I have an interesting relationship with Bali.
Here I’ve been robbed, stalked and generally harassed on many occasions spanning a few decades now.
I’m sure I actually swore once that I would never return. And I didn’t for many years, but the desire returned after a thirteen year hiatus and once again, I headed back. Back to the gorgeous rice fields of Ubud.
The return was actually prompted by the thought of spending my first Christmas alone without my children. Surely it would be much easier if I removed myself from the everyday little reminders of their existence?
So off I headed. That was almost 3 years ago now.
Ubud had and has, changed dramatically since my first visit back in 1987. No longer is it a quiet little town with just a few stores, the central market, palace, monkey forest and just a spattering of over enthusiastic Bemo drivers. I actually remember getting ‘stuck’ in Ubud once, thinking it would be easy to get transport back down south….. silly assumption back then!
Ubud is however still a place of beauty and charm with a friendly and peaceful vibe, more so than it’s southern neighbours in my opinion, especially if you stay just a little way out of town away from the crowds.
One completely obvious and notable difference is the abundance of raw food & organic cafes. In fact I’d say it’s probably one of the global ‘Mecca’s’ for the health conscious raw food movement. Yoga, meditation and all sorts of retreats are now on offering in amongst Ubuds’ rice fields and whilst I’m certainly not ‘anti’ any of that, I think it’s good to be reminded that this is not the way the locals generally eat. This is something we have brought to Bali, to Ubud.
Gosh, I actually remember the days when you were a bit of a fool if you ate a salad or anything raw for that matter in Bali (unless it could be peeled). It was one of the quickest and easiest ways to get sick here. Non peeled vegetables washed in questionable standards of water and served without contacting any form of searing hot flames to kill off potential hazardous bacteria = down right silly. That’s no longer the case. I even cooked my veggies in tap water last night and I brush my teeth in tap water too. A vast contrast to checking the seal on your bottled water to make sure it hadn’t been tampered with let alone trusting tap water.
I miss a good bout of detoxing ‘Bali belly’ really as I hunt out old school warungs or market stall food to chase down my traditional Bali food fix. Food is part of a culture and whilst I’ll visit Sari Organics and devour a raw papaya salad with a turmeric juice, I want to balance that out with the true taste of Bali, nurtured over many lifetimes and lovingly prepared in family compounds.
One thing that hasn’t changed are the people. They are still such beautiful, happy and generous people. Most will smile and greet you as you walk past and are often happy to engage in a partially English conversation (a tip: it’s good to just learn a few key words in Bahasa/Balinese – it will be greatly appreciated).
From what I can tell, the way they live ‘behind the scenes’, remains largely unchanged. Family, traditions and beliefs hold strong and are everything to the people of Bali, especially the further away you get from the tourist traps. So whilst they are adapting to the changes surrounding them, they remain faithful to their culture. I think it’s because of that that this place has not lost it’s charm over the years (although there are areas I completely avoid these days) and retains it’s pervading sense of peace, and why I tend to return when I need to refocus and regroup.
This is the first time I have brought my children with me and I’m getting the sense they ‘get it’ too.
Not once have they asked to visit Waterbom Park, the zoo, some birdpark etc etc. They instead explore the rice fields with me, will trek up Mt Batur and adventure to Pemuteran with me. They talk to the locals and enjoy satay. They won’t see Kuta or even Seminyak, but I will take them on adventures and allow us to have some downtime to just ‘be’. In fact, as I write this, they are practicing drawing frangipanis before a swim in the pool.
Stay tuned for the next post. It’s bound to be a good one…. I’m facing another fear, well actually probably most peoples in terms of Bali… driving!
Yep, tomorrow I get our hire car to drive us up north for 2 days.
Wish us luck!
Terimah Kasih x