Like a lot of people, I presume, I first heard about the Balinese town of Ubud after reading Elizabeth Gilberts book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Of course I then watched the movie. And as Julia Roberts cycled around the brilliantly green rice paddies, befriended an old medicine man and meditated her time away in blissful peace, Ubud shot straight to the top of my travel wish list. Because of course nature and meditation are two of my favourite things, it therefore seemed like an ideal place to sit and ponder life’s existence.
So, I went to Ubud, my last port of call in Bali and in Asia.
My journey originated from Amed, hours of driving through lush, lime green landscape soon transformed into traffic jammed streets, my driver fighting his way through a blockade of cars and motorcycle’s. After silently wondering what this crowded and smoggy town that we had landed ourselves in was called I noticed a street sign that read UBUD. Horrified, I asked the driver ‘Are we in Ubud now?’
‘Yes, this is Ubud.’ He replied.
Hearing these words caused the excitement I had felt to shrivel away to the bottom of my stomach and die. For, this was not the Ubud that they portray in the movie. I sat in the traffic jam silently cursing Julia Roberts for the false representation, making a mental note to myself, never, ever trust Hollywood again!
Congestion, whether it’s on the streets or in the mind, makes me feel discernibly miserable. I need clarity, to think, to breath, to walk. I had intended to put myself in a personal, silent, writing retreat here in the creative and cultural centre of Bali. But how could the creative juices flow when my vision was the never-ending throngs of traffic and my air was contaminated with toxic exhaust fumes?
Not one to quit I persevered, and I decided I would stick around and try and love Ubud; surely it couldn’t really be that bad, right?
I meandered through the backstreets and found the famous rice paddies. I set up home in a little guesthouse down a quiet lane that gave me some peace. And after four months in Asia with little food options that didn’t contain meat, the many vegan and organic cafés in this little town were very welcome.
But, despite my best efforts, and despite the variety of food available for a vegetarian, I did not grow to love Ubud. If you like shopping, lots of people rammed into tight spaces and dirty streets, then Ubud is the place to be in Bali. However, Bali has a lot more to offer than these overpopulated lanes. Ubud is renowned as being a place for healing, but I can’t help feeling that because of the hordes of tourists that now pound the pavements of this town, Ubud now feels a little wounding.