Ubud: Not what we expected.

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Bali. Unlike much of southeast Asia, Bali has been on my travel radar for as long as I can remember. In my mind it was a romantic place, a shangri la, where people got married and honeymooned. A place of incredible beauty, full of culture, paradise. Though I wasn’t expecting all of the above, it is difficult to uproot preconceptions once planted. I had heard enough times that Ubud was over touristed and seriously lacking any resemblance of true Balinese culture. But people still flock there, there must be a reason, right?

Of course, Ubud is ridiculously beautiful. On our second day we took our motorbike and drove up to the famed rice terraces, which are as stunning in person as they are in National Geographic. What you don’t see those glossy pages is the congested traffic a few meters away and tacky souvenir shops that have popped up next to the terraces. It is worth it though, and even better, if you have independent transport you can keep driving, away from the tourists. That was really the highlight for us. We drove up towards the Northern coast of Bali, eventually getting the road to ourselves. We made random turns that led us to temples and panoramic viewpoints looking over the valley. The view made more spectacular by the complete absence of other people. We felt, at last, like we were discovering the island on our own. We watched tourist busses stare down at us as they passed us puttering along the main road, unable to explore anything not on the tourist trail. How different our trip would have been without our motorcycles! These independent drives have easily become a highlight of our entire trip. Now, when we arrive in a city where motorcycling is practical, which really is most places we visit save large cities, the first thing we do is procure wheels. The joy that comes from freedom to explore independently cannot be overstated. It is what made our time in Ubud so fantastic. Because Ubud itself, though full of cute cafes, shops and delicious food, it has too much of a Disneyland feel to take seriously. But not all is lost, with a little effort there is much to discover.
After three days we came to like Ubud, and thoroughly enjoyed our time there, even if it wasn’t what we expected. It certainly is worth visiting, but not as a dedicated trip. More, a side note on a greater trip through Indonesia.
And admittedly, it offers an excellent hedonistic escape from tiresome travel. One could easily pass the day eating, lying by the pool, shopping and indulging in massages. We certainly did that for a day and would be lying if we said it wasn’t a fantastic way to spend the day.
Next stop: Lombok.

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