Tag Archives: Bali

Gimme SOMA More!

I will probably spend the rest of my trip craving Soma’s Sweet n Simple with Grilled Tempe….vegan brownie…oja rejuvenation….date and flax cheesecake crust…live pad thai….PacJohn, the charismatic owner….the didgeridoo jam sessions…and the guaranteed new friends at every sitting.


Soma probably doesn’t have more than 20 seats but they will always find a place for you to sit.  The welcoming community atmosphere welcomes Ubud’s short term visitors, seasoned ex-pats, and health conscious locals. PacJohn/Johnny, the owner is always there full of energy, playing instruments, joining a party for a meal, and eager to share his passion for sustainable, local, intentional food.  Not only does Johnny have impressive knowledge of the benefits of superfoods and the physiological benefits (and detriments) linked with diet, he also has local contacts for anything health-minded you could want in Ubud.  From Traditional healers, to tarot card readers, yoga festivals, and music jam sessions…he knows what’s up. 


As for the food.  Ohhhh, the food.  Why is Soma ahead of the game compared to other ‘organic’ ‘vegetarian’ ‘raw’ food establishments? Because it focuses on the flavor as much as the health.  More often than not, when restaurants focus on the health side of foods they are able to get by on just that….Soma goes one step further to make dishes that are not only impressively creative in terms of ingredients (often raw and vegan, always organic and local) but it puts together flavours with exquisitely unique flare to awaken the taste buds.  There is so much thought put in to everything from a simple crust to the drizzle of coulis that every bite is a masterpiece. 


So the menu is great, the atmosphere is intoxicating….the price.  At first glance—100,000 IDR! That was the most expensive meal I’d had in Bali…by about 90,000….first, 1USD is about 9500 IDR….second, for 11ish dollars I got a coconut, a warm elixir beverage, a salad and open faced sandwich, and a decadent vegan brownie…any food of the same quality and taste in North America would be at least 5 times that cost.  I came to the conclusion at that moment that I wasn’t eating anywhere else until I left Ubud (I’d already spent days eating from Warungs and hawker stalls) because my body deserved it after months of rice cakes, pies, and ‘free food’ bin leftovers.  I have never had so much energy, my stomach feels slimmer and less uneasy, and I miraculously feel less bloated in the [what feels like] 1000% humidity of Bali. 


Definitely a MUST go to in Ubud if not for the food, the atmosphere and unreal people.   Where do you find this slice of heaven?  On Jl. Dewi Sita half way between Monkey Rd and Jl Hanoman. 



New Year # 3: Nyepi

First, I celebrated international New year in Sydney…Second, Chinese New year (I was in NZ…but being half Chinese I always celebrate this bad boy)…Third, Nyepi (aka: Balinese New Year).  I was reading blogs/internet advice and read that this year the 12 would be the Bali New Year and thought that I would HAVE to be here for it….’it would be such an amazing party’…then you get here and find out that the day before Nyepi is a celebration…Nyepi is a day where you can’t use electricity, talk to people, or leave your room.  Literally the whole island shuts down and the only people in the streets are the Nyepi police ensuring that locals and foreigners are both observing the holiday. 


It’s not Indonesian…..but Balinese…and I don’t think it actually has much to do with religion either otherwise it wouldn’t only be here…  The Balinese calendar is 60 weeks long, so today (I’m cheating…a bit) is the mark of 1930-something.  Yesterday was the Ogoh-Ogoh parade which is supposed to be best in Ubud…basically a dozen-ish massive monsters built by locals from surrounding districts out of organic materials (like 20 ft high) and paraded through the streets before dusk to scare away and slay any bad spirits….then after the sun sets they burn them and subsequently all the bad spirits they would have caught.  Then while all of the residue escapes the streets the Balinese must stay inside and reflect on their year, the following day is a celebration once again filled with apologies and forgiveness as the happiest people on earth (arguably) embark on another year.


In an effort to be so ridiculously tired on Nyepi that we could sleep all day to avoid the confinement and boredom of the day two friends and I decided to do a sunrise volcano trek.  We started at 2am Monday (Sunday night)…and decided not to sleep first…turns out everyone else got the memo that you would be helllllllla tired if you stayed up all night.  More importantly stayed up after waking for early yoga Sunday morning….Anyway, at 2am we drove out to Mt Batik (I think….the smaller one…not Arung) for a 2 hour trek to the top to see the sunrise.  It was way more challenging than any of us anticipated, but the view from the top was more than worth it!  We got up in time to take cliché yoga pose photos, and soak in the impressive view.  The climb down was actually way worse…if anything I was just more impressed at what we had climbed in the dark as we all slipped and tripped down the unstable lava-rock.


After we decided once again not to sleep hoping our deprivation would be satisfied the next day, so we stocked up on wholesome baked goods (veggie samosas, banana breads, rye pretzels) fruit, and nuts for the next day as we clued in that we would have no access to food for the holiday.  Most homestays provide guests with food…but apparently our budget choices had left us to fend for ourselves.  By the time we’d bartered down prices in the spirit of ‘nyepi’ it was time to head out to the ogoh ogh parade…


I would have been okay walking 20 meters, letting the people carrying the ogoh ogoh stop for water for 10 minutes then walking 20 meters if I hadn’t been up since 7 the day before and done 2 yoga classes and hiked a volcano in that time…so we decided to skip the burning which seemed to be hours away and catch a couple Bintang’s as a toast to the new year. …On the walk home the power surged on Ubud’s main streets and the silence of Nyepi had blanketed even our excited recollections of the day as we tiptoed to our rooms for what would be 36 powerless hours.


I definitely pre-charged every electronic item I had…Then realized I wouldn’t have access to wifi anyway…but my computer screen is currently a great light to brush my teeth…and I did actually meditate for an hour, did 8 minute abs…twice…and (although it is easy for my rest-less mind) did a boatload of introspection. 


I was up from sunrise, to sunset, to sunrise, to sunset and still only slept 8 hours…I wasn’t tired this morning at all.  I thought about how amazing I feel….how many times I’ve stopped in the last (almost 5) months to think “this is my life”.  I’ve said it in gratitude, amazement, almost humor at times…but today I looked at it so much more literally.  This is my life…not just my trip but my life. 


I was contemplating earlier in the week whether or not to go to the full moon party in Thailand.  I know in my gut that I can’t be fussed…but everyone says I have to go, and everyone will ask if I go…finally thanks to the wise words of a fellow traveller I decided I’m not going.  I’ve been preaching that it’s my trip, nobody elses…and I know in theory that what other people think shouldn’t matter…which is mostly why I didn’t end up doing half of the adventure things in NZ, and scrapped the Gili’s to stay in Ubud… and I don’t regret it at all… but she said, not only can you not travel to impress people…but you must also consider that you for this time in your life can chose exactly where you want to be…and by chosing to be in once place, you are also choosing not to be in another.  So not only is it the money, the fact that I don’t care to go, or that I may not enjoy it….it’s the fact that I’m giving up the opportunity to be somewhere I’d rather be and I won’t get that time back later.  For whatever reason that really stuck out to me.  Reminding me that when we make choices we are not only choosing one thing, we are also often giving up another.  And so, once again I find myself acknowledging my battle of caring what other people think.  For some reason this particular example of me giving up precious time somewhere I want to be travelling to go somewhere I know people think I should go is glaringly obvious that it’s not just choosing for others, it’s also sacrificing something for myself. 



Yogini Life

The grass is always greener…the whole time I was in Oz/NZ all I could think about was how cheap and awesome Asia would be…then on my flight to Bali I started to realize all that was awesome about Oz and NZ….what gives. Anyway, while I was on the 6 hour flight trying reallllly hard not to succumb to the scheme that is 3 dollar in-flight soft drinks I had a lot of time to myself and my thoughts….dangerous, I know.

I started to think about what I wanted from Bali, Asia, this trip…I came to the conclusion that although I wasn’t pulling an ‘Eat Pray Love’ (the new adjective for ‘finding oneself through extensive travelling’), I wanted to have more than a tan to show for my time. After all this is working out to be a projected 15k+ investment in the end….to say I have no tan lines and ate lots of curry would be a bit disappointing. Yes, there is the experience…but the experience you get is only what you put in. I don’t have unlimited funds, but I do have a heavy abundance of time and effort. I put the guide book aside (which I’d been reading cover to cover daily) and wrote a list of what I wanted to do in Asia.

The list is long and doesn’t include getting tanned and wasted on beaches…Fun will be had, but perhaps less belligerent fun with better decisions…. That being said, I sat back and wondered what I really wanted from Bali…was it just the novelty of ‘bali’…did I want to party? Surf? Hike?…I wanted to do yoga. I realized quickly that its not really a part of the local culture as everyone that goes seems to be a tourist and studios have ridiculous local deals that aren’t even utilized (like a 10th of the price!)…but there’s something about practicing yoga that reminds you to be humble and accepting, to drop the ego….and to breathe. Mostly, that it’s not a competition, and as my teacher yesterday said, “life must be a balance of effort and surrender”.

Basically eluding the notion that we can’t get too addicted to success…that mastering a posture and only doing it to be great at it isn’t enough, once mastering, we must push ourselves once again. It made me realize that maybe I had gotten to a point of ‘success’ with Oz and NZ…It had become easy. I am an expert, I like being the expert…I like being right. Who doesn’t? Anyway….I have gotten a week unlimited at Radiantly Alive, a gorgeous studio with 2 rooms, and plenty of classes from Flying Yoga to Radiantly Alive Vinyasa, and tons of guided meditation….only set me back 40 bucks as opposed to the 90 dollar 10 class pass with the famous Yoga Barn and I have LOVED every class and instructor. Nevermind the fact that Bali’s ridiculously hot and humid climate makes every class warm for juicier poses. I have had some of my best practices ever…I attribute it to the fact that I have nowhere else I’d rather be…which makes me think about how we have the power to be successful if we are choosing to be present and focused in whatever we’re doing wherever we are…If you’re there and you aren’t leaving you might as well utilize the time fully-right?

Pretty much everyone I practice with is creating their own retreat for either a week or month like I’ve chosen to do (for a week). Going to 1 meditation and at least 2 classes a day. I hurt like hell, but I’ve done my first unassisted handstand, I’ve done hanging belt restoration, Flying Yoga (acro/thai massage), yin, level 2 vinyasas and more. All of the instructors are foreigners…but they all know their stuff. Jose, who does Vinyasa, Iyengar, and hanging belt restoration is one of the best instructors I’ve ever had, and Samuel can guide even my busy mind into a deep meditation. The only thing local about the studio is the front desk staff…but the attitude of Yoga is very much in line with that of Bali, and has in fact made me feel Radiantly Alive, as it would claim. I feel no need to ‘Facebook’…I’d rather be at meditation..I spend my hours between classes chatting (or trying to ) with the locals trying to find the best food while guzzling coconut water and discussing what color of sarong I ‘have’ to buy before I leave.

Also I’ve discovered Soma….I will write a post on it individually…but its basically Edmonton’s Noorish (Tons of raw, vegan, g-free options, elixors, fresh fruit smoothies…a link to the yoga community…free range, local ingredients) at a tenth of the price. It’s funny how North America has created an image around healthy food that it has to be ridiculously overpriced making it pretentious and trendy. I read an article about fasting where the author (paraphrased) said that fasting makes him re-evaluate why we eat….continuing on to say we eat to nourish our bodies with essential nutrients, not for the caloric needs…that will come naturally… And more importantly not for emotional need or taste…Food that tastes ‘so good’ is our way of associating food with emotional benefit which we should be getting from activity, and sociability…not food. Understanding how your body can function without the food helps to center the attitude towards food…we should all respect our bodies as much as we would a Lambourghini….and we wouldn’t put Regular fuel in one if we had one, so out of respect for ourselves, and the desire to live the healthiest, longest life possible we should be putting premium products into our system. That being said, I still love food….the taste, the calories, all of it…it’s just an interesting take on fasting and food.