My first visit to Bali became what I hope to be one of many. It easily shot right up to the top of my list. To me, it is a wonder as to how some places just work so well; contrast that with places that to me are the equivalent of fingernails scraping a blackboard like the Philippines. Bali has a feel, a soul whispering through the wind. The people have a pleasant, content, smiling demeanor that make them a pleasure to be around, even the touts. Reverence to the spirits of family ancestors, animism and Hindu gods permeates every meter of the country.
I spent my entire (and sadly, only) week in Ubud. Ubud shares a lots of parallels in my mind with Santa Fe, New Mexico. The artists arrived in the 1920’s and both towns were never the same. In the case of Ubud, Dutch and German painters quickly transformed the native life. Art was not new to the Balinese – they were indeed quite prolific in their work to preserve and interpret their religious stories, especially the Ramayana. Not only through painting and drawing, but in wood carving and stonework among other media. What the foreigners brought to the table was new technique and the instruction to expand subject matter to everyday life. The tourists followed the artists and tourism is the main industry of Bali today, totally transforming the society in three generations. It was only the 1920’s when the Dutch were producing their black-and-white travelogues, heavily featuring the bare-breasted Balinese women working the rice fields and markets. Now everybody has their top on.
I had the great fortune to stay in a nice little AirBnB right in the center of town. My stay was in a family compound, where they built four tourist apartments to supplement income. Basically, every traditional home is an open-air temple in Bali. The view from my balcony was overlooking the shrines to Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, along with the family and local spirits columns. Breakfast was served on the patio everyday at whatever time you got up. Very laid back.
Ubud is in many ways a big New-Age ghetto. Yoga studios permeate the landscape. Every other eatery in either vegetarian or vegan. Fresh fruit smoothies and coconut water are everywhere. There are tons of talented silversmiths. And of course, galleries large and small. Spirulina, chia seeds and psyillium husks are found in the supermarket. There is a 24-hour private-membership optical fiber co-working internet space. Put all this together and Ubud is …my kind of place.
So, I will follow this post with a bunch of shorter photo illustrations of some of the things that I have talked about above. Bali rocks!!!