Ubud – the heart of Bali

Ubud – the artistic heart of Bali.

A Mecca for spiritual Westerners.

Artists have been coming here for centuries. Tourists for decades.

Me, I’ve only been here five days but I’m not leaving yet.

I arrived with the Perama shuttle bus on Wednesday, because although my original plan was to come here straight from the airport, the plan changed with the delayed flight. I decided to go with the other girls to Kuta because it was closer, it was late and we didn’t have a place to stay.

I had been warned of Kuta but still I was shocked how tacky, ugly and commercial this place was! I stayed on a mattress in the girl’s room and left the next day, with the beats of party music and flashing ‘magic mushroom’ images in my head.

Ubud, on the other hand is all about peace and quietness, yoga, meditation, wellness and healthy organic food.

But even here you need to pick the ‘raisins from the cake’ as we say in Swedish (I think the English pick cherries?) but either way, take the best from it all, because walking down the streets with people offering massage treatments, healing crystals and bargain self-discovery books can be quite overwhelming.

With shops called Namaste, Lotus and Truth, and guest houses called Happy Inn and Ubud Aura, you can imagine the crowd that Ubud attracts.

I walk around with a smile on my face and wonder what my grandparents would say about this place. They grew their own vegetables and hunted deer and moose, not because it was trendy, but because that was a natural way of life.

So with that being said, I’ve been a little skeptical, but still Ubud has managed to seize my heart.

Since I arrived I have been open to new experiences and encounters.

There is Cheryl from L.A who is studying to be a yoga teacher. There’s ‘Rudi the foodie’ who claims he had his best pizza in Nepal and there’s Abigail from San Fransisco who attends the same yoga centre as me, the Yoga Barn, which I can’t recommend enough! What an amazing place!

Among many Australians, I have hung out with Mark who lives in Singapore and I’ve shared an evening with a mother and daughter from Melbourne, talking about life, with our feet in one of those fish tanks spas, because there was no one else there and the owner let us do it for free.

The Balinese really are as friendly as they say. They are completely trusting and will let you pay the next day if you need. Even the oldest will greet you with a smile and everyone speaks surprisingly good English.

Saturday, Bali celebrated Kuningan Day, a sacred ceremony 10 days after Galungan, a day when the ancestors are believed to be present and greeted with offerings and prayers.

I had decided to sign up for a bike tour on this day and it turned out to be a great choice.

Not only was I lucky to be the only one, I made great friends with my guide as we biked for about 3 hours, from Lake Batur and Kintamani volcano down to Ubud. On the way we passed by local villages where everyone was dressed in their traditional sarongs and hats, on the way to the temples.

My new found friend invited me into his backyard where his whole family lived in six small houses and his wife let me borrow a sarong so I could visit their temple. And say hi to grandma, 92 years old! How precious!

I’ve spent my days walking around, trekking the rice fields, checking out the arts- and crafts shops and have had wicked raw and organic food.

Tomorrow me and Cheryl are going to an organic farm in Sidemen for a full day vegetarian cooking class and in the evening I might pass by Yoga Barn for the Tibetian bowl meditation.

There is a lot to discover in Ubud – inside and outside of yourself.

And I’ve only just started.