Tag Archives: Ubud

Think before you thieve…

8 Sep

In the UK, “Thieves Will Be Prosecuted”, and “Stealing Will Result In A $100,000,000,000 Fine”. Let’s face it, people DO need telling. Rules are broken so often in my own fair land these days, with absolutely no consequences, that I’m not entirely sure people know the difference between right and wrong anymore.

Here in Ubud, Bali, though. Well… who needs to be threatened with a fine to thwart an action one might grow to regret? A simple reminder that the universe will kick your ass should suffice.

I spent hours in the local library here today, gathering research material to help me on my quest to write my next book. It’s going to be something similar to ‘Burqalicious – The Dubai Diaires’ only this one is not about Dubai, and it won’t involve burqas, aaaaaand there’ll be very little gold, or shopping, or shallow media launch parties. OK, fine, it’s totally different because this one will be documenting life as an expat in Bali. And no, it’s not another Eat Pray Love. (sigh).

She went to THREE countries whereas I’m skint and can only afford to live in one. She met a hot foreign man who couldn’t get enough of her, whereas I can’t seem to meet anyone who’s not a total knob (this could change, though right now the chances are slim) AND, Liz Gilbert got to go on Oprah, which I will never be able to do because she has selfishly shut up shop. With that said I’ll probably never be famous or rich enough to live anywhere other than here when I’m done. EVER. Not that I’d mind. I do have a nice new villa, with a swimming pool…

Anyway, all in all it’s something fun to do for the next six to eight months and seeing as I didn’t have anything better to do with my life when the opportunity arose I thought, why the hell not live in a town full of yoga-loving, raw food eating, crystal-ball-consulting, alcohol-shy hippies?! Hell, you only live once. Unless you steal from book shops.

The only downside to this project (apart from possibly losing my mind and thinking I really do look hot in fisherman pants), is that I’m not allowed to blog anything that might eventually be included in the book. I used to blog all the time. In fact, ‘Burqalicious’ started as a blog, which is why I was scribbling so enthusiastically pretty much every day. Dubai was a weird, weeeeeeeeird place to live and there was tons to write about. And consequently tons to share.

Ubud is equally weird and wacky, just for totally different reasons. It is also one of the most magical, incredible, spiritual places I’ve ever had the fortune to visit. Keeping it all to myself, save for tiny snippets here and there (maybe the odd photo or random rambling that’s not to be included in the manuscript, like this) will be tough, but will have to suffice. And when I give the nod that it’s finally out there to buy (not take), in print (October 2012) you can all rush out and catch up on what clearly hasn’t happened to me yet. Deal?

In the mean time, don’t steal shit and don’t put your future lives in jeopardy. I mean it.

Namaste x

Burqalicious in Bali…

3 Jul

Huge thanks to my friend Trevor here, who made a fabulous host at the Burqalicious – The Dubai Diaries Q&A night in Ubud last week. And yes, it was last week, in case you were thinking this photo has a 1978 sort of quality to it. Not sure what happened there… my dress wasn’t even blue, but hey, it only goes to show how much we had to put up with before the world went digital.

If you’re heading to Bali in the near future, you have to check out the coolest venue on the block, Bar Luna. I was lucky enough to discover Casa Luna’s sexy sister on my first day in Ubud, as a result of reading about the Thursday literary nights in a little magazine. I made it a bit of a regular haunt while I was there; the food is great and even BETTER, the cocktails are buy-one-get-one-free from 5 till 8pm (try the Coconut Killer, it’s to die for). They have live music on Tuesdays too.

The Burqalicious night drew a nice crowd and although I was admittedly a bit nervous at first, it was pretty cool getting to chit-chat for an hour. Trevor was a natural and we had fun. He prepared all sorts of interesting questions and got me talking about the book in a way I haven’t been able to do, to this point. I was actually surprised how fast the time went! It’s a shame we couldn’t get any books delivered as I had a heap of people asking where they could get one, which was cool… but we have to wait for a reprint as they’re all out of stock in Australia, apparently. Sorry peeps!

You’ll find Bar Luna hidden down a little laneway about a 5 minute walk uphill from the main Ubud marketplace (walk in the opposite direction to the Palace). When you hit Nomads on the right, take the little street alongside it and you’ll find this hidden diamond seconds later, waiting for your arrival. Tell them I said hi!

Ah Ubud, I miss you so, but I know I’ll be back soon and there are tons more literary nights and events to look forward to in your wicked bubble of creativity and inspiration. Big thanks again to Trevor, and Chara, Janet and all the awesome staff at Bar Luna for a fab night and much-appreciated support for Burqalicious. Mwah xxx

Musings from a wooden bench in Bali…

1 Jul

And so it is that I leave Bali, this stunning land that has somehow wrapped its fingers round my heart! I don’t remember feeling this sad about leaving anywhere since I left New York. I wasn’t expecting to love Bali so much, especially Ubud. But isn’t it funny how a place can win you over?

I’ve been trying to put my finger on why exactly I feel so connected to this place. Was I Balinese in my last life? Did I carry mangoes on my head, practice healing, cook with galangal and jackfruit and offer taxi rides to the relatively few tourists who poked their heads, wide-eyed and blinking into this magical kingdom? I know I’m not the first to feel this way about Bali. In fact, I’m possibly a bit of a cliché, falling in love with the hues of greens and knowing smiles and the peace that emanates from every tiny village and temple – the sort of stuff we only dream about as we squeeze and stress through day-to-day existence in a city.

I’m living in a screensaver here, a desktop wallpaper scene of amber butterflies and bicycles leaning up against bamboo scaffolding. I’m walking through holiday brochures, trekking from page to page across rice fields, waving at women in pointed straw hats, getting my hair wrapped in banana leaves, stopping to chat with men carrying machetes at the end of their shift in the sunshine. Maybe it is just magic – the hold that Bali has on me. A magic spell that invokes a sort of innocence that would be dangerous and frowned upon in a city.

I feel like nature reaches out to you here. We are at its mercy and never is that more obvious than when you’re standing small in the middle of a giant grassy staircase, trickling with water down a mountainside. Is that the magic, perhaps?  The possibilities offered by all those fascinating things I can’t see, hidden in the cracks? The world holds promise. My days are sprinkled with purpose and peppered with mystery… not like in a city. The little things get lost; at times the life we should be breathing in gets sucked straight out, don’t you think? We lose the blue of the sky through a tinted window, to an office partition. We lose the sound of rain on a roof made from leaves and straw, suffocate it with bricks and insulation. We lose human connections. Glued to our phones we type instead of talk, we forget the utter joy that comes with sitting on a street corner, talking to a stranger and hearing a story. Two souls connected for the briefest moment in time. A new friend with no notion of Facebook.

It’s hard to know what’s convenient and what is inconvenient anymore.

A thousand eyes are watching you from everywhere in Bali. A thousand voices are whispering, drawing you closer to the person you forgot, waking you up… there are voices in the treetops, the cracks in the temple stones, the frangipani offerings on doorsteps and walls and piles of sand. Skyscraper bars and fancy cars are the nightmare, instead of the dream. You’re never alone, and yet you are, because the world has finally stopped to let you think. The world has finally given you some time to step inside your own mind.

The more I think about going back to Sydney, the more a little voice in my head starts panicking and shouting, resisting. I was pretty happy there, wasn’t I? But maybe I wasn’t. Maybe I was just telling myself I was. Hmmm. It’s hard to tell. I’m worried I’m sounding like a hippy again. You know, one of those silly people who goes on holiday somewhere and comes back thinking she’s changed? But the more I think about it, the more I think, what if I did come back here, to Ubud more specifically, and stay longer? What would happen? Would the world end? Would anyone care except me? Probably not. Life is short, after all.

I want to live in a villa and spend three dollars a day on food and not drink wine for three months. I feel better, not having drunk it for three and a half weeks! My head feels clearer. In Ubud, I met people who are clear about what they want and where they’re going. And by that I mean they’re clear about the day-to-day stuff, and they’re happy just to see where they end up. You can’t be like that in a city, really, can you? Everyone expects you to have a plan, and people don’t understand you when you tell them you don’t really have one. You end up feeling like you don’t fit in, and then you feel like shit because everyone wants to belong. But maybe you just don’t belong there, where you are. It’s the reason you can’t concentrate at a desk, working under someone’s thumb. It’s the reason you cloud your brain with expensive alcohol and food-fuelled opportunities… to stop the thinking. What if you discover something you’re not ready for?

The optimist, and possibly the child in me is romanced by freedom. I am charmed and re-charged by the notion of flying through life on the wind, like a bird against a rainbow. And now I know I’m not alone.

In the writing group I’ve been a part of for the last few weeks, we practiced writing from the heart, just letting the words flow without stopping, which is kind of what I’m doing now. I think maybe I’ve always done this, but I’ve always edited myself too. Maybe it’s time to stop editing so much. Our whole lives are edited versions of what we really want, anyway. Whatever happens, first I must go to Thailand, and Cambodia and Vietnam, and Malaysia and Borneo. And then I must decide whether chasing a job in a city, just to belong there according to the system, is really for me. I thought it was, but maybe that’s because I didn’t know any differently.

Maybe I really am just a hippy, floating through Bali on a cloud of self-discovery, little realising she’ll be lost to the land of mobile-phone connections and city wine bars as soon as she leaves.

Or maybe, just maybe, something really did just change.

Curses, claws and newborn babies…

22 Jun

I’m in Seminyak… though I kind of wish I wasn’t. I’ve had a bit of a moany day today, you know when you just whinge that life is shit? Ugh. And then I had to shake myself. I realised that this is a totally ungrateful way to behave and I should just shut the hell up and get on with it. Jeeesus! I’m still in Bali! And Bali as a whole is fast becoming my favourite place in the whole wide world.

I will always remember the café I was in today as being the place where I first heard about my good friend Zoe’s baby being born, and that totally made my day! A healthy baby boy with the incredibly awesome, movie star name of Harrison De Ville. If he’s not on X Factor by the time he’s nine there’s something wrong.

I want to introduce Bali to everyone, maybe even Harrison one day, especially now that I’m a self-appointed travelling auntie, who’ll probably be the mental one who sends tie dye babygrows and wooden spears and kangaroo claws in the post for his every birthday, even though he’s never met me. I thought about what to get him from Bali, but then I found myself wandering though streets filled with wooden chairs shaped like kneeling horses and decided that at one-day-of-age, he’s probably not at the home-furnishing appreciation stage just yet. I’ll have to keep looking.

I think everyone would like Bali. I can’t think of a reason why any sane person would fail to like Ubud at least. It’s a completely different world to here, further south. Which reminds me, I went to another literary event before I left Ubud and there was an American author called Rose B giving a talk about her work. She mentioned that Bali doesn’t speak to her. She made a big thing of saying how everyone else seems to say “Bali really spoke to me”, and how she can’t hear anything at all.

I wanted to laugh at this, but I actually found it rather a shame. A shame because I hate to conform to a stereotype, clearly, (I hear voices, dammit, I do!) but a shame because she obviously can’t feel whatever it is that seems to affect those who care to listen. The guys here say the River Ayung has a voice. When I was taken to my room by a staff member at The Hanging Gardens the other day, he said “You’ll like this room ‘cause you can hear the voice of the river while you go to sleep.” I thought that was lovely. Even if he doesn’t mean that the river tells jokes and sings songs… even if he just means it murmers and swirls and gurgles and reminds you of its part in the Baliverse, I like the way he put it. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I think all the voices are louder here.

I guess I’ve been feeling more energised here, aside from the two-day arak hangover last week, of course. That made me want to die in a pool of my own vomit.

My new friend, an author called Cat, told me Bali has a very feminine energy, and she’s a reiki teacher so she definitely should know. I believe that, not least because I’ve been hearing all about the curse.

Ah the curse, the curse. This truly fascinates me! Apparently, years ago a princess was spurned by her husband on the island, when he ran off with another lover. In a fit of hurt and rage she placed a curse on Bali and swore that no unmarried man and woman would ever come to Bali without suffering the consequences!

This is scary enough as it is, but the more people I talk to about it, the more stories I hear to confirm that this curse is still very much in effect. I’ve had loads of people tell me tales of how they, or their friends, or just people they know, have broken up after coming to Bali with their boyfriend or girlfriend. Some of them have been in really tight, long term relationships, too. How spooky is that? Of course, it doesn’t affect the honeymooners, who are still out in force, even in Seminyak. I’d curse them myself but I doubt it would have much effect and maybe one day I’ll be one of them. I’ll definitely be coming back here. I miss it already and I haven’t even left yet. 

iPhone Getaway: Ubud Hanging Gardens video exploration

19 Jun


I’m making like Jill Dando did before…. well. I’ve been told that Getaway has slashed its staff so I’m here to prove that anyone can be a holiday show presenter. Sort of. Maybe.

I had a great short but extremely sweet stay at the impressive Ubud Hanging Gardens resort last night. Granted it was FULL of honeymooners. I was like a leper on an island full of non-diseased people. At one point I had to sit at a table in the middle of a busy restaurant and eat by myself, with only my book to read. Not even in the corner of the room, ya know, away from the curious glances. IN THE MIDDLE. I felt like a right spaz. It’s all very well being a single solo traveller when you’re at a hostel, surrounded by other solo, single travellers. It’s enlightening, fulfilling, enriching! But when you’re on your own in a couple’s resort with nowhere to run, well….

Still, fuck it, lesson learned, eh! This resort is GORGEOUS and I can only look forward to the day I return with someone else, haha! Seriously stunning place surrounded by a huge forest, with a great walk up to a temple which towers over it all. It’s like the kind of place Tarzan might have taken Jane to, to woo her, with the promise of eternity sipping cocktails round infinity pools.

And I still managed to have an awesome time with my iPhone (ahem).

I will be writing my proper TravelEditor review shortly…

Terima Kasih!!!

My Bali Getaway Video (complete with road rage)

17 Jun

I only just realised I could link this video from Facebook to my blog. Ah, the wonders of technology eh! I made a little Getaway type thing using my iPhone and edited on the mac, so here it is – my mini tour of the ARMA Resort and Spa, with a little fix of typical Bali road rage at the end, just for kicks. Click away!!! (Can’t get it to play from here, any tips?!)

Having been here in Ubud for just over a week I’ve managed to fall completely in love with the place. There’s been too much going on to blog every day, you know how it is,… and I’ve also had tons of work to finish which means I haven’t had enough time for a swim yet either (I know, shocking!!!) but I still have two weeks left, so there’s time to fix that.

Anyway, obviously when you travel on your own it’s like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books. So I’ve chosen to get out and about on a bicycle tour, which I also have a video of (dammit, so much editing to do!) and have now, I think, seen a tiny slice of the real Bali, which is a stunning mass of rice fields and the most incredible greens I’ve ever seen, and the cutest little villages known to man sprinkled in between. Far away from the tourists… apart from us cycling right through it all, clearly.

I’ve also become part of an awesome writer’s circle. The other day we congregated in a beautiful little cafe on Monkey Forest Road (Cafe Wayan) and 18 of us took a prompt, such as ‘Inside The Dark’ and carried on writing. We had to finish the sentence and write without stopping or thinking, until the timer went off. It was incredible what came out. We all had to read what we’d written afterwards and some people even cried reading stuff back. It’s amazing what comes out of your heart when you don’t let your head interfere. I’m thinking of starting one in Sydney.

Some of the writers, along with a great Aussie expat called Paul, another author called Helen and yet another called Cat have also become friends, as has a fabulous French traveller called Stef. We’re going to watch a traditional cremation ceremony tomorrow, which sounds kind of dark and macabre but I figure, hey, these people have invited us because in their culture, they just want to share EVERYTHING… so why not? (I may feel differently about this surrounded by the stench of burning flesh. More on that to come I’m sure).

Anyway, suffice to say Ubud is the kind of place that really does breathe new life into you. I don’t see how it can’t when there’s so much natural beauty all around. Even the people are beautiful. Sigh. I think it’s going to be hard to leave this place…

Never tempt a recovering transvestite…

12 Jun

Balinese hotel staff keep asking me where my husband is. The regular, “I’m not married” response is getting a tad tiresome so I’ve been getting slightly creative with my answers. I’ve concocted a few that I plan to dip into at random, depending on who’s asking.

So why aren’t I married?
Well, I was, but I’m a war widow. There’s a strange war going on Sydney between Inner West and East and my poor husband was stricken by a Westie’s surfboard while paddling in Bondi. No one knows if it was intentional or an accident yet but I’ve taken some time out in order to escape the media hype (which hasn’t yet made it to Bali) and attempt to soothe my broken soul. Lots of massages are doing the trick. And Balinese coffee, served in copious amounts by attentive, silky skinned men with beaming smiles is also helping, though I may break down at any moment.

Again… why aren’t I married?
Well, I’m dying, you see. I have an unidentified disease and I’m actually here at this stunning resort as a result of the Make A Wish Foundation. I had a boyfriend but he ditched me when he realised I’d be dead in six months and I reached out a withered hand to a helpful charity organisation who are, over the course of however long I last, making my dreams come true. One by one. When you see me heading off to the elephant sanctuary, you’ll know I’ve only got moments left on this earth, as I’ve also requested a funeral involving a parade of exotic, ivory-tusked creatures, carrying the handles of my coffin with their trunks.

So really… why aren’t I married?
Well, OK, if you really want to know, I’m a transvestite in recovery. I just had “the” surgery, which after years of struggle, torment and inner torture, has finally rendered me 100% female. I’m a filthy, man-ravishing tornado of sexuality in my hometown, but being under strict instructions to “rest” after surgery, I’ve come to Bali for a bit of time out. I’m hoping some me-time will add the final touches to my new sense of being, as a woman, and so far I have refrained from prowling the grounds of this resort after-hours in an attempt to test the functionality of my new parts with innocent male employees.

Don’t tempt me. Can I have another coffee, please?

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