Vagabonding Field Report: The endless visual candy of Ubud, Bali

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Cost/day: $50

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
While touring a Balinese family’s compound, a thin old man came wandering through the home. He didn’t live there, and he didn’t speak or ask for money. He just stood there, vacant-eyed, with a bag on his back and no shoes on his feet. It was like seeing a ghost. The moment I put my camera in front of him was eerie and beautiful because I didn’t say anything, yet he didn’t move at all.

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Describe a typical day:

I wake up to the roosters at sunrise. Life takes a more natural pace here—I don’t feel tired, even though it’s early. I hop on the back of someone’s motorbike and eat an awesome vegetarian breakfast in town. The best food I had was a tempeh lemongrass omelet with a chocolate mango chai latte. And coconuts. Lots of coconuts.

I wander around town a bit, but every day surprises me with something different. One day I biked twenty kilometers around rice paddies; the next day, I did nothing but eat and get a cheap, luxurious massage. I went to a barefoot Sunday morning dance at a yoga studio. I hiked a volcano. I watched a Balinese dance.

Ubud seems neverending in its greenery. It’s like nature and the intricate Hindu architecture have wrapped around each other in a luscious embrace. I can’t look at anything without finding moss, gold, petals, curlicues. I can barely stand to blink, it’s all so beautiful.

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Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

I hired a guide to lead me up Mt. Batur, an active volcano, for a sunrise hike. The guide was twenty years old and working two jobs while going to school. Despite having to get up at 2:30 in the morning a few days a week, like many of the Balinese I met, he seemed genuinely happy with his life. He had an unshakeable affection for Bali and his culture.

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What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

Though I didn’t make it to the beach, Ubud is still one of the most, if not THE most, beautiful place I’ve ever seen. The weather was a perfect 25 degrees Celsius and sunny most of the time. Exotic flowers, verdant jungle and tranquil gardens were ubiquitous.

I didn’t like haggling for everything. I know Southeast Asians enjoy it, but it made me uneasy. I felt I was either getting ripped off or cheating the business owner out of rightful pay. However, I did successfully bargain for a pair of sandals.

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Describe a challenge you faced:

Getting around Ubud can be challenging. There are no taxis, and public van-buses are infrequent at best. I decided not to rent a motorbike because 1)I’ve never driven one, and 2) to my surprise, Indonesians drive on the left side of the road—the opposite way I’m used to.

Luckily, hitchhiking is completely normal. I only had to stick out a thumb once or twice. The locals offered me rides for a slightly inflated fee the rest of the time.

What new lesson did you learn?
I learned that finding a place to stay with like-minded people can make a solo trip ten times better. I stayed at a community art house, and every day there was someone new to meet, talk to and pair up with as travel buddies.

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Where next?
I’m going to Cambodia to spend two weeks at a meditation retreat. This is the rest and recharge I need after teaching abroad in Korea for a year.

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Category: Vagabonding Field Reports

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