It definitely wasn’t the love from the first sight. The Island of the Gods phrase didn’t strike me through the first, nor the second, time I visited Bali. Shirtless beer-swilling Australians, bronzed Italian women in their tiny bikinis, Russian-speaking locals echoing the Kuta strip trying to sell anything and everything, the somewhat bizarre wooden penis shops, women on the beach who would insist on braiding your hair despite the numerous times you refuse. Bali just wasn’t the right place for me, I thought. There was no spark, no attraction, nothing in common. So I promised myself to move on and never look back.
But Bali didn’t give up on me so easily. When few attempts to get me back for friends’ birthdays or a girls’ weekends away failed, it took a more serious approach. I was assigned a project in Bali to work on, this time in Ubud. I had no choice but to go.
Today I don’t regret giving Bali not a second, but a 3rd chance, because it proved me wrong. I was the one who was ignorant and judged way too fast thinking all there is to Bali is Kuta. In a way, I judged Bali the way people judge potential partners by their looks.
But Ubud, located at the heart of Bali Island, was a whole different story. It opened up to me with its amazing qualities and interesting soul. Here is why I fell for it:
Extremely Friendly People
As soon as my car was maneuvering the narrow dirt roads surrounded by numerous Hindu temples and astonishing green rice fields trying to avoid the wandering duck flocks along the road, I felt that I could like this place. The bright orange sun was slowly setting down putting soft shadows on people going about their everyday lives, be it sweeping temple stairs from white and pink frangipani blossoms or ploughing the rice fields. Everyone with no exception was smiling and people who noticed me waved. I never felt more welcome from the minute I got picked up from the airport to the minute my plane took off to go back, every step was followed by a smile.
Home away from home
Tucked away from all the hustle and bustle, Indigo Tree became my home. With the remains of old Hindu temple acting as a gate to secret garden, Indigo is accessible via winding stone path surrounded by fragrant frangipani trees mixed with tall palm trees and colorful flowers. The open air lounge of Indigo with its bright red plush sofas, bookshelves and traditional Balinese decorations created a very cozy environment. The smell of sandalwood incents was everywhere. Waking up to the first sun rays, opening the glass doors to a mesmerizing blue pool right in front of your doorstep whilst enjoying fresh tropical fruit juice is the best way one can start a day.
Unlike Kuta or Seminyak, Ubud is a spot where artists, musicians, photographers, writers, yogis, healers and other creative and talented people gather. Local boutique cafes are bustling with creative ideas and thought provoking conversations being shared over a cup of organic coffee or a healthy smoothie. I found so much inspiration in Ubud in just three days that is lasting to date. I never photographed and filmed more, never wrote better, never felt so motivated and inspired.
Bustling Arts & Culture Scene
Punctuated by temples hidden behind ornately carved archways and petal-filled lanes, Ubud is Bali’s artistic hub. Bali is brimming with fire dances, mask dances, trance dances, monster dances and so much more all of which have been refined over the centuries to the point that eyeballs, fingertips and toes all move in elaborate choreographed precision. Beyond the dances, a string of new galleries that offer one-of-a-kind treasures are open all day long. Paintings, photographs and crafts are not only showcased in the galleries, but also are a big part of culture and are key details in many of the hotels, restaurants, spas and coffee shops.
Recharge your body
If serenity, tranquility and inspiration floating around wouldn’t be enough, Ubud is also a perfect place to recharge your body. Countless amount of outdoor yoga studios are scattered around Ubud, each with incredible views, nature surroundings and world renowned yoga masters while stone and thatched-roof compounds house boutique spas at affordable prices. Ubud is also a paradise for health conscious. You will probably not find a single place where so many vegetarian, vegan or organic cafes and restaurants are gathered.
I came back from Ubud madly in love… with its people and culture. Some relationships in our lives don’t spark from the first sight: sometimes they need time, sometimes they ask for a second chance, but in most cases they are the ones that last.