Bali.. the land of spiritual awakening, yoga, and of course Eat, Pray, Love. And to be honest a bit overrated. But not totally overrated, just a little rated (please someone get this reference or I will look stupid.)
Indonesian food is dope. So good, I fell in love hard. They have perfected the art of variety with a dish called nasi campur or “mixed rice” (and the best part of nasi campur is that it costs about $1.50 which is even cheaper than my meals in Thailand). Around a scoop of rice, they served me five or six things, usually veggies, some meat, sate of some sort and eggs of some variation. In my family, variety is crucial at any meal. My mom has managed to completely destroy our kitchen on multiple occasions for the sake of “variety.” (Sorry Mom, love you!). And she is also the reason why I am never happy with just one thing for dinner and insist on sharing everything. Which I love because I get to try everything and rarely do I have ordering regrets….
But back to Bali, while the food was delicious, Bali definitely has a downside. There are so, so many tourists. And I know I was one of them, but still. I guess I’m not used to having so many foreigners around me in a seemingly rural area. While I met some people that I liked, so much of Bali is catered to tourists that I felt like I missed out on a lot of Balinese culture and real life.
However, my vacation was just at the right time and much needed. In Bali, I got to do all the things I love to do so I really shouldn’t be complaining (also I got to go to Bali so I shouldn’t be complaining anyways). I yogaed, horseback rode, surfed, scuba dived, ate all the food, and rode my motorbike around. All the things.
The first few days, I got my PADI advanced open water scuba certification with Nautilius Diving in Tulamben Bay. The certification was great because it was only me and my instructor so the course was very personalized and we moved quickly through the skills. During the course, I dove an old ship wreck, the USAT Liberty from World War II. The Japanese torpedoed the ship off the coast of Lombok where there was an attempt to recover it, and it ended up off of Tulamben. I loved diving the wreck. It challenged my abilities to stay buoyant and get as close to the wreck as possible. Coral and fish had taken the wreck over, making new homes in the nooks and crannies.
I saw four huge bomber head parrot fish, a monrey eel, and of course, I found Nemo. There were some beautiful corals and I did my deep dive (30 meters) near the bottom of the boat. We also completed a navigation dive and wall dive as part of the course. Instead of diving off of a boat, we were able to walk directly into the water, which I had never done before. I really liked being able to just walk in and out without dealing with a boat. Aka food was super accessible in between dives (very important, diving makes me a hungry monster). I am definitely no expert diver, but I have definitely found something that I really love to do and I can’t wait to continue the adventures throughout Asia as I continue to travel.
Bali also has a fascinating history and culture. While most of Indonesia is Muslim, Bali is 80% Hindu. However, it has deviated from traditional Hinduism to create a unique mix of Hinduism, animism, and a bit of Buddhism. When, I had a few hours to kill in Tulamben and walked around the area for a while and explored a few temples in the area. There are temples everywhere, in people’s homes, each neighborhood has one and a big one in the center of town. Everyday, people lay small offerings of flowers, incense, and rice outside to appease the gods and demons of Bali. They are in front of houses, business, on top of statues, steps, tables. It is hard to walk around without by accident squashing one. But it is ok because they are replaced the next morning. Making these little baskets of leaves takes a huge amount of time and effort everyday.
The temples are stunning in ways very different from the Thai Buddhist temples that I am used to. Buddhist temples are bright, colorful, and sparkly, almost garish at points. There are figures everywhere and other decorations abound. The Balinese hindu temples were not like this. Most were made of stone with beautiful carvings, but simple platforms for offerings.
The first temple I walked up to I was shocked to discover a swastika on the temple’s gates. Seeing a swastika on the temple’s gates was incredibly hard for me at first, but I had to remember that before the Nazi’s desecrated the symbol, it meant “good fortune” or “well-being” and is still used in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and eastern religions. While I will always have a negative gut-reaction to seeing a swastika, I know that it does not have the same meaning for the Balinese as it does for me and much of the western world.
After I got back from diving, I stayed in Canggu at the Canggu Beach Hostel. I rented a motorbike and drove around, exploring and seeing some of the tourist sites in Bali. Unfortunately, I went to Bali when the beaches weren’t nice at all. If anything, the beaches were actually pretty terrible. They were totally covered in trash and litter. I haven’t ever seen anything like it. I can imagine that it could be very beautiful because the sand is naturally black.
The one of the most famous temples in Bali is called Tanah Lot and is located on a rock in the ocean, which is only accessible during low tide. There were so many people around and a lot of vendors selling typical tourist souvenirs. People were even taking wedding photos in front of the temple. It was pretty stunning though. People were even taking wedding photos.
I also drove to Ubud, which has become a major tourist area for yoga and spirituality. I only spent time in the touristy area and only for the day, but I was definitely not a huge fan. (I did have really good nasi campur though). I chose not to go to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, which is the main tourist destination in Bali and holds more temples with monkeys scampering through them.
During my Bali vacation, I also found a ~fancy~ riding stable where I got to a take real lesson with an instructor. It was exactly what I needed. To my relief, my horseback riding abilities did not disappear after not really riding for six months and I can still find my distance to a jump and work a horse into a frame. I was very sore the next day, but I know I can get back into it with some commitment and ignoring complaining muscles. I was also to do my hippie thing and found a beautiful yoga space called The Practice. They have created a large bamboo dome that covers the practice area and it was beautiful to see the sunset and hear the waves as I practiced. I even go to surf on my last day. I can confirm that my shoulder muscles are pathetic and getting into the ocean was much hard then getting out. If anyone is going to Bali and wants a dope surfing instructor, I can hook you up. He was great! I love surfing though. I really need to move somewhere near the ocean.
Did I even go to Bali if I didn’t get a smoothie bowl? Don’t worry my friends, I let my inner basic bitch out long enough to enjoy a Nalu smoothie bowl. Not eating bananas really limited my choices, but #noregrets. TBH, it was probably my most expensive meal in Bali coming in at 60k IDR or about $5.
Then I was onto Hong Kong to join 13 other PiA fellows for a crazy New Years!