Day One in Ubud, Bali
Our first day in Ubud, Bali, started as predicted. With yoga. I don’t think we did yoga a single time while in Japan, which is interesting in and of itself, but not terribly surprising sine we spent 9 days driving around Kyushu in a camper van and another two weeks at a workaway in Hokkaido where we tore down walls and revamped an old ski lodge. When we weren’t doing that, we were working on adding booking and payment options to their website. While it was all very fun and rewarding, it didn’t readily include yoga.
So we rolled out our dusty mats and pointed our laptops towards Gaia and settled in. We try to do yoga every morning. Just a 30 minute class followed up by ten minutes of abs. It’s easy to keep a habit going. It’s even easier to break a habit. But it felt so good to be there – on my mat, listening to a gentle voice telling me what to do, and simply doing it.
From there we went to our patio and chose what we wanted from a simple menu while the smiling Indonesian woman with painted on eyebrows waited patiently. Toast or pancakes. Your choice of eggs, Fresh fruit juice or fresh fruit slices. Coffee or tea. I imagine that by the end of 8 days in Ubud, I’ll have run out of desired combinations of this breakfast.
They brought it out a little later and we ate while listening to the sounds of a modern jungle – chickens, a blender, birds, a whisk on a metal bowl and about a million bugs talking to one another. Butterflies circle one another and we discussed the strange green globe fruit pulling down a tiny tree with its weight.
After breakfast we walked over beautifully broken sidewalks until we reached The Yoga Barn - a yoga studio that sounds much like what I’ve come to really hate about institutionalized yoga – a farm of yoga in which a barn of yogis sweat and fill the air with the odor of tee tree oil tinged with pretension. You know how the ingredient list of a great smelling perfume has things like the secretions of the anal gland of a muskrat? Taken alone the pretension would be unbearable, but if you mask it with calming music – like the gentle strumming of a guitar with which our teacher ended class – it becomes passable, and a little further bending it becomes even enjoyable.
I should mention here that I was reluctant to come to Bali. It seemed to me – after seeing enough digital nomad Instagram flotsam to choke a whale – to be a place whose culture and essence was completely erased and written over by westerners who can afford to fly thousands of miles to do something they could just as readily do in their living room for free.
But back to the walk. It was delightful to see all the inviting little stone archways ornate with carvings leading into stone statues of Ganesh draped with red and black checkered shawls, the waft of incense everywhere. An old man whose mouth looked like a collapsed star grinned at me when he saw me staring at him. He was carrying a woven tray loaded with tiny bamboo leaf squares delicately holding a spoon full of cooked and seasoned rice and was gingerly placing one at the stone toe of a statue of Ganesha. He then moved down the street and placed squares at the corners of the property and the stairs leading to a small shop selling wooden bowls. I wanted to get a photo of him and his tray, but it felt too intrusive and a sacrilege to document God's own private caterer, so I just stood there in the way of anybody else on the sidewalk. But nobody noticed me or even cared. When I left he was busy placing 4 of the squares in a diamond shape in the center of the sidewalk. We saw this over and over again throughout the day – amazingly decorated food offerings on bamboo squares that were so carefully built as to be mouth watering.
The yoga complex announced itself 100 meters before we arrived – all we had to do was to keep looking for western women in spandex sipping water from perspiring metal bottles. Once inside, there was a “yoga registration” sign pointing us to a desk behind which sat half a dozen Indonesian women in brown robes waiting to answer any questions. They pointed us in the direction of another desk past the café and down some stairs. But we were interrupted quickly by a gaggle of westerners (Australian by the sounds of it) cooing over a pile of kittens romping around. Who the hell needs yoga when you have kittens? I mean seriously.
I couldn’t win that argument, so after a few minutes of watching the cats play, we made our way to the studio and booked into a yin yoga class.
I may rip on the commercialization of yoga, and rightly so, but it’s really easy to put all of the trappings aside once I’m on my mat. The class was good. It felt so good to be in such a space after so long. It brought back to mind the yoga community we had adopted while in Minneapolis for so many years. Granted, these were a very diverse group of yogis hailing from all over the world. But enough about that.
We then walked towards a spot Jill had identified for spa treatments – one of the other reasons we made our way to Bali – but didn’t book in after looking at the menu. Instead we made the decision to eat lunch. Another reason we were looking forward to visiting Bali – the amazing amount of vegetarian and vegan food on offer. I think the statistic is that Bali is second only to San Francisco when it comes to the number of plant based restaurants. But instead of going to a vegan buffet, we opted to have some Mexican food. That isn’t really worth any amount of detail.
The day was incredibly full, but didn’t seem to be rushed or busy. Nothing really happens in Bali at a fast pace, but that’s common with cultures so close to the equator. Time seems to stop the closer you get, mainly because of the heat.
After lunch we went to explore another spa and tried to book there, but their electricity was out so we went to a nearby vegan gelato place and blissed out with that for a mere twenty heavenly minutes before heading to another yoga studio.
This class was totally different from any yoga class I’ve ever done. In fact, it wasn’t really yoga. It was a fascia release lesson that included rolling painfully on rubber balls roughly the size of tennis balls. After the first 5 minutes I knew that I wanted to buy a set myself. It took me about as long to write a sentence that didn’t say that I was interested in buying a pair of balls for myself. I think the tenderness of the areas we were massaging with the balls made me incapable of laughing at the number of times the instructor told us to “grab our balls”. Towards the end of class the mosquitos began to descend upon me, which made for an uncomfortable situation to be sure.
From there we had just enough time to do a little computer work back at the hotel, specifically adding images to our series on being in a camper van in Japan. We then headed back out into the dark and along the narrow broken sidewalks towards a vegan restaurant/movie combo where we ate too much food and saw a movie called "Freak Show". The food was good and inexpensive, which is to be a common theme for our days spent in Ubud, I’m sure. The movie was impressive as well, and I really encourage anybody to watch it. There were some impressive costumes involved for the boy who decides to run for homecoming queen in his small southern town.
After that there wasn’t much to divulge. We washed some undergarments and hung them out to dry on the rack on our patio. Shortly after that, one of guys who works at the hotel came by to tell us that we shouldn’t leave anything out on the patio at night because animals will come by and steal them. Without reading too much into his proclamation, we brought our things inside for the evening.