A Weekend in Bali
Is Bali on your bucket list?
There are 13,000 islands in Indonesia. Bali is the most famous.
I worked for two months in Sulawesi, one of the larger islands in Indonesia. One of the great perks of working abroad is weekend excursions. I planned a great weekend in Bali.
Bali is famous for its endless stretches of beautiful sand beaches in Kuta. It is also well known for snorkelling and diving. However, since I could enjoy beaches and snorkelling in Sulawesi, I wanted a different experience in Bali.
My destination was Ubud, known as the cultural centre of Bali.
Ubud is the spiritual capital of the east, somewhat like Sedona in Arizona. Many people go to Ubud for mind/body rejuvenation. I didn’t think I needed mind/body rejuvenation but wanted to explore the allure of Ubud.
Julia Roberts found love in Ubud in Eat Pray Love
I was not looking for love in Ubud. I was not looking for mind/body rejuvenation either, but I stumbled upon mind-body rejuvenation everywhere I went in Ubud.
Are you interested in having an Eat Pray Love experience?
Getting to Ubud from Manado in North Sulawesi
I was up at 4 a.m. for the only flight from Manado to Bali. Ubud is a couple of hours drive from the airport in Bali. By the time I arrived at the hotel, I was not feeling The Zen.
However, I did not want to miss out on the free yoga on offer that afternoon. Any other day would cost $25. Let’s be clear: I do not do yoga. I cannot do yoga. I signed up for yoga because that is what tourists do in Ubud.
I was the only one who signed up for the free yoga experience. I guess everyone else thought that an afternoon in an infinity pool overlooking the jungle was a better way to spend the first day in Bali.
The yoga instructor was a little brown man who spoke no English, except for the phrase ‘excuse me.’ He used this phrase dozens of times during our yoga event. He assumed a yoga pose to start our session and quickly realized that I can’t do yoga. He must have thought I would be able to do yoga if he bent my body into yoga positions. Wrong! He then had to unfold me, saying ‘excuse me’ multiple times as he manipulated my body in ways that it has never been manipulated in its whole life.
He looked at me carefully and thought for quite a while. He then demonstrated how I walked: rounded backbone and shoulders, leading with the chin, like old people. Without speaking any words, he conveyed to me that I walked like an old person!
We then spent the next hour working on my posture. He said ‘excuse me’ while he rotated my hips back and down. Wow! I didn’t have to suck in my stomach. It just naturally retreated. Next, he demonstrated how I should point my chest to the sky.Then he made me take a deep breath…deeper….deeper. I thought my lungs would explode. That’s it, he mimed, stand and walk like that forever!
Good posture is not about ‘shoulders back.’ When you stand with your hips rotated down, your chest to the sky and your lungs full of air, your shoulders naturally fall back and your head and arms feel lighter.
I have been fighting bad posture my whole life and my personal yogi in Ubud showed me how to change. It does not come easily. I have to constantly remind myself to stand up straight, but now I know how to move my body to do that. I have been living a mind/body rejuvenation every day since my yoga experience in Ubud.
I did not got to Ubud for a Zen-like mind-body experience, but I stumbled upon one on my first afternoon.
Green entrepreneurship can save ancient rainforests
This is the lobby in the hotel where I had my yoga experience. This magnificent table is a slab from an ancient rainforest tree from the island of Borneo.
Deforestation in Borneo is an enormous problem where forests are being burned, logged and cleared at an unparalleled rate to make room for palm oil plantations.
Save a tree today
This hotel pool is surrounded by jungle in the middle of Ubud
My yoga experience was at a sister hotel to the one where I stayed. After an early morning flight, a long drive and my yoga event, I was happy to take a dip in the hotel pool. It was a very steep drop from the pool to the jungle floor below.
Ubud has many hotels and resorts to fit every budget. I picked a hotel in the centre of town. It is smaller than the sister hotel where I did the yoga, but allowed me to walk everywhere in the town of Ubud.
I did not book a budget hotel in Ubud
My hotel room in Ubud was very large, with a sitting area and a private balcony overlooking the jungle. Yet, I was in the heart of Ubud.
The rice fields in Ubud are a UNESCO World Heritage Site
On my first full day in Ubud, I hired a driver to take me to the famous rice fields that surround Ubud. The vista was stunning.
The panoramic views of vibrant green fields, stepped along entire mountains from peak to sea, draws thousands of tourists to the area.
The terraces are irrigated with a cooperative water system that dates back to the 9th century, known as subak.
The Subak irrigation system is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Rice, the water that sustains it, and subak , the cooperative social system that controls the water, have together shaped the landscape over the past thousand years and are an integral part of religious life. Rice is seen as the gift of god, and the subak system is part of temple culture.
The overall subak system exemplifies the Balinese philosophical principle of T ri Hita Karana that draws together the realms of the spirit, the human world and nature. Water temple rituals promote a harmonious relationship between people and their environment through the active engagement of people with ritual concepts that emphasise dependence on the life-sustaining forces of the natural world.
Bali has about 1,200 water collectives. As many as 400 farmers manage the water supply from one source of water. Farmers still grow traditional Balinese rice without the aid of fertilizers or pesticides.
The next time you enjoy Balinese rice, you can think about a thousand year old growing system that still works today
This is a closeup of a Balinese farmer in the rice fields
With my yoga experience on the first day and my rice field experience on the second day, I was beginning to understand why people seek out Ubud for spiritual and physical enrichment.
It was time to see a Balinese temple!
This is a typical Balinese temple but not one of the 5 famous temples in Bali.
Birds of Paradise grow wild all over Bali
Sometimes you can find spiritual rejuvenation in a beautiful flower.
Rambutan is a taste of the tropics
This is a rambutan tree. I love rambutan fruit. They turn red as they ripen. The spiky exterior is soft. They are easy to peel. The translucent fruit is sweet and tangy. It tastes like a grape. There is a big pit in the middle.
Can you taste physical rejuvenation when you eat fresh fruit ?
You can get rambutan in grocery stores here but they just don’t taste the same!
Do you want to go river rafting?
If you are looking for more adventurous activities than yoga, rice fields and temples, you can try river rafting.
I was enjoying a delicious lunch of satay and cold beer when I heard the shouts of rafters from the river far below me. I grabbed my camera and snapped this pic as they rushed by.
River rafting was not on my must-do list in Ubud. After exploring the rice fields and temple, I was happy to spend an afternoon strolling through fabulous shops in Ubud, offering traditional arts and crafts.
The Ubud Monkey Forest is a sacred nature reserve
I passed the Ubud Monkey Forest many times on walks through the town.
I like this wood carving of a monkey family that is just up the street from the entrance to the Monkey Forest. This is as close as I got to the Monkey Forest.
The Monkey Forest is a very popular destination with tourists, but I was deterred from entering by the write-up in Wikipedia that describes the dangers of monkey bites. I was willing to swim with poisonous fish in Sulawesi, but not cavort with aggressive monkeys.
If you do intend to enter the Monkey Forest, I would suggest that you use a guide, have no food with you, and remove all jewelry.
Ubud Monkey Forest: Mission
The Mission of the Ubud Monkey Forest is conservation according to the Hindu principle of Tri Hata Karana :”Three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being.”
The “three ways” to spiritual and physical well-being are harmonious relationships:
- between humans and humans,
- between humans and the natural environment, and
- between humans and The Supreme God.
There were lots of monkeys outside the Forest but I kept a healthy distance from them.
I went to Ubud for a relaxing weekend and found spiritual and physical well-being in yoga, rice fields and temples but not monkeys.
Here is a 30-year-old photo of Adam feeding a monkey in Bali
We visited Bali 30 years ago when we lived in Singapore. At that time, I was blissfully unaware of the dangers of monkey bites. We let our then 3-year-old son feed the monkeys.
If you look closely at this grainy photo, you will see a baby monkey clinging to his mom.
There is much more to do and see in Ubud and Bali but that was all I could squeeze into a long weekend.
It was time to return to Sulawesi and another month of entrepreneurship workshops.
Do you want to go to Bali?
See you next week with more tales of adventure from Indonesia
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