A little break from the YTT
We had 4 days off in the middle of the course and as Lisa was heading home to WA for 3 days the following day, we decided to go straight to Ubud to have a day together there and then I would stay on and visit Taryn’s yoga retreat centre, The Ark, in outer Ubud. Taryn was one of the 3 lovely assistants that we had on the course. A beautiful Australian woman, with a grace and gentle demeanor that was very infectious and inviting. She invited us to go along to stay at her place during the break and that someone could teach the class on Wednesday morning as the teacher at the centre had just left to go home. No-one else volunteered, I strangely felt like I wanted to, nervous and unsure, but keen to get stuck in straight away and practice what we had been learning. She was over the moon that I offered and although I tried to keep it quiet, she told the rest of the group and the encouragement and praise was so supportive.
So we jumped on the scooter first thing in the morning with a plan to get breakfast when we arrived after an hours journey. I need to take a moment here to mention Lisa’s scooter, a little pink rocket, which I spent a lot of time on the back of. Before I got to Bali I had decided that I would try to travel mostly on foot or bicycle. But after 2 days of asking about bicycle hire it seemed that wasn’t going to be so easy, and at night everything was too far apart for walking in the dark. So on night one my plan went out the window, Lisa offered me a lift back after we met at La Brisa, and I had to take the plunge and get on the back of a scooter for the first time since I had a small accident in Brasil. She could feel my fear she said, probably digging my nails into her as I clung on. After a few times though, and with her confident, but safe driving, I felt at ease… and now even kind of enjoy it. Thanks Lisa! Oh and she even taught me how to scoot myself too wahoo! Southeast Asia, I’m ready for you!
…Back to the story. We arrived in Ubud eventually and stopped at any café we could find, one called Rainforest View in Ubud. It turned out to be a bit of a disappointment on the food front, but had a beautiful lotus garden and Buddha statues. We had all become a bit addicted to Canggu’s array of smoothie bowls (see previous blog on Bali food), these were not up to par but we enjoyed them anyway and I was pleased to see they did a Matcha latte (something I had come to recently enjoy in the UK and was very surprised to find in Bali), they even did it with coconut milk, and in most places, almond milk – spoilt!
We then headed to the monkey forest, we were travelling with a Brasilian woman Jackie who was staying at Lisa’s homestay, and she decided to join us. We removed all jewelry and valuables from our person, paid the 50,000 Indonesian Rupiah (about £2.80) as admission, and headed into the forest. It was fantastic, even the walk was nice, lots of vines and huge trees, creating some shade and atmosphere, which would have been very useful on a sunny day (it was beginning to rain). We walked for a while and eventually came across a temple, lots of people selling bananas.. and the monkeys. Obviously phones came out, but we clung to them carefully as we snapped the monkeys grooming each other and playing about. I then got quite close to one, he approached me, possibly sensed my ease and happiness to be so close, and jumped on my back. He climbed up and seemed to take an interest in my plait. He played with my plait whilst seeming to rub my shoulders (monkey masseuse?), he chilled there for a while as Lisa managed to catch the moment on camera and then jumped off towards someone with a banana. Fickle. Jackie also got jumped on, unfortunately her bag wasn’t a zip bag and the clever monkey tried to get into it. We had been warned not to shout, make eye contact or take anything off the monkeys but I decided to ignore all these things, she was struggling to shrug the monkey off and had her bag on her back so I held the flap of her bag down in a game of tug and war with the monkey. He was pretty adamant he was going to get into the bag so as Jackie was now starting to get distressed, I told her to get the straps off her shoulders and I would take the bag with the monkey. She wriggled her arms out and as soon as I pulled the bag closer to me, thankfully I looked scary to the monkey and he ran down my arms. Lisa also then got accosted and had her non-sparkly earring stolen. The little monkey ran off with it in his mouth and that was that!
We tried out Clear Café for lunch/dinner – a recommendation from Taryn. They had raw and cooked options and it was ALL vegan. Some of the drink options sounded amazing, they even had vegan milkshakes made with fresh fruit. I knew I wouldn’t fit in a smoothie and a meal, which seemed to be the done thing around here. A smoothie to me IS a meal, so both is a recipe for being unable to move after. I had my first taste of Nasi Campur (pronounced ‘Champoor’); rice, tempe (a fermented soy bean patty) satay, sweet and sour tofu and tempe, a thai curry style soup and some spicy sauce, which I discovered was very spicy after I put it all over my rice! It was delicious. I particularly loved the tempe, which my American friends knew, but I’ve seen it maybe once before in a health food shop in the U.K. This was the beginning of eating a lot of this stuff! Lisa tried the raw burrito, which seemed a strange combination of foods, but actually tasted like a cooked burrito, with the added benefit of being much healthier and richer in nutrients because it hasn’t been cooked. After our feast we all headed up to The Ark to meetTaryn and see her place before Lisa and Jackie headed back to Canngu.
The Ark was rather a mission to find, but worth the hunt. It was tucked away above Ubud down a long, what I would call alley way, with lots of other guesthouses and homestays. The difference seems to just be, as in the title, that a guesthouse is like a small hotel, and a homestay is staying in someone’s home where they have converted rooms to let out. No-one really seemed to stay in typical hotels, or there wasn’t the option to, but the guesthouses were just the same and usually small, which meant more personalised service and often some lovely characters who would look after you and take an interest in what you were doing and who you were. I stayed in the jungle room, which had a view over the rice paddies and an outside bathroom. It was a sweet room and I liked the idea of showering in the jungle, as long as you could fight off the mosquitos. I was welcomed by the ladies working there and met some of the other girls from the YTT, then we headed for our Ayurvedic treatments that Taryn had organized for us.
This treatment needs its own paragraph – it’s out of this world! So before I go into that, Sophie and I had opted for a body scrub too beforehand, which was also amazing. The therapists took our flip flops, washed and scrubbed our feet, which I found out is almost always done bfefore treatments in Bali and Thailand and really sets the scene for what’s to come. They then led us into a double treatment room, asked us to get ready and lie on the beds. We were then scrubbed, and I mean scrubbed, from head to toe. This sounds horrible, but was really so nice. I kept wondering how this woman had such big hands to cover such a large area at once or if it was a man they had sent back into the room; I later found out that we actually had 2 people each scrubbing us! They then washed the scrub off, applied oil and we were ready for our Shirodhara. Already pretty zen-ed out, they asked us to close our eyes and relax as they began. Oil was poured onto our foreheads, at the place of your third eye and then slowly moved around your forehead. The constant flow of the oil induced a kind of transe or meditative state; it was sooooo relaxing. This went on for an hour, which is a long time, but felt even longer, like I was there all night. I drifted into a deep meditation and felt like I was floating when I left the room after and headed down to meet Taryn and Victoria. We were given the option to leave the oil in our hair overnight, and as I knew we weren’t going anywhere other than bed, and then having a hair treatment the next day, I left the oil in and we headed back to The Ark to sleep, or pass-out I think would be the more appropriate term. The next morning we walked through a little part of the jungle behind The Ark to a small salon for our hair treatment. We were given a sarong to change into and then the woman washed your hair. Imagine the most relaxing way someone could wash your hair, with a gentle but thorough scalp massage too (unless you’re one of those weirdos who doesn’t like massage or having your hair played with) and you’re there. Even the chairs they had set up over the sinks were comfortable. I have found when I have had this done before, that the part of the sin where you put your head and neck is normally very uncomfortable, but however they had done it it was perfect. I didn’t want to get up, but then knew I was having some more massage as they applied avocado then coconut oil and then rose water. I think I will start a beauty salon at home where we do this, because honestly it was so simple, and so relaxing.