Bali was nothing like I imagined.
I don’t exactly know where I got my ideas about Bali from, or even why I decided I needed to go. But I had a clear emotional picture of the place- serene, with lush vegetation, cool morning breezes (?!), and quiet people with peace in their hearts doing yoga. I, too, would learn to love yoga while I was there; I would become mindful, and, soothed by the island’s gentle palm fronds, finally learn to meditate without going on wildly impatient ADD adventures in my head while I waited for the gong to release me.
Obviously, it was none of that.
Paradise, writ LOUD
Ubud, where our gorgeously paradisical estate was located, was- outside the quiet perfection of our gardens and villa- colourful, raucous and friendly. The uneven streets were brimming with people, motorcycles, taxis, and religious celebrations. Children with drums and tinny shakers and long snaking dragon costumes roamed the narrow sidewalks collecting donations in what seemed to be the Balinese equivalent of a lemonade stand. There were offerings everywhere- no, EVERYWHERE, watch where you step- little woven bamboo boxes with incense and flowers and candy for the gods that were refreshed several times a day by smiling women in ceremonial dress.
I don’t think I’ve ever visited a city that felt so welcoming and yet so utterly foreign. Religion and spirituality were woven seamlessly into everyday life; wherever you were, at any given time, you could see an offering, or smell incense, or hear the music of a ceremony or celebration. It seemed as natural and expected a part of life as eating or dressing. There were temples on every street, and sometimes more than one- sometimes a garden with a fountain that you could just glimpse through an ornate gate in a high wall, sometimes great stone edifices with grand staircases, richly carved walls, and statues. I got the impression that in Bali skills like stone carving, sculpture, painting and woodwork were more widespread, kind of like being a good cook in Canada; noteworthy but not unusual, every family has at least one.
Arriving in Bali I expected serenity. When I left, it was with new friends, a fresh sunburn, the ability to bargain skillfully for a sarong (and FAR too many colourful sarongs), hundreds of incredible photos, and memories of standing naked in a rainstorm in a national park surrounded by brave, extraordinary women.
I did not, at any point, do yoga.
Looking for more? Check out blog entries about our past destination boudoir photography retreats