Sarah Jane Doe

Tag Archives: Yoga

You put the lime in the coconut

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Bear with me on the present tense from a year ago. It’s now the start of a long, cold, wet Melbourne winter and I’ve had some requests for tips on Ubud, where everyone wise is headed in the next few weeks. So, cast your minds back to be in the moment with me. I will do the same. It’s raining and 11 degrees today. I just might cast back and stay there.

Yesterday I met a real pain in the ass. Doesn’t happen much in Ubud. If you don’t like the smiley vibe here, you tend to just…leave. This guy had been here for a day and a night and he hated it. In fact, I think he’d spent 23 hours thinking about what he hated and writing these things down. In blood. During the 24th hour he went looking for someone to vent to and he found me.

I was an easy target. Sitting under my bower of passionflowers at Bar Luna, smiling into the afternoon sun, thinking about Bali. Thinking about France. Laughing at an email. Waving to a friend piloting a slow scooter down Jalan Coutama. When people walk past here, they smile and say hello. It’s nice. I smiled. He said ‘Can I ask you a question?’

I said ‘Sure!’

A few of my friends operate an unofficial bule embassy out of Bar Luna and I felt I owed it to them to keep their desks warm: I prepared answers to the questions I’ve heard a few times before from this perch – ‘how do you extend your visa?’ ‘Where can I get good coffee?’ ‘Is that organic beer OK?’ ‘Is there a toilet in there?’ ‘When is happy hour?’ and ‘Did we know each other in a past life?’ (not-even-kidding-a-little-bit).

‘You look happy. Why is everyone so happy here? It’s vile. It’s a vile place.’

‘I’m sorry?’

‘Yeah, I prefer Kuta. At least in Kuta you know it’s going to be hell. But this place pretends it’s heaven. It’s a disgrace. It revolts me.’

‘I’ll take that as a comment.’

‘What?’

‘OK, well, I’m happy because it’s warm, friendly, relaxi –‘

‘It’s not relaxing. It’s busy.’

‘This is the centre of town at the height of tourist season.’

‘Yeah. It’s busy.’

‘Go just outside of town, take a walk down –’

‘But you like it here. I can tell.’

‘Yes, I really do.’

‘Huh. What’s it like in there?’

‘Great food, great coffee. Lovely staff.’

‘Yeah, right. They just want your money you know.’

‘Yep. It’s a business. It’s a cafe.’

At this point, the three piece acoustic guitar band at Bar Luna start playing ‘Don’t worry be happy.’ (not-even-kidding-a-little-bit. 10 July 2012, one of their best ever sets). The dudes harmonised their whistling in a way Bobby could be proud of. I was proud too. I puffed out my chest. I gestured at the guitars, ‘Look, it’s happy hour. The band’s playing a happy song about being happy. Come in, get a drink with a fresh lychee in it. Give it a chance,’ (this is how happy I am here – I invited this nasty little man in to my happy from his unhappy).

He just snorted a real snort at me and said ‘They’re ruining this song,’ then he said ‘and I heard there was a Starbucks here.’

I felt my stomach plummet – how could I mount a case for Ubud-as-heaven when he already knew its most horrible secret? There really is a Starbucks here. It’s even got this fakey-temple thing going on. It’s just awful, truly awful. So. Tragic. I hung my head and mumbled that I’d heard there was one. I felt all my pride and Ubud-love deflating.

‘Yeah, well can you tell me where it is? I want a real coffee from a good place.’

‘They only want your money you know.’ (hey, I’m not that happy.)

After giving Mr Sunshine directions and a tight-lipped wave goodbye, I thought I should publish the ‘Few days in Ubud’ quick-list I’ve put together for some friends. That way, if you turn up after being stuck in traffic behind a tour bus for hours in indifferent weather, you can cheat your way to happy-in-Ubud without wasting time on bad snacks.

Here we go.

Coffee: This is important to me. Good strong coffee gets me really, really high. I love drinking it. The comedown is just as severe as the upswing however, and it takes real fortitude to get me through the giddying trajectory of any day that includes coffee. That’s pretty much every day. I live like an addict. Lots of self-loathing, promises, shakes and headaches, dry-mouth, snapping of elastic bands on wrists, the joy of abandoning myself to the high, the self- loathing and repeat.

If you need it too, Bar Luna is the best, by far. Their strong latte and house-made shortbread mini-cookie is a sublime coffee experience. Seniman is also wonderful – part design studio and coffee laboratory, and both spots are tucked away in relatively quiet spots and have wifi. Juice Ja and Kafe are my other hideaways for real coffee, and both serve delicious food and juices (Kafe has much better food, Juice Ja has the better location). The green tea espresso frappe at Kafe is the stuff of breakfast dreams.

Snacks: one of the reasons people are happy here is that we eat tasty food all day. Just cruise from one long meal to the next. There’s a lot of high quality produce and flavours to be had for crazy small sums of money, particularly if you are used to eating out in a big city. What would cost me $40 in Melbourne costs me $4 in Ubud. As a consequence, I spend my time snacking in fancier, more obvious spots. You can get a tasty meal here for 70 cents, but that’s not on my list. My list is not going to be liked by people who think it’s sacrilegious to eat Mexican food in Indonesia. I care not. You’re on holiday – eat tasty things that make you happy. It’s not a competition. The Lonely Planet fairy will not appear and award you anything for eating tepid gado-gado at every meal.

Juice-Ja – these guys have a great soto ayam (local chicken soup) and will even serve it piping hot for breakfast. I’m a big fan of it for breakfast or lunch with a whole young coconut to drink on the side. Their juices are great too, and it has a lovely vibe. Jalan Dewisita, near Havana.

Bar Luna – the nasi campur is the best in town. The coffee is the best in town. Breakfasts are great and so are the delicious tropical cocktails – 2 for 1 during the long happy hour from 5 to 8, so a lychee breeze and a watermelon martini will set you back about $5 for the pair. This is great for Bali, where mixed drinks can be surprisingly pricey. Jalan Coutama.

Taco Casa and Grill – better Mexican food than I’ve had anywhere in Australia. I’m a big fan of the shrimp quesadillas, and I always order the fresh ‘lemon’ juice (an incredible iced lime slushie – don’t fear the ice in any of these places) The burritos are great too. So is the guac. It’s all great. Jalan Hanoman, next to Pizza Bagus.

Kafe – Yum! Healthy, delicious, nutritious, tasty. Everything here is good. Wash your meal down with a green tea espresso frappe in the morning, juices the rest of the day, and a Storm beer (the Pale is great) at whatever is beer time for you. Jalan Hanoman.

Clear – best at night, when it’s all lit up and fancy. This and Havana are great date nights. Wide selection of treats. Jalan Hanoman.

Havana – what’s a Cuban salsa bar doing in Ubud? Who cares? The band is fantastic, the swivel-hipped staff will have you dancing, and despite the fact that those two sentences would normally have me cross the street to avoid a place, it works on holiday. It’s often the last place to close, and in a town with sleepy nightlife, that’s important. Jalan Dewisita.

Kue bakery, has a daily edition of the international edition of the New York times, and a pleasing array of snacks including a sandwich with melted brie. Yeah.

The sate/satay guy deep underground in the wet market – this guy has great satay and he’s a sweetheart too. More of an in-between snack than a meal, just head down into the underground local-ish part of the touristy main market in town. The satay are always cooking over hot coals, just follow your nose. Jalan Main, underground at the markets.

Take the through-the paddy-fields walk to Sari Organik, but keep going further to Pomegranate, a massive favourite and very peacefully away from it all.

 Other top tips

Yoga Barn – Just do it. It’ll be great If you’ve never done it before, do an intro. I did it one day when I was at half-lung capacity from flu and I finally learned the basics properly. After a few months of practice at all the classes on offer, I’ve never looked or felt better. Twas grand. Jalan Hanoman, be very careful of the broken footpath getting there, and look for the ‘Siam Sally’ sign to find the entrance. Every other Monday night the Yoga Barn run open-air movies on comfy cushions, with organic popcorn served in half coconut shells to the sounds of a thousand crickets in the paddy fields  and a water fall rushing below.

 Orientation

Jalan Main  (self-explanatory) is like the body of the octopus and all tentacles come off in this way. First is Monkey Forest road, all the way down to literal Monkey Forest. Busy and crazy. Leads to the soccer field, always a good landmark.

On Hanoman, you’ll find the Yoga Barn, Clear, Kafe, and Sisi and Nanan and Puspita for shopping (sweet, Japanese designed silverwear and clothing).

Jalan Coutama is my favourite little street by far. Just wander.

On dealing with touts and beggars

This largely happens on on Jalan Dewisita. Just be friendly. This is a small town, not Kuta. You’ll run into these people again. They aren’t too persistent and occasionally you do want a ride or whatever they offer. Chill out. No one is trying to get the better of you. Remain smiley and kind. Remember your manners, these are people too. Also, you are on holiday. So, maybe the knife sellers are the only ones to ignore – but no one else needs to be ignored. No one should be ignored! It will just ruin your mood.

Jalan Main leads down to Campuhan, and on to Penestanan.

Spa-ness

For nails, great massages, soaking in deep copper tubs and all kinds of lush (and cheap!) treatments, visit Sedona.

For massage in exotic, jungle-cave surroundings that won’t cost crazy prices – Tjampuhan

For the best wax, particularly intimate waxing (in fact, don’t go anywhere else for this) Skin is by far the best choice. They have the best kinds of nail polish too.

Most important tip – Smile. Breathe. Make your own list and make it better. There’s so much left out of this one. x

 

 

 

 

 

Yogier than thou

sarahjanedoe at the Yoga Barn

This is a phrase I’ve come to hear often on chat sites and travel posts about Ubud. It’s also popularly modified as ‘more yoga than thou’ and ‘pretentious asshats’. I’ve been practising yoga for nearly four years. Let me tell you what’s wrong with that sentence o’mine. First up, everyone keeps telling me yoga means ‘practise’ so that’s just a terrible tautology right there. Also, I could count the times I’ve ‘done’ yoga during those years on my (splayed, energised and enlivened) fingers and toes, one go round only. I started doing it in 2009, stopped mid 2010, picked it up again early this year, sweated through it, quite love it. And this is significant because I’m allergic to exercise. In the literal sense, not in the bad 90s sitcom humour one. Exercise makes me cramp and want to be sick and run away (amble away).

But yoga? Yoga makes me feel great. Not in a self-deprivation/Nike commercial/wheat grass shot this-must-be-good-for-me-because-it’s-so-shit kind of way, but in a whole-cake-to-myself way.  It’s like Valium. With a lot of sweat. But still. Valium. If someone told you that on the other side of an hour and a half of some funny bending, stretching, a few oms and shanti-shantys (as far as I can tell these are  sacred Indian songs of the sea) and a bit of a group- nap that it would feel like a post-coital glow plus three Valium, you’d probably do it. Yeah, you would. If it was the only way to get caffeine, I’d do it (everyone would do it). It’s great. Great! It’s just a terrible damn shame about its press.

I’ve been hanging around Ubud for three weeks now, frequenting some stupendously good cafes and eateries that get reviews like ‘would not look out of place in L.A., New York or Sydney!’ which is crap because they would look wildly out of place; the food and juices are far better, more varied and so cheap you could just return the enormous menus and say ‘yes’ and still have change. So, you know, you do. Work your way through the tumeric, honey and lime cooler to the green tea, espresso, white chocolate and soy frappe, before ordering a cheesy burrito with a side of bacon (because you can). What does this have to do with yoga? Well, a lot of us are going to yoga. And then coming to these cafes (particularly Kafe), setting up with a laptop, the International Herald Tribune and saying ‘yes’ to the menu. And if you look at the internet chatter about Ubud, this equates to the kind of assault on the traditional tourist culture of Bali (Bintang singlets! Plaited hair! No chilli in my NARsee GOREing, and turn up Khe Sahn!) that deserves the pointy end of the scorn stick.

Punters report annoyance that ‘their’ cafes are overrun by yogier than thou types, typified by ‘yoga clothing’, and ‘smiling’ and general…’yoga-ness’. As far as I can tell, none of these people are trying to convert anyone to downward dog or doing much of anything except for smiling and eating their organic red rice in silence (the smiling is true, they keep getting us to smile in class – the Yoga Barn philosophy roughly equates to ‘soft eyes, soft face, soft throat – can’t lose!’) so I was surprised to hear this level of crank about it. Especially when many of the regular Yoga Barn attendees are, like me, stealth-yogis. We are the great untanned. We do not glisten and glow, we sweat and redden. We have no kundalini tattoos. We don’t have beautiful posture and Portuguese  accents or a sitar. Many of us have old injuries to get past or some serious Western weight to attend to, and – hey, we might not be hot but we aren’t stupid – a massive platform above a waterfall, rice paddies and expansive koi ponds with top teachers seems like a great place to get started.

So if you wander into Clear or Kafe or Bali Buddha to get a snack and you see some gorgeous, honey-limbed thing twisted into happy-pretzel on a cushion and this inexplicably GIVES YOU THE SHITS, just remember the wise words of Eleanor Roosevelt: ‘No one can make you feel less-yogier without your consent.’*

*Note: I’m paraphrasing slightly, but everyone knows Eleanor was boss at yoga.

Room for coffee and deserve?

sarahjanedoe in Ubud

Room for coffee and deserve?

It’s been less than a week since I ran away from winter and started this blog in Bali. Each day that’s passed has seen a gradual loss of order, makeup and clothing. The thousand cords accompanying hyper-modern life (all my devices apparently need to talk to each other if not to the wall socket, and they require a career puppeteer’s worth of wires to do so) are now out of the careful figure-eights I learned at film school and into a mess of squid-ink linguine in my bag.  Day two saw the abandonment of perfume, day three concealer, and by day four using my duty-free mascara purchase seemed as ridiculous as applying any of these things and hopping into the shower. Even regular underwear has now migrated to the deep space in my luggage occupied by on-plane woollens and chic silk dresses designated optimistically as ‘For France’.

The gain column is much larger. Embarrassingly large. I think that adverb is why it’s been so hard to write about. And why the collective noun for riches is often ‘an embarrassment.’ Too many beautiful things are happening (and/or being eaten) over here in Bali. Sunshiney roads and vintage cars deliver us to suckling pig and lobster dumplings, sunsets and new friends, Baja fish tacos and fresh sugar cane spritzers, ceremonies, house parties, deep jungle pools and airy mountain-top retreats. Every hour of the day brings a new treasure more shiny than the last. And it’s been making me uncomfortable. Do you really want to know how perfect my tamarind and lemongrass juice was this morning? How wonderful Alejandro’s coffee was at Bar Luna? Or how many colours a simple frangipani can arrive on your doorstep in? Do I really want to write about it?

In the middle of happy baby pose at the incredibly beautiful Yoga Barn yesterday, our incredibly beautiful instructor asked the incredibly beautiful bodies in attendance to feel the incredible beauty of where we were; to feel the warmth and softness of the air, to see the lotus blooming on the water-ponds around us, to understand the blessing of living in Ubud and practising yoga. And my growing discomfort ratcheted up to stomach-ache level. Then she said something that gave me the name for it. ‘Feel the magic of this place,’ she said, ‘and know that you deserve to be here.’

I do. Feel the magic. Get that I deserve it. But doesn’t everyone? Deserve means to be worthy, to be entitled, not by chance or luck but work and merit. There were roughly thirty souls getting bent and blessed out in the Yoga Barn yesterday. It seemed like a lot at the time, but it’s pitifully few. It might not be everyone’s idea of the perfect afternoon, but it must be for many more than were there. Don’t most people deserve to feel limber and luxurious, loved and limitless in tropical paradise on a Tuesday afternoon? I worked hard for it, but I know that most people work much harder than I do. So when does everyone else get their great coffee and deserve? And is it wasteful of me not to enjoy it for this reason? Or do I turn into an unthinking lotus-eater* the second that I do?

*Note: deep-fried lotus-root is currently one of my favourite Bali bar snacks. It may be too late in the literal sense.