I never really understood what living in the moment really meant until I was riding on the back of a strangers scooter, through the streets of Ubud, Bali. We ride fast downhill, weave through cars, the sun beats down on my unhelmeted head and after a brief cry from subconscious ‘My mam would kill me!’ I shut it up and give in to my here and now. Such a small simple pleasure, an easily reached adrenaline rush, no caution, no over thinking, just acceptance and genuine happiness. It’s normal here to ride on pavements, squeeze through tight spaces in spaceless traffic, to ‘yip’ and ‘yew’your way through barely policed streets. Even on a bicycle the adrenaline is hammering through your body, impatient cars and scooters scraping by. Nothing compares to that feeling of rolling down the hill from the hostel to the centre of town, that light summer breeze twirling through free hair, feather like brushes against your arms, the rice paddies in all their earthy beauty bordering your journey.
Ubud is a hub for the free spirited, the spiritual, the artistic, the life livers. Yoga enthusiasts in harem pants sit crossed legged on the floors of restaurants, bare foot in respectful tradition, eating plant heavy foods, simple but heated flavours and a side of green juice or a cheeky bintang. The energy is subtle and easy, none of the Kuta chaos. The closest to a party is a chic bar, house music and fairy lights crowding a beer garden escape. Nature peeks through everywhere, vines up shop fronts, trees in the centre of organic vegan restaurants, the beauty of the monkey forest on the outskirts of town, rainforests meeting gritty pathways. The western and eastern are co existing in some bizarre city nirvana here and its the most grounded yet excited I’ve ever felt in a place.
As peaceful as Ubud is, it’s very easy to forget where you are in its wistful embrace. Other than a few homeless women, children in arms with outreached hands, the town is neat and void of the poverty you know the people of Bali are victim too. Whilst in Kuta you see the worst of both privileged drunken westerners and homeless wandering locals, Ubud is slightly too manicured, no wonder considering some of it’s most frequent visitors are celebrities and well to do’s looking for a yoga retreat and spiritual cleanse. Ubud is beautiful, it’s a delicate, artistically rich space and I can’t recommend it enough, but try your best to see more than just Ubud on your Bali travels. Though any interaction with the locals is always a genuine pleasure. One of the aspects of my trip I was so awed by was the genuine willingness to help, sweet smiles and generous gestures of the Balinese people.