There’s something about Bali that, if you let it, will mellow you out, loosen your jaw — did you know most of us spend our days with our jaws clenched, which in turns creates tension in the hips? — and put a perpetual smile on your face. Having traveled to at least a couple dozen countries and lived in six (Indonesia is my 6th), I can say, without question, that the Balinese are some of the happiest and friendliest people I’ve ever met. They are masters of going with the flow, and they radiate a sort of gratitude that seems almost obsolete in our modern western world. The way they smile profusely and whole-heartedly is infectious, and I am willing to wager that it could cure even the most lugubrious of sorts.
Another way Bali works on you — if you don’t resist, of course — is that it makes what we westerners might deem chaotic and frustrating seem beautiful, fascinating, and lively. This sentiment never felt so true as it did yesterday morning at 6:45am – an hour that the town sees very few expats and tourists, but one of the most event-filled for locals. (Ubud is a very quiet place in the mornings. Cafés, warungs (local eateries), and coffee shops rarely open before 8 or 9.) But while foreigners sleep, local Balinese from surrounding villages filter into the center in droves sandwiched into vans and trucks and packed onto scooters/mopeds to do their daily shop at the market. What is a fairly touristy place come mid-morning — selling sarongs, local arts and crafts, etc — starts as a feast of sounds, smells, and colors.
Half-indoors, half-outdoors the Ubud market has three levels. As I strolled through, vegetables skins, fruit peels, and trash peppered the ground; while people’s voices ardently thundered back and forth, negotiating and socializing; blood-soaked meat was chopped by women talking into mobile phones housed in bejeweled cases; and chickens, awaiting potential executioners, squawked loudly from a nearby truck. I felt as if I stepped out of the glamorized new-age world that foreigners perceive Ubud to be and directly into the heart of it — especially as I was the only tamu in sight. Apa kabar? they asked. You try? they insisted, smiles abounding. And quickly, this world absorbed me into its folds.
My intention was to shop, but I was so enthralled by all of the activity that I ended up doing very little. I did, however, manage to get three different vegetarian dishes (fairly large portions, too) for US$0.70 and a few dozen photos to boot.
Featured writer: Jasmine Cronin-Georgiadi