Women in Bali use their heads – Literally!


Women in Bali carry everything on their heads – sometimes using caps that provide a flat surface, and sometimes it appears as if there is simply a rag between their hair and the object to be carried.

I’ve seen women carrying water bottles – just one. Clearly it’s easier to walk if your hands are free. I’ve seen and photographed women carrying 45 kg, 100 lb bags of cement and/or sand on their heads – as they navigate tiny passageways and staircases. I’ve seen women carrying tree trunks, stacks of bamboo logs, baskets with unknown contents. I’ve even seen men with wheelbarrows holding exactly the same thing that a woman behind them has on her head. Bottom line – woman in Bali use their heads the way we’d use backpacks, wheelbarrows and lift trucks!

And one thing you don’t see in Bali – ladies with widow’s humps – the sure sign of osteoporosis. Clearly – standing absolutely upright your entire life is good for the spine!

Most commonly, and certainly most photogenically – It’s the ladies with their offerings on their heads on their way to the ever on-going festivals that captured my attention. It’s easy to wonder where that stuff is kept when it’s not on your head or in the temple – and so of course – I asked.

When we went to visit Diana’s home – we explored their back rooms to see what they stored where – and the truth is that most of the storage place is occupied by the items required for these offerings.

Stacks of banana palm leaves, officially made baskets – either from the more solid rattain, or the younger lighter cheaper version – palm fronds, and several of those gaily painted wooden platters that nested and I’m guessing – stacked. What you didn’t see is what we’d be storing in the same space – bags of rice, bunches of cans of this and that, boxes of cereal. In fact – there was almost no food at all stored in the kitchen – which explains the daily shopping habits! Our hosts explained that they had gone out that morning to buy the food stuff for lunch. It’s not totally about the money either – I think keeping the insect population in check has to figure into the decision not to keep bags of raw rice in the house.

Diana also explained that generally – meals are not eaten together. Woman prepare the food in the morning – and leave it out during the day. Members of the family – and extended family – just walk in to the kitchen area when they are hungrey and help themselves. The only problem? A 4 year old nephew who’d discovered Diana’s love of ice cream and was now tall enough to reach into the freezer.

But back to the heads – Most women carried at all times a small round basket shaped item – which it turns out is the cushion on which you balance things on your head. If you look at the images – you can see woman shading their faces from the sun with those baskets – and then in the picture of the parade of women going to the temple with offerings – the same baskets now used to protect their heads.

It’s not that you don’t see Western influences in Bali – you do. But you can also see people practicing the traditional behaviors as well – and that is what made Bali so wonderful – look and you can find farmers tilling their rice fields the old fashioned way, brides getting married in outfits so splendid it took your breathe away, and lots and lots of woman – using their heads.

Signing off – The Soup Lady

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Suggestion 3 – How to Travel far from the ‘Madding Crowd’


Be a cultural Chameleon

This is a lot tougher than it sounds at first because the idea here is to do as the locals do. And sometimes that’s – well – scary.

Chopsticks for example. The Intrepid Traveller isn’t that great with chopsticks – she’s a lot better today than 10 years ago – no question – but still – they are a challenge. So doing as the locals do when it comes to eating with chopsticks – a challenge. And I’m rarely comfortable eating with my fingers out of a common pot – color me food cautious. But I do try.

Using public transit. I actually love taking public transit – that’s what people do you know – normal people – the kind without tour guides and money for taxis and private drivers. But the idea of getting on a bus when you don’t understand where the money is supposed to go, exactly what the bus route is, and who is going to be sitting next to you – scary – just plain scary. Metro seems easier somehow. The routes are easier to read, and if you get confused – just get on a train heading the opposite way. But Metro isn’t nearly as much fun, or as good a way to see a place – as an old fashioned bus. And in many countries – buses are cheap. Dirt Cheap. So – take a risk the next time you travel – try the bus. Go to the end of the line and stay on. The bus will turn around and take you back home (you hope) – and you’ll get a very different view of the city you are visiting.

Eat in restaurants where locals go to dine. Oh – this is another easy to say, hard to accomplish task! The restaurants that I look for when I’m traveling have locals inside – but often that means no English menus – and maybe even no typed menus. I’ve gotten by with a combination of smiling hard – and pointing at what looks good on someone else’s table. Restaurants to avoid – ones with no customers, ones with people standing outside to usher you in (nothing says tourist trap like that move), ones with English/German/French – but no local language on the menu listings outside, ones with pictures displayed prominately out front, and buffets. Definitely avoid buffets – that’s food posioning heaven! Restaurants to savor – ones with lots of customers who look and sound local, ones with meals that look interesting on other customer’s plates, and ones with table-clothes. I’m a sucker for table-clothes. (Ok – those probably aren’t for locals – but they always look so appealing!) I am also found of restaurants that have grills visible – so you can see your food cooking while you wait.

One cavet on food – I’m always a bit iffy on food sold from stands on street corners. I know that those are often the most local of places – but I want to see them cooking my food before I’m going to eat it. Pre-cooked food that is just sitting there is a buffet – and I always avoid buffets!

Have an open door policy. If a door is open to a church, a museum, a public space – I tend to walk in. Why? Because I’m not sure what I’ll find – but sometimes it’s amazing. I’ve walked into weddings, funerals, baby events, kids choir practice, organ rehersals, and yes church services. And I’ve never ever been sorry. Locals do churches – and so should you. Best local church event – ever? In Florence we happened on the 200th birthday part celebration for the founder of one of the main churches. All the local kids were dressed fit to kill – they had a full high mass (insense burners etc.), the priests were all wearing their full dress outfits – and the kids were performing. It was so so beautiful. The other guests – family and friends of course. A truly local happening – right in the center of one of the worlds most touristy cities.

Be curious when you see a crowd – be really really curious if they seem happy. I’ve seen coq fights in Bali because I couldn’t figure out why a bunch of men were gathered so tightly around an open space (give the birds room, eh?) – I’ve watched people creating art on the street while people gawked – and I’ve enjoyed showy events like bands, singing groups and the like. If people are gathering – there’s a reason. Don’t be crazy – but don’t turn around and go back to your hotel either. There’s always someone around to ask. Case in point – we were in Korea and noticed that people were getting cushions and sitting on seats surrounding an open stage. Hmmm – they looked local – so worth checking out. It was a Korean version of a Gong Show – a school was show casing the work of their students – and the crowd were mostly parents and friends. It was great fun! And more importantly – real. Naturally, we attracted interest – only foreigners in the crowd – so after the show, two young students approached us to ask if they could interview us for their teacher – in English.

The moral here – be comfortable about joining in – particularly if you see groups of locals as compared to groups of foreigners. You’ll might be surprised at how much fun unplanned to you, but highly planned to the locals – happenings can be!

Signing off to check out that group of youngsters all dressed in white in front of that church…. The Soup Lady

Suggestion 2 – How to Travel far from the ‘Madding Crowd’


Connect with people, and try to understand them.

Oh – interesting. How do you ‘connect’ with people in general – and with people who live in a different place and speak a different language in particular.

This is a pretty important question – I have issues meeting my next door neighbors – how do I start up a conversation with someone in Bali? Berlin? St. Petersburg?

Well – in my case – it’s actually easier to meet people when travelling then it is when I’m at home. This is particularly true when I make itinerary decisions that put me out into the public eye – staying in youth hostels for example.

When you stay in a youth hostel – you might not qet quality time with locals – other than the hosts of the hostel – but you can be sure to get quality time with travellers who come from radically different backgrounds and parts of the world. I’ve meet and become friends with families from Polynesia while in Korea, chatted with people from Australia when in Rome, and memorably spent time avoiding Americans in almost every hostel I’ve been in! So – youth hostels, home stays, temple stays, Air BnB – staying anywhere other than a name brand hotel is going to put you in a position of getting to know other people. There is nothing quite like sharing a toilet and a kitchen to force conversation!

Another idea – do a group tour with a company that doesn’t cater to your kinda of folks. I know – it’s hard to break away from just booking with someone based in your country of origin – but the rewards can be huge. We have friends – really really good friends – in Germany and Switzerland because we booked our Botswana Safari thru a tour group based in Europe.

But neither of these ideas will net you local connections. The best way I’ve found to met locals is to smile. Ask Questions. Be interested in what they are doing. My travel partners sometimes get annoyed at me because this slows me down – but the net results are sometimes so amazing! I had dance lessons in Bali because I asked how to bend my fingers just so. I met a bride and groom on their wedding day (and have the pictures to prove it) because I wanted to know why there were fancy decorations outside of their home.

I wandered into a wedding in Vietnam in similar circumstances. Just color me curious – but if I see something interesting – I don’t rush by because I’m on a mission to get somewhere else – I slow down, look, watch, listen, admire, act interested. Language barriers amazingly drop away when your actions say – I’m curious!

Companion advice – don’t be judgmental. This is their world – admire it!

Another – well, let’s call it a trick – I photo-bomb. Seriously. If I see someone taking a picture of someone in their group – I’ll either offer to help – or I’ll join the photo. This is a huge ice breaker for most folks! They laugh – and then we do a group shot – and then logically start sharing our experiences – where are you from, where are you going. I’ve bonded with all kinds of people this way – and had people do the same with me. One memorable experience – in Japan on top of Mt Fuju. We saw people eating eggs with black shells – and were curious. We bought some too – and sat down to figure out what next. And here’s the fun part – people around us noticed our attempts – and immediately came over to offer advice, to give help – and to have their picture taken. I don’t speak Japanese – in those days few people in Japan spoke English – but we had a blast. Made our day!

Similar experience in Bali – we offered to help 3 gals get a group shot – and ended up learning that they were friends from Java – celebrating their 50th birthdays by taking a trip to Bali! We chatted for a few minutes – exchanged email addresses – and moved on. Surprise – a day later – a photo of us, taken by them – just to say hi.

And my last, but not least, piece of advice. Talk to the kids. Smile at them, chat with them, pick easy words and see if anyone knows them. Often there will be one kid in the group that is a bit braver than the rest – and they will at least try to speak to you! Kids are the best hosts in a new (to you) country – and they don’t worry so much about what you are thinking of them. Just a smile works wonders. Hand bumps, high 5’s, even low 5’s all act as ice breakers with kids. They are generally thrilled to know they can relate to someone so foreign – so strange – and yet willing to smile with them.

So – Connect with people – new people – when you travel. Your travel experiences will be richer for the time spent seeing what it like in their shoes. And often the fit is surprisingly great.

Attached is my favorite group hug from Bali – the boys and I spent a good 5 minutes trying to chat – and ended up only knowing each other’s names. But that was enough to ensure that these young men will always have a place in my heart!

Signing off to go smile at someone – The Soup Lady

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Suggestion 1 – How to Travel far from the ‘Madding Crowd’


I’m been thinking a lot about different ways to travel – and I have some suggestions on how to make your travel experiences different (if you want it that way) – so head’s up These suggestions are coming your way.

Suggestion #1 – Pick an interesting place to go!

In other words – Get out of your comfort zone.

I once attended a lecture on Eco-Travel – and the speaker suggested that there are 3 ways to travel – The Accidental Tourist, The Eco-Traveler, and The Adventure Traveler.

To his mind – the Accidental Tourist wants home in some other place. Same pillows, same bed, same AC, same food – just a different local. Not my way of travelling of course, but I admit to a touch of envy of those to whom this method works. It’s so easy! Cruise Ships are the ideal for this of course – one room that is yours for the entire trip, a different place to quickly check out each day – but no fear. Nothing really surprising is going to happen – well, maybe the restaurant on board you want that night is booked – but nothing truly annoying.

The Adventure traveller is also not quite ‘me’ anymore. I’m too old to take serious chances – I’m not going to climb Everest, I’m not likely to want to kayak up the Amazon, and I’m certainly not going to sleep on the ground if I can help it. Nope – I draw the line at not having my own toilet. The days of climbing ladders in the middle of the night to go to the oh so public bathroom are behind me – I’m a fan of ending the day in a place I can call my own. But again – I envy those who are willing and able to do serious adventure travel – 24 hours on a train in 3rd class sounded like a lot of fun when I was 55 – but it’s not going to work now that I’m 66. Nope – train travel, while huge fun, is no longer on my bucket list.

Which of course leaves the 3rd option – Eco-Travel. Going off the beaten route a bit – for longer – but not crazy. I chatted yesterday with a gal who hated Bali. She had taken a cruise ship that included Bali – and spent 5 hours on the island. Long enough to find out that the main city is just a big main city – and not nearly enough time to experience any of the magnificent culture, see any of the real rain forest (it’s about 4 hours inland from the port – trust me – she didn’t get there), nor even enough time to decently visit a museum or eat a good meal. 5 hours on an island isn’t even enough time to walk past the touristy shops that clog the area near the port. I don’t blame her for not loving Bali – but I do think she should have realized that the issue isn’t Bali – it’s the result of being an Accidental Tourist!

Ok – so where to go, and how long to stay. The 2nd question is the easiest to answer – as long as possible of course. But I’m guessing like me, my readers have lives outside of travel – and there’s a limit to what you can and can not do. So my suggestion – a week is a bare minimum. If there’s a guide-book to your destination that’s thicker than a 1/2″ – you are going to need a week. If the guide-book runs over an inch in thickness – 2 to 3 weeks is a much better plan.

The guide-book for Bali was about 3/4 of an inch thick – but the culture was so unique and wonderful that 3 weeks was really cutting it short.

So – optimum – 1 week to 3 weeks if work schedule allows. Per city. Not per trip. Don’t try to see a city in a day. Impossible to meet anyone in under a day – isn’t going to happen. And it’s meeting people who live where you are the tourist that makes fun stuff happen!

Now – as to the where… Ah – the Where. My next trip is to 3 cities – none of which are on the ‘unusual’ list – but all 3 of which offer tons of things to see and to do. I’m going to Berlin for a week, St. Petersburg, Russia for 3 weeks, and then Brussels for a week. Not as adventuresome as Bali perhaps – but giving these 3 cities enough time will, I hope, result in interesting experiences.

Time will tell

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Not to backtrack – But Montreal is home to some amazingly fun Festivals!


Ok – I know – I am part way thru a trip in Business Class to Bali – and I’m writing this while sitting in the Air France Executive Lounge enjoying free drinks, free food, and comfy chairs in Paris. So a blog on the Festival of Lights in Montreal is going to appear out of the Blue.

But bare with me on this.

Montreal – in February – is cold and dreary. And the PTB (Powers that be) in the city decided that having a festival in February – which didn’t conflict with Mardi Gras (March), New Years (January), Jazz (June), Laughter (July), Graffait (who knows), etc. was a great idea. And thus the Festival of Lights was born.

At the end of the Festival – which runs for 10 days of entertainment and restaurant craziness – is Nuit Blanche. Also not a new idea – or even an idea unique to Montreal – but with typical half French/half English style, organization and verbe – springs to life in our Beautiful City. The basic idea – keep the lights on all night – with free entertainment in basically every venue in the city that can host a crowd – churches, museums, bars, you name it – there’s something happening! Frozen Pianos, Casual Art, Singers, Jugglers, Musicians, Art happenings, Art tours – the city bumps and grinds and parties till Dawn.

For The Intrepid Traveller and I – it’s an occassion to stay up just a bit later than normal – and its a time to take in (for free) a show that we would never ever even consider attending. Our selection criteria is simple – has to be inside (we get cold), has to have seats (we can’t stand for even 5 minutes, let alone hours), and it has to be multi-lingual – my french is horrid.

Several Nuit Blanche ago – we discovered the caberet at the National Theatre School. They take a long thin space, fill it with chairs – put performers in front and in the middle of the space – and just go at it. The first year they must have had more funding – because there were at least 20 performers. Each year the number of performers has decreased – but that’s been more than made up for by the quality of the acts.

This year was the best ever for quality – a group of 4 young men who cloned the harmonies of the Beatles – in French. They looked, acted, and played the parts – even if the songs weren’t familiar – the joy and abandonment felt absolutely right. We loved it.

What we actually loved even more was a performance of Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucassion Chalk Circle. This was put on in the big theatre of the Theatre School – by the junior professional and extremely talented students there. As is typical with the Theatre School – no expense was spared on costume, set design, and quality of performance. These kids are not interested in impressing me – it’s the Montreal andToronto Theatre folks who come to see and hire that they want to amaze. We’re hangers on that profit from the opportunity to see the future in performance today.

So – enough on the Festival of Lights. It’s over for another year – but listen up if you aren’t from Montreal – this is a reason to come to our fair city. And if you do live in Montreal ask yourself – are you missing something amazing?

Signing off to go back to blogging about travel – The Soup Lady

Jet Lag is not fun!


This is insane. I’ve been back from Bali for a week – and last night was the first night I slept thru. Really. Body – what gives!

I didn’t have jet lag issues on the way to Bali – despite the 35 hours of travel time. I think that the saving grace there was actually the 8 hours on the ground in Paris. When you get your feet on the ground – and can organize a bed – you get a decent rest. And it sets your body’s alarm clock.

On the return journey – I left Bali at around 5:30 a night – and arrived at about 6:30 PM the next day in Montreal. So in Theory – I should have been fine. But in practice – not so good.

I went to bed at 5:30 PM several times – woke at 3:30 AM like a shot – wide awake – absolutely raring to go – and then of course – died out again at 5:30 PM. So doesn’t work when you have to go to the office and people expect you to function.

And I did all the standard tricks – drank lots of water, tried to sleep when they turned out the lights on the plane – even walked around a bit when the seat belt light was off. And I did those crazy exercises the ‘relax’ option on the Audio suggest – rotate your feet – up down with your toes, self massage your neck. If I could have found enough space to do a bit of Tai-Chi – that would have been nice – but I think they are making planes larger with less space. Mine had a bar – but no space to stretch!

I don’t care for drugs – so I ignore all suggestions that start with ‘Take’ – as in ‘Take Gavol’, ‘Take Melatonin’, ‘Rub yourself with Lavender Oil’, and ‘Take Pycnogenol’. And I’m certainly not going the Prescription Sleep Meds route. It’s natural or deal with it in my book.

But I do think time on the ground to break up the trip is the best route – and next time – I’m adding travel time on the route back to grab some proper shut eye. It’s so worth the money – losing a week of focus is such a terrible way to end a great holiday trip!

Signing off now that she can sleep when the rest of the world around me is asleep – The Soup Lady

Goodbye to Bali


It’s my last morning in Bali – and I’m feeling pretty sorry for myself

It’s been an amazing 3 weeks in an amazing place. Bali really has something to offer anyone who can stand the heat. And if you can’t stand the heat – get out of the kitchen.

OK – so it’s been hot. And humid. And getting into a swimming pool every evening isn’t optional – it’s required. But it’s also been intriguing, and exciting, and stimulating, and fun.

I’ve done stuff that I really never thought I’d do – and yes – Yoga, Pilates, and Tibetian Gong mediation are on that list. I’ve done things that I’ve loved to do before – and was thrilled to have another go at them – White Water Rafting, Jungle Treks, Fish Market Visits, Art Galleries, Unique Dance and Puppet performances. I’ve participated in Nyepi, I’ve shaken hands and been photographed with a bride and groom on their wedding day (glorious outfits – trust me), and done a ton of walking.

I’ve yet to ride a motor bike – but Diana is threatening to take me on one today – just to break that ice cube.

So – last morning – the workmen are quietly chatting on their way to wherever they go as they pass behind my wall – the roosters are crowing, the ducks are strangely silent – but I think they have been moved to another rice field, and even the lizards are just quietly climbing the walls.

My mosquito canopied bed has been a cozy place to write my blogs, admire my photos and charge my iphone. It’s been a comfy place to sleep too.

But it’s the last morning. I must pack – which should be a challenge since I have a lot more stuff than I had when I arrived. The Lady in Pink, her BFF, and myself have been invited to lunch at Diana’s compound – he wants his wife to prepare us a traditional meal. I hope she’s on board with this! Then I plan to take one last swim, one last shower – and head to the airport to start my long 25 hour journey back to Montreal.

it’s a bitter sweet feeling – leaving is sad – going home is exciting.

Signing off to pack – The Soup Lady

PS: oops – forgot my appreciation challenge – I appreciate the opportunity I had to meet all these wonderful people here in Bali – I shall treasure my group hug photos forever. Thank you Bali – I had a ball.

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The Toilets of Bali


It seems that everywhere I travel, eventually I do a toilet blog. Why I must wonder are toilets such a re-occuring theme – and then of course I answer myself – silly woman – it’s so obvious.

I’m a older woman – I need to USE a toilet frequently – and unlike a guy – a nearby tree is hardly satisfactory. I care about these things – I think about these things – and I’m willing to chat about them. Ipsofactso – Toilet Blog.

What does the perfect toilet need? My daughter and I, travelling thru Greece many years ago now, actually came with a check list – and then proceeded to rate all the toilets. I’m guessing the list hasn’t changed.

1. Privacy – sometimes toilets are just a bit too open to the breezes. My toilet on the Live-aboard boat in Komodo National Park definitely lost it in the privacy department. A shower curtain just doesn’t cut it. And there were toilets in some places in Bali (mostly off the beaten track for those worried about this) that had doors that didn’t close tightly – although none matched some of the total open to the world toilets in China. So 3 Stars for this one Bali

2. A Flushing toilet – no joke – lots of toilets in 3rd and 2nd world countries that I’ve visited skip the flushing aspect. It’s mechanical – it breaks – taking a bucket and pouring water to get rid of the ‘evidence’ is an inexpensive functional solution. I’d say a third of the toilets I visited in Bali had this issue – simply didn’t/couldn’t flush. 2 Stars here

3. A throne – not a squat. Sorry – bad knees, and squarts are hard on me. I’m a lot better than I used to be about making sure my feet stay dry and my clothes the same – but still. Please – give me a throne. Squats in Bali are not unusual – but you do have to go out of your way to find them – gas stations, private homes in country compounds, if you look – you will find. I did. Too bad too. I’m giving Bali 4 Stars for really just a few squats – and those were so clean.

4. Toilet Paper – now this is interesting. Not all toilets in Bali had toilet paper – and most needed you to put the used paper in a side trash can – but almost all of the toilets had a hose attachment for – well – bidet purposes. One even had a sign cautioning westerners Not to use the hose to waash their feet. Too fun, that. It’s hard to knock a place that values cleanliness as much as Bali – I’m thinking 5 stars here – although keeping some paper in your pocket is a really good idea.

5. A working sink – preferably with some way to dry your hands after you washed them. I’m not convinced that folks in Bali understand drying hands after washing them – nor do they seem to grasp the importance of napkins – at least from the folks I travelled with. I need both to be happy – and I definitely want a working sink. Critical actually. And less satisfactory if it’s shared by both men and women, but I’ll compromise on that. Places in Bali wihtout a sink were rare – but it wasn’t unusual to have to search for the darn thing. Why hide them I wonder? 4 stars and a flashlight for this one.

6. Level floor. I hate having to step up to get onto the toilet or the squat. It’s unblanced and feels awkward – but often they build up to hide the sewer tank. Guess that’s better than no sewer. 4 Stars

7. Clean – All the toilets in Bali – no matter how back woods, no matter how isolated, no matter what kind of silly establishment (a tiny all night grocery store springs to mind) – were clean. In fact – Bali was generally one of the cleanest places I’ve been. I saw ladies out sweeping and cleaning the roadways in front of their shops every day. Yes I did see a rat – but with everything out in the open air – and daily food offerings everywhere – that’s probably to be expected. Another note – Cleanliness is part of the version of Hindu popular in Bali – people have special clothes to wear to temple – and many of the most important temples including bathing rituals in a visit. And i saw people bathing in the rivers and streams quite frequently. So people are generally very very clean, Despite the heat! Bali in general rates very high on the clean scale. Impressive. 4 Stars.

7. Optional upgrades – fresh flowers (in the airport), options for towel, paper towel, or blow drying (fancy hotel on the beach that we popped in to visit), TV’s in the mirrors (never saw that here), granite/marble floors (only the fancy places did this – for most people tile worked fine. And every bathroom I entered was tiled.) And last but not least – locking doors if it’s a public place. I found several toilets in Bali that just simply didn’t lock closed. My favorite – someone had tied a nail to a cord – and you threaded the nail thru the former lock mechanism to hold it shut. Another memorable toilet was one that trapped a girl inside. She was hammering madly to get out – it took 3 of us pushing hard to free her.

So – Bali – 4 Stars overall. Better than some places – A lot lot better than other places – but not the best for fussy North Americans. Japan and South Korea are still my favorite Toileting places for this part of the world!

Yoga, Pilates, Ecstatic Dancing and Tibetan Bowl Meditation


When in Rome – do like the Romans. When in Ubud – do Yoga, Pilates, and Meditations!

As I quickly discovered – Ubud is the hot bed of Yoga, Organic Food, Pilates, and like activities – including Mediation in Bali – and since Bali is one of the major places to go for these kinds of activities – that means that in Ubud – Yoga is big. Really Big. Almost every other building either featured Yoga based Home Stays, Yoga Studios, or both! Curiously – all this healthy life style stuff is smack dab on top of a society where the average wage is $200 a month. Interesting counterpoints are simply bound to happen, eh?

So where to go in Ubud for the best Healthy Life-Style experience? I’ll be frank – I don’t know. I did one Pilates class at Ubud Pilaties, one Sunrise Yoga class at Intuitive Flow, and 3 Ecstatic Dances at the Yoga Barn. In addition – I also did a Tibetan Gong and Bowl Meditation at the Yoga Bar. I have my favorites – but as to a definitive ‘best’ – nope – not going there!

But since I’m always willing to share my opinons – I’ll start by comparing the studios – then I’ll talk about the classes!

The Yoga Barn in Ubud is a giant, multi-level space where hippies of all ages hang out. As I blogged early in this series – it offers a board spectrum of different types of Meditation, Yoga, and Movement based classes, courses, and community events. It also is the home for the Bali Yoga Spirit Festival – one of the top 5 Yoga related festivals in the world. Clearly – I was absolutely going to try some of these activities out – it was really just a question of picking and choosing.

I ended up doing 3 Ecstatic Dances and a Tibetan Bowl meditation class at the Yoga Barn. I would have simply loved to do more there – the Yoga and Meditation Music Experience class sounded fun, and I’d have liked to participate in the Spirit Festival – but time and airline tickets proved limiting factors. Maybe next time I visit Bali…

The Lady in Pink’s palace was located in a ‘village’ near but not in Ubud. We were a 15 minute walk to the outskirts of the city – and over a hour walk from the Yoga Barn. Clearly we were taking taxi’s to sessions at the Yoga Barn – and best intentions aside – that seemed to contribute to us doing less – not more – there.

However – within about 10 minutes walk from the Palace were Intuitive Flow (for Yoga), and Ubud Pilates. Liane had already purchased bulk tickets for sessions in both places – so clearly they were on the hot list of places to go.

Despite planning on doing more – I ended up just doing one class each at these smaller studios. Enough to get the idea, but not enough to do any accidental damage.

Ubud Pilates first. I loved the feeling of this space – open to the gardens on 2 sides, closed by bamboo screening on the other two sides – the feeling was calming and comfortable. The teacher worked on a slight raised platform, which made it much easier to see what she was doing – and I loved the tiny gardens on the two open sides – the sound of running water is so relaxing.

Pilates for the uninformed – and I’m pretty uninformed – consisted mainly of laying on a mat and doing core exercises – knee pushups – full pushups – crunches and the like. All done slowly – concentrating more on breathing correctly than on high number of repetitions. It wasn’t exactly hard to do – but fear of harming my back made me stop after only a few reps of each exercise. Anna – 80 years young – is one of the strong students – and some people go every day. If I wasn’t so keen on seeing Bali – I’d have loved to do more of this – and I was highly impressed with how well the Lady in Pink performed. Something to think about when I get back home I suppose.

Is there a Pilates class in my future? Who knows!

Intuitive Flow is more of a broader based exercise space/program. Unlike Ubud Pilates – it is on the 2nd floor of a building, has windows on 3 sides (all of which were slid open) – and has a marvelous orientation towards the East North East. You can enjoy watching sunrise over Mt. Agung – Bali’s active volcano – and can admire the way the birds celebrate the birth of a new day while you hold Yoga poses.

The specific class we attended was a pretty much a beginner’s version – and I quickly learned that Backwards Leaning Dog isn’t going to happen for this body. I simply couldn’t hold that position without my back talking to me – and what it had to say wasn’t very nice. The good news – the very nice instructor (slim, pretty, in awesome shape) quickly caught on to my seriously beginner status – and just would say – you are doing fine when I collapsed into the Chakra position of knees on floor – head on floor – arms out.

I did find that there were some stretches I could do with ease. Other positions needed the leader’s gentle hands on my back and sides and shoulders to get things just so. I seriously have tense shoulders – relax your shoulders and breathe were constant reminders. Really should work more on that.

So – 5 stars for Intuitive Flow (mostly for that amazing view), and 3 stars for the Pilaties – it was more expensive, and the leader didn’t really come by to help me out at all. Maybe I was doing everything perfectly – but I think it more likely that she made the business decision of working with the people most likely to return.

On to the Yoga Barn. I’ve talked about the Ecstatic Dances – Friday night and Sunday morning – several times. These are dance till you sweat thru your clothes events – or as the DJ said – we’re trying to get a natural high. No talking – no thinking – just free movement. Lots of fun – and a 5 star – must do rating – for these. If you end up in Ubud on a Friday night or Sunday morning you must go. Only one hesitation – I have serious trouble turning my over active brain off – even in Ubud, even at the Yoga Barn.

Good thing I don’t mind my own constant internal monolog, eh?

Tibetian Bowl and Gong Meditation – that’s a class of a different animal completely. Held in the same space as the Ecstatic Dances – wide open, roofed, amazingly beautiful wooden big plank floor – it’s strictly limited to 35 participants. The mats are carefully arrange in a giant 1/2 circle around the leader – leaving most of the space open between our heads – pointed towards the bowls when we lie down – and the bowls themselves.

The session begins with us all filing into the space as they call our names – a strangely intimate way of counting heads. We climb the stairs barefoot to the upper level, put our belonging against the wall or in the provided open shelves, and pick a mat. We sit in lotus position, quietly waiting for the instructor to begin.

He starts by lighting candles and placing them at the cardinal points – then he invites us to lie down on the mats – heads pointing towards the bowls. No instruction, no advice – just the suggestion that we relax and let the music of the gongs and bowls carry our thoughts away.

I make a serious first mistake – I lie down flat on my back. Which is not totally comfortable for me. I should have gotten onto my side – and put a pillow between my knees. It would have been more comfortable and more conducive to meditation.

Then the leader started to play the bowls and gongs – occasionally letting them continue to ring as he walked around the space holding different kinds of incense over our heads. I know it was different – partly from the smell – and partly because I opened my eyes. One time the incense was thin long sticks – another time it looked a bit like an ear of corn on the cob. Great smell either way.

I know that for some people – this became a period of serious relaxation – there was definitley a guy snoring to my right. For me however, the uncomforable position, and my wide ranging mind spent most of the time occasionally listening to the bowls – which were highly melodic and very comforable to hear, and mostly musing on my own thoughts.

About half way thru I became aware that the wooden floor was conducting the vibrations of the bowls and gongs into my bones – a strange singing sensation. I’m not actually sure this was expected – and since we had been asked to be silent until we got back down to where we’d left our shoes, I had no way to ask.

That tingling sensation lasted well into the night – and made it a bit difficult to sleep – although it had totally disipated by the time I got up the next morning.

So bottom line on Tibetian Bowl and Gong Mediation – I need to take a meditation class for beginingers before I try this again – it bothered me that I wasn’t sure I was doing it right. Which is probably wrong too.

But would I recommend it – absolutely Yes. It’s a wonderfully peaceful way to spend an hour or so – and it’s so important to find Peace in Your Life. Definitely 5 stars.

Signing off to go consider where to find a beginner’s beginning meditation class – The Soup Lady

** Appreciation Challenge – I appreciate the existence of Pilates and Yoga – even if I con’t ways get a chance to participate.

A Star Trek Holo-Deck Experience


April 4, 2015 – 4 people – aged 65, 66, 79 and 85 shared a Star Trek Holo-Deck Experience!

Last night we shared a table with my Step-Mother-In-Law and her copaine. They were 1000 miles away – but we sat down at the same table, we sang, we toasted each other – we enjoyed each other’s company.

We were in the moment – connected by Technology (Skype and 2 ipads if you must know) – present together.

We celebrated together an experience that is thosands of years old – in a complete normal way – together across a thousand miles.

Do you think that Gene Roddenberry – inventor of Star Trek – imagined this reality happening so casually almost 50 years ago?

You’ve come a long way baby.

Health, Happiness to Family and Friends!

To Life.

Signing off to do the dishes – there are some things that even technology can’t change – The Soup Lady