It’s an exceedingly rare occurrence (and becoming ever more so) to experience quiet in this town. Ubud is forever abuzz, attracting tourists, yoga enthusiasts, healing-seekers and expats to its center at a lightning-fast pace.
Which, on most days, transforms this once sleepy village into a vibrant, overcrowded center of locals on the go (zipping along to work, school, market or temple); mixed in with swelling numbers of umbrella-toting Asian couples, so-called location-independent-digital-nomads-programmers-coders-marketers-startup -entrepreneurs, EatPrayLoveniks and assorted others.
Humans trump nature, engines erase birdsong and the sheer density of sentient beings (Bali dogs included) fills up every breathable pocket of air.
Which is why Galungan is so precious, revealing itself to be one of a handful of days each Balinese calendar year when a dome of quasi-silence descends on Ubud. The roads – quiet. The market – closed. The locals – praying, offering, eating, visiting, or back home in their remote villages.
From one day to the next, the center of town morphs into an eerily empty landscape.
The roads seem so spacious, the market area swept clean, locals dressed in traditional wear arrive with offerings they place inside or in front of their stalls, lighting incense, thanking deities for their good fortune, praying for continued prosperity.
My early morning stroll down to town and along the (middle of!) Jalan Raya still, after nearly five years of calling Ubud home, instills a sense of wonder and curiosity: is this what it felt like to visit and stay here 10, 20, 30 years ago? Barely a motor vehicle in sight, no telephones, shops, little electricity (if any), a few bicycles? Did people actually walk everywhere back then? Could they always hear the caged birds sing?
Sure I might be waxing nostalgic (for an era in Bali that is long past) or I might, on some particularly grey or hazy days, be mourning the depletion of nature and the steep rise of rumbling, screeching and tile-cutting; but this too is a fragment of life and without it, I might not bother to be grateful for all the gifts that Bali still does bestow.