The Single Woman’s Guide to Bali

Okay, this post deserves a lot more time than I have to give it, so let’s do this quickly:

Since I last wrote, I have left Ubud – after a wonderful week of amazing food (you wouldn’t believe the great organic, fresh food you can get there, both local and foreign in concept), daily yoga, a little more shopping than I intended (it’s cheap…? I didn’t get anything I didn’t need, anyway), and wonderful new friends – for the north, where I am at the moment, in Lovina, about which I shall write more in a moment. Here’s a rundown of the highlights of the last few days.

1. Yoga. This is how I structured my days, kept my head straight during all the tumultuousness of the first week or so of traveling. The studio I went to, the Yoga Barn, part of BaliSpirit, was amazing – if it was warmer in the Bay Area year-round, this would be all the rage, as classes are held on the second floor of a “barn,” with the sides all open to the lotus fields around, making for a really earthy, spiritual experience (if incredibly hot and humid – it’s like doing hot/bikram yoga daily, and we all shed pounds of sweat). I also went to an interesting philosophers class there, but found it not terribly enlightening – indeed, I could have given it myself.

1.a. I’m particularly struck by the spirituality of people on Bali/the people who come to Bali. I suppose I am a more spiritual than religious person, as most of you know, but I’m hardly “Spiritual,” whatever that means. And yet I found myself here surrounded by people looking for spiritual purpose and understanding, which has forced me to consider things more than I initially planned to. Indeed, I early on figured out, in response to a question from a friend, that I don’t really know the purpose of this trip. So, for now, I am trying to figure out this purpose, but without really looking for it. We shall see.

2. The other night was a huge religious celebration in Bali, where people go from temple to temple throughout the night to pray at each one. Since we wanted to participate, we all went out and got full Balinese oufits (sarong, shirt, scarf), dressed up (and of course took pictures!), and went to a temple, where my friend’s dance teacher happened to be, so she put us through the whole ceremony. Absolutely amazing. When the pictures get put up, I’ll explain the whole thing. But, seriously, an awe-inspiring and beautiful experience.

3. Perhaps I am slightly biased, but Bali is not a place to come on one’s own. I have decided this. It’s best experienced with a significant other, one’s family, or, at worst, a group of friends. I am not someone with problems going places alone, eating alone, but I have never gotten so many stares and embarrassed looks as when I go to restaurants alone here. And anyone who tells you that you won’t get hassled much or that the hasslers are polite clearly isn’t a woman alone. They are just as bad here as anywhere – indeed, their limited English in some cases makes for some very inappropriate, vulgar comments that make me want to punch people, but I ignore and silently walk on. I have noticed, however, that they become much more innocuous as soon as there is more than one person, particularly when one of them is male. Even with another girl, though, I’ve found them to be much more polite and accepting of a polite “no, thank you” at taxi offers.

4. I mentioned this before, but, seriously, being here is like being a commodity. My friend Leslie and I agreed upon this. We went to the Monkey Forest the other day and I thought I was bonding with the guy there – we were chatting about real stuff, about food and my finishing college, etc – and then all of a sudden he tries to sell me his paintings. Seriously?? I’d just told him I have no money! It was a sincere disappointment.

5. My friend Petra and I decided to come up to the north together yesterday (Wednesday), as we were both coming for different places and reasons, but it seemed a nice way to make a day out of it, so we hired a friend of hers’ driver. Turns out, this guy was not normally a driver, but rather a healer and a social worker who has family in the north, so we ended up going on the craziest day ever, which is one of those days that makes people want to travel. We went out into a remote village in the mountains to meditate, and up to his family’s house on the beach for a beach dinner where they cooked for us, and then, finally, to our destinations. Absolutely amazing. I confess I spent some of the day terrified that I was being horribly stupid and was going to end up dead in a ditch somewhere, but it all worked out so incredibly well, and I am putting together an article on it that I will hopefully put on here.

6. Lovina was not at all what I expected – there’s absolutely nothing to do here, and it’s off-season, so being a foreigner makes me a hot commodity, unfortunately – and I’m heading back to the south in the morning, so I can go to Singapore on Saturday. Today turned out to be… eventful, at least. I rented a motorbike. Another great story for a great article. More later. I’ll keep you in suspense for now.

My cold seems to be going away – lots of sleep and liquids, and hopefully I’ll be okay for Saturday. More later.

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