7 experiences you need to have in Bali before you die
Making your way through rice paddies and along beaches on a moped with a surfboard rack
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My sweet little aquamarine 150 CC off-brand ride cost me a smidge over $5 a day, and enabled me to commute to my 5 am morning yoga sessions safely, head out for coffee and snacks with ease during break times, and have more than a few surf sessions during my long lunch. I could cruise easily out to meet friends for a drink in the evening, while getting home quickly, wind whipping through my hair as I grinned into the night sky.
The freedom of having my own inexpensive transportation was unexpected, and empowered me to do sightseeing on my days off, weaving my way in and out of crazy Bali traffic (sorry mom), heading to Tanah Lot for sunset as the tide surrounded the temple and set it afloat in a sea of rose and gold, and adventuring down to Uluwatu for a nightand a day – surfing, spectatoring, and doing some additional temple appreciating.
Sipping fresh espresso that may or may not have come from a civet’s butthole
The locally produced coffee beans have met their perfect match in the yoga/surfer-driven espresso bars. Modern espresso machines imported from Italy served up my locally roasted coffee black and strong, or on a fancy day, with coconut milk and a rippled espresso leaf. My favorite café served up a cup of the best with a complementary brownie, which gave me the motivation I needed to keep cracking my books, or had me dancing all the way to the next evening stop, depending on the circumstance.
I didn’t feel the urge to drop a huge amount of money on it, but for somebody more interested in the finer (?) things in life, there’s Kopi Luwak on offer–coffee cherries digested by wild civets. Some people say digestion gives the coffee a bolder flavor. Feel free to test that out for me.
Fighting the urge to swear when a monkey steals your food in a sacred temple
Okay, so I knew I’d get a shot of culture with my Bali yoga experience, but I didn’t realize the breadth of Balinesian sacred sights I’d have the opportunity to explore. Ubud alone has the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, a.k.a. “Monkey Temple” (shockingly, overrun with monkeys who are mesmerizing, though somewhat frightening in their antics); the ancient caves and incredible jungle palace of the Elephant Temple; and the red-walled, black-thatched roofs of the elegantly moated Pura Taman Ayun. A short drive to the center of the island brought us to Pura Ulun Danu Bratan Temple, which sat on a lake, with volcanos rising up in the background. They were profound; piety crafted into beauty for all to behold and appreciate.
The quiet peace of a rice paddy, with nothing but a few birds to keep you company
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It didn’t matter if I was delicately picking my way through the slightly muddy paddies of Tellalagang or Jatuliweh, bicycling through paddies in Balinese traffic jams on my way to and from the yoga studio, or mopeding past their sturdy stalks on my to the next adventure: verdant, young rice stems, swaying gently in the breeze are a sight to behold. Bright pieces of cloth flapped on strings stretched across the emerald patches; vivid dancing squares to keep the birds away. Fields of shamrock green so bright and in such abundance that they seemed fake at first, until the magic of those paddies wove their way into my soul, and for the duration of my time in Bali, thoroughly replaced my associations of evergreen forests as indicators of home.
Epic sunsets that make you wish the day was over
Granted, I was often tired after a long day at the studio, and I often had reading and journaling to do as homework. But heading out on my moped to grab a beer at the local store, park the moped on the edge of the sand, and scramble on top of rocks-ever-darkening as the sun went on its way… they were worth it every time. It was as if Bali was coaxing me out every twilight with gentle promises. “Hey. Chill. You’ve worked hard. Relax. Take it all in. Enjoy your beer, your friends, and this stillness I’ve brought you between day and night. I’ve got some incredible magentas and marigold oranges coming up here in a moment, just for you. Cheers.” Bali sunsets beckoned. I followed.
Falling down on a surfboard while an 8-year-old shreds up the next wave
I’m a beginning to intermediate surfer. Point breaks intimidate me. I hate sitting in a substantial line up, parked at the end and waiting for an approachable, friendly-looking wave to come along that no one else has grabbed first; paddling with every ounce of strength to avoid the larger sets that try to taunt me, reminding me that I should be stretching on land, instead of the sea.
Large waves on a beach break are also intimidating. But Bali has everything–point breaks, gentle, rolling tubes, monster shredders. There’s a wave for me, and just about everybody else. It’s embarrassing to get knocked on your ass while watching a girl a quarter of your age rip up a wave taller than she is, but damn if it’s not a sight to see.
The nightlife worth staying up till sunrise
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Every night. Live music almost every night of the week, and barefoot dance parties with shiny, happy people, beyond the club scene. If you’re into that, Kuta and Seminyak have clubs – loads of them. But in the smaller surfy, yoga-y town that I was holed up in, the nightlife was the icing on the cake. I wasn’t in Bali to stay up all night dancing and sleep the day away. I was there to push myself mentally, strengthen myself physically, and find some peace emotionally. I found all of the above on the daily, on my yoga mat, cruising on my moped, sipping my lattes, strolling the rice fields, soaking in the sunsets, riding the waves, and tearing up the dance floor.