Avoiding Julia Roberts in Ubud, Bali
I’ve never been a Julia Roberts fan. I think I’m a pretty good judge of character and for some reason she just doesn’t seem like someone I’d like to spend any time with, and I can’t stand watching her on screen. Two things really sealed it: An awful interview on The Late Show with David Letterman, where she came across really self-important and smug. The other was when she played someone impersonating Julia Roberts in Ocean’s Twelve, which was just too much.
Ubud’s main claim to fame is that Julia Roberts’ film Eat Pray Love (adapted from a popular book of the same name) was partially set there, and it has since become a bit of a pilgrimage for middle aged women looking to find themselves, or love, or god, or maybe food (I haven’t seen the movie). I’d also heard it has nice scenery and is the centre of culture and spirituality in Bali.
Ubud, around an hour from the airport in Denpasar, really is a nice place. The thing that struck me first was the architecture. The guesthouses, and normal civilian houses, are in big compounds, with entrance gates that look like the openings to temples. Inside are serene gardens and shrines to Hindu gods. I’ve never walked past so many guesthouses and wished I was staying there before (even though the one I was staying at was nice). They all look really inviting and are designed as sanctuaries within a small but still quite busy and congested town. It’s easy to see why this place has become such a popular destination for yoga, wellness programmes and general spirituality.
Climbing Mt Batur
It’d be hard to run out of things to do in Ubud, as it is close to some interesting areas of central Bali. Climbing a volcano is a common thing to do, so I thought I’d join the crowd. I climbed Mt Batur, around an hours drive from Ubud. It took a few hours (not helped by the fact I was wearing jandles) but we just made it for the sunrise, and it was well worth it. After the climb our driver took us to a nearby lake. We took a boat trip to see a really strange burial ground. The people there don’t really bury people they just kind of leave them out, but we didn’t see any of the bodies, just bones scattered around and lined up like some kind of exhibit. Was this a shrine to Julia Roberts?
Apparently the shopping is pretty good in Ubud, but I didn’t buy anything. If I was rich and owned a house I’d love to go back and buy a whole lot of furniture and sculptures and send them home. There was some amazing stuff available and you could decorate your whole house pretty cheaply.
Sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud
The one place I was really excited to see was the Sacred Monkey Forest. It’s a huge sanctuary where monkeys roam wild, pose for photographs and entertain tourists. It’s a pleasant place to just stroll around and escape the traffic of downtown Ubud. I was surprised there was so much traffic, as I’d heard Ubud was a quiet and peaceful place. It’s peaceful inside the guesthouses and restaurants (some of which open out into rice field backyards) but the streets are a bit of a nightmare to walk around.
Taking a walk just out of town brings you to the countryside which is full of rice fields, nice houses and small areas specialising in various crafts and furniture. It gives you an idea of what Ubud probably used to be like, just a peaceful village in Central Bali. While tourism is in overdrive in Ubud, it still holds enough to make it a worthwhile place to check out, even for someone so far out of the target market as me. If you are into yoga, Julia Roberts movies and past life regressions, you’ll have a field day in Ubud. For everyone else, you’ll still love the scenery, food and laid back guesthouses as well as the attractions that the nearby areas hold.
I didn’t see Julia Roberts in Ubud, but for some reason her presence haunted me. Maybe in a past life she wronged me in some way… perhaps I should have looked into the spiritual side of Ubud a bit more!
Have you been to Ubud? Does Julia Roberts annoy you too? Leave a comment!