Two and half weeks in Bali… where to start! I was blessed with some incredible experiences on this island, and can’t wait for the opportunity to come back, I have a feeling it wont be too long from now Here are a few snapshots of adventures!
Yoga : The Yoga Barn and Radiantly Alive were the most breathtaking studios I’ve ever practiced in. Both set within the city of Ubud, but backing up to dense rainforest and rice padis provided a tranquil escape from the honking of motorbikes and the bustle of locals offering taxi rides and massages. I tried a variety of classes… vinyasa flow, restorative, yin and slow flow — the theme of non-power type classes was on purpose :), it was too hot to hold asanas too long, and nearly impossible when you’re dripping sweat like crazy! Thus I gravitated toward the evening classes focused on meditation :). The global instructors were so impressive, guiding my mind to deeper appreciation for my body and practice. One of my favorite memories is this song that ended one of my classes, it said “when the sun shines, it shines on everyone”…. We’re all given the gift of sunshine… it doesn’t hold back its rays to pick and choose who receives the light – we all have the same opportunity to go out and soak it up, drink in its warmth and spread more light with a smile. My other favorite memory of class is when Paul joined me for meditation… and had to hit me to wake me up as the rest of the class had moved into another position! I don’t know if I was sleeping or meditating… maybe a little of both
Balinese Cooking Class: Paul and I signed up for a full day cooking class with a local family in Sideman, about 45mins north of Ubud. We started out early at their home as Yuka showed us the traditional building style of a Balinese house… So much thought was put into the structure and location of each “room” based on the location of the temple and ceremony area (Bali is primarily Hindu). His brother (which his name has completely escaped my memory now, darn it) took us on a tour of the farm through the rice padis… We picked long green beans (like really long.. 10inches +?… you’re welcome for that reference WCP J), ginger, turmeric, lettuce and a few other spices. In the 30 or so minutes we were out there, we were completely exhausted and toasted from the sun. Such deep respect I have for the men and women who spend their days in the rice padis- very tough, physically demanding work. When Paul asked if they did yoga, Yuka said working in the rice padis is Balinese Yoga ;). Relieved to get out of the sun, we headed up to their outdoor kitchen to start cooking for the day. We learned the traditional spices and flavors inspiring the menu that was set for the day. The whole kitchen ran on no power… we used a wood burning stove (made your eyes burn and water like crazy!) and kitchen tools made from the earth; this was surely something to admire. There was no running to the store for something you needed, if you needed it, you made it. All of our serving platters and cutting boards were made out of wood. Cups, spoons and bowls made from the shell of coconuts. We used stone bowls and heavy stone to mash up our spices and mix together and a much larger one to mince up tuna. This tool has been in their family for 3 generations… hundreds of years old! We cooked for a couple hours and then enjoyed eating it all while talking to Yuka and his brother. The drive home was full of great conversation about the local economy, Yuka’s family, a quick stop for durian and bugs for Yuka’s son’s lizard– I about jumped out of my seat when he opened the bag he brought in from the side of the road… I watched that bag carefully for the duration of the drive! What a sweet man and family to share the day with. Tons more pics of the day in my global eats post!
Ubud: Ubud unexpectedly stole my heart… Not an easy feat for a town that isn’t nestled on a beach or near a big body of water. I ended up spending about 2 weeks in Ubud, filling the days with yoga, shopping, motorbiking around town and out to the rice padis and of course digging into the local food scene. Paul and I spent hours upon hours at Bali Budda, an awesome spot with no wifi, newspaper menus and an ambiance that stimulates conversation about some of life’s biggest questions. Between here, Kafe and the cafe at the Yoga Barn, we were regulars. Sipping on tonics, teas, the freshest of fruit/veg smoothies and sharing a maze plate will hold a special place in my heart. So so good.
One of the days while Anne was still in town, we ventured out to Tengarang terraced rice padis in the afternoon hiring a local to guide us by motorbike. On our way back he showed us what may be the most breathtaking hidden viewpoint in Bali… A Kopi luwak coffee farm with a tasting area I’d gladly pay 300,000+ rupiah to get down to… Joe, our guide, told Paul to be Jack and me to be Rose and go out and reenact the flying scene from the front of the titanic… we all got a good laugh doing this
We topped off the night with dinner Taco Casa, pitchers of margaritas flowed and burritos filled our bellies before piling 3 deep on the motorbike to trek through Monkey Forest back to our villa. We decided to stop for some more beer and fruit for breakfast. The image of us all riding back still cracks me up to this day… Paul balancing a bag of Bintangs on each handle bar, me holding on to him with on arm and a huge ass watermelon in the other, and Anne holding another bag of groceries and then on to me… What a sight we must have been. I can’t think about it and not have a huge smile on my face. With some 3-way cribbage and a jam sesh with Paul’s guitar, it had all the components of a perfect evening shared with the most special of friends!
We stayed in some seriously cool spots in Ubud– the Eco villa that Anne rented behind Monkey Forest was insane, owned by a Seattleite! Paul found this bungalow that was reminiscent of our one in Thailand on the beach, just in the rainforest, equipped with its own private yoga sala– what a cool experience it was to practice for a bit completely by myself in the rainforest, I’ll never forget that J. The sound of the birds and the sun shining in our open windows each morning lead to some of the happiest of morning moods…how could it not? I let go of caring about bugs, geckos, and whatever animals might come share our space, after all, it’s their home!
And then there’s a less fond memory of Ubud… It started with feeling very tired, too tired to go to yoga or even stay up for dinner the first night. Out for a run the next morning, the stomach sickness set in and I knew I had caught something. Fast forward a few hours and I was down for the count. We Google’d a few times what all my symptoms could sum to, and it was either Dengue Fever or Bali Belly. Paul went to the clinic to talk to them about my symptoms, I was too tired and sick to make the trek. He came back and made me go back to the clinic with him, as they said I had to get checked in case it was Dengue as that could turn fatal. The clinic and doctors were honestly better than in the States, they took great care of me and I got my test results within a few hours. Turns out it was a bacterial infection in my stomach (nothing antibiotics couldn’t fix thankfully!). The next 3 days were a blur of sleeping 20+ hours, fighting symptoms and going in and out of waves of delirium. Thankfully Paul was there to take care of me, bring me drinks and toast, and keep me company… I don’t know what I would have done without him. I was miserably homesick and craving sunshine– anything outside of the 4 plain walls I had stared at for days! Luckily Paul’s back was healing too (see below), so we were somewhat in the same boat of not being able to do too much! My sissy sent me to a 5star resort the next day and it was pure heaven, exactly what I needed. We watched American Gangster, ordered room service and took full advantage of the amenities offered. I woke up the next morning finally feeling alive again, so we set off to resume our travel plans to the Gili islands for our last weekend in Bali.
With an unexpected week taken out of our travels being sick, there’s a few things I missed out on that I will be back for…the biggest one being hiking Mount Rinjani. We had done the research to book a guided trip for 3 days 2 nights to summit this incredible volcano. The photos are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and I just have to see it in person someday! Anyone up for a Bali trip next winter? 😉
Uluwatu : Paul and I decided to take a full day to drive around Bali (p.s. there’s nothing in this world like the feeling of the wind in your hair, sunshine on your face, driving a motorbike in a foreign country, its seriously one of my happy places) starting in Ubud and heading out to wherever the road took us. It ended up taking us south, about as far south as you can go, to the little town of Uluwatu. Known for its underwater temple and world-class surf breaks, we thought it was worth a stop for lunch! Nestled in the cliffs is this little surfer paradise… streets lined with board rentals, bars and surf shops. We grabbed a drink and watched from above the surfers below. And then Paul said, let’s go give it a shot. Paul hadn’t surfed since he was a kid in Hawaii, and I’ve only attempted to surf maybe a half-dozen times in my life.. but somehow we thought it was a good idea still. We rented boards for 100,000 rupia a piece, and I got the biggest board they offered there — which was still about ½ the size of those I had surfed on before. We trekked down the crazy steep steps to the little beach inlet where you swim out to catch the break. The shop owner’s only advice was to stay left, as the current gets strong to the right. After accidentally dinging a chick’s board walking in, and getting completely verbally derailed by her rude boyfriend (so not the surfer “its all good” mentality with these folks!), I started to paddle out.
It wasn’t long before I was starting to feel tuckered out… so I looked up for Paul and realized we were both fading right quickly. The current was way stronger than we were. The lifeguard up above was blowing his whistle at us to swim the other way so I started to paddle with all my strength. It was about this time that I started to realize that we were getting ourselves into a bad spot, and needed to get out of there quick. The problem was, there wasn’t any beach to swim up to, only cliff side covered in rough coral. I was so tired from paddling, that the option of swimming in to the coral and getting some land relief was really the only option. I started to paddle that way, which was equally hard…. Somehow throughout this I lost all sense of time and realized I was paddling for my life… I could have been paddling for 5minutes or 15, I have no idea. Finally after serious effort, my feet touched ground. With the huge waves crashing up on the coral, it was tricky to not get smashed into them with their force. I got a couple scrapes on my leg after a wave sent me tumbling and searching for which way was up.
Paul wasn’t too far behind me, and made his way to me to guide us back to the inlet. We carefully navigated our way through the coral with each crash of the waves until we made our way around the corner, and I finally knew we were safe. Heart beating out of my chest, I had had enough for the day… the ocean won, I was not in good enough shape to be out there. Paul being the usual dare devil he is decided to go back for more… thinking that we just started out too far right and must need to just paddle more aggressively at the beginning to get around the current. There were dozens of surfers out there, male and female, and we figured there must be something we’re missing. So I went up to the bar to unwind from the near death experience, clean up my scrapes and watch Paul catch some waves. Once I got up there I couldn’t tell who was who, so I gazed off watching a few guys (later realizing that they were pro’s) catch some awesome breaks farther out.
About an hour went by (which we only rented boards for an hour) and I started to slightly worry about my friend. Thankfully not too long after that Paul came walking into the bar.. and I couldn’t tell what was “off” but he didn’t seem him. Then a local followed up behind him and asked if he was ok… so I was like what do you mean are you okay, what happened? Then he turned around… the pictures speak for themselves – holy shit. Turns out that Paul got stuck in the same situation we did together not long before, however only much worse and farther right. It took him a while to be able to talk about it, but he really got lucky. A super kind local lady brought a fresh stalk of aloe vera and I put it all over his wounds. Eventually we made our way out of that town back towards Kuta where we could get to a pharmacy. Riding on the back of the motorbike with a big gaping wound in my face was not my favorite 2-wheeled experience. I don’t do great around blood, injuries or sickness… I usually end up getting sick myself. So when it came time to clean his wounds, Paul knew it was going to be a struggle for me, but he couldn’t do it himself. Now for the second time on this adventure we were sitting outside a pharmacy with a bunch of cotton, alcohol and iodine. I don’t know how he withstood the pain of me scrubbing out his back, or how I didn’t loose my lunch from the sight of it, but we made it through. The night set in and we realized we better get on the road back to Ubud. Then we found out our motorbike’s lights weren’t working… this ride couldn’t get any more crazy! I didn’t realize how tense I was until we made it all the way back to our little rainforest bungalow, and I finally let out a sigh of relief. Paul was fine the whole time (of course), but said he had never felt my hands grip him so hard on a bike… I guess it was the sight of much blood, the dark drive home and the intense shake of the ocean that got me all rattled out of my zen state of mind that had been blossoming with each day spent in Bali. I laid in bed that night thanking God for watching over us. I pondered my deepened respect for the ocean, the strengthen bond with my best friend, and vowed to give my body and spirit a break tomorrow with a day of yoga and quiet time.
Gili Islands: We stopped over in the little town of Padang Bai the first night, which was quite underwhelming. Luckily we found an awesome bar at the top of this hill to hang out for the evening with a solid view of the ocean. Even better they had Scrabble! Hours of going back and forth about proper nouns and challenging each other’s word plays, it turned out to be a big “W” for Paul.
The boat ride to Gili the next morning was great. Full of travelers around our age ready for holidays on the 3 islands. For 2 hours we soaked up the sun and tunes on the rooftop of the boat- completely frying ourselves (I hadn’t been outside in almost a week… what were me and my white skin thinking?!?). Arriving at Gili Trawagan, we had planned to hop over to Gili Air, which is like the medium island in terms of Gili T being party central, Air being a step down, and Meno being primarily old folks. We ended up staying on Gili Tas I think we were both craving some vibrant life surrounding us after the dull past week! So we trekked out of town (no motorized vehicles allowed on the islands) to find a hotel that may be a bit quieter than those by all the bars. We found a little gem called Yamana for around $60usd a night including breakfast and loungers on the beach! Our first night was super chill, caught a movie on the beach with this big blow up screen and beanbag chairs to lounge in. The movie was Lust in Love, not fabulous but had some one-liners that provided some good belly laughs! Still not being able to drink (thank you antibiotics) I turned in for the night while Paul headed to the full moon party. The next night there was a lunar eclipse that was nothing short of spectacular… We found an awesome spot right on the water to play some cribbage and drink lemongrass earl gray iced tea I took home the “W” this time and hold the reigning champion title until we rematch in the States…a sweet redemption after loosing Scrabble!
The next morning Paul walked me to the boat dock and I tearfully hugged him goodbye yet again. I was off to Nepal in the morning and he was staying on Gili for one more night before making his way down under. So glad our paths crossed again on this adventure.
So many amazing memories, thank you beautiful Bali!