As I battled past the crowds on the streets of Kuta I wondered why people come to this place. Argumentative and badly mannered locals go for the hard sell, pushing leaflets in your face, while girls still in their mid teens offer you massages.
From what I’d read Ubud seemed a nicer, more pleasant version of Kuta. I’d even heard it described as more ‘authentic’. The moment my foot stepped off the bus and the sellers started pushing and shoving to get to us I felt disillusioned again.
Every 20 metres someone tries to sell us a taxi journey, a massage, or some souvenirs. There is a distinct lack of authenticity in Ubud. The town seems built on this false idea of the spiritual East, selling yoga courses and spiritual healing sessions for $100 an hour.
Modern coffee shops and restaurants, a few hand crafts, and many souvenir shops that you can find anywhere in the world, line the streets. The place seems as soulless and empty as Kuta, but dressed up as a hub of spirituality.
Even a local religious man tried to rip us off in a temple. He quickly smiled and said ‘no problem’ when he saw my irritation at his blatant attempt at theft.
I don’t blame the locals, of course. They need to make a living. The tourists inspired by the likes of Eat Pray Love who throw cash around in search of enlightenment and authenticity need to take responsibility.
The greatest pleasure we’ve found in Bali so far is renting a bike and exploring the southern parts. We still haven’t found any of the raw beauty that we encountered so often in Java.
To add some balance to my argument, I completely understand why the majority of tourists here are short-term holiday goers. For a bit of relaxation and sociable drinking Kuta and Ubud seem great. I’d rather be here than sat behind a desk at work. For us, however, travelling is much more than that.
We’re sitting right now in a less visited area north of Ubud called Bedugul. Dirty local markets and rugged hills have replaced the designer shops and fancy restaurants. We’re in our element again. Tomorrow we’ll rent a bike and explore the lakes and mountains.
I sincerely hope that we can find the beauty in Bali that so many of our friends promised us. Right now, my heart still lies in Java.
A few photos from Kuta and Ubud.
Ubud Rice Paddy
A girl with a monkey on her head in Kuta