Well, that’s it… I am home! I have been home for two weeks and I am going back and forth between being so happy to be home and desperately yearning for lazy beach days and tropical fruit… it’s always the way I suppose. The rain doesn’t help but what does help is knowing summer is just around the corner and I have SO much stuff to to look forward to! In the meantime, I will attempt to keep this tan.
But let me tell you about Bali. Beautiful, magical, enchanting Bali. I forgot how magnificent that place is. I suppose last time I was there, I was 21 and all we did was try to out-party all the other backpackers on the block, so I didn’t appreciate it the same way I do now. It is pure magic and I am so happy I returned there. Bali is quite a large island in Indonesia, and it’s Hindu- the rest of the country (for the most part) is Muslim, so Bali’s got a totally different vibe. It’s one of those places where the culture is everywhere- you know you are in Bali. Beautiful temples everywhere and offerings of flowers and incense in front of every doorway, not to mention the friendliest, most genuine people on the planet. They are always happy to help you, happy to chat to you about life and religion and spirituality, happy to haggle to a (mostly) fair price when you are shopping, mostly just happy. I’ve encountered a culture or two in my day, and the Balinese take such pride in theirs and it’s so easy to be a part of it. Just a lovely place to spend a couple of months, if you haven’t been there, definitely put it on the list!
My first stop when I arrived was a small mountain town called Ubud. It’s where the woman from ‘Eat Pray Love’ went to find herself, and I don’t know what it was like before that book came out but there is an abundance of middle-aged women who have taken up residence there. It’s a lovely place, great yoga and tons of delicious healthy restaurants. There is a place called the Yoga Barn should you ever find yourself there, with amazing yoga classes and great teachers, a delicious cafe and they also offer retreats and accommodation. I had planned to just plant myself in Ubud for two months and just chill out and do yoga, but after a few days I was ready to make a move. Life lesson: don’t plan to stay somewhere before you even get there. Duh. Ubud is beautiful, there are tons of rice fields around and a waterfall, no beach nearby but the vibe is good and the pace is slow. It’s a good place to get comfortable. The vibe wasn’t completely what I expected though, I was anticipating a super chill hippie vibe, which you got a little bit, but it was mixed with a pretentious yogi vibe. There are lots of expensive, western-owned clothing and jewellery shops and the restaurants are some of the most expensive I encountered- still much cheaper than western fare but super expensive for Indonesia, although they have some seriously awesome places to eat. Another life lesson: don’t have any expectations. I feel like I know all this stuff already but I suppose I needed a reminder!
After Ubud, I spent two weeks in Canggu, which is a cute little surf community not too far down the beach from some of the more hectic and touristy areas of Bali- Kuta (young drunk people everywhere) and Seminyak (people on swankier holidays than me). Canggu was awesome. As soon as I had my toes in the sand it was like my soul gave a little sigh of contentment. I know I love the beach more than a normal person but I didn’t realize it could immediately and significantly increase my happiness levels like that! Powerful vibes, Mother Nature. Another life lesson: never live anywhere that is not near a body of water. I was staying at super cute little homestay with a big beautiful bed and a big beautiful bathroom and a little porch out front, our rooms got cleaned every day and they brought me a pretty motorbike to rent at the rate of $4 per day… you can barely take a bus for $4 in Canada! The bike was shiny and new which at first scared the crap out of me (what if I crashed it?!) but I soon found I am fairly savvy on a motorbike and the best way to learn how to drive it is to just get amongst it. Just get in the throngs of traffic and start honking and eventually you will learn the rules- mostly, that there are none but that it is fine and you will be okay. I did get pulled over by the police on my first day riding it (beginners luck!) and had to bribe them out of a much larger fine, but that is the norm there and I only paid them the equivalent of $15. Travel tip: you can bribe the police to give you a piece of paper saying you have an international drivers license (which is what they commonly pull over foreigners for not having) and then you won’t have to pay any more imaginary fines. Some Canadian friends I met
did that and saved themselves a ton of cash because they got pulled over on the regular. There were a few fellow awesome travellers at my homestay which was so nice and just made it so easy to laze the days away… the only thing about Canggu is that it is quite spread out, you definitely need a motorbike but it’s super fun. There’s a big expat community there as well, and there are lots of good places to eat and it’s not as touristy as the other busy spots in Bali. Nice beaches and I even tried to surf. I should really surf more often, with the amount of time I have spent in cool little surf towns, I would probably be one solid surfer if I had put more energy into it! I had to extend my visa to stay for another month, which meant I had to go to the immigration office not once, not twice, but three times, a bit of a hassle but I was happy hanging out in Canggu so it wasn’t really an issue. I was, however, afraid to drive my motorbike all the way to the immigration office in case I a) got lost (very likely) or b) got pulled over by the police again (also likely). Luckily I made a friend with a car and she was such a gem and drove me to deal with my visa stuff all three times! Perfect. My visa got extended and then I was ready to leave Canggu.
My heart still wanted to be at the beach but I wanted to be somewhere smaller and more chill where I could just relax, do yoga, and be healthy. I headed to Gili Air which is one of three small Gili islands not far from Bali and it was exactly what I had in mind. No paved roads, no motorized transport, just beach bars and restaurants lining the white sandy beach, a few horses and bicycles, and good vibes. They have a yoga and mediation centre there called H2O that I had the pleasure of volunteering at for a couple weeks which was perfect for my life and my bank account- free yoga and accommodation! Boom. I met some beautiful souls there and did exactly what I wanted to do- yoga every day (sometimes twice), got up with the sun and ran around the island almost every morning (it’s about 5 kilometres around the island), was off the booze and just spent my days hanging with new friends, reading, sunning, snorkelling (there is an unreal reef that runs along the side of the island so you can literally snorkel at any point in your day), drinking delicious fresh tropical juice, indulged in some happy mushroom shakes a couple times (there are no police on
this island which is fabulous because drugs can be punishable by death in indonesia), and just replenished and revitalized and reconnected with everything. My intention was to do some serious self work on this trip and I think I did pretty good- it’s easy enough to get stuck in a backpacker circuit where you just get drunk with new people every night, but it’s all quite superficial and you end up feeling like you need a holiday from your holiday cuz all you have been doing is partying! Been there, and I never would’ve thought I would see the day but I am (practically) over it! I love how healthy and awesome this adult Jaime is turning out to be! Since Gili Air is a small tropical island, you do have to be prepared for some things: regular power outages, to encounter trees absolutely crammed full of gigantic spiders, and for insane tropical storms to occasionally soak you to the core. As long as the spiders aren’t in your bed (or if they are that there is a nice boy to remove them for you), you’re in business. I spent three weeks in this tropical paradise and was sad to leave, but I know I will be back and I had a new adventure to embark on!
I headed back to the beautiful, spider-free and clean guesthouse in Canggu and a cool boy I met in Australia came to meet me. We spent a couple days there and then headed to an island called Nusa Lembongan- sooo beautiful in an entirely different way than any other part of Bali that I have seen. It’s a bit less developed and that is part of the charm. It has beautiful, white sandy beaches but they are all small and nestled in between massive, majestic cliffsides, so you can find amazing private spots and there are way less people! So much cool exploring to do there. The roads are a bit hectic, they are riddled with potholes and loose gravel and there wasn’t a helmet in sight, so driving seems to be a bit more challenging but it’s worth it- the views are outstanding and the sunsets were spectacular. You have your choice of beautiful resorts you can hang out at, order a drink and use the facilities all day, which we did nearly every day. When in Rome, right? There is also a cool little spot called the Yoga Shack with great yoga (we did one class where we were blindfolded the whole time- interesting experience), and the teacher is Canadian! Always nice to hear a Canadian accent on long travels.
We spent a night in Kuta after that, which I hope to never have to visit again. it’s a main tourist hub, close to the airport so it is kind of hard to avoid completely, and it just brings in the worst breed of people, mostly Australians (due to the close proximity of their country) who go there just to party and they are just everywhere being loud and obnoxious and drunk and annoying and you get hassled by everyone and offered drugs and every nightclub pumps the worst music you can even imagine. So. Not a very chill place to be, however, the shopping is great. Anyways, the boy left and then later that day another friend of mine from university happened to be arriving in Bali so we met up and had a super awesome catch-up, and then the next morning headed back up to Ubud for a day before we headed off to a silent retreat.
Being back in Ubud was SO AWESOME and being away and exploring other places in Bali made me appreciate how amazing it is so much more. Especially coming from Kuta, the energy in Ubud is just so different, so much more chill and peaceful. I was so happy to be back. We spent the day there and then got picked up in the morning to spend my last few days at the Bali Silent Retreat. Total and complete silence all day long. They have meditation twice a day, yoga twice a day, and the most amazing food on the PLANET. The grounds are gigantic and they grow pretty much everything there, so you wander amongst pineapples growing beside you, banana trees above you, and cauliflower and papayas and cucumbers and a plethora of other vegetables all around you, not to mention their herb garden where all the fresh herbs grow! They are actually famous for their food and the stuff the chef thinks of to make it just ridiculous. You eat what’s in season and what’s growing that week and they make every single thing in their kitchen, down to the (dairy free) milk. A cookbook is coming out soon and I think everyone should buy it. All of it was
vegetarian, lots of vegan stuff and raw food and fresh juices and the most amazing deserts… it’s difficult because every meal is a buffet and you want to try everything but you also don’t want to get fat. So. Picking and choosing is the name of the game. I wish I took pictures of the menu every day! This retreat is ongoing, so you can just book in for whenever you feel like going, and stay for as long as you want. There is no structure really, you can choose to go to yoga or meditation, or not, and the eating times are pretty open. The last silent
retreat I was at was quite structured, with a daily schedule and you were expected to do each activity (which included like seven hours of meditation every day), so this was not as difficult, you just couldn’t speak. Pretty peaceful. You were also allowed to read and write, which was awesome but also a bit of a distraction from your inner journey… But I read three awesome books and write a shit ton in my journal and learned a lot about myself. You would be surprised what comes up when you can’t speak! It was a really great way to end my trip, I would have loved to stay in Bali for longer, but alas, all good things usually come to an end and my bank account was calling to be replenished, so home I came, and here I am! Home, employed, happy. My intention is to put some time into writing (I am thinking articles for some online publications) and keep up this blog, so watch this space! To be updated soon.