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.

Edible Bali

Food is a constant theme in my life – my husband is a chef, my daughter is a chef, my other kids love to cook, my grand-daughter is a complete fan – and my life has been spent around food and restaurants.

But nothing really prepares you for the food experiences of Bali.

As I observed before – There is a ripeness, a lushness, a over-whelming abundance of growing things in Bali that both bemuses, amuses, and fascinates one. It’s easy to understand why visitors to this island became residents. I suppose that growing up here would almost ruin it – how can you be surprised when it has always been like this?

So – Outstanding food experiences…

We took a Jungle Trek – really more like a farm explore if the farm was up and down crazy ravines, mad paths, and had little apparent organization. The Lady in Pink observed that in Bali one doesn’t have to encourage growth – the rain takes care of that – one has to prune and control. Which explains Avocado trees that tower above you, coffee trees that are 6 foot high – and thats with constant pruning, and the wealth of fruits that quite literally grow wild everywhere.

Bananas, jack fruit, Durian, Pineapples, Coffee, Cocoa, Vanalia, Tumeric, Clove, Mangos, Mangosteens (in season now and a wonderful discovery), Papya, ferns, long beans, edible vines, Coconut trees (providing leaves, coconuts, coconut milk, and even coconut oil), Palm trees (for Palm oil and Palm Sugar), the list is endless. And we saw and tasted everything we could.

It’s truly overwhelming, surprising, astonishing, wonderful, and joyously edible.

Our Jungle Trek starts and ends in Stoned Goat Village – a village so small – it doesn’t even have a repair shop for motor scooters. And trust me – that’s small. Our host tells us that the village official population is 300 – but lots of people are actually living in Ubud or Denpassar in order to go to school, get a good paying job, or just get away from village life.

Our pair of fearless leaders – for our group of 4 senior ladies ranging from 60 to 80 years of age – guided us and helped us up and down and around – pointing out all the edible things, and giving us tastes of those that were ripe. Land in Bali is deeded to individuals, and recently the government has been sending survey teams out to provide land owners with proper paper work, so it is clear when you move from one family’s land to the land belonging to a local Temple, to the land of another family. But the food that grows on the land – except the cash crops like Coffee – appear to be ‘open season’. If it’s ripe – and you see it first – it’s yours!

So we munch our way around the forest, eventually getting back to the family compound of one of our guides. It’s not much – the toilet is a stand-upon, the shower is a hand wand serving multiple duty as toilet paper and body wash, but it’s warm, it’s friendly – and they have spent hours cooking us a huge lunch.

There are at least 8 serving bowls – each containing a uniquely flavored dish – one has tempe – a soy bean option – that has been fried. Yum. Another contains fried eels from the river that runs behind the compound. There are 2 omlet like dishes – maybe a bit more like highly seasoned crepes than our fluffy omlets. There’s pieces of tofu that have been cooked, 2 long bean dishes – one so heavily garliced that I tell everyone to eat it – we’ve got to sit in a car for hours – and we might as all have bad breathe.

And of course there is rice.

Yummy – spicy – not spicy – crispy – soft – sweet and sour – The meal manages to hit all the taste buds and all the texture points.

For desert they are making Palm Sugar – it’s been boiling over a wood fire stove since last night – and they’ve carefully timed things so that the sugar firms up just as we finish our lunch. It’s a sugar high – super hot – and tasting vaguely of caremel.

After the meal – the wife and 14 year old daughter of the host puts on a Balinese traditional dance performance for us – and I even get rolling eye lessons. Such fun. Such Food. Like being on Food Network without the camera issues!

But that’s not the top food experience I had. The absolute best experience was at the home of Diana – our driver extraordinaire. He invited us to lunch at his compound on my last day in Bali – and he and his wife started preparing the day before.

I arrived at their place about 30 minutes early (I’d walked back from downtown Ubud – it’s hard to judge how long the walk will take) – and I’m relaxing in the shade when I realize that men are delivering a huge wooden table and 6 simple but elegant wooden chairs to Diana’s house. He bought a table and chairs so that they could serve us lunch.

Think about it – he went out and bought a table – he didn’t have one when he invited us over for lunch – and then figured he’d need something to feed us on. Later I asked about it – and he said he’d decided that it would be easier on us – and besides he didn’t have one. He and his wife rarely get the luxury of eating together – they work crazy hours – so you eat when you are personally hungry.

The meal they served us – while less variety then the Jungle Feast – was positively delicous. A whole roasted chicken – Diana said it was boiled – but the skin was a bit crispy – so maybe boiled then roasted? Yummy in any case. There was Rice – of course. There were the traditional long bean vegetable dish – which was delightful. They served Chicken Satay – which put me into the mind set of Kebbe – it was seasoned ground chicken wrapped around a bamboo stick and then grilled. I ate 5. There was roasted pork – full fat of course – and wonderful.

After the meal they served us leaf wrapped sticky rice – one set had bananas in the rice, the other had coconut. Diana refered to these as snack food – you can put a bunch into a backpack – and pull one out when you feel a bit needy.

The meal ended with ice cream – in celebration of me – the Lady who stops for Ice Cream.

My description simply can’t do justice to the depth of flavors there were in these dishes – again – salty, sweet, bitter, sour – all the taste buds rejoyed with every bite.

After lunch, and a tour of the compound, Diana took us to meet one of his uncles – who has 5 fighting cocks. The old man gladly showed me how to hold the bird and massage him – something that all the cock fighter owners do on a daily basis to keep the birds in perfect shape. Easy once you learned the trick – hold both wings down – or the bird will start flapping and things get seriously out of control from there!

During another trip around the island, we stop at a coffee roaster to see how they make Litwak coffee – that’s the one where the Civet cat eats the coffee beans, and then the cat shit is roasted. They also had ginger tea, lemon grass tea, coffee with ginger, and even plain coffee. It was all delicious, but horribly expensive – so while I tasted – I didn’t buy.

So – while in Bali – I’ve had Crispy Duck, Chicken Curry, Fried Pork, Beef Rendang, more rice that I ever thought I’d eat, at least a dozen different flavors of ice pops, long beans, tempe and soy beans prepared in many different ways, fried chicken, fried eels, Banana Pancakes, fried rice with vegges, fried noodles with veggies, and enough Mangosteens to sink a battle ship.

I didn’t try Dragon Fly – apparently a staple of Diana’s diet when he was growing up, the only fish I had was Tuna – although I saw tons of fish at the daily morning fish market – ranging from all kids of groupers, to cuttle fish, shrimp, small sliver fish (herring?), octopus, shark fins, and a host of fish that I didn’t quite for sure recognize out of the ocean. We ate at a wide range of restaurant types – some more touristy then other – prices ranging from $2.50 per person to $25 per person. We generally avoided alcohol – although the local beer – Bintang – is supposed to be quite good. And we never ever ate at a buffet.

And yes – I did 3 different grocery stores – just to see what purchased foods look like here.

Overall Food in Bali – a super easy 5 stars!

Signing off to consider her next meal in Bali – The Soup Lady

The Dogs of Ubud

And I thought St. Croix had a problem with dogs. Ubud makes St. Croix look dog free!

There are dogs everywhere you look – and as far as I can tell – not a dog license to be seen. They don’t look unhealthy – anything but actually. But then there are offerings left out on the road in front of every house often enough to keep just about anyone healthy, although there is generally no meat involved. I guess the dogs around here must eat the rice.

Joking – I know dogs aren’t vegetarians!

On a more serious note – there really are a lot of dogs running around – and there are 2 in particular that we must pass on our walk back to The Lady in Pink’s palace. Kinda scary actually. Despite having seen us walk by every day for weeks – they still snarl and bark. And if they have owners (I’m not sure) – no one has ever come out to say shhh. They do always run back into the same Compound after warning us to stay clear of their home – a challenge given that the walkway is quite literally 4 feet wide, and boarded on one side by high walls and the other by a fence around another home.

Last night was the worst – I was actually pretty concerned – and after we passed the dog – I used my flashlight to keep him lit so he knew that we were still watching him.

I’m thinking about a walking stick…

But I know I’m not alone with my worry and concern. In one of the magazines given to tourists is a 1/4 page ad for – BARC – Bali Dog Adoption and rehabilition Center. It’s dedicated to re-homing Bali Street Dogs!

One of the issues, I believe, is related to the Compounds – family and related folks sharing one entrance off the road – with many people living together. Our driver, Diana, told me that in his compound are over 50 people – his parents, sisters and brothers, wives and husbands, and of course the children. It’s a village inside a common doorway off the main road of a village – Kinda nice if you think about it. According to Diana – source of all local knowledge – in some compounds there is a family kitchen, in other compounds each family has their own kitchen. But in all cases – money is pooled among all the family members – an extended family commune arrangement.

Back to the dogs – According to Diana, all the dogs belong to someone – or at least to some compound. But since there are so many people sharing the common living space, the exact ownership is unclear. I guess it’s like a child – when he behaves well, he’s mine. When he behaves poorly – he’s yours!

And if the dog is off the compound – doing what dogs do – there’s apparently little or no supervision. I’ve never seen a dog on a leash here – and that includes in stores and restaurants. I also never see dog poo – but I think that’s related to all the ladies going out every morning to sweep their section of the roadway.

Interested in learning more about what BARC is doing for the dogs of Ubud? Check out this website:

I’m seriously thinking about getting a walking stick.

Appreciation note for April 3rd? A big Thank you to my husband – who has the confidence in me to let me go off on these crazy adventures – and always welcomes me back home with open arms.

Signing off – The Soup Lady

White Water Rafting down the Ayung River in Ubud – Too much Fun!

This should be illegal – or at least immoral. It is simply too much fun.

I’ve always been a fan of white water rafting – particularly in hot climates. The water in the rivers that have rapids are generally cool, the shade of the canyons welcoming, and of course – it’s a hoot and a half to boot.

There are 3 downsides to taking a white water rafting trip – the price (sigh – always the US$ – even in Bali), the hike down to the river, and the hike back up. But overlooking those 3 issues – this is a total must do if you have the opportunity.

Diana found me a 2 hour rafting trip for a fairly reasonable price – downside – it started early. We had to be at the rafting ‘headquarters’ at 9:00 AM – which meant leaving home at 8:15. Oh how I suffer to have fun.

The name of my rafting group was Sari Profit Rafting – and they were really full service. Their ‘headquarter’s’ had changing rooms, showers, and lockers – I got into my bathing suit, threw everything except my trusty iphone (aka Camera) and my Tilly Hat into the locker and jumped into a 7 passenger van for the quick trip up river to the jumping in point. We were going to be rafting for 1 KM on the Ayung River – described as having 28 Class II and III rapids – and being suitable for ages 5 to 65. Oops – I’m 66 going on 67. Oh well – they didn’t ask my age at headquarters – and I only fessed up after we started the trip.

The starting off point was in a beautiful rice field and a ‘shed’ filled with rafting supplies – tons of floation vests, paddles and helmets. I guess in season they are planning on a lot more rafters – we are just 2 boats of 6. In my boat are 4 friends from Vietnam (total weight of maybe 200 lbs) – a tall thin German fellow – the guide – and yours truly. We suit up and head out – across the rice fields and then into the descent into the gorge. It’s 350 meters pretty much straight down – about 1/2 of the descent is on cement steps, and 1/2 is a scramble over mud steps, tree roots and the occasional rock. Nothing horribly difficult – but enough to slow me down to the point that I’m not the last of my group to arrive – I’m the last of both groups.

Sorry people.

The rafts are already down and full of air – carried down on the heads of Balinese Women – proudly wearing t-shirts that proclaim – ‘Porters’.

At this point our guide is a tad concerned about my ability to do the rafting (66 years old, seriously slow walking down) – and decides to put me on the back right – what is best known as the safety seat – least bouncing, less important for paddling. Who am I to argue – I am 66 – and I am never going to be a strong paddler! My idea of a great rafting trip – grabbing tight to a rope tied securely to the raft and going – “Whee”.

A quick lesson on paddling – in English – which only I can completely understand – (Guide’s English isn’t great – and it’s no one else’s first language!) and we’re off.

He has taught us some key words – Forward, Backwards, BANG (we’re going to hit something – brace yourself), and Stop. That’s enough for our group – I guess we’ll figure anything else out on a ‘Need to Know’ basis.

This is the tail end of rainy season – good news actually. the rapids are at best level II and III – and generally pretty easy. That said – I’m still having a ball as we bounce down the river – hitting rocks that jut out into our path with great abandon. The advantage of rubber rafts – you definitely bounce! One of my fellow passengers quips – these are like the roads of Bali – an observation I must agree with – rubble rapids complete with the occasional pothole! Only major difference, no motor bikes. Instead we get to dodge the occasional other raft full of people!

Our guide takes us to 3 different waterfalls each at least 100 to 200 meters high – and allows us out to swim in the falls before getting everyone back in the boat for another series of rapids.

I opt to stay in the boat – I’m not sure I could get back in if I flung myself out over the side! Certainly not in deep water. So the guide gets out and drags our raft (with me inside) under the water fall. Hey – I need to get the experience – right? Its pummeling – but fun! And wonderfully cooling.

The scenery is outstanding – vertical cliffs tower above us on both sides – interrupted by water falls, rock falls – several other rafting trip starting points – and at one point – a magnificent hotel – the Royal Pita Maya. Oh my – what a magnificant looking place to stay. We wave at the guests as we paddle by on our way to the next set of rapids.

We drift past a huge rock out-cropping that has been carved with images from the story of Rama Sita – featuring among other things – a huge crocodile. This is the only time my camera makes it out of the water proof bag – so enjoy the image below!

At the 1/2 way point – we take a rest at a beach. Ladies with drinks are at the ready to provide sustenance – with a cheerful – no money – no worries – you pay when you get back to headquarters… The best part of the break – a rock out-cropping over a very deep pool. Our guide does a back-flip and roll into the water – and the rest of us gradually get up the nerve to make a least a belly flop into the water. I’m happy just letting my self get caught up in the current, swept down stream a bit – then paddle back and do it again. So much fun – and so totally refreshing!

Eventually we must paddle on. I’ve finally earned the right to sit in front – which is fun too. We play splash the other rafters – race a team down a quieter path – and generally just laugh and have fun.

All good things must end – even rafting trips. So we arrive – get out of our raft – and begin the long hike (only 250 meters as per the guide) back up. How do the rafts get ‘up’ you ask? Balanced on the heads of the female ‘Porters’ who have magically appeared here.

Surprise Surprise – when we reach the top – we’re at Headquarters! No car ride required. That never happened to me before.

Nice Showers, Hot towels, and a free lunch complete the experience.

Oh was that fun.

** Keeping with the ‘find something to appreciate challenge’ – I really appreciate having the health to make it down and back up so I didn’t have to miss doing the White Water Rafting here in Bali.**

Signing off to find something else that is this much fun to do – The Soup Lady




Irresistible things to do in Bali ….

Being in Bali Makes you want to… (PART 2)

Do Yoga or Pilates – it’s almost a national sport here in Ubud – at least among the ex-pats and foreign visitors. Everyone in all the Yoga classes and Pilates classes I’ve peeked in on has been a foreigner – I think the Balinese are too busy working to need to go to class to stay fit. I’ve tried one of each – plus a Tibetian Gong Mediation class – but more on that in another blog! While you wait – do put one of these classes on your ‘got-ta do it’ list for Ubud.

Visit the Rain Forest – Oh wait – you don’t have to visit it – you are in it – all the time. The flowers are amazing. But when the heavens decide its time for rain – it’s like someone unzipped a huge bag of water – torrents pour out! It’s generally warm water – but still – you, the cars, the dogs, the roads, the rice fields – everything gets soaked. We got caught in one yesterday – We’d gone up to visit Mt Batur to see the volcano – and just as we paid our entrance fee – the black clouds and rain rolled in. Nothing to see – a wall of grey. Absolutely grey. You could imagine that someone had built a room around you, painted the walls light grey – and wished you good luck finding a way out. Clearly we’re going back tomorrow. I do want to see that Volcano!

See Mt Batur, Mt. Agung (the Volcano), and the Mother Temple! It took 2 drives up the mountain roads, winding and curving thru villages and rice fields to get the job done – but we succeeded. First day was a total rain out – 2nd day was Glorious. Amazing photos, beautiful place, and the mother Temple is worth at least one visit. It would be nicer if you are Hindu of course – but I’m still glad I went.

Pat a Snake or a Bat – or both. Why not. Snakes are easy to find if you really want to hold one – big ones too – I’m talking over 15 feet long – minimum. But I just smile and shake my head – no thanks! (Bats on the other hand…)

Pick something you eat that grows wild in Bali! The choices are endless – Mangasteens, bananas, cloves, coffee, cocoa beans (chocolate eventually), pineapples, jack fruit, dumum, vanilla beans, star anis, madarine oranges, the list goes on and on.

Admire the Poinsettas – They grow wild on the slopes of Mt Batur. Both Red and White are considered weeds – they just grow to huge sizes! Diana tells us that they used to grow wild around Ubud – but they actively killed them off – they are weeds – and poisonous to boot.

Perform Kajeng – Every 15 days you must feed the spirts – otherwise who knows what will happen. They might get upset, the good ones desert your family and your compound, and the bad ones, who apparently love food too – will find their way in. And this particular offering series is quite important. Diana’s car – which up to now has not been sporting an offering – today has one. It’s Kajeng.

Chat with School Kids. Okay – this might just be something I love – but they are all learning English after about 10 years old – so the odds are that at least one in the group (they only travel in packs) – will be willing to take a chance and answer your ‘Hello’. Once you’ve broken the ice – it’s a free for all of English – you’ll learn their names, their ages – and you can be sure they will ask ‘What is your name’ – which often comes out as ‘What is my name’ – and eventually you’ll be fast friends. In many cases – the teacher eventually will show up to see what the kids are doing/saying – and this too generates those amazingly beautiful Balinese smiles.

Eat a Paddle Pop – or one of the many competitors. These cost from 3000 to 4000 ruplies – (30 cents to 40 cents) – and are uniformly delicious. They come in tons of flavors, often 3 or 4 to the single pop. Sometimes I think I recognize the flavor – and I do know when it’s chocolate – but sometimes I’m just going for the great name. Coco Lava, Mama Blue, Sunshine, Magic, Red Rocket, Frozen Frenzy – those are just the ones that attempt an English translation. Diana has decided that I’m the Lady that stops for Ice Cream, and I think he’s absolutely correct. It’s hard to pass by a freezer without checking to see if there’s a new surprise hidden in it’s depths.

Side note – a friend of mine has challenged her followers to find something to appreciate every day this month of April – so here’s my April First Appreciation note – I deeply appreciate The Lady in Pink for inviting me to accompany her to Bali. Thank you – Lady in Pink.

Last irresistible thing to do in Bali – Dance till you sweat thru your clothes! That’s my plan for today. I’m waiting at the Yoga Barn for the Sunday Dance to start – 150 people jamming for the fun of jamming – all hot, all sweaty, all smiles.

Signing off to register for my turn to sweat till I drop – The Soup Lady




Doing your Laundry – Balinese Style

When I travel with the Intrepid Traveller – we always carry a clothes line and soap – and do our ‘laundry’ almost every night. Thank goodness for Tilly Clothing – you need stuff that will dry quickly – and Tilly totally does the trick.

But here in Ubud in particular – and Bali in general – laundry places abound. There is one in every village – and almost one on every street corner. They are more popular – and certainly easier to spot – then proper petrol stations!

Blessing note – I saw them doing prayers for both the washers and dryers yesterday – so just like cars and motorbikes – apparently any machine that you count on – needs to be rid of evil spirits.

So of course – I had to try it out. And I admit to becoming adicted. Ok – color me blonde – but here was my latest laundry list:

8 t-shirts
2 trousers
3 under shorts (I think they mean – underware)
1 dress (actually – I think this actually was a longer t-shirt – but I’m not going to argue)
4 Bras

Total cost – for everything – $3.60

Keep in mind that not only do they wash and dry the clothes – they iron them. I saw them ironing my bras – I’m not kidding. And they give you same day service – bring your clothes in by 9:00 am – they are ready by 5:00 pm.

These people work amazing hours – and as far as I can tell – 7 days a week. They might be closed on Sunday – its a bit hard to be sure because we just finished Nyepi – and of course they were closed.

Now that’s what I call service – If we could get our laundry done at home for that price – who would ever buy a washer and dryer!

One fast note about petrol stations – there appear to be 2 kinds of stations – ones that look like ones at home for cars – and street vendors selling gasoline in glass 1 litre jugs. I’m guessing those are for motorbikes – not that i’ve seen a motor bike pull up to one of these street vendors and fill up. And speaking of motor bikes – The Lady in Pink says that when she was here 13 years ago – there were no cars, some motor bikes and tons of bicycles. Today there are tons of cars – about three times as many motor bikes as cars – and almost no bikes. I actually have seen 5 bikes in 2 weeks – and 3 of them were being ridden by serious long distance bikers like you see in California. The other 2 were school kids.

Photo preview of tomorrow’s Blog – market day and view of Mt Agung – Bali’s active volcano. A must see – must photograph view!

Signing off to bring the laundromat more laundry – The Soup Lady




Math at the Yellow Flower – Ubud, Bali

Food in Ubud is dirt cheap by Western standards – seriously really really cheap. Dinner for under $10 isn’t a surprise – it’s the norm. The last time I remember seeing these kinds of bargain prices was in Laos.

But just because the prices are reasonable doesn’t translate to great food everywhere – there are clearly pecking orders – and so far we’ve eaten in 2 restaurants – The Yellow Flower and The Yoga Barn’s Garden Grill.

First the Yellow Flower. It’s in a great location for us – seriously close to where we are living, just an open air space with a kitchen smaller than mine at home and about 10 tables. Max. There is one waitress – maybe 2 (there’s one gal that triples as cook, bartender and waitress.). The rest of the staff (another 2?) does the cooking and I’m guessing the washing of dishes. Never actually saw that happening!

Anyway – we ordered a dish described as 7 Indonesian Dishes in one – turns out it was a sampler platter – served with 1/2 red, 1/2 white rice. It was delicous – and enough for 2 considering The Lady in Pink and I had agreed that we definitely wanted to try the 1/2 coconut dessert – which was bananas, coconut and a carmel sauce. It was quite tasty. In fact the entire meal was delicous. So where does the math come in? We first noticed a dog that relieved himself on every chair at any empty table. No one else seemed aware of this – which says something about the dog population of Ubud. Anyway – because we were watching the table – we noticed a man and his 2 young kids take a chair there. We started to chat – and the younger of the kids says something funny – so I ask his age. He’s 6. He immediately asks me my age – and I answer truthfully – 66. Then I ask him – how much older am I than you are. He thinks a bit – and comes up with 60. Pretty good!

Then here comes the challenge – I turn to his older sister and ask – what year will it be when your brother is half my age now. Blank stares. What is this lady thinking. Then she says – 33. Very good – that’s 1/2 my age. But what year will it be when your brother is that old?

The Lady in Pink and I, our jobs done here, leave stage right.

Now – the Garden Grill. You must understand that the Yoga Barn is the premier place to do holistic healings, yoga, meditation and the like in Ubud – which is a center for that stuff to start with. So the Yoga Barn is the center of the center – it’s a big deal.

And it is huge – the Garden Grill alone is probably 50 tables – there were at least 4 waitress – and it was 30 minutes to closing time. We get seated and handed menus (in English) and my jaw drops. There is something I don’t recognizee in every dish. Clearly these guys are the vegan, rushi, healthy body eathing specialist – but for some one just looking for dinner – the task is daunting. I end up by asking the adorable waitress – Do you have something for beginners – like beginners Yoga?

Yes – they do. The waitress recommends that we try the Balinese Pumpkin Stew. I do – it was great.

Our drinks where to my mind less successful. I got a mint lime slush – thinking it would be mostly shaved ice – nope. And very minty. We decided to try the vegan ice cream, it’s made out of coconut milk – should be yummy – but despite our ordering it in plenty of time, it never arrives. Oh well – a reason to go back I suppose.

I’ve heard good things about several other eating establishments – and I’m going to give them a try. But probably without the math quiz.

Signing off – the Soup Lady.

Being in Bali Makes you want to…

Get a tattoo – Maybe it’s a natural result of seeing so many people wearing so little clothing – but the number of amazing tattoo’s is hard to believe. Vines on feet, flowers on wrists, entire arms, chests, legs, if there’s visible skin – it often sports an amazing tattoo. One guy actually showed me the map of Indonesia on his arm. Handy if you get lost I suppose. I think I’d prefer a GPS or a good compass.

Fast – As in not eat. Overheard at the Yoga Barn in Ubud – “I’m on the third day of my fast – and it’s not so bad. I’m a bit dizzy – but it’s ok”. My idea of a fast – missing lunch!

Drink incredibly great coffee – Yes this is the home of the Civet Cats that eat the coffee beans and poop them out – which apparently makes for a coffee you must try to believe (haven’t tried it yet) – but even the normal – $4 a kilo coffee is incredibly yummy. Guess what friends and family are getting as gifts this year…

Take most of your clothes off and DANCE – I think this is a Yoga Barn/Ubud thing – but the Estatic Dances and Sunday Dances are pretty incredible happenings. 150 to 250 people crowded into a large – but not infinite space in order to jive to the sounds of a DJ. no partners, no talking, just dance. If you try to partner, or break the rule of silence, you can expect to be quietly and quickly corrected. This is a seriously no talking activity. My favorite part – lying down afterwards and relaxing to the sound of a gamalin.

Drink delicous Iced Tea with the sugar syrup on the side – It’s hot, Ice Tea is cold – so of course this is going to work. But the tea is particularly good here – brewed and iced, not instant junk – and having the sugar syurp served on the side makes it super eady to control your sugar fix.

Really listen to the words of John Lennon’s Imagine.

Eat Gado-Gado (vegetables in peanut sauce) in a different restaurant every night to compare recipes. This is possible because food here in Bali is very cheap – $3 to $4 for a main dish if you steer clear of restaurants that look fancy. Even a fancy duck dinner (and I’ve yet to try Duck – bummer) goes for about $30 for 2 – so it’s pretty challenging to run up a bill that requires using your credit card. Just don’t do buffets (so dangerous in this climate for our poor western tummies), and steer clear of a hotel brand you recognize and you’ll be fine!

Talk to strangers – I don’t know what it is about me and traveling – but I’m constantly chatting with strangers – and they get right to the nitty gritty of what is bothering them. I promise – this happened – a woman starts telling me about her hike up Mount Batur to see sunrise, and the fact that she missed it because her son’s tummy wasn’t doing great. I asked – is your family brushing their teeth with bottled water? Answer – No. Well – says I – try that. Might help your son’s tummy. (sigh – imagine – medical advice from the uninformed to the unwary on a walk thru the rice fields. Really?? Only in Bali.)

Get rid of your aggression by having your incisor teeth filed down. This is a traditional rite of passage for Balinese teens – and while I’m not sure it works to get rid of agression – it does go a long way to explaining why food here is so often served in tiny chunks of intense flavor. No Incisors – no cutting the meat off the bone with your teeth!

Ride a Motor Bike Taxi – Again – I haven’t quite worked up the nerve to do this yet – but everyone else does it. If I’m truly brave – I might work up my nerve – or get desperate enough to do it. That almost happened the other night – It was late, I was facing an hour walk back to the Pink Lady’s Palace – and the first taxi offer was a motor bike. Saved by the guy behind him! But it was a close call.

Stand out in the warm rain – just because you can! It’s hot here – and the rain doesn’t always cool things down. So risk of chill for us northern types is pretty well nil. On the other hand – locals wear long sleeves and even sweaters at night. I’m still in shorts and a t-shirt – and sweating! What a difference getting used to a climate makes.

And most importantly – Buy a stone statue of Ganesha (elephant headed Hindu God) to bring home in your luggage – but be sure to learn the story first. Ganesha is the God of protection – and all traditional homes (and most homes are traditional) have one. He sits just inside the front gate of all compounds – and his important job is to keep out those evil spirts. And he does a pretty good job! I really wanted to buy a statue – I was hoping for a Monkey King – but Diane – source of all local info – decided that I absolutely needed Ganesha first. He’ll look great guarding the entrance to my garden at home – just hope he doesn’t find the winters too cold!

Signing off to go White Water Rafting – another must do in Bali – The Soup Lady

Cold Coffee, Snake Fruit and Nyepi – The Day of Silence

March 21, 2015 – and along with the rest of Bali – I’m celebrating the festival of Nyepi – the Day of Silence.

Some one clearly forgot to tell the bird in my room or the rooster – but for the rest of Bali – today is a day to reflect, to think, to consider. The 4 rules are simple – no fires, no entertainment, no travel, no working. On Nyepi the world is born anew – and in respect – we are silent.

An alternative explanation – on this day the Bad Spirits fly by the island – and if there is no sound and no lights and no fires, they will think it is uninhabited – and avoid us for another year. To be sure they are distracted – yesterday all the ladies were busy putting offerings out to distract them from entering the house – offerings including whole opened coconuts, rice, flowers, and in at least one case – candy bars!

Even the airport closes for 24 hours. I’ve been told that if you try to travel, you will be stopped and politely asked to go back home. People staying in hotels have told me that some hotels will prepare food for that day – others expect you to fend for yourself by stocking up the day before. Needless to say the little 24 hour stores that mainly stock crackers and cookies were doing a landslide business last night.

Some people leave Bali for Nyepi – fleeing to less restrictive locations like the Gill Islands or even Java – but we decided to experience it here in the Lady in Pink’s 2 bedroom palace. We have food (albeit cold – hence the cold coffee and Snake Fruit – names for it’s snake like outer peel – its actually a cross between an apple and a pear with 3 large pits), we have a swimming pool, and I have my trusty ipad. Blogging is my way of thinking introspectively – in case you didn’t notice!

But let’s backtrack to last night – Pre-Nyepi day – when all of Bali celebrates – Big Time. Seriously Big Time – with huge Ogoh-Ogoh being paraded thru the streets. This is traditionally an exorcism ceremony – held in every village in Bali. The idea is to vanquish the negative elements and create balance with God, Mankind, and nature.

Starting months earlier – each community group gets together to design, build and chorograph their part in these ceremonies. The ‘Build’ portion are the Ogoh-Ogoh – puppets or demonic statues that tower above the troops of young men who carry them on Bamboo platforms. These huge (15 – 20 – even 30 feet tall) monsters and mythological beings are built of bamboo, foam, electrical wire, whatever can be found. They stand on large bamboo platforms that provide room for the 30 or so people who will be charged with carrying them thru the street – and DANCING with them during the actual ceremony.

We saw groups of young people – 5 and 6 years old – with smaller Ogoh-Ogoh, totally proud that they were participating in such an important event. The larger, more massive Ogoh-Ogoh are carried by older teens and young men. Balinese orchestras of gongs and drums accompany each group – and some groups had female dancers – highly made up – that danced along too. One group was totally playing with fire – live flames carried as torches, and used to light hula hoops during their part of the ceremony. All I could think was – Disney would DIE at the risk – imagine 20 or so young dancers – live flames – and NO audience control what so ever.

The parade starts with each group man-handling their Ogoh-Ogoh to the local football field in Ubud (obviously – other villages have other gathering points). This would be easier if not for the advent of electrictity. There are wires strung across the streets haphazardly – and mostly way too low to allow these huge creatures with their massive wing spans, demon riders, or tall feather head-dresses to pass. So each creature has it’s pole bearers. Men who carry 40 foot long bamboo poles with Y shaped ends. The idea – they use the poles to push the wires out of the way – while the guys tasked with moving the Ogoh-Ogoh lower it all the way to the ground and push it past. Over and Over again. The effort required is stunning.

At the football field, the Ogoh-Ogoh gather, along with their carriers, their bands, their dancers, the proud parents, hackers of balloons and glow in the dark headresses, and the crowds of on-lookers. A carnival atmosphere develops as more and more Ogoh-Ogoh take the field. From 5:30 until time to depart for the parade and ceremony at the main cross-roads – the numbers grow from a few hundred to several thousand people. And that’s just here in Ubud – the same gatherings and celebrations is happening in every community all over Bali. The magnitude is challenging to appreciate.

The Lady in Pink and I hung out at a local restaurant with a great view of the field – watching the action without having to withstand the brunt of the heat of the day. Our table sat 4 – so we were joined by 3 different groups of fellow tourists in shifts – 2 female artists from Germany, an older woman, also an artist, from Amsterdam, and then a couple of tourists also from Germany. Good think the Lady speaks German, eh? I drank tons of water – had a Pineapple Ice Cream Milkshake – and occasionally ventured onto the field to take pictures. The Lady held onto our table (more and more valuable as the sun began to set), and chatted with our new friends.

I even joined one of the community groups (bought the T-shirt) – but they wouldn’t let me help carry. Hey – I offered! I’m not sure what it means – but my shirt says Tabeng Dada and sports an image of their Ogoh-Ogoh.

Finally – all the groups have gathered – and it’s time for the parade to start. The Lady and I opt to avoid the crowds – and take the longer, but less travelled route back to the main intersection. We arrive just as the largest of the Ogoh-Ogoh – the one with the wings and the rider on the back of the monster arrives – and are duly frightened as it swings menacingly above our heads.

This is truly the mosh pit to end all mosh pits. And we opt out. Mistake actually. Had we stopped and thought about things a bit better – we’d have gone for high ground with a view of the intersection – but we underestimated how important and how long the ceremonies at the intersection would be. We’d have been much better having a good view. Eventually we realized our error – and worked our way back into the fray – but higher so less pushing. We got to watch one group do it’s entire 20 minute performance – and then bailed to begin our long – 40 minute – up hill walk home. This was actually not nearly as difficult as I had imagined it would be – I only stopped twice, once for a delicous 30 cent flavored popcycle – and once for a rush bathroom stop. And the temperature had cooled off considerably – which made walking much much easier.

Never-the-less – it was home, swimming pool, bed.

Signing off to think deep thoughts on Nyepi – The Soup Lady





Life in a Rain Forest – Ubud does Water World

Start with some Simple Geography – Ubud is built upon a series of ravines between, beside, and parallel to the parths 2 rivers. We hiked about 10 KM total along the ridge line that divides theses rivers this morning – (it was lovely) – but this blog is not about that hike – it’s about living in a rain forest.

To the south of Ubud is the plain of Dempasseur – the main city of Bali and the location of the airport. To the north East of Ubud is Mount Agung – a volcano that errupted most recently in 1963 and is still considered active. At 9,944 feet – it dominates the skyline from all directions – and is actually clearly visible from the back porch of our ‘Balanese Palace.”

Naturally – the clouds are forced upwards as they move from the hot wet coast towards the mountain – and thus we get rain here in Ubud. Lots of rain. Even now – at the ‘end’ of the rainy season, there are 2 or 3 rain storms a day – and the one last night was a dosy.

At about 3:30 AM I shot upright in bed to the sound of a clap of thunder so loud the house shook. With no insulation to speak of – and basically a thatched roof – while water tight – our little home is barely protection from the elements – it’s certainly not entirely safe in a thunder and lightening storm – at least that is what went thru my mind at 3:30 AM!

Next thought – what’s the tallest thing around? There’s a series of Palm trees at one edge of the rice fields that surround us – and there’s a magnificant Banyon tree South East of us that fairly large. But in the general height department – there’s not a lot to choose from. It’s a random chance if lightining should hit us rather than our neighters.

So – it rained, and rained, and rained. I had visions of flood warnings – but Ubud takes rain in it’s stride. All streets have 2 foot deep tranches on the sides – and the roads are slopped to drain into the trenches. The trenches funnel the water from the frequent rain storms into one of the 2 rivers – after providing water for the multitude of rice plantings that occupy any land not uesd for housing.

So Ubud can handle the rain. And it sure looks pretty while doing so! The flowers are amazing – everywhere you look there is one flower more glorious, more prefect – than the next. I had to look them up – Heliconia (red firm flowers (leaves?) hanging down from trees everywhere, Bananas – both wild and cultivated – and even growing in our back yard, Flamboyant trees are everywhere – in fact avoiding them is harder than finding them. Water Lilys, Bamboo trees, lotus flowers, the list is never ending – and all are lovely.

For a rain forest habitat – Ubud does not disappoint.

Clearly the issue around here is not on how to get plants watered – it’s how to deal with incredibly rapid growth. Trees have amazingly huge roots, statues if not cleaned frequently quickly develop a glorious green hue – and there are water falls – and signs of wash outs everywhere. But if you’ve always wanted to know what a rain forest feels like – Ubud is your place.

Signing off to go dry her feet – The Soup Lady