Everyone is a morning person in Bali.
Even when this night owl got up at a shockingly early 5:30am to catch the sunrise, when I stepped outside my room I could see rice farmers already bent over the fields surrounding the retreat.
I’m amazed when I think how many times this trip I have been up to see the sunrise.
Who am I?!
Our first day of our yoga retreat began at 7:00am with 30 minutes of meditation before our one-hour yoga class. It was a nice way to meet everyone and start our week with focus.
I very quickly realized that all yoga is hot yoga in Bali.
After the first practice slipping and sliding in my downward dog and warrior poses I realized it would be necessary to bring a towel to class from now on.
From the moment I first met our yoga instructor Laura, I could tell that she was a warm and generous soul, and with her beautiful Argentinian accent, all the poses sound like moves in a sexy Latin dance class.
After yoga we all went straight for a buffet breakfast of pancakes, fruit, banana-coconut ‘yogurt’, toast with homemade spreads, and granola.
Everything was freshly made, and some of the fruit was even picked at the resort. The granola continued to be the surprise highlight of our mornings for the entire retreat and we joked we would have brought baggies and containers to take every last grain with us on the final morning.
All the meals at Firefly are vegetarian, and made in a tiny kitchen off the eating area by a small number of staff, including 3 guys we slowly got to know named Wayan, Ninja, and Agung.
There were only six participants in the yoga retreat this week, which was magical, as normally the resort has 10-12 people per week.
The girls!! L to R: Rachel, Laura, Ange, Sara, Jackie, Kaska & Aneta in front
(And when I met four of them Sunday night when I got back from dinner, I was relieved to find out I wasn’t the only one who struggled to find the place. One of the girls ended up at a completely different address, and the other 3 all thought when they arrived at the bottom of the hill that a) they were either lost or b) the resort didn’t actually exist. I have already offered to paint a sign for Firefly to put at the bottom of that hill, but they just chuckled, like I was making a joke.)
I shared a room with Rachel; a fun, energetic girl who just finished a 4-month trip in Australia. She was a kinesiology student and happened to be the only other Canadian of the group.
This photo is the view right outside our room.
We spend every moment that is not scheduled by or in the pool.
On Tuesday, our favourite staff member and tour guide Coco led us through a traditional offering/prayer process at the local temple, and then were taught how to make two kinds of ‘canang‘ (pronounced CHa-nang): traditional coconut leaf baskets for offerings!
You often see Balinese people with flower petals behind one or both ears, and we learned that it was part of the prayer and offering that Balinese people traditionally do one to three times a day. Every day we saw people (women primarily) setting out offerings outside homes, on the street, on cars, and at temples.
They start every day with gratitude and offerings. No wonder the Balinese are such happy people.
Every day we had two yoga practices: one at 7am, and one at 5pm. Typically in the morning we had Flow Yoga, and then in the afternoons we did classes ranging from Hatha to Vinyasa to Yin yoga. Most of the women here were intermediate level yoginis, and Laura made it a challenging, varied week (with a total of 12 classes).
On our third morning we did partner yoga, which I had never tried. I was paired up with Jackie, a teacher from Tasmania. We were a pretty excellent team, if I do say so myself.
We got one young coconut every day at the retreat and we would often ask for it at breakfast and store it in the mini fridge in our room until the afternoon where we could enjoy it chilled by the pool.
We got to try a coffee tasting at the resort, with traditional coffee made from the coffee plants on their property(in fact, growing right next to the yoga studio)!!!
We tried coffee with ginger added, lemon and honey, and turmeric. I was surprised how much I liked honey and lemon in coffee! But the ginger coffee was my favourite.
We went on a bike tour on the Thursday through the area where a lot of filming for the movie Eat Pray Love, and apparently now has many new hotels because of that.
We arrived at Bali Geo coffee plantation and got a tour of the grounds.
As we walked through, our guide pointed out cool things like the beehives on the property, cinnamon trees, and types of spices and coffee beans they grow.
They not only grew two kinds of coffee beans (Robusta and Arabica) but also sold the famous Luwak coffee that comes from the undigested beans that the Luwak animals eat and poop out.
They kept several Luwak (animals that almost look like dark brown versions of red pandas) on site for 2-3 months at a time to eat and ‘process’ the coffee beans, and then they release them back into the wild and they collect more animals to keep on the grounds for the next few months.
We were given samples of various types of tea and coffee they have on the plantation. From lychee and mangostee tea, to mocha and vanilla coffee, we tried 14 different drinks, including durian coffee. (Durian being the really stinky fruit that is banned in some countries on transit and in hotels).
We decided to share a cup of Luwak coffee just so we could all try it. You had to pay for this fancy “ca-ca-coffee”. Depending on the fruit the animals eat and the type of coffee beans they ingest, the Luwak coffee flavour varies. The animals eat the beans because the fruit on the outside of the coffee bean is sweet and digested by the animals. The bean itself does not break down and the seeds ferment in the stomachs of the animals in the fruit juices of what they eat. They poo them out and the beans are gathered, washed, dried, washed again, and then dried and roasted.
We tried it. But we did not like it.
We all thought it tasted like bad coffee. So, to each his own, but we don’t get what the fuss is about.
We got to take a Balinese cooking class at the retreat and learn how to make jackfruit curry. I have heard that jackfruit is becoming a real trend as a vegetarian option, and when it is picked before it is ripe it is perfect for cooking.
Here’s our host and instructor Ariel showing off ingredients. He looks serious until the camera comes out!
Ninja had to wear gloves and spray a large knife with oil in order to cut open the jackfruit because there is a sticky sap-like juice around the fruit that is just like glue. Once the jackfruit is rinsed it is ready to cook. We chopped and juiced the rest of the ingredients in the meantime.
We each had our own pot on a hot plate heated up with oil, we poured the juiced ingredients in the pot, then added water, the lime leaf, and the lemon grass.
We chopped the jackfruit into large pieces and tossed it in the boiling pot for 20 minutes, and then got to eat it for lunch with rice and shrimp crackers! It was awesome!!!
Jackfruit curry recipe:
Purée the following:
Ginger (2 tbsp raw, peeled, chopped)
Garlic (4-5 cloves, chopped)
1 medium mild pepper, chopped
1/2-1 hot pepper (depending on desired spicy level), chopped
1 tbsp fresh turmeric root, peeled and chopped
3 small shallots, chopped
Heat 1 Tbsp of sunflower oil in sauce pot. Add puréed ingredients.
1 L water
1 lime leaf
1 stick lemongrass (cut lengthwise)
Used oiled knife to cut unripe (young) jackfruit and rinse off sticky residue. Add sliced chunks of jackfruit to pot.
Simmer for 20 minutes.
Serve with rice.
In the afternoon we learned to make Jamu, a Balinese herbal drink that is served both hot and cold in Bali. It is often used to cure colds, and has turmeric and ginger, and tamarind in it.
Again, we minced and then pureed all the ingredients except the pandan leaf, lime juice, and fresh ginger. We added the juiced ingredients to the pot with pandan leaf and a piece of peeled ginger and let it boil, adding salt to taste. We then poured it through a sieve into mugs and added lime juice.
It’s crazy strange but definitely tastes healthy. Almost like a sweet & sour soup.
Our instructor tried every pot of Jamu and gave us marks out of 10 on taste. It turns out we all needed more salt. (Jackie and I tied for first place with a score of 7/10)
Boil the following:
Pandan leaf (used for colour and smell)
Tamarind massaged/crushed into ¼ cup water (pulp/seeds strained)
Fresh ginger (1 tbsp, peeled)
Salt (1-2 tsp) to taste
Pour through a sieve into a cup.
Then add Lime (1 tsp of juice).
Drink warm or chilled.
Our last full day at the retreat had no scheduled activities outside of our two yoga practices and a nighttime firefly excursion to close the week.
We booked my friend from the weekend before, our driver and ‘tour guide extraordinaire’ Ketut to take us on a tour around some temples and waterfalls. We also hoped to get to the Monkey Forest and do the Campuhan Ridge walk.
As soon as we were done breakfast, Rachel, Aneta, Jackie, Kaska and I headed to the Temple Goa Gajah (also known as the Elephant Temple).
We all donned our sarongs (they are provided for free with your ticket if you do not bring your own), and Ketut brought us through, giving us the history of the grounds (as a local who brought us there, he doesn’t have to pay the entrance fee to get in).
These fountains used to be where the king would bathe.
This is the famous temple where the king would worship.
We then went on the search for some waterfalls!
First, we went to Kanto Lampo waterfall which is a beautiful cascading wall of rocks and fine spray.
It was very busy and we spent most of our time there waiting for a couple taking photos at the centre of the rocks who had a photographer down below keeping other people off the rocks.
People were polite for about 10 minutes and then Rachel was one of the impatient folks who just started crawling up to get some fun shots.
We moved on to my favourite spot of the day, the Air Terjun Tibumana waterfall. When we got to it there were only a handful of people there, including a cute engagement photo shoot on the shoreline.
The photo opportunities were endless and it was a stunning spot.
Because everyone was staying on the shore I asked if we were allowed to swim in the water. When I was told we could I threw off my dress and then leapt into that gorgeous water as fast as I possibly could. It felt like I had my very own personal waterfall.
I could have stayed in there for the entire day!
We then went to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary and it didn’t rain this time!
I can’t believe we still had time to make it to the Campuhan Ridge, but we did, and it was magnificent. About a 60- to 90- minute walk to the end and back, unless you stop for a coconut at one of the restaurants at the end.
One word I can use to describe Bali is lush. Everywhere you look, it’s this gorgeous green.
Somehow after all that we made it back for our last yoga class of the week, and our final evening was spent walking around the grounds after sunset finding fireflies. The bonus of the night was definitely Coco singing us some Balinese songs.
On our final morning we all practically ran to the pool after stuffing our faces with our last delicious breakfast.
We had a little pool photo shoot and then Rachel, Kaska, and I were picked up by Ketut to begin our drive north to Mount Batur for the start of another fantastic week on this inspiring island.
Up next: the absolute highlight of this week in detail!!