Here are some very simple shots taken on my first day in Bali. I arrived a day earlier than the rest of the CCE Study Tour students so that I could spend some time reconnecting with the way things work in his near neighbor of ours.
The heat, humidity and tropical lushness I remember. The traffic I don't. The driver that picked me up at the airport told me that Bali had 1 million motorcycles. It didn't take me long to realize that this was no exaggeration, the island really seems to have 1 million motorcycles. The main road in Ubud is one continuous stream of vehicles. I guess this is the price the Balinese have to pay for being a popular tourist destination.
What seems to have changed the most, aside from vehicular congestion in villages too small to merit such snarl ups, is the staggering variety of cross cultural cuisines and activities now available to all-comers. Last time I was on the island there was one cool new café in Ubud that catered for alternative Western food styles. These included vegetarian meals that were far superior to the 'banana pancake' menus so prevalent in many other Asian destinations. You can now buy Mexican tacos, Turkish kebabs, Italian pizzas, Texan ribs, Indian curries and New World vegetarian foods in any number of cafés that litter the somewhat cluttered padi fields surrounding Ubud. And if it's not vegetarian, it must be herbal. The amount of natural remedy shops, herbal beauty products and spa-based activities is quite staggering. We must be an ailing civilization to require repair on such a scale. The Balinese have certainly focused on the requirements of a burgeoning Western market. Nevertheless, even though development seems to have smothered this island to an alarming depth, once you find your little piece of backyard solitude (which always seems to come with a view of a padi field somewhere) you can still imagine yourself experiencing a time that's quite different to the reality of the present day.