Wednesday, August 4, 2010


A few months after his arrival in Turin to play for Juventus, having recently moved from Liverpool, Ian Rush was asked for his impressions of his new life in Italy. His now legendary response was “It’s like living in a different country.” Good old Rushie - he had some nose for goal but clearly that nose rarely peeked into an atlas. I’m quoting Rushie now because those ill-chosen words are entirely true for the Balinese experience. Truly, it is like being in another country and, as Ian Rush would be unable to tell you, it‘s not. Bali is a bastion of Hinduism in contrast with Java’s all-pervading Islamic presence (Indonesia is the most populous Muslim state in the world - a mere 220 million) and Ubud personifies this Hindu sense of well being and harmony. There is no call to prayer here so you may sleep as long as you like and once you are up and about the place moves with none of the frenzy of Java’s cities or towns.
Rarely have I visited a city as at ease with itself as Ubud and consequently rarely have I felt as ease with myself on this trip as my time here. Though I hadn’t realised it yesterday when I’d booked the ferry to Ubud (via Padangbai), this is the exact place to bed down for a few days to ease the still aching joints from Rinjani - I feel as if someone used my ligaments as bungee cable. Ubud is a foot massage on a hammock while Sadé plays in the background. Ubud is the yin to, say, Jakarta’s yang.
From my serene accommodation to the touts in the street who truly can’t be arsed calling ‘Hey Boss’ to get your attention - instead holding up a sign saying ‘Transport Please?’ - to the sign in the bookshop earlier which read ‘Please Look After Your Karma And Don’t Steal. Don’t Ruin Your Next Existence’, this place is one huge sigh of relaxation.
At the bottom of the main street - Monkey Forest Road - there’s a monkey sanctuary which I still haven’t visited, but did pass it by earlier in a familiarising tour of the streets. Well, monkeys being monkeys, they don’t recognise boundaries as such, and one of them had made his way up the main street and began helping himself to the contents of a litter bin. Nobody batted an eyelid except for the tourists. This is Ubud.

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