Tales from Bali

111aBy Paul Clifford

In the first two weeks of August Amy and I travelled to Bali and in the first week we hosted our Health & Wellbeing Retreat.  We had a group of eight participants who enjoyed the fabulous service and secluded surroundings of Villa Agung Khalia.  The location was ideal for the retreat as it contained plenty of space for our yoga and meditation sessions and to give participants room to take time out for themselves to relax and recharge.  The Villa was quiet and comfortable and yet only ten minutes away from the abundant restaurants and shops of Ubud.

On each day of the retreat Amy guided participants through yoga and meditation whilst I facilitated two sessions on Mastering Personal Resilience.  Participants also had plenty of free time, enjoying the pool, walking through the nearby rice fields, having plenty of massages, and of course the obligatory restaurant dining and shopping.  Meal time was a great chance for everyone to get to know each other and we learned that Amy was not the only one with an unnatural need for chopped chilli to accompany her meals.  Some great friendships were made and we look forward to a reunion of the group in the coming months.  Click here for pictures of the retreat.

Before the retreat started Amy and I landed in Bali a day early and went to Yoga Barn.  For those of you who love yoga this is a ‘must see’.  It is a huge area of land within Ubud and contains a yoga hall built high off the ground amongst plenty of Bali greenery.  We went to Power Yoga which was a tad full on.  There were seasoned yogis who were able to get their bodies into positions I didn’t know were humanly possible.  The heat and my unsettled breakfast didn’t help.  What was interesting was the scale of activity at Yoga Barn.  There were 30+ people in our one hour session and there were yoga sessions being run from 7am-8.30pm every day.  With workshops, training and a cafe, Yoga Barn is an amazing hub of activity that is worth checking out if you go to Ubud.

In the second week Amy and I took a one hour and 45 minute speed boat trip to an island called Gili Trawangan.  A lot of deep breathing was required to avoid the need for the sick bag.  Luckily the trip was worth it.  It’s a small island with lots going on.  Reggae bands at night and plenty of sun and water activities during the day.  Or if you prefer you can lounge in one of the many beachside restaurants or lie on the beach on bean bags under umbrellas and be waited on with cool drinks while you listen to the latest dance and party tunes.

The only transport on the island is horse and cart or bicycle.  Either is required if you wish to see the entire main street where all the restaurants and shops line either side.  You had to be alert as you walked the narrow street and some of the many backpackers came very close to the being shirt-fronted by a horse as they walked the street in their holiday daze.

The speed boat back to the mainland was twenty minutes faster than the original journey but somehow we still managed to avoid reaching for the sick bags.  It was a brutal ride with plenty of Glenn McGraths (oohs and aahs) from voyagers as the vessel hit the water like it was concrete.  Calls of ‘Mr.Bintang’ from the crew were enough to entice some onto the top deck – typically the young and beautiful or ‘back of the bus’ rowdy types.  I couldn’t understand the attraction – sunburn, getting drenched and Mr Bintang on an already queasy stomach? No thanks.

Balinese are an incredibly polite and friendly bunch even when they try to separate you from more rupiah than the going rate.  So it was surprising when we were chided for being in the wrong spot when we got off the Bintang express for our pick up to Candidasa.  “You talk too much” was the message from the man who led us to our driver.  This was ironic given our stunned silence to his version of international diplomacy.

In Candidasa we stayed in a large resort and it was somehow fitting that on the night that I ate ratatouille I spotted a rather large rodent racing several times up and down the restaurant’s floor boards.  The second night saw us at Vincent’s which is an excellent restaurant with a Dutch jazz band and an American jazz vocalist doing a 3 hour set which you’d pay good money to see in Melbourne.  On the final night Amy managed to convince the band at the resort that I should sing with them so with the introduction of “Now we have special guest, Mr Paul”, I sang two Elvis songs and a U2 song.  A little bit rusty but good fun.

Before we knew it, it was the end of the holiday and as the Candidasa resort manager said “Back to reality”.

So in order to dispel the myths perpetuated by the banal channel 7 tripe “What Really Happens in Bali”, outside of Kuta, Bali is a place where it is in fact very difficult to get into any trouble at all.  Like any good (aka crap) reality shows the drama is manufactured and the injuries almost always self-inflicted.  It follows much of Newscorp’s journalistic philosophy – Don’t spoil a good story with facts.  For those of you who haven’t been to Bali and are looking for a relaxing and inexpensive holiday with plenty to see and do, if you stay clear of Kuta, then you are almost guaranteed to have a fabulous time.

What’s next……..  Fiji anyone?

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