soaking up the Balinese loveliness

Ubud Travel Blog

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Isn't it always the case that right when you are on the verge of changing scenery, things start falling into place? Before you move, you fall in love. Before you change jobs, something happens that is great in your current position, or before you pack your bags on your travels, you start really digging into the people and culture of where you are? That is what has been happening here in Ubud the past few days, and it is just great.

I have come out of the meditation wackiness of this place and spending more time meeting the locals. The Balinese are undoubtedly the nicest culture I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Just on my little road in the village of Nhyu Kuning, I am greeted 'hello' and 'good morning' by everyone who passes by. The man who runs the tiny store a few paces down the road shakes my hand and teaches me a new Balinese word every time I see him. The waiters at the Chili Cafe, which is habitually empty, always shout a good morning or good evening when I pass by. The little children (who are ridiculously adorable) wave from motorbike their parents are driving. It is so endearing.

I have been having breakfast the past few days at the cafe at the end of my road that faces the entrance of the Sacred Monkey Forest. I get to eat my fruit and drink my coffee while watching scores of monkeys play around right in front of me. As I was finishing breakfast today, this handsome Balinese man with a mane of long black hair comes in with his son. He asked to sit down with me, and it turns out he is in charge of Nhyu Kuning, my village, and he is the owner of the cafe. We talked about how important it is for him to keep the nature of Nhyu Kuning peaceful and not let too many people build houses here. All while we talked, his 3 year old sun is cuddling on his lap.

I have always thought there was something inherently wrong with the way that many Americans spend their time and concentration. We work and work and work and maybe take a quick holiday here and there. But what is the money for? For the family you do not get to spend quality time with? For when you are older? My friend Brian only made it to 40, so who knows what the future holds and when that money will be used. The Balinese focus on nature, their religion, and their family. They have enough money for their little homes where many people sleep on the floor, and for simple food, and yet they are more generous, friendly, and genuinely happy than many people I know with luxury cars, flat-screen tvs, and a hefty 401k.

Yesterday, I took the bus down to Kuta, which is the notoriously touristy town on the beach where the big bomb went off in 02. I knew I would not like it, but wanted to see it regardless. It was exactly as you would imagine. A sea of touristy crap for sale. The beach urchins continuously approaching you for massage, pedicure, or wanting you to buy some spoiled piece of fruit. The cost of a beach chair for the day was extremely high (but I am a good bargainer!) and the general beauty and spirit of the island are lost in the tourist insanity. I did bring my hula hoop down to the beach, which always brings fun. A bunch of the Balinese beach boys came up and wanted to play with it. One of them was nicknamed "Mario" because he has a big thick mustache reminiscent of Super Mario, which was hilarious. I ended up having a Bintang with them and they lent me part of their umbrella shelter as the rains started hitting the beach. Becoming friends with the people who are trying to sell you shit takes away the nonsense and then everyone can just behave as the people they are.

My bus ride home was completely empty. As I mentioned before, the rift between Ubud and the beach are so different, that I don't think many people are leaving Kuta to head to quiet Ubud in the evenings. It obviously POURED here in Ubud yesterday while I was gone, because the streams on the side of the road were raging and we hit many flooded parts of road along the way. As I walked back to my house after having some pizza, I heard a guitar being played in my driveway. Some of the local boys (in their 20s) were relaxing and playing music. Of course they invited me to sit with them and I showed them how to hula hoop. They invited me back after my shower to listen to more music and drink some Arak, which is coconut liquor they mix with some juice. So we spent about an hour singing Balinese songs, Radiohead, CCR, you name it while sipping on Arak. It was a lovely night. The clouds vanished and the stars came out. The frogs were singing their heads off with us, obviously delighted about the rain that day. The Arak gave me a nasty headache in the middle of the night, but it was worth it.

I only have one more day here, and then off to the Gilis. My blogging will come to be very few and far between because i will no longer have a laptop at my disposal and certainly no wifi. But I will write in my journals and try to update as much as I can.

I cannot recommend coming to Bali enough to everyone who is reading this. There is something here for everyone.
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photo by: eddie8498