Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hermit Den

I'd never been anywhere in Indonesia and it's a painful waste of flights not to look around when you have to pass through an airport anyway. To get out of Timor, I had to stop in Denpasar, Bali and pay their never-ending series of fees. I'm an unrelenting snob sometimes, so I had always had a negative image of Bali in my mind - drunk Australians, tanning, 'cultural experiences.' I was dubious, but my Timor friends reassured me that I was, in fact, only thinking of infamous Kuta. They insisted that other areas of Bali, such as Ubud, are actually beautiful. And relaxed. And there are no foam parties. So, I rented this room for a paltry $25 and went to Ubud. 

I had my own little kitchen and a princess bed and a motorbike and stillness, so I fully embraced my quiet side and spent three days barely speaking to anyone. I motorbiked around, strolled the streets of Ubud and read my book (American Psycho). I cooked my own breakfast every morning in a ritualistic fashion and thus discovered the great joy of self-catering. 

Having your own kitchen is great because: 
1. I don't want to talk to people before I have my coffee, breakfast and internet time. 
2. The breakfast I can cook is more delicious and much cheaper than breakfasts in cafes. Eggplant, tomato and bokchoy scrambled eggs, made the way I want them. 

If I was a more talented writer I would have written this entire post in the style of Patrick Bateman. Here is my pitiful attempt: 

Ubud is a hip litle town, recently featured in Conde Nast traveller. I am wearing my Tropicana ultraflex lycra leggings, a buffalo skin backpack and driving a Honda motorbike. At the Bali Buddha cafe I order a vegan banana coconut smoothie with a shot of activated wheatgrass and a sprinkling of amethyst shavings. At the gym I am disgusted to note the age of the equipment (no Nautilus here!), but due to the presence of several hardbodies I persevere with my routine. I prefer the free weights, but also spend 20 minutes on the sub-standard cross trainer looking out of the countryside. People should keep in shape while on vacation, I think, as I flex at my reflection. A hardbody helps me with the sub-standard dumbbells and I smile benignly in thanks. 

Outside the gym

View from the gym
Ubud is famous for Eat, Pray, Love and all that implies. I haven't read the book, or seen the film, but sometimes I instinctively know that things are not for me. For one, I don't like mandatory optimism. For two, I saw a store in Ubud with a little sign that said 'Eat, Pray, Shop' - a very succinct summary of my issues with the kind of 'enlightenment' quite literally on sale in places like this. My Patrick Bateman piss-take isn't just because I happened to be reading it, but also because the kind of commodity-fetishism he espouses would be equally at home in most of the yoga circles/ health cafes around these parts. Just in a strangely opposite way. Like, if I told these kids I think the new Chanel collection is a bit disappointing, they would happily pigeon-hole me as a shallow, capitalist member of the sheeple. But if you want to have a 40 minute conversation about the merits of this yoga towel over another, sure. Or you believe your laissez-faire, fisherman-pants look proves the authenticity of your soul. Or if you think "you just have to go to India" is a perfectly legitimate piece of life advice, and doesn't speak to a vast world of privilege. 

"Exotic travel is the new lounge set" as my friend Benjamin used to say. 

In any case, my brief stopover in Ubud was a wonderful little time, despite myself. People, locals and tourists, seemed uniformly warm, relaxed and drenched in serotonin, the plants were bursting with life, the temperature was ideal and the decorations from the Galungan festival were still up on the side of the street, celebrating the the victory of the dharma over the adharma.  

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