This morning I am feeling a little reflective. I am back on my own again having said goodbye to my friend Kim in Kuta yesterday. It is now less than 2 weeks before I leave Bali, and yes I am finding that hard to reconcile!
Spending the day in Kuta yesterday provided me with a stark contrast. Kuta seemed to drain the energy from me, and it reeked of cheap, tacky tourism. I saw cringe-worthy slogans on t-shirts and stickers – who would make such awful ‘souvenirs’, and who would buy them? A truck drove around town with a loud hailer proudly promoting a midgets boxing event. Really? Over weight, sunburnt holidayers wearing Bintang t-shirts and smoking cigarettes were the Kuta cliché. Beachfront resorts with bright green lawns and big swimming pools smacked of unsustainability. I even saw two large air con units on the ground OUTSIDE the shopping mall, just sitting there, pumping cold air out into the open sky, consuming huge amounts of electricity so shoppers could be cooled for the split second before they stepped inside the air conditioned mall.
There was no heart or soul in Kuta.
I realised I have been living in a bubble here in Ubud. Although the traffic is chaotic in the afternoons, and I am yet to find a truly quiet spot to sit and be (the yoga studio is the closest to tranquillity Ive found) there is a sense of gentle ease and flow here. Even though the town has evolved and expanded to cater for tourists, I still get the sense that life is continuing as it always has, I can still feel the essence of the Balinese people here, I live in their family compounds and see them laying out their offerings every morning. I feel part of something special here.
There are no signs of madness, no slap in the face consumerism (well, there is a starbucks here in Ubud, discreetly tucked away, and there are rumours of a McDonalds coming to town which has many expats and some local Balinese up in arms). I can eat healthy raw food if I choose to, I can go to yoga classes, I can have a pedicure, all with ease and grace. Sure I have to run the ‘taxi? transport? yes, sarong?’’ gauntlet when walking down the main street, but I have heard the Balinese taking the mickey out of themselves with their clichéd tourist cries. They know. We know. It’s all part of the game. But it’s a game that still includes a level of respect and genuine interest in each other’s worlds. That respect had disappeared in Kuta. It made me sad.
I was so very happy to return to my Ubud bubble.