Whenever traveling, especially to a new country, I like to think of it as plugging into someone else's playlist; I want to see and feel what they got, what makes them move, how they connect with one another, and what the vibe and energy is like.
Rich with beautiful landscapes and temples, Bali definitely has its own rhythm. From sunrise to sunset, offerings and prayers happen daily, the Hindu culture permeates every aspect of life here. Each morning the women place offerings which litter the pavement and streets, so watch your step. In the evenings temple ceremonies draw locals from all over the island for prayer and worship. Although visitors are welcome, you must be mindful of religious etiquette when entering.
The more densely populated areas such as Kuta, Legian and Seminyak have become westernized over the years. Packed with restaurants, hotels, bars and clubs that run along narrow streets filled with traffic jams can leave you with sensory overload. In the midst of all the noise and the frantic traffic, you would think more people would fall victim to "Road Rage," but Balinese people rarely express anger - matter of fact, it is looked down upon when one does lose their cool. Instead, there's a very subtle harmony that flows through here, at the time I thought of it as organized chaos.
The first part of my 2017 trip was spent mostly in and around Uluwatu, located on the southern tip of the island. Uluwatu is a much quieter area known for it's legendary surf breaks that run along the Bukit peninsula. Its warm waters and consistent left-handers that stretch across reefs are what make this a "Surfers Paradise". It also happened to be the backdrop of my co-led yoga retreat with my dear friend Sarah Pascual. The host location of our retreat was Uluwatu Surf Villas, which is perfectly perched on the cliffs overlooking the main surf break. Each villa is adorned with traditional thatched roofs, and equipped with it's own pool. Daily yoga classes are open to the public, usually in the morning. When we weren't teaching or lounging by the pool, we were out surfing and riding scooters to check out other nearby beaches. Padang Padang and Balangan beaches seemed to be our favorite because it was less crowded and not as heavy as Uluwatu, but surf conditions were just as good.
After the retreat in Uluwatu, I worked my way inland to the town of Ubud where I checked into a hostel for six bucks a night! I had lost my credit card one week before and therefore I was traveling on limited funds. I spent the next three days hiking around checking out multiple temples and museums. Not far from where I was staying lies the Monkey Forest Sanctuary, a popular attraction amongst tourists because of its resident troupe of malevolent macaques. Beware, these brazen little thieves have been known to steal articles of clothing, earrings, sunglasses and even cameras!
Ubud can be over stimulating due to the presence of western influence there, but once you get away from the main thoroughfares you'll discover lush landscapes and beautiful terraced paddies, offering a wide range for hikes and bike rides. Make your way even further out to surrounding villages and the tempo kicks into more of a chill vibe, you'll start to get feel of the real Bali.
For the last leg of my Bali trip, I headed over to the east side of the island. A friend I ran into days earlier recommended that I check out the surf in Keramas, located 30 minutes east of Ubud. I needed a change of pace from all the trekking around the previous couple of days. It was time to take it down a notch. It was time to reground and relax for the last few days before my long journey back to the states. My friend also recommended the "Blue Coco," a guesthouse, which was just a five minute walk to the beach. It was a quiet area away from all the tourist action and it was exactly what I needed. A sweet couple named Julien and Ika owned and managed the property. They were very helpful and the accommodations were ideal, clean rooms equipped with AC and an outdoor shower. It had the feel of a tropical surf shack, with racks for your boards on the front patio just outside the door. There was also a small pool that happened to be right next to my room. A free breakfast in the morning was offered to the guests, my favorite was the fried egg served over noodles. Julien had the inside scoop on local and secret surf spots, his wife Ika, a local Balinese and fellow yogi was about to start her 200 hour teacher training the following week. There wasn't much to do around the area besides visit a small outdoor cafe along the side of the quiet road, a few neighboring guest houses and resorts and an open air cafe on the beach was pretty much it.
Surf conditions were perfect the first day due to a slight offshore wind shaping the glassy five foot sets, with no crowds and just a short paddle out to the break. I met a couple of locals in the water, we cheered each other on and smiled with a thumbs-up whenever any of us would catch a wave. The stoke levels were high in the water and the feelings were mutual within our little group. It continued to play as we moved to the ocean's rhythm. I paddled in after a couple of hours to take a break and enjoy a cold Bintang, the local beer. As I sat back on the deck of the cafe watching the surf a euphoric buzz rang through my body.
In that moment I felt content, my heart was full and it was a perfect ending to my trip. There's definitely magic here in Bali and if I close my eyes I can almost hear its rhythm, visualize its beauty, and feel the warmth and texture of its spirit.