The good, the bad and the good again
It’s been nearly a month (a month!) since we arrived in Ubud, Bali, so I thought it was about time I wrote something about it!
(This is not a travel guide though, I’ll do that one once we leave, so I can include all the cool places we visit!)
Right, so, about Ubud itself, ahem this is awkward, but… it didn’t really match our expectations. Maybe we had really high expectations, or maybe it was the shock coming from Jogja (a place we had zero expectations about but that we absolutely loved), I don’t really know, but fact is, it’s not our favourite.
Now you are probably wondering why the heck we stayed so long if we didn’t like it that much? Well, we needed a bit of time to settle down and work on our own projects, and one of the good things here is that it’s rather easy to find a short-term rental. We joined a few ‘Facebook Ubud-rental’ pages and looked for a house. We found a lovely place in Sayan, a small village outside Ubud. I mean, we only know this because our landlord tells us ‘it’s not Ubud‘, he is ‘from Sayan NOT Ubud’, but the centre is only 3km away. We walk from one village to the other.
But it’s a good thing we didn’t stay in the village centre, because as I said, we don’t really like it that much. I mean we go there from time to time – to get groceries, to eat out (at local food places) and yes, I confess, to get gelato (I am only human!). But other than that, we try to stay clear.
Here are our thoughts on Ubud (and around) so far.
The really great thing about Ubud is its absolutely stunning surroundings. We’ve found countless beautiful landscapes – rice fields, hills, jungle-ish places – literally ten steps outside the main street. And you know what happens when we get there? There is no one else around! I mean absolutely stunning, breathtaking landscapes and it’s just for the two of us, because no one else bothers to look.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve done the touristy bits too – we went to a beautiful temple, visited stunning rice terraces and waterfalls, and stood in awe of the breathtaking twin lake – and it is honestly worth every penny. But there’s so much more beauty to see if you’re willing to look!
To be honest though, I am kind of glad people aren’t looking just yet, because we’ve been having the best weekends exploring all these magnificent landscapes on our own. We even rented bicycles the other day – which I thought would be a very touristy thing ever since Julia Roberts was falling in love in Ubud and all that – but no. People rent motorbikes and stick to the main road. So it was just the two of us, riding our bicycles in this tiny road through beautiful rice fields. It was beautiful, almost magical. I never felt so free.
Here’s why we don’t really love Ubud itself (the centre of the main village):
There are too many tourists (too many) who, most of the time, look rather unhappy (you don’t really see them laughing) and they talk very quietly, like they’re whispering. I feel guilty about laughing when I am at a restaurant there, it’s like I am disturbing their meditation or something (maybe I am?).
There are also a lot of zen food places, whatever you call them, you know the raw/all natural food places? We tried two different ones, kind of by accident, and it just isn’t our thing*. At the first one, Gonçalo (hubby) asked for water and they were like ‘uh no, we don’t believe in plastic, we have our own filtered mineral water which you can help yourself to, for free’. Yeah, he got the shits. And guess what? They said the same thing at the second place! He politely declined the offer. I mean, it’s insane, and also I’m not a plastic ‘believer’ either, but glass bottles anyone?
The other thing we don’t like about Ubud’s centre is that the locals there aren’t that friendly either (which is a normal effect of mass tourism TBH). They’re always trying to (hard) sell you something and some get annoyed when you don’t buy anything. I’ve heard rude comments from the drivers (the ones sitting around who ask if you want transport/taxi) and also from sales women at the market, whenever I reply with (a kind) ‘no, thank you’.
Nope, it deffo doesn’t give me good vibes.
*If raw it is your thing tho, you should defo come here, there are LOADS of places and they look super cool (I’ll give you that). Stay clear of the water.
The good again
This I find absolutely remarkable, but as soon as we start making our way home and once we’ve climbed the Penestanan steps, people become nicer! Tourists and locals alike! Not if you go all the way to the main street, Jalan Raya Penestanan, there the ‘hipster meets posh tourism’ reaches new levels of annoying, but if you keep going through the actual villages, people just become nicer and nicer. They are even friendly! It’s amazing!
They’ll still rip you off at any chance they get though. The other day we went to the local shops to buy fruit and veggies and they tried to charge us more than the supermarket (which is already expensive)!
Oh well, it is what it is, and you need to accept it. (Or bargain, which we always do. You’ll still get ripped off but you’ll manage to find a price you’re both sort of happy with).
As for Bali…
Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to explore the rest of the island yet. I mean, other than the waterfalls, a mountain and the lake (which are stunning!), we’ve pretty much only explored around Ubud. We’re planning to still visit, at least, one of Bali’s beaches, but since the shock of Ubud’s mass tourism, I am slightly scared it will be the same: sad tourists and angry locals. We’re still going to try it though.
Stay tuned for part II and the ‘what to see/do’ guide, coming up soon!
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