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Bali 2011

8 July 2011 4,900 views 8 Comments

Canggu/ Echo Beach
Ubud
surfing
yoga
festival
Flavours
Gallery

It’s 14/15 months since I was last in Bali but it felt like quite a different country to me. Perhaps I have more confidence travelling alone, maybe it’s because I had more time to relax & take more in or, it has changed a lot. Certainly the extent of development is quite incredible and unfortunately with that there are some really unpleasant side effects that have to be mentioned – the traffic is ridiculous, the rubbish is poorly managed and the construction is really unsightly, there’s a whole lotta rubble around! Still it IS a gorgeous country, instantly decompressing for the soul, utterly charming people, great weather, lots to see, do & photograph.
I saw a lot more of Bali this time and was really pleased to have done so, it really is a beautiful island and the different areas offer complementary experiences, sights, sites & tastes.

Canggu/ Echo Beach

I couldn’t tell where Echo Beach ended and Canggu began, or vice versa. It’s a bit like that all up and down the West coast of Bali. Canggu/ Echo Beach is soft, dark sand that mostly backs into dunes. The main commercial area consists of four restos/ bars, and a fistful of shops, it’s superb. The overall look is scruffy – there are piles of rubble, you access the beach by rough steps – and low key – the tables are mostly wooden benches & you’d be just as happy sitting on the beach wall. I didn’t think the surf looked that great but apparently it’s the break at the back that’s worth a shot.
In-land the scenery is open rice paddies and fields. There’s a fair bit of development happening here. I was staying at the very nice Echoland and there were maybe two other established hotels/ resorts but there’s heaps on the way. So there’s really not much to Canggu/ Echo Beach, which is superb if you like a bit of isolation.
There’s only one road to get here and as you take it out from Canggu/ Echo Beach you pass the only local alternatives to what’s on the beachfront: Deus Ex Machina – loved by tourists for its familiar name and Western services, looked down on by locals for its pretentiousness, and Lemongrass – a fairly upmarket Thai restaurant that does delicious food, has great service but somewhat lacks in atmosphere if it’s a quiet night. So, read between the lines people, if it’s action & entertainment you’re looking for you’ll either need to stay somewhere else or cop it in taxi fares.

Padang Padang

Over breakfast at Echoland one morning it turned out a few of us wanted to do the same thing, so we pooled resources and headed South to Padang Padang. The beach which is accessed by steps going through a rock which is totally cool. There’s very little there, a couple of warungs and a couple of lifeguards. There’s decent surf to the North that closes out on a reef, and to the South is Ulu Watu. We surfed, hung out, nibbled noodles & pineapple and, to be honest, I stared at the hot guys in little boardies.

Ulu Watu

Literally round the corner from Padang Padang is Ulu Watu. It’s an amazing little place: you have to descend a cliff via steep stone steps, some rock hopping and a couple of make shift bridges and at the bottom you walk right through the rock. At high tide you go straight into the surf and at low tide you hit the beach & rockpools. We were there at low tide, the rock pools all pretty & sparkly, the sun starting to set and you can see the surf – the huge Ulu Watu wave – from the comfort of your lichen-ised rocks. The cliff has heaps of warungs, souvenir stalls and ding doctors along the way so we had beers at the very top which again afforded an excellent, sunset view.

Double Six

Last time I was in Bali I spent most of my time in Double Six, it really suited me. I only popped here once on this visit. Had a good walk down from Canggu/ Echo Beach and had lunch at Zanzibar, the utterly average place that I’d been to a lot before. Was fun.
Double Six seemed a lot busier to me. Not sure if it’s the time of year or whether it has got more populated, more resorts in the last 12+ months.

Seminyak

I was nearly going to write a heap of bad things about Seminyak. The truth is it just didn’t suit me – too much focus on resorts and gourmet delis – but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. So, Seminyak – if you like home away from home, this is your spot. I was staying at Villa Bunga which was fine, nothing flash, a sweet pool and garden area. Actually I suppose I had my own resort thing happening except I bought my beers from the mini mart own the road and my salads were just over a dollar!

The Seminyak shopping area and restaurants all looked pretty good – pricey – but good. And the resorts did look amazing. After a run one evening I needed to get from the beach back to the street and ended up skipping through the Potato Club. Makes the Pool Bar look like a kiddies splash party, it was incredible.

Ubud

Going North and in land from the beaches, Ubud is towards the volcano and mountain area of the island. It takes about ninety minutes to drive here from Legian, depending on traffic, but it feels a whole world away from the beaches. It’s a small small town with a one-way ring road connecting all the main points of interest: Monkey Forest, the temples and the markets. I didn’t actually visit any of these sights because the rest of Ubud has so much character it kept me completely occupied & satisfied. The side streets are really interesting & pretty to wander around; the buildings are behind carved, decorated stone walls, and there are frangipanis & incense-burning offerings all around. Lots of the shops and cafes are very cute, and the place I was staying, Dewa Bungalows, was really welcoming.
I liked Ubud straight away so got settled in pretty quickly, renting a bike and familiarising myself with the town. The Yoga Barn was my second home and Bali Buddha was my second breakfast stop!! It’s a beautiful place to hang out: the sunrises & sunsets across the volcano panorama are pretty, there’s often the sound of chanting & Balinese music, it’s really floral everywhere – which just makes you smile, and there’s a good salsa party every night :)
One day I went further afield on my bike to Sayan. It was a great bike ride through other little village areas and countryside. There’s a river & valley out here and I had thought it would be really remote but there are a few large resorts, some beautifully extravagant looking resorts actually. I headed down to walk by the river and after refusing one guide my will power was low so I said ‘yes’ to the second. It worked out really well because he took me on trails and through fields and along the riverbank where I wouldn’t have ventured. We walked through rice fields and along the edge of the aqueduct, and saw mimosa, papaya & mango trees, and chilli plants. We ended up wading through the river – and mucking around in the current – back to where we’d started. The river is more than waist high so the poor dude got more education than he wanted on the M&S seamless range!! It was an fun afternoon.

festival

The joke amongst visitors is that at any point the whole of Bali might stop for a festival. It happened to me: “Can I book a bus to Legian please?” “No buses leaving tomorrow, is festival on whole island.” Righty o. Despite asking – people and Google – I couldn’t find out what the festival was for, but there were a lot of chickens in big bamboo cages so I wondered if it was to do with, erm, chickens. All around Ubud people were erecting homemade lamp posts with hanging decorations of dried banana leaves & flowers, they were impressive, and such a lot of effort going in to making them.

Sport

surfing

When we went to Padang Padang it was my first chance to surf. Claudia and Miriam used the boards first and when it was my turn the tide had gone out a lot meaning the surf was a bit tricky. Plus I was suitably nervous about my ‘skills’ and it was my first reef break. So Leo – Brazilian surf dude – and I agreed we’d have a much better time if we just pounded out to the back and got a good look at Ulu Watu from the water. The paddling was awesome (challenging) and it’s the biggest swell I’ve ever hung out on. When the waves were breaking in front of us the spray off the back was so powerful, solid, like underneath a hose.
Ulu Watu was incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it and I can’t imagine being on a board any closer to it! We watched barrel after barrel come in, so so so much water, it was amazing. Once I was saturated with awe it was time to paddle back in which, frankly, was bloody hard work against the current. Worth it though. Without a doubt my favourite surf experience ever.
When I returned to the beaches after being in Ubud I planned to surf more. Unfortunately there was nothing working where I was (Seminyak and around) so I settled for a cracking ocean swim instead.

salsa

Club Havana in Ubud has live Latin music every night. I saw two different bands and they were both fantastic, playing salsa and bachata, some really familiar tunes and some less so. All of the wait staff could dance, and they were amongst the best there. I danced with four different guys, just once, but each dance was excellent. Stand-out was a very slow salsa with a smokin’ Balinese waitor, I enjoyed that :)

running

I took the Vibrams for their first ever full sand run. It was A LOT of fun so much so that I ran twice as long as I had intended. I took the beach North from Echo Beach, i.e. further out from the tourist areas and it was sunset, so it was all kids playing football, locals fishing, people walking. I got lots of “hellos”, and a couple of high-fives.
The running was awesome: some firm, some soft sand, splashing through little channels, going through slimy rock pools and over a few piles of boulders. The Vibrams were made for this. If shoes could smile, these were grinning. I added a little loop on the end to run across the coral rock at Echo Beach. It was cool: the sun was properly low now, there were crabs everywhere, the gungies were popping and the coral was cracking underfoot (sorry, but I was definitely not first on there).

bike riding

I rented a bike for the duration of my stay in Ubud which was great because I’d had enough of taxis by now. Plus I like bombing around towns rather than wandering around them (basically, skipping the bits I don’t like!). Oh yeah, and I love bike riding :)
The bike ride out to Sayan, outside of Ubud, was a real highlight. As I got further out of Ubud the countryside was so very pretty and the villages were lovely. The bike riding itself was steady, challenging mostly because of the rusty chain and pedal stem! Reminded me of the bikes we had to go around Ankgor Wat.

yoga

At Echoland I had a couple of beautiful morning practices, up on the rooftop terrace, overlooking the rice paddies, with the sound of the ocean. It was a great way to start the day. I also had one (very) late night practice by the pool which was cool and very calming. I was glad to be getting back into some regular practice because in the last month at home I’d slipped with all the partying :)
However, when I got to Ubud yoga got a whole different focus. Ubud is quite focused on the spiritual, well-being side of life so I was already getting the vibe… I checked out the Yoga Barn within my first few hours and did a class there a matter of minutes after that. It was an incredible experience, a real pin-in-the-map of my yoga journey.
I don’t think the studio is like a barn, more like a treehouse. It’s upstairs, with two open sides and full views over rice fields & pretty jungle foliage. The class was Vinyasa and the teacher was light, fun, charming & she played some cool tunes. I found the practice very emotional, I had a real sense of gratitude. A lot of that came from the emotion the teacher was putting in but also the setting and my whole spirit & intention at the time.
I came back for a lot more…
A morning Hatha session that was an absolute revelation to me. Again the teacher was exceptional, she had an incredible voice, charged with emotion. We practised slowly, slowly, doing the same salutation over and over, it was calm, peaceful and connecting. And later that day I came for the same Vinyasa class as the day before. It was just as good and with some different asanas.
The next day I came for the sunrise session. The studio space was a different experience in the cool, morning air with the sun touching us as it came up, it was an outstanding start to the day. The teacher was Balinese and so light, cheerful and encouraging. The practice was gentle but empowering too. I attempted head stand for the first proper time and was pretty happy with my progress, I gotta keep on to that one. I hung around at the Barn after the session, sat on the verandah and had some breakfast. They have a brilliant menu – all vegan/ vegetarian, lots of raw and ayurvedic options – I had raw pineapple & date granola with cashew milk, superb.
On my last day in Ubud I came for another early morning practice. This was Hatha & Pranayama, I was happy doing whatever now! Again the space alone was impactful. This teacher was American and she put a lot of focus on internalising meditation, breathing pace and ‘global’ relaxation. The time absolutely flew by, I didn’t want it to end. During the practice a butterfly came and rested on my arm, that pretty much captures the perfection of that morning.

When I went back to the beaches I was surprised how much I brought with me from the classes I’d been to. My practice changed quite a bit. Most notably I was preferring a slow, internal, meditative practice. There was a Bikram studio near where I was staying in Seminyak but I turned it down for a more personal session on the beach. Which wasn’t without it’s funny moments as I unwittingly positioned myself in Bali’s gay area. We all gave each other something to look at…

Flavours

I managed to branch out from the beachside Nasi Goreng this time :) Not too far though, I had exactly the same dish, at the same beachfront resto in Canggu/ Echo Beach, twice, but that’s because it was so very good. Bar-b-cued fish in banana leaves with salads, red rice and side sauces. It was fresh & delicious and Bintang-perfect.

salads

Before I left Manly, Kate got me quietly addicted to peanut sauce. Which was great timing given Bali is the home of the Gado Gado salad. I had this at swanky Lemongrass and also pool-side at my hotel in Seminyak. Both were excellent and came with gallons of the beautiful sauce.
At Juice Ja Cafe in Ubud I had a perfect papaya salad – really fresh and chilli-hot. They nailed it.
The side dishes to the bbq fish were excellent, again fresh and chilli. One was water spinach (I think… hard to identify all the different Asian green veg by candle light!), the other was mixed but included bean sprouts & more green veg. They were crunchy, tasty, and Bintang-perfect donchyaknow.

international

I know it’s odd to laud international cuisine but… I had the best Indian food for many years in Ubud. Beautiful samosas – baked not fried so the pastry was absolutely light and fluffy, saag paneer that was creamy & flavoursome and spot on aloo gobi.
In Ubud I also visited the Bali Buddha nearly everyday because they had such good bread & baked goods – wholemeal, sourdough & more, and their orange cake was sticky, sweet heaven.

thank you

I was so glad that I decide to include Bali on my travels; I was glad within moments of having landed. I must say a big thank you to both Jose and Anthony who encouraged me to see more of the island, good guidance by those dudes, love your work.
My stay was really well balanced – beach, hills, different accommodations & activities. I loved Bali before, I don’t think I even realised how much, and I love it more now. I’m not sure when, but I hope to be back.

x yogaluce

Gallery









see the volcano in the distance










8 Comments »

  • Jose said:

    Good Trip LJ! Im jealous! it’s pretty hard to have a bad time in Bali ehh??

  • lucyjjames (author) said:

    thanks Jose :)
    yeah, it’s an easy place to be. love it.

  • lucyjjames » Blog Archive » Diary: Nuglar, Switzerland said:

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  • lucyjjames » Blog Archive » South Thailand Islands said:

    […] at some point today. Brilliant. And the hotel, what a place. Sabai Bungalows. Bit like the Yoga Barn on Bali, I’d say these were more treehouses than bungalows but it doesn’t matter. Located […]

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  • lucyjjames » Blog Archive » SOSA (16/200): good to be started said:

    […] weeks, six out of seven days I’ll be at the Yoga Barn (yup, same one as I came to in July last year) which is an absolute dream because it’s such a wonderful place. The studio is next to a pond […]

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