In November 2015, I hopped on a plane by myself, traveled 16,000km around the world, and had one of the most amazing experiences of my life-so far.
I had decided that I wanted complete my Yoga Teacher Training in one intensive month and in an amazing, different country. After searching through yoga schools, I landed on All Yoga Bali, an Ashtanga Vinyasa-based program.
And I made best friends with 23 other unique yogis from around the world, who were my partners on this awesome journey.
Being from Ontario, Canada, I had to travel a LONG way to get to Bali.
1 hour – Driving from my house to the airport (leaving 3 hours before my flight takes off, of course)
16 hours – Flying from Toronto, Canada to Hong Kong.
4 hours – Flying from Hong Kong to Denpasar, Bali, and then a 1 hour taxi to Ubud
About 10 days before I left for Bali, Mount Rinjani, on the neighboring island of Lombok, started spewing ash. Thousands of people were stranded in Indonesia during the first weeks of November, and thousands more were not able to fly into Bali.
Luckily, within the week, winds had picked up and blown away most of the ash, but certain airlines were still not flying to Bali. Thankfully I was flying with Hong Kong Air, who only delayed my flight by about 6 hours.
This meant I spent 10 long hours in Hong Kong Airport. I’d already been up for almost 24hrs at this point and I was feeling pretty loopy, so I had a snack and I slept on my bags near a washroom (where I went pee about 18 times – yay for Hong Kong airport having 100 bathrooms with 15 stalls each).
The second leg of my journey was relaxing and exciting, and after traveling for a total of 31 hours across the world – further than I’d ever traveled in my life – I arrived on the “Island of the Gods”.
Bali leaves a pretty intense first impression even before you land.
If you fly in during the day, you see Mount Agung rise up out of the sea, surrounded by black volcanic rock, bright lush green jungle and little towns dotting the island. The plane flies in around the mountain, flying above the Lombok straight, where you get a great view of the other Indonesian islands. The beaches and surf look spectacular from the air! This is where I was super excited and ready to just BE there!
When I finally got through customs [no more Visa for Canadians for less than 30 days!], got my luggage and walked out into the lobby… all I could think was “I’m already sweating, and where the heck is the address to the place I’m staying at”.
Bali is HOT. I went Mid-November to Mid-December, right at the beginning of the rainy season. I didn’t actually see a lot of rain, maybe 3 or 4 days I was here, it rained maybe one full day. It was almost 30°C [ 86°F] every single day. It got more and more humid as the month went on. If you don’t like humidity or heat, you may not like this little island. I enjoy both and absolutely loved the weather.
This island also has a special scent. Incense is constantly burning on this island in little offerings to the gods, every tree on this island seems to be blooming with beautiful flowers like frangipani and hibiscus, and there is a constant smokey smell about… and it’s wonderful. It’s like constant aromatherapy and when you come home, and someone has that special incense burning, memories wash over you instantly.
Temples, statues, offerings, celebrations. The island of the gods is the perfect description for this place. The natural beauty of the jungle and the mountains surrounded by the ocean holds the most beautiful temples and statues I’ve ever seen. Great orange and white buildings at every turn, massive white statues of the gods at major street intersections, and on every building corner or space left empty: small stone thrones shaded by bright silk umbrellas where offerings and incense are left every morning and evening. It seems there is a celebration of some sort happening every week here, and the beautiful temples, with there spectacular views are always bustling with activity and filled with colour.
Where I Stayed
I stayed in Ubud in the centre of the island in the rice fields, and in Manggis, on the south east coast of the island.
For most of my stay in Bali, I was at Azadi Retreat. This place was a piece of paradise set among the rice fields, about a 10 taxi from Ubud Palace. It was a quiet retreat from the bustle of the main city, but still close to the action.
With a main lounge that overlooks the infinity pool, and 9 villas leading you down steps towards a Yoga Shala that looks over a ravine, it was kind of surreal to think this was my home for the next 24 days.
Each villa has a large room with beds, and a bathroom with a shower. I shared mine with two other women, and we were lucky to be close to the Shala for morning practice.
The spa here was a great for us yogis who were exhausted after hours of practice, I think the girls were almost always booked up by all of us 2 days in advance.
Azadi was also a vegetarian retreat ( I am not a vegetarian), and generally, the food was great! Breakfast was always a hit!
After Azadi, I stayed in Lumbung Damuh, in Manggis, just passed Padangbai.
This was a bed&breakfast/homestay, of ‘Lumbungs’ inspired by traditional rice barns- basically lofts on stilts. Ours overlooked the ocean, had a great little main-level open-air lounge area, and a huge bathroom… it was our own little treehouse!
Breakfast and coffee are served every morning – simple basics to start your day. There’s not too much to do in the immediate area, and we went to Padangbai every morning for the whole day, but the street does have about 7 family restaurants that are priced amazingly, and are really delicious.
This colourful little city was awesome. Great food, great shopping, bustling with people, motorbikes and taxi vans, it’s a ton of fun!
I will do a blog specifically on all the great food I ate here, as well as a general guide to Ubud. Check back soon!
I visited Padangbai for 4 days at the end of my Bali adventure.
I had a few days between the end of my Yoga Teacher Training and my flight home, and I left open as to what I would do. I didn’t fully decide until 2 weeks into our training, and we had a beach day. We took taxis to Secret White Sandy Beach or Bias Tugel, which is just South/West of Padangbai’s main beach.
I totally fell in love with the huge waves and the white sand.
So, when one girl in my training suggested staying at Lumbung Damuh and one of my roomates wanting to go to Padangbai for her PADI certification at OK Divers, I jumped on the opportunity.
Leaving Bali was bittersweet, for sure, after a month away from home and Christmas approaching, I was looking forward to returning to Hamilton.
I flew 7 hours from Denpasar to Incheon Airport in South Korea on my favourite flight of my trip, with South Korean Air. They gave me a slippers, a face cloth and toothbrush&toothpaste when I got on the plane. And a nice polar fleece blanket.
Even the South Korean airport was really nice. I checked out their museum of culture and history, and took up some time there… I ended up having my flight delayed again, but only by 3 hours. This time, though, Air Canada didn’t offer me anything (surprise!), whereas HKA gave me a 60HKD (about $10 Canadian).
All the flights home from Bali stopped in Vancouver, B.C., a part of my own country that I had never been to. I have family in Whistler and Comox, two towns in this province, so I delayed my flight to Toronto by a week, to spend a bit of extra time visiting before Christmas.
Whistler was a shock compared to Bali, let me tell you. 30°C to -10°C in less than a day. I’ll have a post on my trip out west in the near future too!.
Until next time…