The Julia Roberts Syndrome…

Having been in Ubud, Bali for one day, I can say I REALLY like it here! Not only are the people as warm and sunny as the climate, but I feel safe. Perhaps that’s slightly naive, but there are hundreds of tourists here and the place is pretty westernised. Every few metres is a café that sells coffee and offers free WiFi and in every one of these is a person, visiting or local, who’s willing to talk to you. Right now I’m in a place called Luna Bar, tucked away down a little side street. At 8pm there’s a “literary club”, and an author is set to tell the room about her hippy book! Oh and I’ve just received some useful spa and massage recommendations from a lovely couple of ladies from Adelaide.

After just one day I’ve shared travel tales with a man from Cairns over papaya smoothies, talked music with the Balinese barmen in the Laughing Buddha and surrendered my ice-cream to a hungry monkey, (to the laughter of a group of taxi drivers who probably thought I was a total spaz for chucking it on the floor and running away).

I’m fully aware this might not be the real Bali,… at all. But it’s the safe, pleasant, nice, easy-going Bali that people come here to experience, along with some sunshine. I think this sounds a bit stupid, now that I think about it. Am I really one of those tourists who lands in a foreign place and instantly seeks an element of home? I hate that I might be, but as a solo female traveller I think I am. At the moment anyway. Maybe I’ll be braver, after a few weeks.

I cringed when I saw a McDonalds on the drive to my resort – the Warwick Ibah (which is gorgeous by the way!) I have my own villa and private pool, a four poster bed and a bathroom bigger than my entire bedroom in Sydney. The view from my new writing desk is not of the cupboard under the stairs (as it was from the dining room table in Darlinghurst) but a glistening green carpet of rice paddies and palm trees.

I know I might sound like a spoilt bitch when I say this but in spite of how gorgeous and serene and secluded it is, I kind of just want to sit in a cheap, tacky bar on Monkey Forest Road and talk to randoms all night. I know. Stupid eh! I like to know people’s stories. I think people here must have tons of them. People in Sydney have them too, of course, but for some reason you never want to dig beneath the surface of the randoms in the place you call home, do you? Not to the extent you do when you leave anyway. Weird that….

I guess you have the best of both worlds in Ubud. After one day observing life on its streets, it’s as unique an experience as you make it. The tourist market stalls could be anywhere in the world I think… Jaipur, Kathmandu, Camden… but it’s the people behind the haggling that make it different, if you stop and strike up a conversation. I’ve noticed so far that the people selling their stuff aren’t as harsh as in, say, India. One “no thanks” and a smile is enough and everyone can go about their day feeling relaxed. No pressure. I like that. Being chased down the street is never fun.

I liked the monkey temple but I only spent about half an hour there because I suddenly felt overcome with thirst, like I might pass out at any moment. I took a few shots (on my camera, not at a bar) and it really is a beautiful place. I left before I fainted. The sun is pretty strong here. I’ll have to go back another time.

On the drive to my hotel last night I noticed there were hundreds of stray dogs all over the place, which was pretty sad to witness. Thankfully the driver swerved them all – unlike in Costa Rica, when we killed a Chihuahua en route to a trout farm (true fact). I think there are a lot of people here who have the Julia Roberts syndrome too – maybe I’m one of them? You know, those people who’ve read Eat Pray Love and think the “answers”, whatever they are, might be here. Who knows what we’re looking for, or whether the answers are anywhere at all, but the thing about Ubud is, it doesn’t seem to matter. Life becomes simpler just by being here. People go about their daily lives with smiles on their faces and you feel like hugging them just for reminding you that life doesn’t have to require answers. YEAH BALI!!!! Thanks for your silent message, which after a couple of Bingtangs, I can hear loud and clear. Sometimes just living is enough.

I’m looking forward to the rest of my time here. Moving on tomorrow to a different hotel so I have to give up my villa and this picturesque desk, but that’s OK. I realise I’ve never really travelled on my own before, but already I feel like doing things I might not have considered doing, had I come away with someone else. There’s a strange sense of freedom and excitement that comes from knowing you’re your own person, who creates the rules and the schedule and the adventures.

With no one to save me, however, I hope I don’t turn into a person who buys a Bintang t-shirt and returns to her homeland in dreadlocks. If I do start talking like a total hippy… and if I do mention I’ve hugged a tree at any point, please, someone, come and get me.