Thursday, 2 September 2010

Eat, pray, love - which of these 2 things did I do in Bali?

I'm back in Madrid again after 2 weeks in Bali and a week in the UK, and I have to say, for the moment at least, I feel like a new woman :-)  Re this post title, for those of you who haven't read the book, Eat, pray, love is a book the true story of a woman who goes on a year-long journey of self-discovery after the dissolution of her marriage and a harrowing rebound relationship. Following this ordeal she ate in Italy, prayed in India and loved in Bali, once again finding her footing in life. It is hugely popular but has also been much-maligned as the self indulgent ramblings of a middle class woman who 'had it all'. In any case, I really liked it. Unlike Elizabth Gilbert, I didn't love in Bali - at least not in that way - but I did eat and pray/meditate an awful lot! I have so much to say about that wonderful island that I don't know quite where to begin. Perhaps in a homage to the book that confirmed I should book my trip to Bali it is fitting to do a little eat, pray, love of my own...

I have great food memories of Bali - delicious banana pancakes for breakfast, made of tiny sweet Balinese bananas. There were also many quick and economical lunches of Nasi Goreng (fried rice with chicken and vegetables) scooped up with prawn crackers that actually taste of prawn and sloshed with the sweet soy sauce known as kecap manis. Delicious satays, fire-hot salads, and black rice pudding with coconut milk were also abound. At the yoga retreat there were carefully prepared organic meals - curried prawns baked in banana leaves, fresh papaya for breakfast and ginger tea on tap. But it wasn't all local fayre and granola - to end the vacation in style my new-found yoga buddies and I dined in Asia's number 7 restaurant - Mosaik - 6 courses of gorgeous food in gorgeous surroundings.

My solo breakfast on my verandah on the 'silent day' at the retreat (the rest of the days we all ate together).
Nasi Goreng and Bintang beer
Banana pancakes at my simple but homely guest house the first 2 nights


I have never been blessed by 'men of the cloth' so many times in my life. There were visits to temples rarely frequented by westerners with my Madrid yoga friends. Decked out in full Balinese lady gear of a sarong, sash and a slightly sexy lacy tops (not the one in the photo below!) we knelt and prayed; a curious ritual involving the smoking of ones hands with insence, placing coloured flowers behind the ears, and pressing of rice into ones forehead and temples (this is unfortunately a bit of a crude and inaccurate description of this delicate process). We were then blessed by mangkus who anointed us with holy water, which we accepted with upturned palms and even drank (I didn't get Bali belly after consuming this local water - but seeing as it was holy that should come as no surprise :-)). After the trip with my Madrileño friends, I went on a wonderfully restorative yoga retreat in Ubud in central Bali. My week here started with a 2 hour ayurvedic massage, and just got better and better: yoga twice a day, great food, cycling, beauty treatments, meditation and making some great new freinds - all in lush surroundings.  We visited a sacred temple by night where we walked throught deep ancient stone pools dunking our heads under 'purifying' fountains as we went along and were blessed again by a local mangku. Much of the time in a Balinese household is devoted to making elaborate little offerings to the gods comprising of flowers, rice and on ocassion even cigarettes! The streets of Bali are literally paved with these offerings and I did a class on how to make them. In a fitting end to the more spiritual part of my holiday, on the final morning of the retreat we were invited to burn little bits of paper onto which we had written negative thoughts on a pyre of fragrant flower petals then throw them into the river. Adios silly preocupations (for now at least).
Monasteries and ceremonies
Making offerings from coconut leaves and filling them with flowers - each flower has a different significance

I certainly didn't go to Bali to work on my love life - fact is for the past months I have pretty much shunned love as something that was 'for other people' (though my big-mouth bravado may have suggested otherwise). Now I feel that I may be just a little more ready to meet someone, but only just a little, so we'll see. To be honest I found that Bali, for all it's sensuality felt pretty chaste - even the cat calls seem harmless - at least compared to the obscenities I am used to hearing in Lavapies. It was only when I travelled to neighbouring island Nusa Lembongan that I suddenly felt a bit harangued as a woman - luckily I had a male friend accompanying me on this isle which we came to name la isla de los salidos - pervy/horny guy island. So, as I said, Bali was not really about amore for me - though permit me to get a little cheesy and say it was all about self-love and the love of friends.

The princess treatment
My own private beach

Looking back at what I've written here, it really doesn't capture the essence of the island, the things that really struck me. Things like waking up to the smell of frangipani flowers, the way strangers went out of their way to help me, sweet Ketut at the retreat who nervously smiled as he explained to us the ingredients of the latest organic meal to come from his kitchen, spooky tales of black magic, the toothless smile of an old mangku, new friends in far off places, my first time snorkeling, villagers greeting us with om swastiastu, funny lady market vendors claiming they were giving you a good price because you have nice body or insisting that buying this or that sarong bring good luck for you, crazy rides on the back of all manner of motorbikes, trucks and boats. Thank you for the memories Bali :-)

For those of you who I'm friends with on Facebook, sorry that you've seen these pics already! I'll be posting more on the blog soon.


Gabby / Gypsy*Diaries said...

Ah... sounds like you had the time of your life!!! I've been planning to go to Bali for so long... maybe next year! And don't worry I feel that love is in the air for you! ;)

I'm having a very cute giveaway that I think you'd love! Come and check it out! ;)

shelly said...

i love this post :) going to Bali is such a dream of mine!

Nadya said...

Gabby, you're right Bali was amazing :-) I'll definitely check out your giveaway!

Shelly, if you can make it to Bali anytime soon I'd really recommend it - it was honestly the best gift I've ever given myself :-)


Nadya said...

Gabby, you're right Bali was amazing :-) I'll definitely check out your giveaway!

Shelly, if you can make it to Bali anytime soon I'd really recommend it - it was honestly the best gift I've ever given myself :-)


buday said...

What a blissful retreat. Thanks for sharing this, Nadya, and for bringing me on an imaginary vacation. :)

Ashleigh said...

Sounds like heaven, or should I say nirvana or something like that. The food sounds great as does your yoga retreat. i've heard it said that your should wourk on being the kind of person YOU would actually like to meet or be with and you will have a better opportunity to attracting that kind of person...Sounds like you've got that covered! Congrats on such a great experience...

Nadya said...

Thanks Ashliegh, the retreat really was heaven :-) As for working on being the person I'd like to meet - I'm still working on that one, it's taking some time, but hope to get there soon! x

Marie said...

Looks like it was a very enriching experience. I would like to do something similar, but I am a bit (a lot) worried about travelling alone... Will I dare take this giant step and do it this summer at last? :/ Did you travel totally on your own? Seems it turned out pretty well for you! Greetings.

Nadya said...

Sorry I never got back to you Marie, this comment seemed to slip through the net! If you haven't yet booked a solo holiday, I can thoroughly recommend it! Maybe not as a long-term lifestyle choice but I think everyone should try it as it's a really unique experience. I had never travelled alone till last year, when I made trips to Bali and Marrakech and had the time of my life! The main thing is to stay safe and use common sense when getting loifts from others etc. Good luck!

light said...

i like ur post, and i always wait ur news trips

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