11 December 2012

Bali - the Ubud walk of fame

The famous Hollywood Walk of Fame reserves its star-studded sidewalk for the most famous men and women of the entertainment industry.

Its less famous counterpart in Ubud reserves its concrete sidewalk for any foreign visitor willing to donate money to the street’s renovation project.

The walk of fame lies along Jl. Kajeng, a narrow street west of Ubud’s Royal Palace and east of the much-berated Starbucks outlet. The southern entrance and part of the 1-kilometer-long street are passable for cars but its northern part is only navigable by bicycle and on foot. The northern exit leads to Sok Wayah, an area of lush paddy fields.

Concrete slabs with the names of foreign donors decorate the southern entrance of the street. Similar slabs are also to be found along the street. Any visitor who walks along this street and from time to time casts his eye down to the concrete path beneath his feet will gain a glimpse into the lives of many individuals — lovers, teachers, backpackers — from all over the world who have trodden the same path in the past.

One cemented slab reads “Maria & Leonid; Honeymoon 01.10.2012 Moscow, Russia”, while another reads “Susie Worth Loves Bali”, complete with an imprint of Susie’s hand. Anyone who wants to write down his or her name in the cement block can do that. The only need is to give a minimum cash donation of Rp 200,000 per section of concrete slab. The donations are used to maintain and renovate the street.

Offering visitors an opportunity to immortalize their names for an affordable donation was a strategy first initiated by the late Han Snel, the Dutch painter who became a sort of legend in Ubud and was one of the pioneers of local tourism. Snel’s house lies on Jl. Kajeng and is currently being used as a boarding house by his widow. Snel first arrived on the island in 1946 with the Dutch military forces who were tasked with fighting Japanese troops alongside the newly born army of the Republic of Indonesia. Eventually, Snel married a local girl, applied for Indonesian citizenship and embraced Balinese Hinduism.

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