It’s 7am here in Ubud, Bali and the thermostat is already nudging 25°C.
I’m Solo again, untethered from my life and wandering Bali without a plan. A nod in the direction of my earlier travels, both as a solo backpacker and my return to Southeast Asia. Still carrying the same dog-eared copy of lonely planet’s Southeast Asia on a shoestring, still packing the same battered backpack.
Southeast Asia always takes a little getting used to, even when you know what to expect. It’s the overwhelming environmental stimuli that does it; the scooters, the touts, the constant calls of ‘taxi!’.
But even so, Ubud has been a let-down. For a destination that promotes yoga and wellbeing, being on the streets of Ubud was just as stressful as Kuta. The centre is a cluster of craziness, of noise and movement and heat. Yes, I know this is to be expected from Southeast Asia, but I expected a little more tranquillity. Ubud is no more than the other half of Bali’s well-oiled tourism machine - Kuta’s exploited twin.
Of course it’s not all bad. Yoga Barn has a great little set up, and is a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the main streets, and Monkey Forest is more of a stroll in a park than the ‘petting zoo’ I had pictured (pro tip: go at 8.30am when they open – before the bulk of other tourists and before it’s too hot when the monkeys sleep through the afternoon). However, this is not worth staying for.
Blame Eat Pray Love, blame Lonely Planet, blame blogs like this one, but Ubud is not the kind of place you’re picturing. Although that’s the norm, and for those who enjoy travelling, finding the next best thing before everyone else does is part of the rush.
So, I’m leaving Ubud, sacrificing the two nights I had prepaid for my dorm, just to get out. Soon I will be in the little known town of Munduk in the centre of island of Bali, tipped off to its location by a fellow traveller.
Time to get off the beaten path again, I am a hard customer to please, aren’t I?