UBUD: A BALINESE DREAM OR JUST A TOURIST TRAP ?

If you watched “Eat Pray Love”, you will  now what place this post is about. Ubud, the “cultural” hotspot of the whole island of Bali.

IMG_6797As i decided to reach Bali overland, after Java, the next step is to jump on a ferry. After a good night of sleep in an overpriced hotel in Baniunwangi, i woke up early and got myself on the road. Flagged a bemo, a cheap local transport, and for few rupees i got to the harbour.

IMG_6731 I love ferries: they remind me of my teenage years holiday when together with my friends we would go from Italy to Greece. I like their rusty feel, the huge ropes and the smell of kerosene mixed with the salty air of the sea. Ferries are the backbone of the old school way of travel in Indonesia. A country with more than 17500 islands, could’nt suppress the naval transportations too easily. The motto of some company is “We Serve The Country”, and in a way they really do.

IMG_6736Once onboard, one can relax and get a traditional massage, or buy food and drinks. Sellers of any type of cheap gadget abound and the thick smoke of the kretek, the traditional clove spiced cigarettes, fills up the place.

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IMG_6739Once you are in Bali, all you need to do is to reach Denpasar, the capital, wich lies 4/5 hours away from the harbour. So a cheap bus journey will do the job. These little buses depart every few hours and sometimes they’re late as they wait for more passengers to show up. Anyway, along the way, they stop pretty much every few minutes to pick up the locals, and get hot and crowded quite quickly.

IMG_6755I’m kinda tired, but i’ve got the adrenaline buzz as well, so i tell to myself that this would be a good place to refresh my basic Indonesian.

IMG_6747As the early afternoon heat becomes more aggressive, i look around and decide to follow the example of the ticket master: have a bumpy nap.

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IMG_6756From Denpasar i decide to jump on a taxi and get straight to Ubud, as i want to enjoy a bit of comfirt for once in a while. As we get closer to the village, i recognize the landscape: a thick jungle od palm trees and tropical lush, protects the rice fields. The raini season is not over yet, and the air is humid and scented of incense and herbs.

IMG_6768Once i found a room at my usual homestay, i walk down  the road to get some proper food. There’s a warung that caters for either locals and foreigners. It serves great traditional dishes and despite the location, it has kept the prices very reasonable.

IMG_6776Vegetarians will be happy here: the choice is between vegetables stews, salads, deep fried tofu, tempe, potato fritters, and spicy sauces.

IMG_6772And meat eaters will be satisfied as well: fried chicken, any kind of fish, and even pork are served all day.

IMG_6773This is what you can get with 15000 Rupees: you need to be very hungry to eat it all, just for a pound !

IMG_6774The last time i was in Ubud i took several pictures with my SLR, so this tim i was’nt fretting to walk around the countryside to capture some of the great landscapes around here. Still, wherever you put your eyes, you can see the Ubud trademark: classic Balinese temples covered in musk, coming out from the beautifully rich green lush.

IMG_6790Even little private gardens look like  a picture postcard.

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IMG_6799Apparently, there’s nothing that one cannot do in town: as many other “new age” destinations around the world, once in Ubud, one has this endless list of choices, including tree hugging experiences, rebirthing, any type of yoga and stuff. After the big success of the movie “Eat Pray Love”, lots of truth seekers, mid life crisis women and pensioneer, came to this once quite village to find themselves. Apparently nearly everyone is in the process of writing a book or starting a brand new life away from the doom of the western world.

IMG_6784It’s not uncommon to see people walking down the road with an expression of beatitude on their faces, wearing white clothes, but at the same time completely ignoring others as if saying “good morning” was a sign of excessive attachement to the mediocrity of the world, or being rude with shop keepers, taxi drivers or warung owners, fighting and making big deals out of inflated prices, in the attempt to prove to themselves and the others that they know Asia, that they’ve been there longtime and there’s no way you can mess with them.

IMG_6814My question then comes naturally: if you know Asia so well, why the hell are you stuck in this nearly soulless Disney-esque version of a traditional Balinese village ? My little experience travelling around Asia taught me that often, travellers (or long term tourists), want to fulfill their own idea of Asia. They stay away from what’s not cool enough, from the tough side of things, from the poverty and the desperation. They come to places like this to experience something new, original and unique, without realising that these places are gone long ago. The locals working with the tourists are often money hungry, the goods for sale are all the same and their prices highly inflated and so on.

IMG_6825But at the same time, how could a estetically flawless place like Ubud, resist the assault of the tourism industry without transform itself in such an illusion..?

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