The fifth day of the Bali retreat was one of my absolute favorite days because we dedicated the whole day to water! As usual, it started with rising and shining really really early. So early. But when it’s for snorkeling and scuba diving who wouldn’t want to wake up early?!
On water days we postpone yoga until the evening so we can get out on the boat. This retreat was especially cool because we had almost a full set of divers! It was loads of fun to have a bunch of #scubagirls on a trip. That reminds me, I still need to post a group pic on Insta...
Anyway, I love scuba diving and promoting the wealth of our ocean, so this day is so fun. Scuba diving is the most freeing, meditative and restoring activity I regularly partake in. There’s something so humbling about being in a vast open ocean where everything can see you. I just feel so blessed and grateful when I see ocean critters, whether they’re in Napa, Bali, or anywhere else. In fact, if I got to relive my life again I’d find myself on a remote island diving every day or doing some sort of marine biology work. But I guess I’ll take scuba diving in Bali with some of my favorite people on earth instead hahaha.
On a real note, it’s amazing how as adults we go through all these different self-discovery moments that help us realize who we are. That’s the beauty of these retreats. They’re healing, meditative and help you discover the person you truly are or want to become, and all that with only a few days away from home and work.
This dive wound up being my second most favorite dive I’ve ever been on despite the cold water. My first favorite was diving with 6 bull sharks in Cabo Pulmo. They really are just misunderstood ocean puppies. This is where my ocean conservation self kicks in. Not many people can say they are calmer in the ocean surrounded by sharks than at a concert surrounded by people and their favorite music. But I can because I’d rather dive with the sharks any day! And that’s why on every dive I pray to see these incredible creatures.
Now if sharks are not your jam, don’t worry. We didn’t see any sharks on this trip and that’s because you’ll almost never see sharks in Bali. But if you do, don’t worry because Bali sharks are safer than coconuts! Haha. So really - don’t worry about this.
Anyway, back to this dive. Even though we didn’t spot any sharks, we did see something really exciting - giant manta rays! That was so amazing.
Here’s what happened - we jumped into a cove where the huge manta rays feed on the top of the water. So in this dive, the goal is to jump in and sink to the bottom. Once you get there, you turn upside down and look up to see all the beautiful rays doing their thing. They glide atop the surface effortlessly collecting their food and looking magical as their (bat wings???? Not sure what to call their arms hahaha) pectoral fins swiftly move up and down. It is truly God’s gift.
On the next dive, we went from cold water to freezing water only to jump in right next to Mola Mola, aka sunfish. They are SO HUGE. These fish range from 545 pounds to over 2,000 pounds!!! They put it all in perspective when you’re lucky enough to swim beside them. I mean, can you imagine facing one of these gentle critters in the sea?!
Speaking of, we jumped in next to two that were somewhere between 600 - 800 pounds. In fact, Matt jumped right on top of one and the Mola Mola had to swim right between his legs hahaha. We hilariously captured this on the Go Pro! Love that thing.
On the last dive, the current was so strong we decided to drift. Drifting is when you let the current take you along the outside of the reef, letting the sea decide where you go next. This was truly magical because it felt like we were inside the most exotic fish tank. The coral was so vibrant, fish were everywhere, and we felt like we were in a Where’s Wally fish edition. Everywhere you looked there were parrot fish, butterfly fish, ribbon sweetlips fish, triggerfish, trumpet, grouper, angelfish, sea turtle, sea stars, eel and other vibrant fish I don’t even know the name of. All this celebrity fish spotting is exactly why I feel so at ease in the sea. More importantly, it’s why day five of our retreat was one of my all-time favorite days ever.
So tell me - have you ever gone scuba diving or snorkeling? If so, what was the coolest thing you saw in the water?
Highlight of the day: Seeing the Mola Mola sunfish!
Lowlight of the day: Rough sea rides on a boat are never fun
Monkeying around on our run
On day 4 we began our run in the Monkey Forest town Padangtegal. This was a magical experience that began with appreciating how amazing Bali is in the morning.
If you work out outside in the mornings, you probably enjoy how you can watch your city or town waking up. It’s fun to see how sleepy your home is around you. I like that it gives you a chance to notice the little things like how green everything is after it rains, or to notice sounds you might have otherwise slept through. This is true in Bali too. Well, the locals are up let me tell you, but you can still appreciate rising with the sun in the morning. It just feels crisp and alive with greenery everywhere. Ahh I miss it.
But First Coffee
We began our morning with an activity perfect for those who like to start the day with a good sweat, just like we will most mornings of our retreat, by going on a 3 - 5 mile run over the Campuhan Ridge Walk. It’s only a mile from our villa so you can easily make it as challenging or relaxing a workout as you want to. Early mornings in Bali are always interesting as this is the time when most Balinese are on the street purchasing their fruits and vegetables for the day. In other words, if you’re a people watcher (idk about you but my hand is raised!), this is one of the best times of day to be out and about.
During our workout, we ran by a collection of Balinese dogs that are trying to grab scraps of food. Sadly there are a lot of homeless dogs in Bali. This is true in India and lots of other South and Southeast Asian countries, but it is a bit of a hit to the gut if you’re not prepared. That said, the dogs are fed and taken care of more than one would expect for being homeless, so it’s not all terrible... I guess... (but I just want to do more for them!). Anyway, moving on.
Always Make Time for Coffee
After our hike, it was time for some coffee because you can take the girl away from Napa but you can’t take her away from her caffeine haha. Today was an especially fun day because we got to do a coffee and tea tasting! To make the most of our experience we went to my favorite Bali coffee plantation - Uma Pakel. They specialize in something really unique. Something that I’ll tell you about because we’re friends, I trust you, and this is a judgment-free zone...
This is probably going to sound offputting, but keep in mind our coffee tasting involved sipping on the most expensive coffee in all the world. So despite how it sounds it really is good.
Ok, enough buildup - I’ll get straight to it - the coffee we drank is called Kopi Luwak, which is just coffee that comes from Luwak cat poop droppings hahaha. But man oh man does it make for a beautiful cup of coffee. Authentic free range Kopi Luwak is really hard to come by and I’ll explain why in just a minute, but this is what drives the price and makes it something we only do when in Bali.
How Kopi Luwak is Made
So I said that it’s rare, but let me explain. The first step to Kopi Luwak is that you have to have coffee trees. You also have to have Luwaks (aka civets, but really it’s just a cat). All things free range taste better, so of course these need to be happy cats wandering around as they please.
Next, the Luwak has to eat the coffee berries (aka cherries) the coffee trees produce. But they don’t just eat any old cherry. They’re fussy. They want the best. The juiciest, fruitiest, ripest ones. So if it’s coming out of a Luwak you already know you began with the highest quality fruit there is.
Then the cat goes on about their day, which involves a thorough digestive process ending with pooping out those beautiful beans. Their digestive process ferments the fruit, so while there may be a certain ick factor to it, if you think of the beans like kimchi or saur kraut they suddenly don’t sound all too terrible, do they? And maybe it helps to know the cherry is never fully digested? See, the part we want is protected by a layer of skin which means our incredibly expensive specialty coffee is never directly touched by any feces whatsoever.
Being a science nerd I find the digestion process fascinating because 1) hello nutrition, and 2) this exact process is why these beans are so coveted. Kopi Luwak has been around since the 1600s and IMHO completely revolutionized the way we produce coffee. It was the civet that showed the way in terms of how important it is to pick the highest quality bean from the best sources around the world. And how cool that animals helped lead us to my favorite thing ever - a beautiful cup of coffee.
If you’re a science nerd like me you can read more about studies that have been conducted to learn how such amazing flavors are produced here. Although I have to be honest that I disagree with the ending, but hey - to each his own…
Yes I’m Still Sitting Here Talking About Cat Poop
Anyway, it usually takes about a day for the ingestion, digestion and defecation process to be complete before farmers can collect the poops to process into fresh (haha) coffee beans. Don’t worry though, this process does include washing drying and removing the skin before roasting. This kills any remaining bacteria, so the poop is gone before it has the chance to get into your favorite mug.
All that to say, just trust me that you’ll be glad if you ever have the chance to try it. And if you happen to buy some to take back home, you’ll never doubt for a second why you paid $100 for a bag of coffee beans. Guaranteed, it’ll produce the smoothest, least bitter coffee you’ll have in your life, hands down. I’m sure of it.
Ok, it’s over, phew! And we’re still friends. Can I just take a minute to say wow… I never thought I would talk about poop so much in my life but here we are! I feel closer to you somehow haha.
Back to the Coffee Tasting
One of the things I love about the coffee spot we went to is that they have swings! So we got to feel like adults with our morning run and our coffee but also got to giggle like the kids at heart we are with the swings. And you guessed it - there was plenty of cat poop coffee to purchase haha.
Interestingly, whenever there’s a coffee tasting in Bali there’s going to be an elaborate tea tasting as well. They also make their own turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. The flavors of their coffees stand out in their simplicity. They taste just exactly as they should and nothing more. So their ginger tea really does taste like ginger because they actually used real ginger. I can still taste some of their flavors when I think back on that morning which is the sign of a truly beautiful cup of coffee/tea.
From the tea tasting, we went to Pura Titra Empul. It’s a Hindu water temple you can go to if you want to see a traditional Balinese offerings ceremony. This was an amazing experience where we even learned how to make the Balinese offering baskets. Everyone went into the water and then underneath each water spout to practice their Balinese offering. It was a very spiritually uplifting process for everyone regardless of their religious/spiritual background.
Time to Relax
Given that all these destinations are slightly spread out after another full day in Bali we head back to the villa for a mixed vegetables noodle dish, steamed veggies in peanut sauce, jackfruit with peanut spinach and spiced mung beans, Balinese spiced potatoes and of a course a huge salad.
I was wiped and headed straight to bed after that so I could do it all again starting first thing in the morning. Before dozing off I curled up with a new author - Liane Moriarty, who also has a book about a retreat called 9 Perfect Strangers, but I was reading The Husband’s Secret, which of course, my husband has none! Haha I’m watching you Matt...
Anyway, we all have our different evening routines but a lot of the other retreaters went on to lounge by the pool with a beverage, listening to the jungle sounds of Bali before heading off to sleep. I figured I’d try that tomorrow if I could keep my eyes open just a little longer...
Highlights of the day: tasting exotic teas and swinging over the rice terraces
Low of the day: Balinese traffic
bright and early
Oh good ole time changes, jet lag and of course let’s not forget about the confused roosters of Bali that start at 3 am 😭 That’s right these roosters are relentless. They’ll do anything it takes to make sure you’re up and ready to go before the sun’s even thinking about rising.
THe Longest Flight
As the excitement amps up for our Bali retreat the long long long flight becomes even more dreadful to think about. The journey might be long but the destination is well worth it! Since we are coming from Napa we usually have a 1.5 hour drive to San Francisco. From San Francisco we fly to Taipei, Taiwan which is about a 13-14 hour flight. Once in Taipei which I must say is not the most entertaining airport we have a two hour layover. Our next flight to Denpasar, Bali is about 5 and half hours. After we land in Bali you would think the journey is over but for some reason the immigration and customs line likes to take another 1 hour to 1.5 hours. Once you survive this line we make our way through the sea of drivers trying to grab your attention for a ride and find our driver Made. Balinese children are simply named by his or her order of birth. The first born, boy or girl, is Wayan. The second born is Made (pronounced ma day). After we find Made the last leg of the trip is venturing into the jungle of Ubud. Depending on time of day this journey can either be 40 mins or 2 hours....generally leaning more towards that 2 hour marker and then we are in PARADISE.
Now given this 25 plus hours of travel time as any good fitness professional would do I have a routine that I prepare and complete before any international flight.
First you must always consider hydration on trips like this. I usually do not drink any alcohol the day before and I make sure I have good electrolytes such as a coconut water and plenty of water throughout the day. On the day of the trip I make sure I make enough time to complete at least 60-90 mins of cardio and do my full set of postural exercises. A week before the flight I will call in for a lacto-ovo vegetarian meal which is there vegan meal. This helps reduce the amount of salt I would be consuming on the flight.
Additionally I bring snacks onto the flight such as:
Other goodies I pack onto international hauls:
Our villa is situated in the cultural and arts center of Ubud and wow is it magical! It is right off the main street of Ubud and tucked into the huge jungle trees overlooking a river. Upon arrival at the villa the staff have beautifully decorated it with marigolds and intricately folded palm leaves. The palm leaves and marigolds are scattered all over the grounds and hanging from the ceiling to give a beautiful floral effect. The villa beautifully cascades down the property, as the property is multi-tiered with multiple villas on each layer of land. Each door on each villa has an been intricately carved with Balinese designs which really adds to the Balinese decor. The place has a feel of both modern yet artistically cultivated from the Balinese designs. The first layer of land has 3 villas and then you walk down a staircase that goes over a beautiful pond filled with fish and turtles and enters into the main house that is completely open. The main house overlooks the cascading pool and the beautifully landscaped lawns with day cabanas that are perfect to read a book in.
After everyone gets settled into their rooms we have a welcome banquet dinner outside with live bamboo music and Balinese dancers. The dinner and the retreat is fully vegan and features items such as a Balinese rice tower, vegetables in peanut sauce, tempeh skewers, corn fritters, fresh fruit, fresh cut vegetables, tofu skewers and tapioca pudding for dessert. Our chef Wayan Nurdi is pretty over the top amazing. She has heightened her vegan food cuisine to a new level I have never experienced in Bali before.
Balinese dance is an ancient dance tradition that is part of the religious and artistic expression. It is dynamic, angular and intensely expressive. They are extremely talented at moving there eyes and hands in an artistic style. Which makes it extremely hard to replicate!!!! You can definitely tell they are the masters of this art as we have failed attempts at replicating the art. The Balinese dancers tried to teach us how to do the dance but with the combination of being exhausted from flying and also not being coordinated I think we all failed. After an embarrassing dance we all headed to bed in preparation of a big first day of activities.
Stay tune for our day 2 blog to hear more about our Bali festivities. And don't forget to head to our website to place your deposit on our Bali Bare Health retreat next year!
In October and November, Tessa and I put on two, one week health retreats in in Ubud, Bali which is an Indonesian island with it’s capital of Jakarta located on the island of Java immediately to the north of Bali. Bali is one of the most amazing countries and cultures that I’ve ever encountered. You really have to visit there to truly understand what I’m writing, because words or pictures can’t give it enough credit. The beauty of the island, the people, the accommodations, the food, and the people put Bali in a category of it’s own.
Bali Time, Bali Lifestyle
Zooming around Bali
Essential Places To Go
Diving and Snorkeling
Coffee and Vegetable Plantations
There is no separation between spirituality, work, food, and nature to these people. It’s all the same. There’s much we can learn from these people. We met many smart and educated people that could pursue high paying and high stress jobs, but have chosen to devote their time to a higher spiritual calling that requires a deep respect for all people and nature. These are very happy people that are led by their soul first.
Your Next Wellness Retreat
Hello desolation wilderness.
But first coffee.
24 hours in portland
step one. take a pic of the pdx carpet. then you can proceed.
Keep Portland Weird and that they do…if you haven’t been to Portland yet there slogan rings incredibly true. If you have ever watched Portlandia and thought to yourself, “I wonder if Portland is really like that?”….well it is….exactly like that.
Our perfect weekend adventure to sac
but first coffee. eat. stay. play. sac.
With that said here is my compilation of favorite coffee places, restaurants, adventures and hikes!
Just another girl who is trying to inspire others. Passionate about health and fitness. And a love of coffee and peanut butter.