November 2016

Here starts Part 2 of the 3-week trip I took to Bali in November. Remember the first eco-friendly hotel I stayed at, Bali Eco Stay? Well, right after my days there came to an end, I took a 2-hr taxi to Ubud. Once there, I stayed at Villa Beji Indah, a gorgeous boutique hotel John (Bali Eco Stay’s owner) referred me to. The hotel left me speechless! It had 3 beautiful villas that used to be local homes and a 1.7 hectare garden next to river Ohm! I had a big room with a reading lounge and a private pool all to myself, in the middle of nature and only a 5minute walk from Ubud's markets and restaurants! You know what was more exciting and soul-enriching than that?...Learning that the profits of this sustainable hotel go to a non-profit dedicated to providing HIV tests to people in Ubud and Denpasar. They have treated over 700 people already. Villa Beji Indah also pays above minimum wages to their staff, covers them with the highest level of insurance, started social funds for them, and even hosts staff retreats twice per year to introduce the staff to an environment outside their hometown. How incredible is that? Can you imagine if every hotel worldwide made it a goal to follow these steps? A conscious revolution would hit us full force. (A girl can only hope…)

I spent my first day in Ubud walking around town and, obviously, got lost (more than Alice in Wonderland) but it felt great and safe! I walked for hours trying to discover new spots, from restaurants to stores. I even walked through the famous “Monkey Forest” and felt my jaw drop lower and lower with each step as I witnessed wild monkeys walking around everywhere like they owned the streets! My first stop was “Down to Earth Café”. Right there, I knew I had reached heaven. At least, plantbased heaven! Down to Earth Café is a restaurant and market that sells every product and ingredient you need to thrive at a conscious lifestyle. Superfoods, aromatherapy oils, vegan ice cream, yoga wear, natural sunblock, coconut milk, vegan bars…you name it! But for some reason, the only thing I craved at that moment was an Acai Bowl, so I ordered one of those and devoured it while sitting on the second floor terrace during Ubud’s amazing sunset. Once I was done, I kept walking around Ubud, getting used to my new home away from home, with no track of time whatsoever. I even ended up at a Full Moon Ceremony hosted by locals! I was simply walking by myself, saw women dressed beautifully carrying offerings on their heads and asked if I could join them. Long story short, they said yes, I followed them through dark narrow streets and ended up at their temple watching kids dance while men played Balinese music. I was the only tourist there but everyone was surprisingly friendly! Balinese people are humble and peaceful beyond words. Always going out of their ways to help tourists. After the ceremony, I tried to find my way back to the hotel but it had gotten really dark and I had absolutely no clue where I was. I had walked for hours, had a huge blister on my foot, and when I thought I was walking in the right direction back to the hotel, I realized I had walked the opposite route. I found myself surrounded by Balinese restaurants and locals waiting to eat what smelled like fried food. I panicked a little, I won’t lie, but then I took a deep breath in, told myself everything would be ok, and asked the owner of the first restaurant I saw if they could help me find my exact location on the map I had with me. She laughed and told me “my husband take you in bike!”. I was so nervous all I could manage to say was “ooohkkk.” Two seconds later the husband came outside and pointed at his motorbike. I giggled and immediately sent a prayer to the universe repeating “I just want my bed pleassseee” to myself over and over again. 5 minutes later “the husband” was dropping me off at the hotel. I smiled so big and wide he laughed. I slept like a baby that night!

The next morning I woke up at 6am and walked through Villa Beji Indah’s gardens finding my way to the platform on top of river Ohm. The perfect spot for my yoga practice. After flowing to the sound of my beating heart and the river flowing beneath me, I went back to my villa, took a refreshing shower in my bathroom completely surrounded by nature, and enjoyed breakfast next to Villa Beiji Indah’s pool with a view of the forest. There, I met Cynthia (hotel staff) who was extremely nice and, after a long conversation, encouraged me to learn how to drive a motorbike so I could drive around Ubud at my own pace. It made total sense since EVERYONE drives a motorbike in Ubud. Not joking! Every single tourist I saw drove a motorbike 24/7. I had always wanted to learn how to drive one but never had the opportunity to. It’s very controversial considering I was run over by a huge one when I was a kid. It pretty much took a miracle to keep me alive. Burns, plastic surgeries, and lots of healing. The crazy part is that instead of being scared of challenges, speed, extreme adventures and adrenaline, I'm sort of drawn to them! So…I rented a motorbike and learned how to drive it around the hotel before hitting Ubud’s busy streets! After the fifth try (without crashing into any walls or trees) I decided to give it a chance and drove to Ubud’s central market to get a few bohemian dresses and gifts, then to Tukie’s Coconut Shop for a refreshing Jackfruit-Coconut milk drink, and then to Sage to close my day with the best vegan Jackfruit tacos I’ve ever tried! It was the perfect day!

The next morning, I repeated my routine and then agreed to meet up with Lisa, the talented soul behind the angel wing kimonos you might’ve seen me wear on several occasions.  We met at Sage where I got a coconut milk cappuccino, green juice, and some vegan cookies to go and then drove to her “Painting Studio” to experience firsthand how her fair-trade kimonos are handpainted by Balinese artisans. You know, it's one thing to promote and work with brands that care about our planet and people, but it's a whole different experience to actually get to see how these fair-trade products are made. It was breathtaking, just like each “Warriors of the Devine” design. After my meeting with Lisa, I met two other friends of mine (one lives in Bali, the other one was traveling the world and we bumped into each other in Bali!) at Alchemy Café. Another mouthwatering vegan spot in Ubud. We ordered the vegan pizza, nachos with guacamole, and the veggie wraps alongside green juices that were served with straws made from the stems of papaya leaves (instead of plastic ones), and coconut milk cappuccinos. Everything was tasty beyond dreams! After lunch, we visited Pura Gunung Lebah (temple in Ubud) and the rice fields before the sky fell on us and we had to drive back to the hotel soaking wet and with the sky aggressively pouring on us. It was quite an experience!

The next day was supposed to be my last day in Ubud and the day I returned back to Miami but I just couldn’t! I had already fallen in love with Ubud and felt I needed more time so I changed my flights and gave myself another week to enjoy every corner of Ubud, the temples, and the islands around it. I also wanted to make sure I spent my 29th birthday in that magical and spiritual place.

Story be continued in part 3! Stay tuned!