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As I entered the premises of the guest house, an elderly women with frizzy hair met me with an open and beckoning smile. Without further introduction, she walked up to me and touched my cheek with her warm hand, saying: Beautiful… You. beautiful. Those were the only two words she knew in English, but it was all I needed to feel welcome in this foreign new place.
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For me, Ubud is the epiphany of serenity. The combination of rice fields and palm trees, the distant mountains and lush surroundings is what makes this place so magnetic and tranquil. I came to Ubud for a yoga retreat and intended to stay for one week only, but I ended up cancelling my flight to Bangkok and staying there for the rest of my trip. I’m so glad I did!
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Ubud is a town in central Bali, known as the cultural hub with its countless crafts and art galleries. The town’s restaurants, spas, accommodations and yoga centers often come with a serene view of lush forest, waterfalls, beautiful gardens, rice fields or palm trees. Outside, the streets are bustling with scooters and clucking roosters, but when looking up, the street noise is silenced by the countless kites flying in the sky. It’s all part of the Ubud charm.
This is the view I woke up to every day:
One of the first things I fell in love with in Ubud was the street offerings. Every day, the Balinese men and women plait small baskets of palm leaves, and in the morning they fill them with flowers, rice, crackers, candy and incense sticks before placing them on the street, in front of the houses, or on the cars. They are simply everywhere.
I really enjoyed spotting these daily tributes, but more than anything, I loved sitting at a restaurant or my hotel watching the women plait palm leaves day after day. It was such an honest part of their daily life.
Another thing I loved about Ubud – or Bali in general – was the many ceremonies that seemed to be going on almost every day. If you’re staying here for more than a few days, you’re practically bound to hear or see a procession followed by loud, local music.
As a Balinese told me: “When baby is born – ceremony. When baby is 20 days old – ceremony. When full moon comes – ceremony. Every day – a different ceremony.”
THE BALINESE HOMES
A stroll along Ubud’s narrow pavements leads you past small shops, vendors, broken steps, shouting taxi drivers and organic restaurants all cramped together in too little space. But then all of a sudden in the midst of it all, you’ll spot a small opening, sometimes only 1,5-2 meters wide, with two guardian statues in front and a narrow entrance leading to the house and a Ganesha figure.
That’s someone’s home.
These houses are also homestays or guest houses where travelers can rent a room. They will be living close to the family, which is a great way to get to know the culture and people.
Admitted, we got off on the wrong foot in the Sacred Monkey Forest of Ubud, but monkeys are still a keystone of Ubud, and the forest they live in bring a distinct Indiana Jones atmosphere to the place. Monkeys can be found everywhere in Bali, especially around temples as the Balinese believe that they protect the area from evil spirits.
LOVELY RICE FIELDS
I have always felt most calm whenever I was near the ocean or in the mountains. No place else do I feel that inner peace and inspiration – that is until I saw my first rice terraces. I’ve seen rice fields before in Thailand, China and Vietnam, but they were nothing like this. Standing there on the ledge and just observing and taking in the beauty of this incredible sight was so soothing. I was instantly struck by inspiration for my next article and ideas for the book I’ve been meaning to write since forever.
Amazing aren’t they?
Oh, the food. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that Ubud has the best food in the world. I usually don’t care for vegetarian food, but this town had such a wide variety of dishes that I practically lived as a vegetarian the whole time I was in Indonesia. I say ‘practically’ because I cheated on my meat detox when I saw the Indonesian chicken satay which by the way was really delicious! I’m sorry, meat detox – it just wasn’t meant to be exclusive.
WORLD CLASS YOGA AND MEDITATION
The main reason for coming to Ubud was to do a yoga retreat. I had chosen the Yoga Barn which is probably the best known yoga place in town and it has received excellent reviews! As it turned out, the classes fully lived up to the hype, and it was also the perfect place to meet travelers with kind open hearts.
Being in Ubud has been incredible in so many ways. Not only because it was the first place I visited as a solo traveler, but also because it provided the atmosphere, calm surroundings, lovely people and facilities that I needed at the time. I am certain that I will return in the future.
Have you ever been to Ubud? If not, would you go?
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