I’m on day six of my week long retreat in Bali’s Ubud and so far I’ve spoken to less people than you’d find at a Convention on the Rights of the Big Game Hunter—in other words, not many.
This is in no way to humble-brag about my lack of social contact, but if you’re an introvert, you’ll understand.
It’s just the way we like it.
Traditionally Ubud would be considered the veritable extrovert’s paradise what with its permanently clogged Jalans (streets), filled-to-the-brim yoga classes and main street hostel madness.
But there appears to be a change in the incense-laden air and it’s blowing in our favour.
As I sit here typing away at my table for one, bathed in filtered sunlight I look around and see many others just like me. We’re doing this thing solo and a knowing nod in each other’s direction is all it takes to communicate, “Yep, I’m here on my own too and nope, I’m not going to walk over and ask if you’d like some company. We’ll unite in introvert solidarity…at our own tables thank-you-very-much.”
So here are some tips on how to navigate your way through your stay in Bali’s cultural capital with your introvert flag flying mightily high and relatively intact.
If you find solitude an issue in crowded restaurants and cafes, seek out the places with the strongest Wifi connections. A simple search on TripAdvisor will have you connected to the inter webs before you can slink behind your organic raw vegan menu. Tried and true are Kafe, Atman Kafe and Down To Earth on Jalan Hanoman, Cafe Wayan on Monkey Forest Road and The Garden Cafe at The Yoga Barn on Jalan Raya Pengosekan.
Alternatively, if you’re in more of a disconnected mood, head over to Bali Buda (soon to be rebranded as Bali Bunda) where they proudly announce “no wifi” on their menus, instead encouraging you to find a deeper “connection” with its absence.
A place where you will actively forget you’re all on your lonesome is the incredible Fair Warung Bale, located just off the main road on Jl. Sriwedari. Here, your meal pays for two medical treatments or consultations for some of Indonesia’s most underprivileged patients. It is the only restaurant in the world to pass on 100% of their proceeds to such a cause. You’ll be so consumed by your altruistic feat, you won’t mind the groups of fellow do-gooders who flock here each night.
Paradiso is the cinema attached to Down To Earth Cafe and Market on Jl. Goutama Sel (off Jl. Hanoman). The world’s first organic vegetarian cinema shows several movies a week in its upstairs, lounge room-style auditorium. For 50000Rp (dirt cheap), you sit down to your movie and order from the full Down To Earth menu. Your ticket price is redeemable for any menu item and it is served at your requested time throughout the movie. Delicious, nutritious, entertaining and best of all, you have at least 90 minutes of uninterrupted solitude.
An hour and a half north of Ubud lies Mount Batur, an active volcano considered sacred by those of Hindu belief. Numerous tour companies run downhill cycling tours that begin with a buffet breakfast overlooking this serene sight before you wind your way through 42km of rice fields, tiny villages and past endless family compounds.
The better tours keep numbers low at around 8-10 participants and its your choice whether you interact with your fellow cyclists. It is our prerogative, after all, to chose with whom, when and where we will open up.
The best reward is lunch at the conclusion on the cycle, particularly if you take the uphill option for the second half of the tour.
For many of us, the thought of stepping into a crowded room with fellow yogis screams ‘anxiety attack’. Fear not, for there is a miracle man by the name of Suresh at Suravi Spa. Located on Monkey Forest Road, Suravi Spa is indeed an oasis for the body and mind. An Ayurvedic doctor from India, Suresh offers private one hour yoga and meditation lessons for 75000Rp. He is gentle, kind and a true practitioner of the art of healing.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love invariably changed Ubud forever. Whether this is for the better, or not, is dependent on who you’re talking to. One woman whose life changed irrevocably is Wayan Nuriasih, the medicine woman whom Gilbert turned to for healing, friendship and advice. Her practice is Traditional Balinese Healing and is located off Ubud’s main road on Jalan Jembawan (opposite Bali Buda). A half hour body reading and healing easily stretched into a three hour consultation as she read my palms, legs, irises and felt my aura. An enlightening way to whittle down your day.
Ubud offers a veritable smorgasbord of accommodation options, many of them introvert-friendly. Avoid the hostels for obvious reasons and lean more towards a private villa or accommodation in a small bungalow resort. For the brave amongst us, a homestay is an affordable and rewarding option. I stayed with Ojek and his family at the appropriately named Ojek’s Homestay.
Plenty of travellers have come and gone in the few days I’ve been here but there has never been any obligation to mingle and the family are incredibly respectful of your wishes, saying ‘Hello’ each morning and briefly enquiring about your plans for the day.
There you have it. Just a few tips and tricks on how this introvert has managed to stay sane in this buzzing hive of activity. What was once an extrovert’s paradise, seems to be slowly morphing towards recognizing that the inner peace so many of its visitors are searching for, can be realized via many more avenues than perfecting the downward dog.
Author: Rachel Borthwick
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Author’s Own