Ubud

Where do I start. Perhaps from the beginning?

I had high expectations for Bali. My intentions were to find Bali, and once there, find myself. Did that happen? I think it did in a way. I think I realised that I had already found myself prior to Bali. I had never lost sight of who I was, I just needed something to help me focus. Bali has provided me with a prescription to see myself clearer; my strengths, my capabilities, my passion, and my inner peace.

Arriving in Kuta solo allowed for me to take a breath and realign myself prior to the arrival of Polly and our adventures in Ubud three days later!

During this time, I made friends with Harry, a local guy based in Seminyak who kindly took me under his wing and onto his motorbike. We travelled to Pandawa beach, purchased myself a guitar, and ate seafood deep within the local market.

Three days passed, and I found myself in Ubud; the capital of spirituality and the arrival of Polly.

The two weeks spent with Polly gave me a chance to enjoy myself, treat myself, turn down the volume, and turn up the silence. It took us a while to settle into this state of calm. We are both extremely busy people, in our every day lives, but also within our minds.

We most certainly found our zen. By day three, you may as well have called us ‘Marigold’ and ‘Sunshine’ as we floated around the pool, meditating through cappacinos and pancakes. A LOT OF CAPPACINOS AND PANCAKES. We ate and ate and ate. I allowed myself. It made a change from drink, drink, drunk.

We decided to climb mount batur; an active volcano north west of Bali. We were picked up at 2a.m, and headed towards the summit with a bottle of water and a handheld torch. We have always put ourselves in some unusual situations in the past, but at least we will remember this one with pride and not palpations…We hoped.

When climbing up that mountain, there was no doubt that I wouldn’t make it to the top. I’ve endured a good few ‘mountains‘ in my time; physically, but more importantly, emotionally.

The difference this time around though, was that I wasn’t wishing away the journey towards the end like usual. I knew I was going to get there; my self-belief wasn’t uncertain, so I experienced the experience. I’m not saying it was easy, it wasn’t…but once you remove that fear of failure, you lighten your load. The ‘challenge’ becomes clearer, lighter, and….possible.

The heaviest thing that we can possible carry throughout out adventure is our own self-doubt; not our water bottles, our headtorches, our stash of protein bars, or even our walking poles (yes, some thought of them as necessary).

I’ve leant that self-belief not only keeps us grounded, but also defies gravity; lifting us and allowing us to feel on top of the world….or a mountain.It really was a fantastic accomplishment. I was scarily close to reinacting the Rocky moment (never seen it).

Spending this time with Polly (aka Bambi Paradise) was another revelation that we shared with one another whilst dining out for dinner and grabbing a mocktail during the sunsets. Not ONCE did I feel threatened, tempted, tested or tormented by the though of alcohol.

Holidays are one of these things we experience, where as a society, we associate it with a nice glass of wine, or a cold beer by the pool. Ubud wasn’t like that. THIS wasn’t like that. People are drunk on something else here. I hardly saw someone with a beer or wine in their hand, and not once did I see someone doing something similar to what I would have done before sobriety.

Timing. I have always fantasised about living my gay Julia Roberts life. Thank God I came at this point in my life. A time where I over indulged on pancakes and not pinot.

After two weeks of treats, treatments and tanning, it was time for Bambi Paradise to leave Paradise and head home.

Time to continue scouting solo.

When I first arrived into Ubud, I noticed a small building on the corner of the village, almost falling off the main radius of the village. It was an orphanage. ‘Tamam Permata Hati Bali Orphan Day Centre’. I told myself I would go there one day. I did.

During my last couple of days in Ubud, after contacting Mama Ayu, who runs the easy centre, I went in to visit the children and taught them English. I took a bag full of clothes that I know longer needed (or carry due to the overall weight of my backpack!), and offered them out. The boys asked if they were for men or women. Why would they have asked such a silly question? Camo print mesh is very on trend guys!?

I spent time with the children, and I spent time with Mama Ayu. I was privileged enough ask her a few questions about herself and the work that she does, and I have shared the conversation below. Hey, I’m a podcaster now did you know?!

My last night in Ubud approached, and I was ready for a new chapter. A new me. A new way of living…and…A new moon! New moon who dis!?

On May 18th, the full moon rose into Scorpio, and it was said to be a lunar event that would leave everyone feeling…something, apparently.

Ubud is a spiritual place. There is no hiding from it. If you run, it will find you. I didn’t let it chase me. As soon as I arrived here I stood still waving a red flag; enticing it over with open arms.

Some people roll their eyes at spirituality and escapism and then take ‘sniff‘ to do just that; escape. Some people mediate through Merlot. I’ve done both. I was open. I was willing. I was, kind of, desperate.

I went to a full moon party; a cacao ritual where we were to welcome in the blue moon and do all kinds of things…spiritual.

As we sat there on bean bags in a candlelit room, donned with fresh flowers shaped into a lotus flower, a woman played an acordian.

She spoke of the full moon as being an emotional force that can affect all human beings. So, this full moon moves into Scorpio (stay with me here, I’m learning too!). Apparently this is known to be especially powerful when it comes to “releasing, cleansing, and transforming your life.”

She went on to say that this was a good time to not only let go of the things that are no longer serving us, but to also look even deeper within ourselves to figure out the changes that need to be made to make us happy. This full moon in particular had a heavier energy than most, and that it was basically forcing us to be a bit more intuitive and thoughtful than usual.

What I found most interesting, was that the eve of the new moon was when I decided to share my ‘story‘. Was it the full moon that persuaded me to open up, or was it the fact that I was alone in a country where no one knew me, and I was at a safe distance to hide incase of getting hurt? I don’t know!?

Back to the ritual.

We drank cacao, we sang chants, we sat in silence and stared into one another’s eyes, and then we acted like animals. Basically, I went back to my theatre days as playing a tiger. My growl was on point. I was proud.

Deep? Yes. At times uncomfortable? Very. Insightful? Incredibly. I just took what I needed from it, and saw past the things that I didn’t need.

I met two fantastic characters during this full moon experience; Crystal and Wanuita. Both spiritual souls from Canada and South Africa, who have also been on a testing journey in their life. The beautiful thing that I have realised is that our pain and struggles do not isolate us from others, but, if we allow ourselves to show vulnerabilty, these draw us closer together…even if we are on other sides of the world. Reading the love and support from people relating to my story that night reaffirmed this. I felt a surge of emotion. A wealth of love, and a weight off my tired shoulders.

Recently, I’ve began to think more openly about ourselves and the world that we live in. We often think of ourselves as somewhat separate to the world and the universe; as if that is that, and this is this, and we just happen to be living IN it. I’m starting to believe that it is more than that; that we live WITH it.

I’ve been reading a book by Haemin Sunim titled ‘The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down‘ (something which I find very difficult).

Sunim speaks about ‘us’, and how we usually think of “mind” and “world” existing independently to one another.

If someone were to ask where our head was, we’d point to our head. If someone were to ask us where our heart was, we would point to the left side of our chest. We wouldn’t wouldn’t choose to point to a tree or the sky…(although previously I would have perhaps pointed to a bottle of wine?!).

According to Buddha’s teaching, the boundary between our minds and the world is in fact an illusion.Rather than our worlds being objectively joyful or sad and this affecting us, it is our minds that are ‘projecting its subjective experience onto the world‘.

“The world isn’t inherently joyful or sad; it just is.”

Now, I don’t see this as pointing the finger and saying ‘you have caused the pain that goes on in the world’. I look at this as a more personal reference; our eyes and our worlds.

Have you ever thought about a song, or heard a song on the radio, and then you hear it again and dwell on why you’ve heard it a second time? Then, before you know it, you keep on hearing it wherever you go?

Or maybe, you had your eye set on a car you liked, perhaps something tasteful like a yellow Corsa (haha), and then you continue to see yellow Corsas on the road?

It’s like, when we are experiencing and observing the world around us, we are only viewing the small parts that interest us. The world that we see is limited to what the mind is fixated on.

I have chosen to make an effort now in focussing not on yellow Corsas, but instead, to focus on love (in all senses), success (in all senses), and opportunities (EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.). I see you out there, you little minxes, come forth!

So, Ubud. Thank You.

Thank you for giving me such a magical, beautiful, spiritual and insightful experience; not just within a new place, but within myself too. I needed this. You offered me the time and tools for me to tap into myself a little deeper; to listen to myself and to love myself a little more. You offered me the opportunity for me to feel comfort and confidence in who I am, and to share my story of mental health with others; something I never thought possible.

Sharing my story of living with HIV and my mental health history, replaced this darkness with so much light; light from the love and support of others. I’ve never been so far away from others, but I have never felt this close to others either. This has been a journey in all senses. No longer am I scouting solo with this secret.

Next stop, Canggu. From Bali’s spiritual paradise to it’s surfers playground.

Let’s do this….’dudes‘.

Places in and around Ubud to visit:

Monkey Forest Sanctuary.
Monkey Forest St, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali 80571

The Monkey Sanctuary has no tall gates, no cages, and no prevention for monkeys to leave if they choose to. But why would they!? The vast grounds boast lush green foliage, food and water. Plus they love playing games with the local workers and tourists! It will roughly cost around £10 for amazing experience.

Ubud Art Market Ubud, Gianyar, Bali 80571

We heard that there was a daily market in Bali which sold clothes, jewellery, bags and other crafts…We literally ran there. SOLD.

Such a buzzing atmosphere which all the hustle and bustle of sellers and buyers bartering for these pieces of handmade artwork. The market is open daily from 9-6pm.

Skinni Pizza and Pool Bar
Jl. Raya Pengosekan Ubud No.63 X, Ubud, Kec. Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571

This was an accidental find, but one whuh we embraced…pretty much most days. Situated in the near centre of Ubud, this beautiful pool bar boasted L.A vibes whilst maintaining the calm of Bali. The food is fantastic; offering options such as granola bowls, smoothies, pancakes, pizzas, and baguettes. Obviously the beds are a massive selling point too! A pizza will cost you around £2.50, and a lovely coffee at 50p.

Ibu Susu
Jalan Monkey Forest Ubud, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali 80571

Based along Jalan Monkey Forest, and conveniently next door to our hotel, this cafe/bar was one of the best, if not THE best, places for food that I experienced during my stay. Slightly more pricey than other places, with the above dish costing around £6.50 e.g. a trip to Pret A Manger

Grand Sehati Ubud and Spa Monkey Forest St, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali 80571

I can’t praise this hotel, their staff and their treatments enough. I really can’t. It was such a brilliant hotel based in Jalan Monkey Forest. Although locals stated That the price we paid for our two week stay there was on the costly side, I can safely say that it was the best £175 I have ever spent. We would be welcomed home every time we strolled through smiles at reception, and to say that they went the extra mile for us was an understatement. Their treatments such as a hot stone massage and foot spa reflexology start at just £3.

Café du Monyet
Monkey Forest St No.9, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali 80571

Such a cool, quirky Parisian restaurant looking out on to the rice fields. Everything from the menu to the decor makes you feel special and somewhat back in time. We spent our first night and our last night dining at this restaurant. It is a definitely worth a visit. A steak and kombucha will cost you around £10. One of the best steaks I have ever had.

La- Mien 16, Jl. Goutama Sel., Ubud, Kec. Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571

This little find is situated down one of my favourite streets in Ubud. It is a MUST, especially if you’re into local, modest, and budget dining. A fresh coconut and ramen will cost you under £5. Everything is freshly made, and it is definitely a contender against the other more ‘upmarket’ food venues along the strip.

Mount Batur

Based in the Bangli Recency, this excursion should only been booked through a travel company or your hotel. You will be paired up with a tour guide and climbing leader. Pick up is usually around 1/2a.m. and you will be driven down to the summit where you join forces with other like-minded travellers.

Toya Devasya Natural Hot Springs Toya Bungkah Kintamani Desa Pekraman Batur, Songan B, Kintamani, Kabupaten Bangli, Bali 80612

If you find yourself climbing up Mount Batur, you will most likely find yourself floating in the natural hot springs after. Book with a company through your hotel or local company, and this visit is included in the experience. It definitely makes the climbing back down the mountain a little less strenuous.

Elephant Cave/Tegalalang Rice Terrace/Bali Swing/Pura Tirta Empul/Tegenungan Waterfall

Definitely the most popular day trip excursion for tourists, and definitely not one to dismiss either. For £17pp (if just two of you), you will driven around the local landmarks which make Bali one of the cultural capitals of Indonesia. The excursion lasts for the day; leaving at 7am and arriving back at your hotel for 4pm. It’s a great opportunity to pay homage to the religion, spiritual and picturesque places within this island.

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