the colorfully-dressed women expertly balancing the trays on their heads. Being the only place in Indonesia with a Hindu majority, it felt like we were in a totally different country altogether. There were beautiful flower necklaces draped around the stone dieties, and meticulously-created flower petal art floating on the stone water basins by the sidewalk. The only thing that was still the same as in the rest of Indonesia was the kindness of the people, seemingly enhanced by the festive and lush atmosphere of this town.
For quiet and peace, we walked north, where narrow bumpy dirt roads snaked through the bright green rice fields. It was tranquil and I understand why some people choose to get away from the center of town and stay in the quaint little homestays here instead to meditate and do yoga. Maybe next time, because we had some serious eating to catch up on and we needed to be near the food.
Before the yogis moved in, this area was known for its wood and stone carvers, painters and basket weavers. While most of the creative work doesn’t really take place in Ubud itself nowadays, there were paintings and carvings everywhere we looked and all of the workshops are in towns and villages close by. It’s pretty impressive to see all of the quality work that comes out of the artisans in this region.
When we returned one week later to the tourist office to ask them for an update on our visa extension, there were all kinds of bullshit excuses thrown around about a new rule that was just implemented and why they couldn’t extend our visas before the rule change date even though they had days to file our applications before. We had no choice but to take an hour taxi ride down to Denpasar to sit in a crowded immigration office and wait to get our fingerprints and photos taken. After it was all done, we were told our visas would be ready in a few days so we took the cab back to Ubud to go souvenir shopping, get a fresh haircut at a barber, and get our fill of salads, fresh juices, Italian food, coffee and desserts before we had to leave this heavenly bubble in the middle of Indonesia.