To me, Ubud is an impeccable balance of tranquility and energy. This small city is tucked in the island’s countryside and the shops, hotels, and restaurants emanate from the center of town – home to the world famous Ubud Monkey Forest. Our plan was to spend about a week in Ubud relaxing and drinking in our favorite town on our favorite island, hopefully to build a reservoir of energy from which to draw from over the course of our long Asia tour.
We rented an AirBnb in the middle of town, walking distance to most of the city. Our place came complete with two bedrooms, garden, large pool, outdoor kitchen, and an expansive view over the tree line. While Ubud is a city, it is still incredibly green and tropical. We were removed from the main street so no city sounds reached us- just the sounds of nature and the chants from the Yoga studio around the corner. I stocked up on groceries so we could stay in for a few days to catch up on some reading, work, and reflection.
On the third day a huge surprise was sprung on me. Our close friend Julie had six months prior told us that she was thinking about coming with us to Bali, but after work had become too hectic, she had to cancel. Apparently, this was just a ruse. She was planning on coming the whole time and with Mandy as her accomplice, they thought it would be fun to surprise me. I was sitting in a hammock working on my laptop when Julie walked through the gate. I was so thoroughly surprised that for a minute I didn’t realize what was going on. The first words out of my mouth were “are you crazy?!”. Once the initial shock wore off, I was elated to have her with us for the next week and a half as we continued to Singapore.
The next few days were spent seeing more of the sights. We made a visit to the Monkey Forest and walked through charming city streets. We took a long drive to the north side of the island for a temple visit and a tour of a traditional Balinese village offering a glimpse of culture and life prior to the onset of Western influence. We just happened to visit on a day when the girls of the village were performing a dance ceremony, wearing colorful traditional clothing.
In the Hindu faith of the Balinese, daily offerings of thanks are made and placed in the street. Small items like candy, cookies, cigarettes, and flowers are put in a small baskets along with lit incense to give thanks for all a person has in life. When you walk through town, these offerings litter the streets and are swept away in the evenings. I think this daily affirmation and giving of thanks makes a deep impact on the psyche and outlook of the Balinese people. A constant thankfulness pervades your attitude and way of being over time and I have no doubt it has much the same impact on a culture. Bali is full of beautiful little lessons and customs, but I think this one is built deep into the bedrock of what it is to be Balinese. You can’t walk through the street without a reminder of a conscious action taken towards gratitude.
I was so glad we could share our experience of Bali with Julie – it’s such a special place and brings me a lot of happiness to see someone else experience it for the first time. Not much has changed since the first time I visited but I get the sense that it will change overtime as it grows in popularity. I only hope that its spirit and people remain the same. It’s the gentle warmth and hospitality that keeps bringing me back there – I can’t even put my finger on it specifically. It’s a feeling. You have to go to find out. // Jeff