Published: September 14th 2011July 27th 2011
When I planned a trip to Bali, like any South-East Asian holiday, I expected a "cheap cheap price for you". I imagined pristine golden beaches marked by nothing but my own footprints. I got lost in a breeze of tropical dreams as I remembered my last adventure to the island escape, nearly ten years ago. I've got to say, that old memory far out-weighs the new one.
Bali is now nothing more than a one night stand. At the bar, she looks like a high-school sweet heart but by the very next day, her make-up has worn off. The catch? You can't ask her to leave. What's worse is she's dirty, over-developed and unfortunately, you're not the only one there. I might be over-reacting a little because there were still some high-lights. But trust me when I say, Kuta wasn't one of them. Ten years ago, Kuta was the place to be. Shopping, food, massages... it was all there. Now days, Kuta only sells beer, red bull and Viagra. It's Bali's answer to Thailand's Pat-Pong Road. At least here, most of the ladies are actually ladies. Sure, if you're looking for a party holiday then maybe Bali is the place for you. But this time, my desires had a different idea. Most say Seminyak, which is right next to Kuta, has also become a victim of over-development and much of the place is under construction. The only way to escape the hustle and bustle of Bali is to get right into the middle of it.
Ubud is located right smack-bang in the middle of the island. The mountain village is far removed from constant bother of the capital. Around 40 minutes from Kuta, it's the perfect place to set up camp. Now I know you're asking, why the hell would I go to an Island to hang up in the mountains? Good question. I have two answers. The first is that most of the beaches in Bali are volcanic sand so don't expect the white sandy beaches of Koh Sumui. Secondly, due to its central location, you can get anywhere on the island in a few simple hours so organizing day-trips is cheap and easy. Surrounded by lush jungle, Ubud boasts many tourist hot-spots like the Monkey Forest Temple and traditional Balinese dancing. For the more adventurous types there is also white-water rafting and Luak coffee, an interesting blend distilled by the digestive system of a cat. Surrounded by rice patties, you can trek through them, work on them or if you're like me, look at the people who do while you chow down on some of their hard work. If you are going to Ubud, check out Ananda Cottages. It's perhaps the most adorable hotel in the entire world. At around 100US a night for a double room, it's rather on the expensive side. But trust me when I say its one-hundred dollars well spent. www.anandaubud.com
If it wasn't for Ubud, Bali would be dead to me. Its relatively quiet nature and relaxing scenery are completely absent in what is meant to be the main attraction, Kuta. It's no longer an escape, but rather a destination of party goers and prostitutes. If I wanted to go to Thailand, I would of gone to Thailand. Now days, the only way to truly escape for an island experience in South-East Asia is to experience the far less travelled ones, like Lombok. East-Timor is also welcoming tourists, pitching the place as the Bali of yesteryear. Let's just hope it stays that way.
In fairness, there are 2.5 million things that haven’t changed. The people. It's truly one of the friendliest places around. Everyone is always willing to help, laugh and of course, sell you something. It's definitely worth going to. Just make sure it's for the right reasons.