I write this sitting on a flight back home from a trip away to a place I have been dreaming of visiting for years. Bali. Beautiful Bali, a country I had shaped in my mind, and from my friend’s stories, to be the most blissful place on Earth. With beautiful weather, warm seas, glorious tropical surroundings and a yoga retreat on every corner, I had already built it up to be a place that I immediately would want to pack my bags and runaway to forever, even before my first visit.
Thanks to a Qatar sale, some last minute decision-making and ignoring the fact that it was wet season, I was on my way. For me, travelling in more of a “backpacker” style is now somewhat a novelty that I love and miss. As most of my trips are away with my airline, I don’t get to decide where I stay, whom I am with and I always feel so limited with so little time. This time I went with my boyfriend, two of his friends, and I had nine whole days; a huge luxury for me – in fact I was secretly a little worried I would get bored.
Bali is everything I imagined it to be, and more. We stayed in Canggu, a town South West on the island, brimming with organic cafes, surf shops, juice bars and yoga studios galore. Every day was a struggle to decide where to eat, because you’re just so spoilt for choice. From day one I made the decision to eat vegetarian wherever possible, simply because it is so easy as there is so much choice if you are a vegetarian or even vegan. There are so many vegetarian and vegan restaurants here; you could turn the most carnivorous of meat eaters veggie. In traditional Balinese cooking, eggs, chicken and fish are commonly used in a lot of local dishes, however the majority are Hindu, so beef is not as popular. The food here is delicious as the island has so many natural and fresh resources like ginger, garlic, thyme and turmeric. A favourite staple of mine is the coconut, which grows here and can be found in so many dishes and used in such a variety of ways, from curries to smoothies and in clever vegan alternatives.
You would have a job to find processed food in Canggu, most cafés are now Australian owned or influenced and have a clean and healthy approach to eating. Your average breakfast menu includes colourful smoothie bowls, decorated acai bowls, smashed avo with eggs on sourdough, English breakfast with added greens and of course a cold pressed juice or organic coffee. If there was one thing I wish I could take home with me it would have to be the coffee in Bali, not one of the many cafes I visited disappointed me. Never too bitter, never too weak, never too hot or too cold. One thing is sure, the Balinese people have learnt from the Australians how to make the perfect flat white, or maybe it is the other way around? I forgot to ask.
Being one of the best places on the planet to practice Yoga, I couldn’t wait to get into a full week of testing my limits and trying the various types of yoga. The cost of a class here ranges from around £6-8 for a drop in, or you can pick up a week’s pass for a little less. I dropped into Serenity’s Eco House yoga for my first couple of days; whilst the guys surfed I picked an early morning Mysore class, a practice I had never done before. I found it challenging in many ways, with poses I have never attempted before, but with 3 instructors to individually help you into poses, there is plenty of encouragement. For people that shun yoga and think it’s easy, I would challenge them to complete a Mysore class here, especially in this tropical climate. All I can say is, I’m glad I practiced my headstands and keep your sweat towel close by!
I went for a second day of Mysore at Serenity and also a Surfer’s yoga practice later in the week, which was half Vinyassa half Hatha, more commonly practiced in the West. If you want an authentic yoga surrounding, with all the yogic terms, all green, all veggie and eco friendly, this is the place for you to visit. They have several open-air attic style studios, with communal areas to chill after your practice and their Alkaline café is exactly that. Detox heaven. They even have a ‘Gong’ meditation if you want to experience something a little different.
You can easily become acclimatised to the pace of life in Canggu, starting each day with a choice between a run on the beach, some yoga or an early surf to start your day. Nipping around on a hired scooter is by far the easiest and cheapest way to get around. The roads are narrow and in some places cobbled making them a little scary at peak times, but what I love about it is its authenticity. You won’t find tall buildings or even road signs, there don’t seem to be any driving rules either, but people just get on with it. You just beep to let someone know you’re there, and that’s pretty much it!
If there was one thing I was a little disappointed in it would have to be the amount of rain we had during our stay. Maybe I am naïve in thinking a tropical country couldn’t see that much constant rain in such a short time, but I was blown away to see the field opposite our hotel turn into a lake in just one day. Nevertheless, there is still plenty to do if you don’t mind exploring in the wet. The best thing you will spend money on is a rain mack, for about £3 it will save your holiday. Don’t get me wrong the rain is pleasantly warm and actually enjoyable, one evening I was doing a HIIT workout on the roof of the hotel and it started raining torrentially. But it didn’t bother me because I was already dripping with sweat – it was like having a shower at the same time!
Things to do when it rains in Bali are also some of the most enjoyable, like going to get a massage. We went to a spa called Therapy Canggu for an amazing back massage when it didn’t look as though the rain would ever stop, but by the time we came out it had. You can visit one of the many temples, such as Tannah Lot, the floating temple. Or spend a lazy afternoon chilling in one of the many awesome cafes, drinking organic coffee and browsing surf photography collections.
As far as gyms go in the area, there are two Cross Fit gyms in the Canggu; S2S Cross Fit and Wanderlust Cross Fit. If you’re new to Cross Fit then S2S offer a free intro class, which is good for beginners. Firstly you work on technique for one movement, after a quick warm up we learnt the ‘kipping’ technique which helps you with movements such as ‘toes to bar’ and pull ups. You then move onto the WOD (work out of the day), which was 12 minutes of continuous ‘wall balls”. If you dropped the ball, missed the marker, or stopped to rest you had to complete 10 toes to bar, the next time you had to do 10 burpees. It was a pretty horrendous workout and after so much bar work warming up, my upper body was shot, so I quite literally refused to drop the ball! Eight minutes into non-stop wall balls, I dropped the ball for the first time to complete my first set of toes to bar. After 12 minutes had past I had completed a total of 210 wall balls. I was finished; even though I won the WOD it wasn’t worth being able to not walk for two days after, I couldn’t even bring myself to practice any yoga.
The Wanderlust Cross Fit is well worth a visit too, it’s much bigger and they also have a decent timetable of Cross Fit classes if you too want to push yourself to the max. Or not. You might be a normal person who likes to have the full use of their limbs whilst on holiday.
There’s something so easy about life in Bali, the service is amazing everywhere you go, the locals are so inviting and there’s a cool mix of people on holiday from families learning to surf to backpackers and yogis. One thing is for sure – if you love to be outside, you will love Bali. I’ve been lucky enough to see some amazing places in the last couple of years with my job, but I must say that Bali has fast become a favourite and somewhere I already can’t wait to come back to and keep exploring.
I have left Bali with glowing sun kissed skin and more importantly the clearest skin I have had in years. As someone who suffers with dry irritated skin, in general and from flying so frequently, the humidity has breathed new life into my skin. Alongside eating exceptionally cleanly all week and getting plenty of nutrients from fresh whole foods, I don’t think I have ever returned from holiday feeling and looking better than before I left.
I only live in hope that Bali doesn’t change too much between now and my next visits. Even in their wettest of months it was surprisingly busy; so I can only imagine how over crowded the roads must become and how much competition there would be for a spot on the beach or waves in the summer. Not to mention the many new buildings that were popping up all over the place. I know Canggu is already a popular place for tourists and I’m sure it’s a good thing for their economy and the people of Bali more importantly, but I just hope it doesn’t lose it’s soul somewhere along the way trying to make everyone else happy.