I sometimes wonder if I’m the only traveler who admits to being underwhelmed by Bali. When I first visited the island in the early 90’s it had already accommodated itself to so many re-imaginings in the minds of so many people for so long I felt that I was at least thirty years too late. On my second, more recent visit, there could be no reaction but horror at the ATMS, the schlocky souvenirs, and the sheer number of tour buses that now define any experience of downtown Ubud. The same could of course be said of a lot of places that we routinely claim to have been irrevocably altered by tourism. But the fact that Bali’s arts and culture are so unique, and its physical landscapes so breathtakingly beautiful, makes its unrepentant commercialization all the more distasteful.
And yet – for one magical hour at the Barong performance I was ready to forgive everything.