Eat. Pray. Colonise.
Everyone knows Kuta sucks. Tourism has swept through the city like a cancer, transforming all the healthy old cells into toxic clubs, hotels with swimming pools and convenience stores. The brave Balinese who live there speak fluent English and are thus subjected to every slurred whim conjured by the greedy and depraved Western mind. Most travellers who venture to Kuta aren’t there for Bali. You won’t find many fluent Bahasa Bali or Bahasa Indonesia students, or even people who bother to learn how to say thank you. No, Kuta is a destination for partying, cheap cocktails, nice restaurants and good times. The fact that it is a city in Bali – an island in Indonesia that has its own language, history, religion and culture – is as inconsequential and obscure as the reclining function on the $300 Air Asia flight you caught over.
Ubud is different though. Instead of greasy fast-food restaurants and fluorescent shopping malls, there is organic free range and crystal boutiques. Instead of decrepit sex workers hidden down dark alleys, there are roads lined with massage parlours that cater to your every desire – all you have to do is pay them money and lie down. Hindu statues have been replaced by Buddha statues, because Buddhism is better. Hinduism is less attainable you see – too many deities and strange symbols. Who is their figurehead anyway and what the hell is an offering? No, I can understand Buddha, his teachings are simple: just look inside yourself, love yourself, know yourself, accept yourself, let go of yourself, and then be your happy, natural, free, liberated self. Let’s put another statue on main street – the locals won’t mind. I mean they like the tourism industry, right? It supports the local economy.
Ubud is a town founded on free love and acceptance. It is an epicentre of culture – they have everything from African woodcarvings to traditional Mexican food to ancient Indian yoga – which you can practice in a sauna. By the way, have you been to the Yoga Barn yet? It is a palace. They have over 58 classes every day and the staff there are really nice. They haven’t practiced yoga before (so they aren’t much help with the poses), but they set up the mats well and know how to crack a coconut, which only costs like $2 and is great after a gruelling ecstatic dance session – which you absolutely must try.
Kuta and Ubud are apples and oranges, brown rice and white rice, ashtanga and vinyasa. Kuta has been overrun by ignorant and uneducated Australian bogans. They don’t care about Balinese culture, their food, their language, their history. They just want a cheap place to go on holiday, to run wild and to enjoy the things they can only occasionally do at home. Imagine what Kuta would have looked like before McDonalds and Sky Garden, when afternoon streets were lit by sunsets rather than neon signs and Indonesian food was local and not a specialty. It would have been beautiful – beautiful like Ubud. Ubud is nothing like Kuta. People here are intelligent and respectful. In Ubud you can still get Indonesian dishes served at many restaurants, of which there are almost too many to visit. Bali Buda does a great nasi goreng and you can even ask for organic brown rice. And the few bars that exist only serve Kombucha.
Did I tell you how Ubud has pretty much every alternative, vegan, gluten-free, raw, healthy, activated, fermented dish available? Its conscious eating habits feed good choices and allow the heart to open so you can really experience life. At Clear Café, I had a raw vegan lasagne and ginger tea with cardamom imported from India while overlooking Ubud’s biggest temple – I think they were conducting a ceremony, the one with the drums – it was spectacular. After dinner, we tried to enter the temple and join the festivities but were turned away by a stout Balinese man – something about us wearing the wrong clothes, but we couldn’t figure out where to buy a sarong and those head things from, so we just went to the Yellow Flower and watched the bongo circle instead.
I love Ubud. Many people think I’m crazy for living so far from Australia, away from all my friends and family in a foreign land – hold on a sec. “Sorry, can you please use soy milk in my chai latte? Thanks – and no sugar.” What was I saying? Yeah, Ubud is different. I already feel like a local. It’s a place where anyone – whether you’re European, Australian or American – can come to find themselves, have fun and live cheaply. I mean, the AirAsia flights are only like 300 bucks, which turns out to be the hardest part of the trip what with the subzero air-conditioning and inedible plane food. Don’t even get me started on that reclining function…
Cover by Judd Weiss