Bali; the island of the gods
When I first envisioned arriving in Bali I was sure I would step off of the plane and step directly into a giant pile of enlightenment. I would instantly become tan and my knowledge of the Hindu dieties would be nothing short of brilliant. Pure nirvana would take over as I floated place to place around the Island of the Gods. I've been here just over 24 hours and while Bali is nothing short of miraculous, a heaven of rich culture, kind people and almost every dwelling and storefront looking like it was hand carved by Ganesha himself, I can safely say I have a bit of a sunburn and much to learn.
Before arriving I did a ton of research on Bali and Indonesia, wanting to see the most amazing places and experience the culture in all its richness and I have to say I almost wish I hadn't. So many people gave me insights and suggestions while I was there that I hardly needed have done any at all as I'm the type of person to value word of mouth over the latest blog (I say ironically as I write this). I felt that all that research had created expectations and preconceived notions. Anytime I travel I am reminded of the vastness and variety this world offers. We often get absorbed into our own bubble and assumptions are what often lead to stereotypes, prejudices and misunderstandings of cultures different than our own. It is my hope to shed just a bit of light on this small corner of the world in the hopes that you, my reader, are inspired to see see new places and try new things. So here I've compiled a few lists of my absolute favorite places that I experienced on my short 3 week visit, but don't just take my word for it, ask your closest neighbor at yoga or better yet strike up a conversation at the local Warung (you'll know what it is when you get there).
Yoga (Ubud, Gianyar, Bali)
Radiantly Alive- Even though this studio was under construction while I was there that did not keep it off the top of my list. Their offerings and teaching staff were top notch, I highly recommend Sushiela's Ashtanga and Persia's Yin classes. The highlight of my yoga experience here was stumbling on Janet Stone's 2 hour master class Devotion in Motion for just $26 USD. I sang and chanted my heart out to the sultry sounds of her harmonium and then sweated in devotion to all that is and ever was. Can you tell I was in my element?
Yoga Barn- The most famous studio in Ubud and probably in Bali. It's a stunning space, from the studios (there are 3) to the cafe, a great place for yogis to just hang with a juice bar and full vegan/vegetarian kitchen. I have to say, the class I took lacked the depth and spirit I look for in yoga (my teacher swore a lot and had a gruff but comedic approach). Not a terrible experience by any means and I would still recommend checking it out.
The Ubud Yoga House- Situated in the heart of the Ubud rice fields gives this studio a dreamy view and the solitude one might crave when looking to connect to source. They only offer a couple of classes, sunrise and sunset with a meditation class a few days a week sprinkled in. I recommend seeking it out before attempting to take a class here as it's challenging to find and down a very narrow path that I don't suggest navigating with a scooter unless you are an experienced rider. You have been warned and informed.
Ubud especially is known for its fresh and healthy fare. They truly cater to the yogi here and it shines through in their abundance of healthy and vegan/vegetarian friendly cafes and juice stops. The local food stops also offer 2 staple Indonesian dishes in a vegetarian option, Nasi Goreng and Nasi Campur, just ask. Tempeh abounds in place of meat in many local dished and I recommend trying some of the local food. If you're like me and you crave greens and cold juice in the heat in order to cool your pitta dosha then these are for you:
Habitat (Monkey Forest district)- I had the Thai Vegetable salad with seared tuna, This deconstructed salad has an abundance of veggies like spiraled carrots, jicama, tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes and fresh greens topped with peanuts and a light soy dressing. I also had the Namaste which was by far my favorite juice in all of Ubud (and I drank a lot of them. Apple, pineapple, ginger & mint cooled me on the hottest of days.
Clear Cafe- One of the most beautiful places to eat or get some computer work done. Greens, juices, tons of vegan options and even a vegan dessert menu. 2 floors, a koi pond, a giant street art style Ganesha mural. Lovely but expect a wait.
Bali Buda (now Bali Bunda)- An open air space boasting fresh juices, bowls and plenty of vegan and vegetarian fare options. It's also conveniently located across the alley from Radiantly Alive.
Campuhan Ubud Ridge Hike- The perfect start to any morning. This mild 9km hike is best at sunrise with stunning panoramic views and on clear mornings or afternoon enjoy the breathtaking backdrop of Mount Agung, on of Bali's most active volcanoes. Wait until you get to the tree with the swing to stop for sunrise and then continue on through the tall grass until the path gives way to the rice fields. Stop for lunch or a quick refreshment at Karsa Cafe before heading back to town. The entrance to the hiking trail can be tricky but just ask any local and scope it out the day before. Be sure you pack your headlamp so you can find your way before sunrise.
Monkey Forest- Definitely worth a visit just to say you've done it, the scenery is gorgeous and there are plenty of monkeys all around but be warned, these little terrorists will steal your bag, your hat, the bananas in your hand or anything else you aren't paying close attention to. They are also extremely protective of their young. That being said, this tropical paradise in the middle of Ubud has some stunning views and it is beyond entertaining to just be an observer of all the monkeying around. Bonus, its only about $3 USD to enter.
Pura Taman Saraswati Temple- Dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Saraswati this temple is free to visit. Located behind the Lotus Cafe, the entrance is host to a large lotus pond. As a tourist you are not permitted to enter the temple but its a gorgeous place for Balinese architecture, a photo op and to just stroll around. There are lots of temples around Ubud, this being the most popular. I recommend going early morning before the crowds.
These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg and there is definitely something to be said for showing up, exploring and finding magical spaces all your own. Ubud is a huge town with so much to see and do, finding the places that speak to you are what traveling to a new place is all about! Need more reasons to travel? Explore a yogi's viewpoint on why traveling is good for the soul here.
Ready to take the leap and join us on retreat in Ubud? Check out all the info for our upcoming Spring 2020 Bali Spirit Retreat.