Although my trip here in Bali is primarily aimed at completing this six week yoga teacher training course, I have found that I have a hard time not living a completely indulgent life. Of course the schedule is quite busy and rigorous during the week, with a very physical first three and a half hours of the day and a very studious four hours following that, but outside of those times Jason and I (along with the other people in the yoga training group from ALL over the world which is really fabulous) spend our time eating, shopping, hiking, and relaxing our way through Ubud.
Ill start by telling you a little more about the amazing restaurants and food around Santra Putra and in town. Traditional Indonesian cuisine is similar to Thai but with a sweeter rather than spicy twist on things, and this is obviously what most of the restaurants here serve. Some of the typical dishes are “Gado-Gado,” “Nasi Goreng,” and “Nasi Campur”. “Gado-Gado” is a vegetarian dish that comes with sauteed vegetables, tempe, and tofu, along with two boiled eggs, steamed white rice, and peanut sauce. It is one of the most popular dishes that is ordered standard as vegetarian. I feel that it can be a bit bland and heavy on the oils, however, so I tend towards other choices. “Nasi Goreng” translates to fried rice, but is a lot better then the standard, panda-express fried rice you get in the US. It has a variety of sauteed local vegetables mixed with either white, brown, or red rice in a healthy portion. You can order it with chicken, prawns, fish, or tofu depending where you eat. One of our favorite restaurants right up the path (Yellow Flower) serves an AMAZING Nasi Goreng and it has roasted banana in it with peanuts and red rice and its just delicious. Jason and I usually split a portion because they are huge and it’s only 35,000 rp ($3.80 USD). “Nasi Campur” (Pronounced Champ-oor) is definitely the most popular dish in Indonesia. It is a mixture of 7 different dishes depending on what is fresh daily. It usually includes rice, some vegetables, boiled eggs, a nut of some sort, maybe something sweet, and a soup. It really depends on where you go, but it’s usually always good. Indonesian is also typically a more vegetarian cuisine. You can definitely get chicken, fish or prawns in these dishes, but they are more expensive and I don’t particularly find them to be of great quality in the cheap Indo’ warungs (“warung” = restaurant). I don’t mind though, because I am trying to stick to a somewhat “yoga” diet which is typically totally vegetarian, and I enjoy tempe and tofu. They also use a lot of oil in what they cook. Most dishes with vegetables are sauteed in oil, although I’m not sure what type, probably peanut or coconut mixed with something cheap. Our favorite cheap Indonesian restaurants are the ones that are within a 5 minute walk: Made’s Warung, Lala & Lili’s, and Yellow Flower. Made’s usually costs us about 60,000 rp (for both of us), Lala’s about 75,000 rp, and Yellow Flower around 100,000 rp, so it really depends on what we want to spend or what kind of atmosphere we want. Yellow Flower is by far the best of these, and is tucked into this little bungalow off the main path with cozy beanbags and floor cushions to sit on. It also has free wifi, so we like to go there with a group of us during the week and settle down and be mellow. Oh and I haven’t even mentioned the BEST part of Indonesian (or Balinese) cuisine, the classic drink: a coconut. You just ask for a coconut, they get one, cut it open, put a straw in it, and you drink the coconut water!! Trophy wives in Rancho Santa Fe would die for this stuff. But really, its delicious, super healthy, only costs about $1 USD, and Jason and I can split one and it has TONS of water in it. Also, I always go for the cooked dishes at these places because they are less expensive and probably don’t wash their vegetables in the filtered water, so I figure its better safe than sorry.
Picture of our $8 dinner at Lala & Lili’s
The next of our favorite restaurants in Ubud is the little healthy/organic cafes that you can find all over. A few of the best are called “Bali Buddha,” “Sari Organic,” and “Kafe” (like cafe, just spelled wrong, typical here). Bali Buddha is on the other end of town but well worth the drive, and by drive I mean it takes about 5 minutes on a motorbike. Downstairs there is a little organic shop that sells all sorts of things from health products like natural bug sprays and soap to organic food and snacks. We always buy the granola which is to DIE for and super fresh and delicious. They also have the most fantastic pastries like chocolate mousse cake and raw chocolate cake and croissants, etc, etc… but I am trying to stay away from those for now. The restaurant is upstairs and has an amazing and healthy menu. They have a full juice bar menu with descriptions like “blood cleanser” and “healthy woman drink” and are mixtures of fresh blended fruit and vegetable juices. The menu has salads, pastas, soups, pizzas, and main course entrees. We love the garden salad which is just whatever is fresh from their organic garden thrown into a salad bowl the size of a bathtub (but really, its huge). They serve it with a tray of 6 dressings to choose from like pesto, blueberry vinegar, and house vinaigrette. Our other favorite thing, which is essentially why we come here, is the cap thay (pronounced “chap”) pizza. It seriously may be the best pizza I have ever had (sorry Tim, it beats Pizza Port). Its is a super thin, crispy crust with really fresh tomato sauce, sprinkled mozzarella and fresh vegetables. It is SO good. We couldn’t believe that the best pizza we have had is in BALI! And I figure if were going to eat pizza, it may as well be at a “healthy/organic” place. “Sari Organic” is this beautiful little restaurant tucked back in the rice paddies up the ridge. It is a bit of a hike (probably about a 1.5 miles from our place) but it is an amazingly beautiful walk. When you get there the restaurant overlooks a whole valley of rice terraces that are super green and just gorgeous. You can usually see the storm coming in over the mountains to the north (it storms here pretty much every night) and the clouds fill the valley. The food is really all amazing. Everything I have had has been delicious and fresh. They also use fresh greens and vegetables from their organic farm just on the other side of the path from the restaurant. The desserts there are all homemade, usually from raw chocolate. We had a mango lassie there that was just heaven as well. “Kafe” is probably the most popular little organic/health nut place in Ubud. It is ALWAYS packed, especially at lunch and on weekends. It is a bit more pricey (and by pricey I mean maybe around 120-150,000 rp for Jason and I which is around $13-16 USD) but they have a huge selection of items and also have a large juice bar. We have only been there once so far, but got this delicious lentil soup and the daily special which was about a 6 oz. piece of grilled Mahi Mahi served over couscous and steamed vegetables with salsa. It was INCREDIBLE. We will definitely be going back there soon. The good thing about all these places is that it is safe to eat raw food and salads here because they all wash their food in filtered water.
Delicious pumpkin soup and garden salad from Bali Buddha
The last category of restaurants is the more upscale, western type of restaurant. We haven’t been to many of these, but they all look beautiful and have huge menus with tons of selection and food types. Some of the most popular ones are “Cinta,” “Clear,” “Nomad,” “Terazo,” “Mosaic,” and “Indus”. There are tons more, but it’s not really in our budget to go to many of these. We went to “Cinta” last weekend for a cocktail (yes, I got roped into getting a mojito) with all these people in the yoga program. They had a 2 for 1 happy hour on mojitos which was pretty good. A mojito is usually 65,000 rp, or $7 USD, and entrees ranged from 70-120,000 rp, or $8-14 USD. Terazo and Mosaic are even steeper then this at about 150-200,000 rp an entree, which is more similar to US prices for a fancy dinner out. I know this probably sounds crazy that I am calling $12 expensive, but for Bali standards it is. We will probably go to dinner maybe a couple times total in our 6 weeks here at some of these places, but its just not worth it to spend over twice as much at these places all the time when we can get just as good food for less somewhere else. I guess you just have to be comfortable with going outside the standard “western” looking restaurant, and then your golden. So overall, the food in Bali is by any means outstanding and definitely dirt cheap; and, you wont have to worry about us starving here anytime soon.
The view from Sari Organik
The next part of indulging in Bali is the body treatments. This can be anything from reflexology (foot) treatments, hair treatments, body wraps, and lurlur scrubs to the most popular of all… massages. Day spas are very popular in Bali, and it is easy to find really great massages for SUPER cheap. It has sort of become a game with the people in the yoga group to find where the best massage is done, and being sore and exhausted from our classes is a great excuse to go get one. I went to a day spa called “eve” which is right down the road and got a 60 minute traditional Balinese massage for 93,000 rp (about $10 USD). I cannot believe that you can get an hour massage for that much! I almost feel like I am stealing from them after paying the typical $85 for 50 minutes in San Diego. The massage is done with some sort of local oil (probably coconut), and at some places you can choose your scent or bring your own. The balinese massage is very….. naked. You pretty much strip down and lay on the table face down with nothing over you until they cover a tiny part of your beehind with a sarong. Balinese just aren’t shy or ashamed of their bodies, so they simply don’t care about seeing you naked. Also, the Balinese women here are EXTREMELY strong. They probably get this from doing all the work all day while the men sit on their asses or driving people around in Taxis. They definitely do some deep tissue work and tend to work mostly your back and then a little on the rest of you. BUT…. when you turn over (women) there is no hiding your breasts, and they get all up around there to work out the chest muscles. I can see how people would be uncomfortable with this, but once again, Balinese simply don’t care. I have another massage scheduled this week at a place called “Cantika” (pronounced chan-teek-a) with a woman named Iyo who I have been told is the best around. I am excited too because it is also on the cheap side at 100,000 rp. Essentially, massages range from 50,000-300,000 rp, it just depends on how fussy you are about the westernization of where you go and how beautiful the spa is. The cheap spas are typically not gorgeous but they still do a wonderful job, and the more expensive spas are more western style and fancy-schmancy. I’ll probably try some spa packages in the future with body wraps, scrubs, or something like that, depending on the funds of course.
Pool at Gerebig overlooking rice paddies and bungalows
The last thing I will go into here (because shopping is in a whole category of its own…) is the simple activity of doing nothing. I feel more Italian than Balinese in the fact that we have pretty much perfected that art here. It is so nice just being able to relax and take a nap when we want or go to a pool (granted its sunny and not raining) or just sit and look at the beautiful landscape that surrounds us. Last weekend Saturday was a beautifully sunny day, so what did we do? Well first, after pranayama, meditation, asana practice and breakfast of course, I took a 1.5 hour nap, then got up and Jason and I made our way to the pool at another local group of bungalows called “Gerebig” where some of the other yoga students are staying. There, they have an amazing pool that is in the middle of a rice paddy surrounded by traditional balinese style bungalows. We met up with a few people, and just laid around the pool and relaxed for a couple more hours (Jason made sure to take down a few Bintang’s too…). Then we were trying to decide whether to go get a massage or go home when hunger got the best of us and we made our way back to Santra Putra. There we made a snack of yogurt and granola (the delicious kind from Bali Buddha) followed by a freshly cracked coconut that Made provided us with for only 8,000 rp. After this we just sort of laid around and rested, then got ready for the cocktail/dinner date with all our friends at Cinta that night. At that point it started pouring, but we just threw on the ponchos and zipped over there on the motorbike. Our night consisted of mojitos and appetizers along with good conversation at Cinta, and then dinner at Cafe Wayan across the street with the whole group. At about 9 we got pretty tired and made our way home, feeling like we really went wild on our big night out, spending about 130,000 rp each (oh wait, thats only $15 bucks…. I guess we didn’t spend that much? 😉 ). We were in bed by 9:45, falling to sleep with the sounds of the torrential thunderstorm going on around us.
So this is the typical life we live here in Bali, trying to decide between whether to take a nap, or get a massage, or maybe go shopping in Ubud… it just depends on the weather and how energetic we’re feeling. Yes, it feels extremely indulgent at times, but it is really nice to calm down from the overly stimulating and over-worked american lifestyle that tells us we have to go-go-go all the time. If I have learned anything so far on this trip, it’s that you really have to listen to your body and respond to what it is telling you. If you are completely exhausted and are struggling to even walk up the stairs, it’s probably not a good idea to go on a five mile run. If you are feeling really energetic and awake, then do an extra hour of asana practice. It’s not about pushing yourself past the point of exhaustion so you feel like you deserve things all the time, it’s about knowing that you deserve things no matter what and keeping the balance in your life. I’ve definitely felt more balanced in my moods and energy level since I have been here, and I hope to bring this mentality back to San Diego and share it with everyone around me.