I was looking forward to the Ubud part of our retreat, since I’d read about the place and had known it to be a place full of yoga, healthy food (despite my still-bum stomach), and pretty shops with really cheap finds.
The drive there from Canggu was pretty long and the whole day was dedicated to exploring the town proper.
The local market at Ubud is chockfull of souvenirs, clothes, accessories, food and just about anything you can think of. Many of the wares are sold in specialty shops in Manila so snap them up while you’re abroad to get the best bargains. If you’re not used to haggling, the rule of thumb is to immediately ask for half price. If the vendor says no, walk away and chances are, you’ll be called back with the price you asked for.
Hinduism is a central part of Balinese life and temples are everywhere. These architectural wonders contribute to the charm of the place—not only are the intricate carvings and stone a sight to see, their prevalence also shows how integral they are to the locals, even in the 21st century.
Make sure you’re covered up in a sarong because bare legs and midriffs are not allowed. Also watch out for scooters everywhere—the roads of Ubud are very narrow and while the Balinese (at least in my experience) are very gracious on the road (especially compared to Metro Manila drivers!), you don’t want to get in anyone’s way.
Because surfing was out of the question with the tremendous waves in Canggu, the FLOW girls were generous enough to give us a free massage in Ubud instead. A traditional one-hour Balinese massage cost about 80,000 Rupia (PhP 300++) and was a relaxing relief for those of us who wanted some TLC. If you’re not too finicky about your spa surroundings, walking into one of the many small shops offering massages in Ubud will give you a pretty decent experience sans the fancy treatment.
Part of our agenda was a raw food workshop at The Seeds of Life Raw Food Café and Tonic Bar . Now take note, my stomach was still pretty bad during this leg of the trip and I wasn’t sure that diving into uncooked food was exactly the best idea for me (up until then, I’d only had a steady intake of coconut-flavored biscuits and bottled water).
Ben, the owner of Seeds of Life, gave us a short history on his journey into raw food and his four-month old café / yoga shala. The ashtangi from Australia also brought in Brazilian chef Joao to help come up with dishes that combine flavors from global cuisine with the healthy benefits that superfoods and raw food can bring.
They taught us how to make everything from healthy sesame dressing to spirulina-date-nut-honey based Bliss Balls, to crunchy toppers for salads. There was no way I could have gone through the demo without a (tiny) taste of the food… and when it was time to order lunch and dishes like Mexican lasagna, miso soup, sushi (without rice or fish!), and Tuscany pizza were on the menu, I had to risk tummy trouble to satisfy my taste buds.
The verdict? EXCELLENT! If raw food could taste as rich, flavorful, and as delicious as what we experienced at Seeds of Life, I would, without a moment’s notice jump right into the raw movement!
We headed over to Kuta beach post-dinner for the annual Ombak Bali film fest. Resembling Boracay’s packed and busy white beach, Kuta is known for it’s wide expanse of bars and parties that drift over onto the shore. The international surf filmfest which showcased shorts and full features over three days was free (you just had to order a drink to get a bean bag to sit on) and was perfectly matched to the surf culture of Bali.
It was a fun last night, especially for the participants who were heading back to Manila post-Bali and a great way to say goodbye to such a diverse, magical, unique place.
A quick, 30-minute flight from Bali’s Denpasar airport will take you to nearby Lombok. There are several airlines that offer flights—I took Garuda Indonesia which is typically the most reliable as far as being on time is concerned.
Lombok is a big departure from the sights of Bali in that it is mostly virgin territory—untouched, pristine, and very low key. Adi, who is now based there and is one of the island’s three yoga teachers, says that while most tourists travel to Bali, it is the serious surfers and backpackers who make their way to Lombok and stay for weeks and months on end.
We were billeted at Kuta Baru, about a 30-minute drive from the airport. Taxi drivers will try to overcharge, but the drive should only cost about 70,000 Rupia (don’t settle for anything more expensive!).
The hotel is spacious and wide, with villas fronting a central swimming pool with a common lounge area and an open restaurant offering free-flowing coffee and tea all day, and a selection of a continental or chocolate/banana pancake breakfast each day. A beautiful trellised area is surrounded by huts and Adi’s anti-gravity yoga hammock hangs on a bamboo lintel—a fun addition to the hotel grounds.
Just in front of Kuta Baru is “Galang Information Center”—Galang was actually our trusty, bubbly, driver who runs a business shuttling people around to beaches and other hotspots.
The beaches of Lombok are almost countless—many spots are still unnamed and undiscovered by tourists. Discovering where the waves are, where the secret coves are is part of what gives this beautiful place its draw. One thing is for sure, every hill, every beach, and every point offers a special vantage point that offers a one of a kind look at this spectacular place.
Its skies are so clear that every night, you’re able to spot more constellations than you’ve ever seen anywhere else. Our last night had us counting up to six shooting stars so big they look like rocket ships!
Of course, a FLOW retreat wouldn’t be complete without surf and yoga. Lombok offered us baby waves to learn on (I didn’t catch any on the reef break, unfortunately!); and beautiful hills to practice yoga on.
Riding on the whitewash while the sun set was calming and serene, while moving along to Adi’s vinyasa flow sequence was relaxing and peaceful. There is nothing more satisfying than taking your savasana on top of a hill, breathing in the fresh air as the sun sets.
While Bali was rife with temples, Lombok is Muslim country, so instead of temples scattered all around the roads, you’ll find mosques here and there. The people—from the bracelet vendors that run from one warung to the next, to the locals hanging out at dive bars are friendly. Lombok, however, isn’t as tourist-trained as nearby Bali and its unfettered beaches, raw cliffs and rough roads constitute its one-of-a-kind charm.
That said, parties do abound in this quiet part of the country. Wherever you go, chances are you’ll come across fellow travelers who are always up for a spontaneous party, a bonfire at the beach, grabbing some fresh (and delicious!) pizza or going for a vegetarian buffet.
What made Lombok most memorable to me, aside from the picture-perfect scenery, was the people we came across. An amateur French band from Bordeaux, Basque and Spanish travelers, an Irish rock climber / engineer, a Spaniard from Ireland, a German girl chasing waves, and an English woman traveling from Thailand toting whiskey in her bags. All interesting characters, they help make up the diverse and unparalleled wonders that Lombok holds.
I learned that while the friendships that form among travelers may be fleeting, those few hours you all share and are able to connect are as magical as the million and one sunsets that the island holds secret.
More than all the sunsets we watched, the secret beaches we did crazy antics in, the surf, the yoga and the samba, and seeing brand new places for the first time, what makes FLOW such a great experience for me are the friendships that are formed. I couldn’t choose a better group to spend 9 days exploring a new corner of the world with!
It’s amazing to see people from different parts of the world come together and share in such a special experience. Some of us have stayed on to do more yoga in Bali, find more waves in Lombok, and even explore the famous Gili islands for reefs, one of us is off to party in Tomorrowland(!), while the rest of us have traveled back home to Manila.
As for me, I’m grateful to be back in the comfort of my own bed and shower (!), and happy to look back on our fun adventure as I enjoy all that city life has to offer. On to the next trip!
Looking for Part 1? Click here!
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Special thanks to FLOW and @annaalfonso for the Instagram grabs!