We were sitting at breakfast in the middle of who-knows-where-Java, drenched to the bone and devouring our glamorous breakfast of plain toast and Nescafe after a failed attempt at climbing Mt. Bromo. (Well, in all fairness, we succeeded in waking up at 4am and climbing to the viewpoint to see the sunrise. It was the constant downpour—aka lack of seeing anything—that constituted as failure.) A couple of minutes into our breakfast of champions, a retro British gal (also returning from the not so epic Bromo quest) asked to join us as she awaited her next transport. Our conversation soon arrived at the generic, travelers meeting other travelers questionnaire, somewhat reminiscent of freshman year of college. After covering the basics of “Where are you from?”, “How long are you here?” and “Is this going to be a long term, clingy friendship kind-of thing? Cuz I can’t tell if you’re annoying quite yet.”, our chatting soon turned to Ubud. Our new friend had just spent a month practicing yoga there, and I was intrigued to find out if it lived up to all the hype it receives. After all, I kept hearing Ubud was supposedly the one place I just had to visit while in Bali. Like finding out your favorite male celebrity is actually only attracted to other men, her description more than turned me off:
“Well, actually, it’s quite Eat, Pray, Love at the moment. A lot of middle aged American women soul searching and practicing bunny yoga. But I still loved it. Everyone does.”
Ughhhhhhh. I inwardly groaned for about five minutes, thinking back to how much I didn’t like the book Eat, Pray, Love. And then I spent about twenty minutes thinking about what bunny yoga might be, and how I probably fit the description to a tee. Don’t get me wrong. I was still excited to see the cultural heart of Bali, nestled amongst jungle and rice terraces. And there must be a reason why artists have been flocking to Ubud from around the world for nearly half a century. I guess I just wasn’t really expecting to be blown away by it anymore.
But of course, it’s always the ones you don’t expect that leave the most memorable impression. I immediately fell in love with Ubud, and before we had even departed I was conspiring all the ways in which we could return to the city for a longer period of time.
I don’t know why I felt such a connection with Ubud. I just did. And although I’m not the first or even five hundredth person to comment on the spiritual, rejuvenating effect the city can have, it’s still there. In the beautiful serenity of the rice terraces and Balinese countryside. In the practice of traditional dance and the fine arts. In the quaint stone pavements that guide your feet past lush gardens and temple walls.
And while yes, you can buy Eat, Pray, Love trinkets in the souvenir shops and network with expats at expensive yoga classes, it remains an inspiring and beautiful Mecca that just kind of naturally leads to self reflection. One that I’m hoping we’ll return to very soon.