After leaving Ubud, I traveled about 2 hours to the west coast, or more specifically Balian Beach, which is part of Tabanan. My Canadian friend Devon who I met in Cairns a few months ago was finishing up her own yoga teacher training and invited me to spend some time at her private, beachy bungalow at one of the area resorts. It was adorable, complete with two comfy beds, a shaded patio and glorious outdoor shower that felt like a mini waterfall amidst a rainbow of cascading flowers and vines.
I met many of the other girls doing the program and it was easy to fit in since we all had obvious common ground. We swapped stories about our respective programs and subjects of study and it's amazing how much our training differed, but we all ended up with the same 200 hours RYT certificate. Now I can see why no two yoga classes or teachers are the same.
I was grateful to eventually share a ride down to Seminyak with four other girls. After some shopping around Seminyak Square, one girl stayed in the area and the other three went on to the airport in Denpasar.
My accommodation here was pretty much the polar opposite of the Balian Bungalow. I found M Boutique Hostel online and booked two nights to give it a try. It's like a pod hotel where you just get a little compact, cubby bunk (complete with light, outlet, fold-down shelf, hook and towel bar) and a locker. The bathrooms are shared, but very clean and comfortable with warm, overhead rain showers. I was in a six share female dorm but there wasn't a single night that all the beds were full. There was also a balcony attached to our room, overlooking a crystal blue pool below. Downstairs was a community kitchen, fridge, filtered water and book exchange. Not bad for 150,000 IDR (just over $10 USD) per night. I ended up spending all four nights here after learning how great the location was as well - just a short scooter ride from the beach and the main streets.
Speaking of which, I finally conformed and rented a scooter. I felt like I was missing out on an essential Bali experience of I didn't. The hostel called a scooter company and they quickly brought over a basic, red and black Honda Vario, with a helmet of course because I wasn't taking any chances on these chaotic streets. It only cost 60,000 IDR ($4 USD) per day to rent, which was the same cost as renting a traditional bicycle, which would have admittedly been the more eco-friendly option, but I really needed to save my energy for things like eating and shopping. (I was on a mission to replace my lost trucker hat and stolen bikini - not just aimless browsing.) About thirty minutes after being handed the keys, I promptly crashed.
Sorta. It takes a while to get used to the sensitivity of the accelerator and I was pulling into a parking lot of a grocery store/juice stand when I meant to slow down but instead gunned it. I'm pretty sure I clipped the back edge of a white SUV but the driver was thankfully oblivious. I panicked and took both hands off the handles, fell on my right side onto the pavement and the bulky scooter fell on top of me. Immediately about three Indonesian guys that were in the immediate vicinity came rushing over to ask if I was ok. My right knee kind of hurt but my ego was damaged the most. I assured them I was fine as they helped me park the rebellious scooter and I slunk over to the juice bar, thoroughly embarrassed. The juice lady also asked me if I was ok and I again said yes, and ordered a juice. Then I assessed the damage. I now had a big, blue bruise blossoming above my right knee, two smaller bruises below and on my left knee, a few scrapes on my left ankle, a small gash on the inside of my right foot and a sore left shoulder. I got off relatively easy but was still a little shaken up and accidentally knocked over my freshly squeezed fruit juice. Face palm. I apologized and the juice lady felt bad for me and quickly mopped up the mess with a towel and said " oh you like me the other day. Very bad luck." And then showed me a nasty looking burn on her left forearm that looked like it hurt more than any of my injuries. I consider it kind of like hazing ritual prior to initiation into the Balinese Scooter Society; no one gets accepted unscathed.
Seminyak is pretty much the South Beach of Bali. Walking up and down the endless rows of shops, art galleries and restaurants, I felt I was back in SoFlo. Not to mention it's just as hot and has just as many, if not more palm trees and tourists. The differences begin at the beach; the sand is not as powdery white and the sea is not as clear as back home, but they were far less crowded.
So back to my shopping missions. I went to at least five different shops and took pictures of about a dozen of the best designed hats before committing to buying one. It's taken me even longer to find a bikini - seriously the hardest thing to buy. Ever. I've sporadically been on the hunt for one since mine got stolen in Sri Lanka but obviously I wasn't going to find any there or in India so Bali it is.
I ended up splurging slightly over $100 USD each on two bikinis from some fancy Australian brand called Sea Folley which I'd previously never heard of. I realize the ridiculousness of this considering that my hostel costs me $10/night and I'm spending about $5-$10 per meal. And I would never even consider paying that much back in the states. I also realize I didn't need two but I was on a manic shopping high and they're really well-made and I have never felt so comfortable in any other brand of bikini. And I'd rather spend the money on practical souvenirs that I can wear again and again instead of a bunch of touristy trinkets. Quality over quantity. (Yes, I am desperately rationalizing my posh purchase because it's so out of character for me.) If any piece of my new swimwear collection goes missing, I will put up "lost" flyers and offer a reward. Is it possible to get an insurance policy on such a small amount of fabric?
I had to hit the Seminyak Beach at least one day while I was here. It's wasn't so great because the surf was rough and there were red flags banning swimming and you get bombarded with beach hawkers selling their wares and creepers with camera phones taking pictures of western girls in bikinis and the coconuts cost about 3x as much as they did in Canggu. But, there are plenty of other nearby beaches to choose from.
My last night I decided to attend the premiere screening of Volcom's latest surf film "Psychic Migrations." They had a little party with free wine at The Straw Hut, which was less than a mile from my hostel. I made some new Aussie friends before unexpectedly seeing some familiar faces. I drank the wine vendor Plaga dry of their sweet Rose wine supply and ordered and pre-paid for a margherita pizza at the bar. When it was show time, the best spot was high above the rest of the crowds in tree that hung over the pool, so of course I scrambled up and perched myself on a sturdy branch. Apparently there is no pizza allowed at the tree party because when (what I'm pretty sure was was) my pizza came out of the kitchen, the server refused to send it up. I don't know why I didn't just come down and retrieve my pizza and take it back up like a Leopard with a freshly killed gazelle, but I didn't and so days later I still have a pizza craving that has yet to be satisfied. Oh, and as for the movie, there was no real discernible plot, more just a collection of cool surf footage from around the world, but it was entertaining and at some points even enthralling.
There's also a ton of street art here, not unlike Canggu and Ubud.
I kinda have a serious crush on Bali. Here are a few of my favorite spots around Seminyak:
Earth Cafe & Market: Pretty much the Whole Foods Market of Seminyak where you will enjoy organic, vegetarian food and can peruse their shop of local, natural & organic snacks and products. I highly recommend the Dragon Bowl salad and their raw Coconut sorbet.
Divine Earth: This place has amazing smoothies and a tasty selection of raw and cooked vegan food. They also have a cozy little theater on the second floor where they showcase a variety of content. The week I was in town, they had a Buddhist movie marathon and I ended up watching Vajra Sky over Tibet, Kundun and Peaceful Warrior there. There are rows of big, plush couches to burrow into and they'll even serve you food and drinks during the show. The ticket costs 50,000 IDR but if get that much credit applied towards your meal cost. I think it's a great idea!
Drifter Surf Shop & Cafe: Surfing + Yoga + Art + Literature + Design + Vegan Snacks = this shop. I could just hang out here everyday and soak up the ambiance. They have everything surf from boards to books and a fantastic collection of graphic goods from t-shirts to trucker hats to prints to overpriced letterpress postcards. The cafe has a small selection of healthy animal-free fare and I really loved their lean, green smoothie. (And bought one of their hats.)
Seminyak Yoga Shala: Conveniently located next to Divine Earth/ above the Divine Goddess yoga apparel shop. I did a Hatha flow class which actually was more of an Ashtanga/Vinyasa blend that leaned more towards beginners but there were plenty of chaturangas and advanced some of the postures to challenge myself. They offer classes every day of the week including Ashtanga (Mysore style), Ying/Yang yoga and the mash-up Flow classes.