A Bali C

I managed to make it to Saigon, despite having problems with entry both in Singapore and in Ho Chi Minh; I was ready to buy a ticket back to Bali and skip Vietnam altogether! Some reminiscing of the Island of Gods follows (pictures still lacking due to probably the worst internet connection so far!)

Atmosphere: Smiles, flowers and offerings for Gods, everything is in harmony, even the chaotic traffic. No matter where you are, the Balinese are going about their daily rituals with a smile on their face.

Bikinis: No need to explain. You could probably survive only with bikinis, shorts and flip-flops. Yeah okay Buddhism too.

Canggu: Not a surprise, this one. I spent over a month in this upcoming hipster village, where life seems to stand still and days float by even if you just lied by the pool and listened to music in between surfs.

Diving: I overcome my doubts regarding breathing underwater. Bali hosts some amazing diving spots, and I will definitely return for more!

Environment: aka nature. Various yet always beautiful.

Fruits: Fruits are aplenty in Bali. Now in season are bananas, papaya, different sorts of mangos, mangosteen, snakefruit and jackfruit, just to name a few. You can also find guava, oranges and imported apples at the supermarket. My favorites are definitely papaya and mango, but I also like mangosteen and jackfruit a lot. I did have durian once, but I was a bit disappointed with the small amount I got for my money.

Gado Gado: Both hot and cold, sweet and savory, gado gado is one of my favorite Indonesian dishes. “Mix Mix” is often variable, but includes different steamed or blanched veggies like spinach, cabbage, carrots and beans. The mix also always has fried tempeh and/or fried tofu, and sometimes a boiled egg. It is served with rice and krupuk crackers if you’re lucky. What makes gado gado special is the peanut sauce that identifies the dish. I found instructions to make the sauce, maybe I’ll give it a go at home, since it is just so fulfilling with the light veggies.

Gado gado sauce, easy to make raw version too! 1 cup of peanut butter (or crushed peanuts), 1 tbsp grated ginger, 1 tbsp minced garlic, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 3 tbsp soy sauce. Add crushed red pepper and salt to taste. Mix with 1 1/2 cups hot water and devour!

Heat: Yep, it is hot. I notice it the most when going into a shop/car that has AC and then coming out. Phew! Some days the heat really hits, but when combined with a mild breeze, it is lovely. I have not needed my long sleeved shirts at all. It most definitely doesn’t feel like Christmas is coming.

Islands: Bali is the island of gods, and it is surrounded by lots of other islands. The most popular tourist destinations are Nusa Lembongan, Lombok and the Gili’s that belong to Lombok: Meno, Trawangan and Air.

Jalan: Street. Most of them not pedestrian-friendly, and are definitely not designed for handicapped. Watch where you step and you’ll be fine.

Kuta: Party hell. You can find most tourist stuff here, and some enjoy it. I preferred a quick visit once or twice just to realize how well off I was at the tranquil hoods.

Light: The sun comes up around 5.30 and and goes down around 6.30. Solid amount of sunlight every day works like magic for me. Even if I haven’t had enough sleep, I wake up with more energy.

Massages: Everywhere. Cheap. I wanted to get pampered at least once a week, but ended up getting only like 4 massages in 2 months. I’ll regret that later! From foot reflexology to Balinese and Tai massage, you can easily get your stress washed away or just get a deep relax for 1.5 hrs.

Names: I recently discovered why everyone is called Wayan, Nyoman, Ketut or Made. People are named by their order of birth, so kid #1 is Wayan, kid #2 Nyoman etc. Kid #5 id again Wayan. There are some extra names too, and the 1st girl is called “Ilo”, coincidentally “joy” in Finnish!

Other travellers: Though I did meet some lovely local people, I spent most of my time with fellow backpackers. And what a wonderful group of people did I meet and share experiences with! Mostly from Australia, but other countries too, some surfers, some not. Great talks, great trips, great surfs and lots of good new music for me.

Paradise: May it be a beach, a mountaintop, the rice fields, a jungle or a village, unless your idea of paradise includes snow, changes are Bali has it.

Quality of life: Simple things matter. People wake up at 5 am to cook, make offerings, and to go about their day. No one complains, they enjoy the simple things and take the day as it comes.

Raw food: The raw food/organic restaurants put emphasis on local, organic ingredients that have grown in rich soil. Of course in this climate and environment it is easier to grow produce than, say, in Finland, but I wish we had more of this kinds of places back home! Week or a month is nearly not enough to taste all that just Ubud has to offer.

Sun, sea, surf: All of it. Loving it.

Traffic/taxi: Crazy. Both of em. There is a logic of driving the left side of the road, but then again you can do whatever maneuvers you want as long as you don’t hit anybody. Not nearly all death-defying scooter drivers wear helmets, and some scooters have as many as 4 or 5 people on them. Insane.

The “taxi” refers to the lack of public transportation. If you’re brave enough to drive a scooter, you’re fine. If not, you’ll hear “taxi, taxi” yells at least every 2 minutes in Ubud. I do prefer walking, but sometimes the distances are just too long. Then it’s the matter or bartering the right price. Oh, my.

Ubud: Inland village/town in the center of Bali, Ubud has become the hotspot for tourists looking for the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ experience. Surrounded by rice fields, filled with raw foods cafes and yoga centers, Ubud is truly to place to seek for enlightenment and to relax. The town is very western, so don’t expect to see the “real Bali” here. Lots of massages and other pampering ¬†available besides superb food.

Warung: Local food, cheap. Pick and mix your favorites. Delightful amount of veggies.

Yoga: Pretty much Finland-prices, I was a bit shocked how big thing yoga is. I went to a few classes, but could’v done way more if it had been more reasonably priced. Yoga retreats are aplenty with wealthy wallets.

Missing a few but that’s life.

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Ubud

Ubud is also known as Bali’s home to culture, good (read: health) food, yoga and spiritualism. This village in the middle of Bali attracts those interested in “the journey to self”, exquisite retreats, and/or wood carvings.

The village consists of mainly 3 main roads, two of which are parallel to each other: Monkey Forest Road (at the end of which surprisingly is the famous Monkey Forest), Jl. Hanoman which has few of the healthy organic restaurants also serving raw food from local ingredients, and the actual Main Road which is perpendicular to the first mentioned two. Ubud centre can easily be walked, but it can be a bit frustrating since you hear “taxi taxi” offers approximately every 2 minutes – as if it was wrong to use you own feet instead of a scooter for moving around.

If you don’t do yoga and are not that much into the organic food scene, what to do? Go to the Ubud Market, which has looooads of stalls selling basically the same souvenir stuff. After visiting the Monkey Forest and taking a walk in the famous rice fields, there is not that much anything special besides massages and other pampering.

Rice fields surrounding Ubud
Rice fields surrounding Ubud

 

To the point aka Food issues:
Alchemy. A bit away from the main road (scooter ride away, to be exact), Alchemy has probably the best salad I’ve ever had. Plenty of juices, elixirs, smoothies and raw treats to choose from, this chill out place is perfect for a remote workday, if you happen to be in the need for that.

Alchemy menu
Alchemy menu
Choose your own salad toppings from many awesome and innovative options.
Choose your own salad toppings from many awesome and innovative options.

Clear Cafe. Convenient location in the north end of Jl. Hanuman, this restaurants has lots of international cooked and raw dishes from organic and local products. Also a variety of raw dishes , vast range of elixirs, juices, smoothies and whatnot. Right next to the restaurant is Clear Express selling raw snacks, some cookies, infused coconut water and sweet treats.

Down to Earth. Also spots in other parts of Bali, DTE includes an organic store, cafe, movie theater and a restaurant. Same thing – elixirs, tonics, raw cakes and a menu of organic food. Good mediterranean platter, small salad.

Mediterranean plate with buckwheat flatbread and quinoa curry in Down to Earth.
Mediterranean plate with buckwheat flatbread and quinoa curry in Down to Earth.

Kafe. Same owner than the famous Yoga Barn, Kafe is also located on Jl. Hanuman. Not so much highlighting the raw trend, but Kafe also has juices and such. A bit more pricey than the others, and the main course salad looked more like an appetizer to me.

Plant Food Lab. Near Monkey Forest, this place is a chillout spot or good for remote working. Not really a restaurants, but has small dishes like raw burger, wrap etc. And of course the sweets.

Raw burger, watermelon juice and the rice field.
Raw burger, watermelon juice and the rice field.

Seeds of Life. Menu- and price-wise my favorite. All dishes under 70K (rare!), changing daily specials, simple menu but interesting. Offers tonics with herbs and mushrooms, and a variety of high quality teas. Of course raw desserts too…located a bit off on a side street, but still in the city center. I wish to go there on a Wednesday, when daily specials are Korean.

Honorable mention: Kokolato ice cream. Interesting flavors including Moringa mint chip, strawberry chili, raw chocolate maca and black rice pudding. All natural ice cream made from coconuts.

My kind of ice cream.
My kind of ice cream.

Aforementioned Yoga Barn also has a restaurant, but I only enjoyed their pre-movie buffet dinner so I don’t know what the menu includes. I would assume it’s similar to Kafe’s.

 

Am I forgetting some essential place?