Zumba in Bali

(I started this post before I broke my rib so it’s looking like this is the last of the fitness posts for the next 6 weeks or so…)

I wasn’t expecting to find any Zumba at all in Bali and had resigned myself to a couple weeks of yoga as my physical activity.  Don’t get me wrong – I always feel great after doing yoga and I know how good it is for me, but I just don’t enjoy like I do dancing. I’m not terribly flexible and even when I was doing yoga more regularly (back in my bellydancing days), I never felt like I got any better at it.

Yoga at The Amala

Our first hotel was in Seminyak and offered 90 minute classes twice a day for the reasonable price of 50,000 rph (approx $4). It was a lovely studio with huge windows, beautiful dark wood floors, and lots of new yoga mats and blocks.

My first class was Vinyasa Flow with Nita. She was very friendly and did a great job guiding 4 of us through the poses, speaking alternately in English and Indonesian. Because it was a small class, we got a lot of personal attention/helpful adjustments.  I was thoroughly fatigued by the end and sore for the following days.

I also went to a Hatha class with Budi. He took the time to check with everyone’s experience levels and adjust the poses accordingly.  There was a Japanese girl who claimed this was only her second yoga class ever, but either she didn’t understand the question or was just naturally bendy as she was far better than anyone else in the room. (While I was struggling with the basics, Budi kept telling her how to increase the difficulty!)

Bali Fitness in Seminyak

This gym did offer Zumba once or twice a week with drop-in pricing, but not on the days I was in Seminyak so I didn’t get to try them out.  Their website schedule wasn’t current, so best to contact them in advance if you’re hoping to attend one.

Zumba in Ubud

Ani teaches at Ubud Fitness three times a week. The drop-in rate was around $5 USD, and the gym was really responsive when I messaged them on Facebook to check the schedule. The studio was open air, so even though there was a nice breeze and plenty of fans, I was definitely extra-sweaty by the end of class. It also meant we had the occassional chicken checking out our moves.


Ani is a tiny little firecracker with boundless energy. Her class was great all around – her cueing was fantastic, the routines were easy to follow, and she was always helping adjust where people stood, since the room could get quite full.

Me & Ani
Note how sweaty my shirt is…

And on Valentine’s Day, she brought in these treats for everyone:

Zumba Treats
So adorable!

She offered Zumba Toning once a week, where you use the maraca-like weights for part of the class. They felt light initially but after several songs you could definitely tell they were working! She provides the weights so you just need to show up and shake them!

The other days she teaches Zumba to a packed room of (mostly) expats.  It was always a great time! There was usually one or two other instructors in the class, and Ani was so gracious to give us each a chance to lead a song. (Her class was particularly excited about my routine to Bottoms Up, so hopefully the California-style booty shaking will continue once I am gone.)

Ani's Class
This group knows how to have fun!

She has a very active community on Facebook and everyone in the class was so welcoming – I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it if you’re in Ubud!

Zumba At Roam

There was an underutilized, gorgeous yoga deck at the place where we were staying, Roam, so I decided to offer a (free) Zumba class for any interested residents.

Zumba at Roam
Not a bad spot for a class

7 brave folks showed up for the first class (including 2 guys!). The humidity was oppressive – I was amazed that 4 people stuck through to the sweaty, sweaty end. So many of them had seen me working out on my own (with headphones) so it was fun to crank up the stereo and have a proper class.

When we returned for our second stay, several folks wanted to do it again. Zumba is always more fun with friends, so I held a few more classes.  I was impressed with how willing the guys were to go for it!

Zumba at Roam - Class 2

One of our roomies took this timelapse of the last few songs – look at them work it!

When I wasn’t teaching a class or going to Ani’s, I would use the yoga deck to work on new choreography or just rock out on my own.  It was amazing to have so much space to use, plus I could jump right in the refreshing pool afterwards!

Balinese Dance Class

To my untrained eye, Balinese dance looks similar to Odissi (Indian Temple Dancing), with angled body positions, dramatic eye movements, and expressive hands. Ubud Studio offered classes once a week for about $7.50, so I decided to give it a shot. (They also had a lot of partner dancing classes like salsa, bachata and kizomba.)

The studio was on the top floor of what seemed like a half-abandoned building (the ground floor was occupied by a pretty shabby-looking gym). The dance floor was lovely, though, with pristine floors, lots of mirrors, and a nice stereo.

Studio Ubud

I was the only person in the class that day. While it was amazing to get a private lesson, it also meant there was no disguising my cluelessness.  We literally spent the first 40 minutes just trying to get my body into the default standing position, which required more flexibility in my hamstrings than I had. I did do better at the basic walk, so we managed to do the tiniest little combo before the time was up.

The instructor was very good and a lovely dancer – though her English was great, she also wasn’t shy about giving me hands-on adjustments. She told me she had been studying this dance since she was very little,  including spending an hour a day with her arms wrapped over a pole to try and open her chest and improve her carriage. Suffice to say, I have new respect for how challenging this dance is!

All in all, it was very easy to find classes in Ubud, which seems especially set up to handle travellers. Whether you want to do acro-yoga, ecstatic dance, Zumba, salsa or just meditate, there are plenty of classes available!

And that’s how I broke our cardinal rule (and my rib)…

Bali is dominated by what we started calling the Local Taxi Mafia. Local guys with mopeds or cars were constantly offering you a ride, and you had to negotiate the price depending on the distance, mood of the driver, time of day, and how good your bargaining skills were. There were signs everywhere forbidding Uber and even metered taxis. (I know Uber is far from innocent as a company, but there have been several cases of the local taxi mafia dragging Uber drivers out of their car and beating them.)

In an otherwise peaceful and friendly place, this has been a frustration… It seemed like I was constantly offered rides when I didn’t need them, but couldn’t find anyone when I did. I finally decided to rent my own scooter, as many of our other roomies did.

Behold the “Scoopy” !


I had never driven a scooter before. I watched several You Tube videos about it, practiced a bit in the driveway of Roam and a nearby empty parking lot, and then figured I would just go slow and try to avoid the busiest parts of town. (The German was understandably nervous about this plan.)

I spent the first day driving around with my turn signal on the entire time, but otherwise made it to the grocery store and back without incident.

At this point in our travels, driving/walking on the left feels more natural, so the “driving” part was pretty easy, but traffic certainly took some getting used to… there were heaps of scooters on the road but no traffic signals or stop signs. Essentially, you just “go with the flow” (like a school of fish) and hug the left as much as possible. (People are often driving down the middle of the road to avoid parked cars.) I mainly wanted the scooter so I could get to a 9am Zumba class across town, which meant dealing with a lot more traffic than I would like but I managed to handle it several times without incident.

One day I decided to take the bike on a longer drive, out to a jewelry workshop about 3.5 miles/25 minutes away. I was feeling more comfortable, and figured I could just take it slow and pull over regularly when I needed to check directions.

It started off well… there were far fewer people on the road than in central Ubud and the countryside was lovely. However, just a few minutes away from my destination, I lost control around a sharp corner as someone was passing me and slammed into a wall, landing in a ditch with the scooter on top of me.

There was so much blood that I immediately knew I was about to violate our cardinal rule of the trip: no hospital visits.

I texted the single word “help” to The German as several locals came rushing to my aid. They pulled me and the moped out of the ditch and got me a bunch of kleenex to try and stop the bleeding. At one point, one of them removed my prescription sunglasses from my face – the frames were intact but both lenses were missing. After a lot of frantic discussion, they moved the moped into a nearby driveway and then threw me in a car to rush me to a local clinic.

The splatter paint wasn’t part of the original design of this skirt.


Neither my rescuers or the nurse spoke English, but I could tell from their conversation and gestures that it was bad. She went to work cleaning me up and kept saying  “hospital” while the guys tried to help in any way they could. They kept trying get me to call someone, so they were relieved when I showed them that The German was making his way towards me on Find My Friends.

Just as the nurse was applying the last bandage, The German arrived. He quickly paid the bill ($3) and got directions to the nearest hospital. He tried offering money to the guys who rescued me but they refused to accept it. I was so incredibly grateful for their help.

We rushed to the Ubud hospital as I struggled to stay conscious. I was wearing a helmet when I crashed, but my head was bleeding from somewhere and the site of the deep gash in my knee was making me woozy.

At the hospital, they started to work on a more thorough cleaning but they soon discovered their x-ray was in an error state and would take an hour to fix. (Huh?) They recommended we switch to a different hospital rather than wait. The environment there was pretty chaotic – a screaming child, wailing adults, and the 7 beds were all full so The German ran into the street to negotiate another taxi.

Moving was a challenge and the adrenaline was starting to wear off so I was becoming painfully aware of just how banged up I was. It was an agonizing 15 min drive, but definitely worth it – Kasah Ibu Hospital had been constructed in the last year and had very modern equipment, plus I was the only patient in the ER.

They quickly started an IV with painkillers and fluids as they prepared for x-rays. Dr. Dyah spoke perfect English and had a very professional team, lifting me from a gurney to various tables for a CT scan and multiple x-rays. (I suspect they were excited to have a chance to use some of the equipment- there was a lot of staff in attendance.)

Check out my big brain!


They administered antibiotics and gave me a tetanus booster (eve though I already had one in the past few years) since the wounds were so dirty. Both my knee and elbow were so deeply cut that the bone was exposed. I was going to need a surgeon.

The x-rays showed I had a fractured rib and a small fracture in my elbow, but my knee wasn’t broken and surprisingly, neither was my nose. I had quite a lot of road rash on my legs and a cut on my forehead, but the scans didn’t show any internal bleeding so they started surgery prep at 9pm.

I was anxious, but everyone seemed very competent and the facilities were modern and clean. I woke up around 2am with The German by my side, who had been answering my same 4 questions in a loop as I was regaining consciousness.

Around 3am I was transferred to a room. We got a complimentary upgrade to an “Executive” room, which wasn’t nearly as nice as some hotel upgrades we have received, but it had a second bed for The German, so that’s all that mattered.

All of the staff did their best to communicate in English (though it was a challenge at times). They always made sure I was comfortable, though, and modestly covered when there were male workers around. They apologized each time before touching me (“sorry”) which was very sweet and we loved how they always referred to each other as “friends”: “my friend will bring you pain killer” or “my friend would like to change the sheets”.

The kindest of them all was the one I thought of as “Nurse Pee Pee”. (She was the night shift and always inquiring about my bathroom needs. )

The surgeon wanted me to stay at least one more night so I could continue with the IV cocktail of fluids, pain killers and antibiotics. Moving was painful so I couldn’t really argue with the logic of staying in the mechanical hospital bed.

The German spent the long, boring day adjusting my pillows, talking to insurance people, and keeping our local pals updated. The food at the hospital was some of the worst I have had on this whole trip so he would periodically run out for coconut water and other treats. He also managed to get the guy who rented me the scooter to go collect it. (It was 20 minutes outside of Ubud in a random driveway, so no easy task… The German assured him I wouldn’t be needing it again.) I couldn’t imagine dealing with all of this without him – he has been an amazing caretaker.

The second night was rough as they tried to reduce my pain killers but my broken rib made it hard to sleep. We awoke just before the 6.4 earthquake commenced, shaking the building for 20 seconds. Nurse Pee Pee came running in and said we needed to go down 4 flights of stairs to safety, which frankly, seemed impossible given my mobility. By time I made it to the hallway, the tremors subsided so we stayed put. The building definitely handled it well – the only evidence of the quake was the crooked paintings on the wall. (Even the fake flowers on the table didn’t fall over.)

They switched me to oral pain killers, re-dressed all of my wounds, and we collectively decided I should stay one more night. Between the wounds on my knees and right elbow, the broken rib, the IV in my left arm and arm soreness from the Zumba Toning class I did Monday morning, it was hard to transition between sitting and standing and I needed to be more mobile before I could go.

The German arranged for Dr. Dyah to pay us another visit. Her English was by far the best and she was able to answer all of my questions about after care. Aside from all of her helpful medical tips, she also told us we encountered the largest earthquake in a decade and apparently people ran into the streets screaming…. what an exciting couple of days!

The next morning I was determined to leave the hospital. Moving was still a challenge and laughing really hurt but I desperately wanted the IV out of my arm and access to better food. After a final inspection from the surgeon, they changed all my bandages to “waterproof” and started the discharge process!

Amazingly the grand total came to 10,000,000 less than their original estimate:

The Bi;;
Biggest bill ever!

That works out to be less than $5,000 (USD), which is certainly a fraction of what that would have cost in the US.

I am now happily back at Roam, recovering in our room with easy access to fresh smoothies, lots of friendly faces, and plenty of pain killers. Though I am technically cleared to fly, I am still struggling to get in and out of bed  and walking around at the pace of a zombie so I can’t fathom dealing with an airport right now. We will certainly stay put for a few more days while I recover.


Bali 2.0

Bali was just so comfortable and easy that after Borneo we decided to return to Roam (the coliving space), for another couple weeks of new friends, great vegetarian food, cheap massage and lots of Zumba. Thanks to my scooter mishap, this turned into a lot more hospital time and a lot less Zumba than I originally planned, but it was still a good spot to recover and meet some more interesting people.

Random Observations

Throughout Bali, the housekeeping staff we have encountered have all been men. There were plenty of women in other roles – cooking, working reception – but men handled cleaning the rooms, washing the dishes, etc. (I have been told women also hold these jobs, but we stayed at 3 different hotels and never saw any.) I also noticed a number of local women working as house painters and lugging bricks to construction sites. I enjoyed the contrast to what I normally encountered in the US.

Most sidewalks and driveways had ornate designs. Decorative pavement costs the same as the plain, so most people opt for the ornate. It made even a short walk more lovely.

Differences & Similarities

One of the main reasons we wanted to stay at Roam was the chance to meet so many different people. Just like last time, there was great diversity in age, background, passions, and country of origin.  I was particularly excited to discuss politics with someone from Russia, and hear more about life in Saudi Arabia.

It would be so easy to make incorrect assumptions about people from certain countries (or certain religions) based on the current news in the US. It was a good reminder to try and avoid making superficial judgements – even a casual chat with someone from a different background than my own quickly highlighted several similarities we share. (I hope I was similarly able to leave them with a positive impression of Americans, despite what the foreign press might be conveying.)

I think there would be a lot less fear if people took the time to get to know each other, even a little bit. This Danish video really sums it up beautifully…

Saka New Year

Because of our unplanned extension, we managed to be in Bali for the new year celebrations which are designed to restore harmony between nature, man and the spirits. This is the biggest holiday on the island and spans for 6 days, inlcuding 24 hours of silence (for the whole island, enforced by the community police).

Prior to the day of silence, everyone on the island prepared to scare off all of the evil spirits. They constructed these large, intentionally ugly Ogoh Ogoh sculptures. Communities come together to create them for weeks ahead of time,  and you could tell they took great pride in their creations.

Ogoh Ogoh
A smaller Ogoh Ogoh at the front desk of Roam
Once it grew dark, we headed to the starting route of the parade (which was thankfully only a 15 minute walk, given that I wasn’t terribly mobile). All the Ogoh Ogoh were lined up, with the local children excitedly waiting to carry them.

Ogoh Ogoh Starting Point

Adults were watching the perimieter to keep spectactors safe as they sent fireworks into the air, annoucing the start of the procession.  As the gongs picked up pace, the children worked together to lift these huge paper mache scultpures and start the parade.

Blue Ogoh Ogoh

At various intersections they would shake or turn the Ogoh Ogoh, sometimes backing them down another street just to trick the evil spirits.  Some of the sculptures were so large that people had to use sticks to lift the power lines so the monsters could pass.

Power Lines
Note the long pole temporarily lifting the power lines.
The procession takes a meandering route through town accompanied by lots of noise and fireworks before the sculptures are all set on fire, eradicating any evil influences on life. Though I wasn’t mobile enough to go the whole route, we continued to hear the sounds of fireworks for hours.

Afro Ogoh Ogoh

The next day was Nyepi, or Silent Day. It is intended to be a day of self-reflection and an opportunity for nature to have a respite after 364 days of human pestering. Absolutely no one is allowed in the streets except for community police and ambulances. The strictest observers avoided eating, using electricity, working and traveling. (Yes, even the airport was closed.)

As foreigners, we were not required to participate but we were also not permitted to disturb our neighbours. This meant we could use electricity (and wifi), but needed to make sure the curtains were closed in our rooms at night so we wouldn’t cast light onto the surrounding houses. We were allowed to cook our own food, but obviously all cafes were closed. And while we did talk, it was certainly quieter than usual, despite having all residents together for the day.

It was a gorgeous, clear day and the town was blissfully peaceful – chickens and dogs were the dominant noisemakers.  At night, the sky seemed like it was overflowing with stars since the town was so dark. It was a really nice break from all the noise and hustle of the normal days – I think it would be a great addition to all cultures, but it would really only work if everyone participated.

What’s Next

It’s been 10 days since the scooter wreck and I am a lot more mobile.  I’m still moving slowly as the cut on my knee and the road rash on my ankle are still healing, but all the stitches have been removed and I am thrilled that I no longer have a bandage on my face.

Given that the cherry blossoms have started to bloom, we are going to head directly to Japan now.  I am expecting it will be quite a shock to go from the small, lush town of Ubud to the modern metropolis of Tokyo, but I am excited to try and improve my Japanese, get a haircut, and hopefully get to enjoy the peak blooms of the sakura!

Bali – Phase 3 – A Little Lux

My friends Rick & Randy travel a lot and they have invited me to join them on numerous occasions – from live aboard dive boats to snowmobiling in Iceland. Timing never seemed to work out, so I was super-excited to rendezvous with them in Bali.

Given my unemployed status, they agreed to slum it at one of the more reasonably priced (but still 5 star) hotels in the area. I somehow convinced The German we could afford to splurge a bit and immediately made a non-cancellable reservation (at a very discounted rate).

The Viceroy did not disappoint. We were welcomed with flower necklaces and mojitos while overlooking the beautiful property.

Vicecory Welcome
This photo isn’t really doing it justice…

Each “room” was actually it’s own villa:

Viceroy Doors
Even the door was elaborate

We had a massive bedroom, outdoor bathtub and shower, and a private plunge pool:

Viceroy Room
I didn’t know beds came that large…

Each villa was positioned overlooking the hillside, so it felt like you had the entire resort to yourself.

Viceroy Room Exterior
We used the plunge pool daily, just because we could.

For some reason, they thought it was our honeymoon. It’s not beyond me to fake something like that for some extra perks, but in this case, I have no idea where they got that impression. I wasn’t going to correct them and have them take away this free cake, though:

Viceroy Cake

Service was impeccable, the property was gorgeous, and even the food was amazing. It’s impossible to have a bad day when you start it with an amazing 3 course breakfast overlooking the lush landscape!

Tourist Time

We intentionally didn’t do too many tourist things before Rick & Randy arrived because we knew they would want to maximize their time in Ubud. In just three days, we…

saw a Balinese dance performance:

Balinese Dance

toured a temple:

Trita Empul Temple

watched artisans create ornate silver jewelry:

Silver Jewelry

had lunch by a volcano:

Lunch With A View

flew Randy’s drone near a waterfall:

The Waterfall

drank several coconuts:


went to a gorgeous spa:

The Spa at the Viceroy

spent several hours by the various pools:

The Viceroy Pool

tasted lewak coffee, took an early morning bike ride through the rice paddies, and went white water rafting! Somewhere in there, we also managed to have several great meals and found time to sleep.

The Monkey Forest

One of the highlights was visiting the Sacred Monkey Forest.  This beautiful park on the edge of town is home to 115 different species of trees, 3 temples, and about 600 long-tailed macaque, who roam freely throughout the park (and beyond).

Monkey Forest Statue

The park is owned by the local village and everyone is thrilled to have the monkeys around, despite their sometimes naughty behaviour.  Not only does this tourist attraction create many jobs, but the community uses the profits to fund religious ceremonies and temple festivals. It is also a way to encourage balance between people, nature, and spirits – a key value in Hinduism.

As everyone warned, the monkeys were very friendly:

Rick's New Friend
This little fellow was disappointed that Rick had neither bananas nor mites in his hair.
Monkey Dress
In hindsight, wearing a dress with a flower print was a terrible decision.

And though they were very cute, some of them were quite aggressive…  A large male challenged Randy when he came too close, no doubt fearing that Randy was trying to steal his coconut.  A bit later Randy got chased down the path with a younger monkey grabbing at his ankles. (Rick and I were so busy screaming at Randy we missed our chance to get photos.)

Despite their dislike of Randy, it was hard to deny their charm and amazing to get so close to them:

Room Tour

There were 7 of us staying at the hotel as Rick & Randy had an entourage headed on a diving trip after Ubud. Our social group was quite a contrast to the other guests, who were primarily honeymooners seeking privacy.

Each room was a little different, so Randy had the great idea of a roving room party. It took quite a bit of explaining before the staff understood the request to bring the bottles of champagne to different rooms every 30 minutes, but it in the end, it worked out perfectly! We had a great time seeing the different room layouts and swimming in each others’ pools, all while sipping champagne!

(Not pictured is the final stop in Rick & Randy’s room, but you can imagine we were a bit sloppy by then..) 

And now…

It was incredibly fun to spend a few days in such a luxe setting with old friends (and make a few new ones). We definitely made the most of our time together, filled with a lot of laughter and great conversation.

The guys all headed to Komodo for dragons and diving while The German and I went to Kuala Lumpur for a few nights. Next up for us will be the jungles of Borneo to see orangutans, sun bears, bats and proboscis monkeys!

Bali – Phase 2 -Coworking Refuge

Even though 18 hours of thunderstorms commenced the moment we arrived, we were still delighted with the first impressions of our home for the next two weeks, Roam. We had to apply in order to secure a room at this “coliving and coworking refuge” where they curate a community of digital nomads for their 25 rooms.

Everyone gets their own room and private bathroom:

The kitchen, laundry, pool, yoga deck, cafe and working space are communal:

And there is also a communal pet, Lulu:

Princess Lulu
I promise she’s alive – it’s just very hot during the day.

They organize events several times a week, and have negotiated discounts for residents at a lot of local cafes. It has all the social aspects of a hostel, but with nicer facilities and a much more diverse age range.  Most people stay for a week or more.

Like in many homes, the kitchen turned out to be the social hub.  As we were cooking and eating, we exchanged recommendations for Ubud, discussed various work projects, or just learned more about each others’ journeys.  It was a diverse community in age, gender, and country of origin and really interesting to hear what attracted people to Roam. Some of the other residents included: a recruiter, romance authors (2 of them!), an international tax attorney, a boutique owner, a woman who started her own line of pajamas (during her stay here!), a fitness instructor, a photographer, a digital storyteller, an entrepreneur and several developers; hailing from America, Australia, Canada, France, Russia and the UK.

By creating a space with such a specific intention of community, they have broken down the usual barriers to social interactions. It was very easy to strike up a conversation with others, and just as easy to excuse yourself if you had something else to do.

Having a built-in community was a really nice way to experience Ubud – one night we stayed up late drinking wine and discussing philosophy/politics, another evening a group of us headed to the Ubud Food Truck festival, and one afternoon I taught a Zumba class for any interested residents:

Zumba at Roam
Not a bad spot for a class

A favourite group outing was to the weekly farmer’s market a few doors away. Just before 9am each Tuesday, an organic farmer parked his truck next door and unloaded the harvest. At exactly 9am, the frenzy of grabbing commenced. It was a great way to get produce, and as much fun to watch as it was to buy.


Ubud is in the interior part of the island. Though it is only 15 miles from Seminyak, it takes over an hour to get there by car because the roads are small and meandering.

The landscape is much more lush by comparison. It has somewhat of a jungle feeling with dense greenery, tropical flowers, and sounds of birds and geckos all around. (I never knew how noisy those little lizards could be!)

Campuhan Ridge

While I don’t have any specific horror stories, I do feel like this is one of the buggiest places we have been (so far)… there was everything from giant dragonflies to huge wasps to beautiful butterflies and ants of all sizes.  I quickly learned to always keep any bags zipped up, or risk uninvited guests. (This applies to indoors as well as outdoors.) I will be surprised if I don’t find tiny ants inside my computer after we have left.

One of the nicer insects we encountered.

It seemed like there were even more temples and shrines here – it made walking to the grocery store more like a sightseeing trip.

The German thought the temples looked like they were designed in the game, Minecraft. Their blocky geometrics would certainly be easy to replicate in pixels:

There were so many I think it would have taken months to try and see them all…

Vegetarian Heaven

There are so many vegetarian restaurants in Ubud that it was rarer to find a place that served meat. It was a hippie’s dream – you could get a smoothie bowl and a coconut milk latte at the same place where you bought essential oils and got some”vibrational energy medicine”.  I steered clear of the “emotional release quantum shift” (I’m still not sure what that meant) but I did appreciate the abundance of fresh, tropical fruits.  And to be fair, that place recommended some tea tree oil which quickly cleared up some very itchy ant bites on my legs.

It was such a delight to be overwhelmed for choice by the menus – at a normal restaurant I can quickly pick from the few items that are vegetarian. In Ubud, I have pages of delicious options and choosing just one or two things was tough!

A Leisurely Pace

The sticky climate didn’t exactly make you want to do anything in a hurry, and we rapidly adjusted to the leisurely pace of the island. In the mornings, The German would retire to the working space for a coffee and computer time while I either went to a Zumba class or worked out on my own on the yoga deck.

Working at Roam
The German, hard at “work”. (Thanks to fellow Roamie, Scott, for this pic.)

Our afternoons were spent exploring the area on foot, hanging out at a local cafe, or sometimes I would opt to enjoy one of the many spas.

Labour is cheap and plentiful here.  While many shops and cafes seemed over-staffed with workers who weren’t especially attentive, the spas were a different story… there were an endless number of them, each better than the next. And since massages were $9-$15/hour, I was tempted to go daily.

Putri Spa
My massage and body scrub at Putri Day Spa ended in a flower bath – so decadent!

One of my favourite spots was Karsa Spa in a peaceful setting overlooking the rice paddies. In addition to having incredibly gorgeous grounds and treatment rooms…

… the deep tissue massage was one of the best I have ever had. (I was sore for days afterwards.)

I also had an extremely decadent “Twin Massage”, which meant two therapists massaged me simultaneously! There really isn’t anything better than someone massaging your shoulders while someone else rubs your feet – all for $15!

(The German was quick to remind me that I shouldn’t get too used to this.)


It seemed like there were constant rituals taking place.  Some of them were quite small, like the daily offerings of flowers and rice to various spirits:

While others consumed the whole town.  We were fortunate to witness one of the largest, most elaborate cremation ceremonies in years. When someone really important/wealthy dies, they build these large floats:

Cremation Floats

The body is carried up the ramp and placed in the tower.  The ramp is then removed, and the bull and the tower are carried from the Royal Palace to a temple on the other side of town, accompanied by musicians and the entire population of Ubud.

It was a slow process. The floats took up the width of the street and required dozens of men to carry them. They would run for a while, then stop briefly to drink water and catch their breath:

Then there was a rallying cry of the leaders, the music would increase in tempo, and they would lift the structure and resume running:

I was sweating from just watching – I can’t imagine running down the street carrying some enourmously heavy structure. Once they reached the temple, everything was set on fire. (I was not dressed appropriately, so I didn’t go into the temple to witness the actual burning.)

Friends take note: something simple like this would be fine for me when it’s my turn. 🙂

We also visited Tirta Empul, a temple known for its holy spring water.  It was interesting to watch the bathing ritual, where people would immerse themselves under each consecutive spout of fresh spring water (fully clothed – sarongs are mandatory for men and women):

Trita Empul

Even today, women who are menstruating are forbidden from taking part in any of the rituals, bathing or otherwise.

No Bathing

Thankfully, they relied on the honour system to enforce this, not any kind of inspection.


We have enjoyed staying at Roam so much that we have decided to return in mid March, after our adventures in Borneo visiting primate sanctuaries.

Now it’s time to head to the other side of Ubud for a luxurious couple of days with our friends from SF…

Bali – Phase I – Playing Tourists

I didn’t know much about Bali before we decided to come here, but The German was intrigued by a coworking refuge he read about and we had the chance to overlap with some friends from SF. People always speak about Bali as being a relaxing, spiritual place (except for Kuta, which is the party city filled with drunk Australians, apparently).

When we were in Melbourne, we overheard an Australian guy telling his friend how he met a healer in Bali who educated him on his past lives. He went on to gush about how he felt so enlightened about his current relations, as his past life was obviously influencing the way he interacted with people. What was his past life? I thought he said “tyrant”, but The German heard “pirate”. Either way, it certainly painted an interesting picture of what kinds of people we might encounter.

We planned to spend about 3 weeks in a couple different spots:

  • Phase 1: playing tourists in Seminyak
  • Phase 2: staying at a “coliving & coworking” refuge in Ubud
  • Phase 3: rendezvous with our friends at a luxury hotel outside Ubud

Getting a flight from Melbourne was easy.  There wasn’t a good option for using miles so we went with the cheapest possible ticket. JetStar is about as budget as they come – luggage is charged by the kg and no complimentary anything (if you want water, you can get it from the back yourself). The reviews online are overwhelmingly awful so we braced ourselves for long lines and a horrible 5.5 hour flight.

Despite it being low season in Bali, the Dreamliner was nearly full of Australians headed on holiday. Though the seats were quite cramped (easily the narrowest seats I have ever experienced), it was otherwise not as bad as we envisioned. So yet another reinforcement that it’s best to go in with low expectations (and a couple glasses of wine).

We made the mistake of not buying SIM cards in the airport.  In hindsight, 12GB for $7 was more than reasonable, but our flight landed at 12:45am Melbourne time so we weren’t thinking clearly. Instead, we wound up bartering with some guy in a shop the next day who had to trim the SIMs using what looked like kiddie scissors. A few days later (with help from someone at the hotel) we discovered that mine was expiring in a few days (it was supposed to last for 30) and The German’s barely had any data on it. This is certainly not the most expensive mistake we’ve made, but next time we will be sure to buy them at the airport.

Our Hotel in Seminyak

I spend quite a bit of time researching where to stay to make sure we get the best value for our money. It’s a complex mix of Trip Advisor, Hotel Tonight, AirBnB and Expedia. The German often teases me about this, but it usually results in us getting an unusually funky pad/saving money.

Yet again, I have to sing the praises of Expedia  (which I only started using at the beginning of this trip). They usually have the best prices on hotels, and we have used them enough that on rare occasions we get some extra perks.  In this case, it was a complimentary upgrade at The Amala Hotel.

Our room was so large we thought they were touring us through the spa.  Here is part of the outdoor bathroom:

The Amala
Plunge pool with jacuzzi jets, outdoor bathtub, shower with steam sauna, sink with many oils and salts and herbs for the bath and shower.  Not pictured: 2 sun loungers, a mini fridge with complimentary cookies and cold drinks.

The hotel only has 15 rooms (I think?) and since they will deliver breakfast to the room at no extra charge, we rarely saw anyone else.

The outdoor bathroom and tropical climate meant dealing with more bugs than I would have liked, but otherwise, our biggest problem was that the tree was constantly dropping leaves in the pool. (Life is so hard!)


I chose Seminyak as it seemed to be a popular destination and was close to the beach. Bali isn’t known for its beaches, but apparently the waves are good for water sports and Seminyak is a popular surfing spot.

Seminyak Beach
Brown water, dark sand, and quite a bit of trash

The main roads had sidewalks (always a delightful surprise in southeast asia!) so it was pretty easy to walk around.  Even though the shops looked very modern, there was some kind of shrine or temple every 3 or 4 buildings so it was an unusual mix of old and new.

The main streets had a lot of clothing shops (you can get a lot of clothing at a fraction of what it would cost in the US or Europe since it is made here) and a lot of places selling silver jewelry. Otherwise, it was restaurants, day spas, and tattoo shops.

While we did have one decent meal, overall the food wasn’t especially good. Labour is cheap and plentiful, but alcohol is heavily taxed and it seemed like getting nice produce was a challenge.

There were a lot of dogs wandering around, especially in the evenings. They don’t seem to be strays as they have collars, but they don’t obviously belong to anyone nearby.  As I stopped to take a photo of a temple, a couple medium-sized dogs came running and barking (and not wagging their tails), so I decided to move along quickly. And then on the way back to the hotel, a little dog (kind of like a large chihuahua) came running up out of nowhere, bit me on the calf and then ran off again. (Thankfully, the skin wasn’t broken and I have had a rabies shot.)

So in other words, we weren’t exactly falling in love with Seminyak. That said, we really enjoyed lazing around our lovely room and having a fairly easy transition into this new country (SIM card experience notwithstanding). Though it is rainy season,  the dramatic thunderstorms mostly happened at night so it was nice to watch the lightening from our mosquito-netted nest.

Yoga & Bali

Yoga is everywhere, and classes are very cheap.  (Our hotel offered them for around $3.50 for 90 minutes.) The first class I took left me sore for days, which The German found so intriguing that he decided to accompany me to the next one. Neither of us are especially bendy, but it did feel good afterwards…. at least I thought so.  The German kept claiming “everything hurts” and struggled with basic movements like sitting up.

I am not sure why yoga is so popular here, but I suspect it is related to the predominantly Hindu population. The island is full of temples and there are a staggering number of shrines.

They believe that pretty much everything has some kind of spirit in it, and there are many rituals designed to keep balance between the spirits, humans, and nature. For example, each shop or house places a daily offering of flowers and rice in a small palm leaf basket on the curb or doorstep. This is to thank the spirits for peace, and also an expression of gratitude that they have enough that they can afford to make this offering.

You do have to be careful where you step

You see them everywhere. And while they start off as colorful adornments, they wind up strewn across the sidewalk or the side of the road. I suspect the wandering dogs also serve as a clean-up crew.

So while I think Seminyak was an easy transition into Indonesia, I am looking forward to Ubud which I think will feel very different, and am intrigued to see what this “coworking refuge” is all about…