Wednesday, October 19, 2016

First Impressions of Ubud

We began our tour of Bali in Ubud, having booked a villa on the edge of town overlooking the rice terraces.  Finding our driver among a sea of placards at the Denpasar Airport was our first challenge.  We ended up going to the information desk and having him paged.  He was young, timid and equally rattled by the mass of humanity confronting him.  Relief replaced consternation as I assured him I was indeed the "Mrs. Marea Dotz" written on his sign.  We then followed him to the parking garage where we waited another 45 minutes before he pulled up with his little car.  "Traffic very bad," he murmured.

No kidding! What was supposed to have been a one-hour drive to Ubud turned out to be three.
I'm still not sure where Denpasar ended and Ubud began.  Ugly, urban sprawl covers the entire southern portion of the island.  The population has exploded to four million, far more than is sustainable.  It was bumper to bumper traffic the entire way.  And here we were, adding yet another carbon footprint to a saturated country.
Ubud is touted as a quiet haven for the arts.  Even as recently as 2010 when Eat Pray Love enchanted us movie goers with bucolic scenes of Julia Roberts riding a bicycle along village streets, it seemed like the epitome of what Balinese culture was all about--lovely people, Hindu temples, romance and blessings.  Who wouldn't want to go there?

Nobody.  Because we were all here.

With that being said, we jumped in full steam ahead.  The next day our young driver dropped us off in front of the Puri Saren Agung Palace with all the other American, European and Japanese tourists.  We walked down the main street, determined to find the magic that had fallen between the cracks.  It took awhile, but little by little we began to focus on the statues dripping with moss and mold, the ornate, colorful temples and the lush tropical plants.  Enchantment was still to be found but it was wedged in between the concrete stores and open air restaurants.


For the next three days we were to uncover a hidden Ubud.  It took some effort (and a lot of sweat) but the Bali of our dreams is still there.  At the time I felt like Alice walking through the Looking Glass.  There were two distinct sides to this world.  I deliberately chose to photograph the beauty rather than the filth.

It would take another week before we could sing Bali Ha'i without sarcasm.

Your own special hopes, your own special dreams.
Bloom on the hillside and shine in the streams.


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