- Garden Kafe at the Yoga Barn, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Soaked in sweat but with every cell in my body singing after my morning yoga class with Nadine at the Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali, I descend the rocky steps to the Garden Kafe for a much needed breakfast. Safety isn’t much of a consideration in Bali, and there is no railing. I take care to watch my feet going down the unevenly placed stone steps. The Garden Kafe is the first raw food cafe in Ubud, opened in 2009, serving vegan, vegetarian and some cooked food.
Ubud is the centre of touring more recently inspired by writer Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” book about finding herself in Bali. If you’re after yoga, meditation, rice fields and healthy food, this is your destination. Groups of middle-aged white single women are commonplace. Sadly not all of them will meet Mr Right in Ubud like Elizabeth. If you would rather “walk in, crawl out” and get a tattoo when drunk, visit one of the hundreds of bars down on the coast in Kuta, Legian or Seminyak.
The Yoga Barn complex has an organic feel, as if it is a root vegetable that has grown higgledy-piggledy in the tropical sun. At the end of a narrow laneway, the entry courtyard, complete with splashing fountain, is a welcome oasis from the 35 degree celsius heat and 100% humidity.
Downstairs in the Kafe, people lounge on chairs at brown wooden tables, or on sofas on raised platforms against red cushions. The cafe is a covered veranda, high above the open deck of the main yoga studio below, surrounded by palm trees and the roofs of nearby buildings. There is no long view over rice fields, which have given way to development. In the rainy season the Kafe would be a very damp place. Electrical cords snake up through thatch, and pipes exit from jerry-built concrete walled rest rooms. The tiling in Bali is often beautiful. The blue and white floor tiles and painted brown and white wall frieze are focal points.
Most of the clientele are white, young and fit, dressed in yoga attire such as shorts or stretch leggings and singlets. In the tropics, only 947 km from the Equator, the less clothing the better. Looking at the faces and listening to the voices around me (and having talked to some in my class earlier), I recognise English, Swiss, Australians, Lebanese and South Africans. I must be the oldest person on the verandah. I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing.
All of the staff are brown, mainly young Balinese women and men. Pay is so low that there is always a lot of staff in retail businesses, which are often owned by Javanese or international expats. So tip well if the service deserves it. My guide Nyoman on the climb up 1,717 metre Mt Batur supported a family of eight, and did the 5 hour round trip up to three times a day in hiking boots that were falling apart. He almost cried when we gave him the equivalent of a $20AUD tip. I wouldn’t have made it to the top for sunrise without his gentle encouragement and firm hand to guide me up the steep, rocky track.
While I had hoped to try out Balinese rather than Bahasa, which is the language spoken in the rest of Indonesia, saying “halo” to the waiter is easier for my tongue than “om swastiastu”. I find “suksma”, thank you, better. But the smiling Balinese have given up correcting my pronunciation. Sadly I have no ear for the musical intonations of Asian languages. Apparently this is not necessarily my fault, given that our soft palates form as young children while we master our language. There are differences in the palates of those who speak Asian languages and those who speak European ones.
I dig in to my delicious Ayurvedic breakfast of kitcheree – warm “organic lentils and brown rice stewed with ginger, turmeric and garam masala, finished with broccoli, spinach & coriander” in a rustic pottery bowl. My ageing osteoarthritic joints are getting good treatment today from yoga, ginger and turmeric. The iced lemon tea is the icing on the cake.
A young, tanned, blue-eyed, nose-ringed and dread-locked South African man across the table strikes up a conversation. He’s been busy on his laptop while we’ve been ordering. He breaks in as if he’s already part of our discussion. He asks us the usual: “Where are you from? When did you arrive? How long are you staying?” I ask him the same. Is he a writer, I ask? No, he’s a troubadour he says, and staying at the Yoga Barn to consult a healer, as he’s worn out from giving to the world through song. It’s the first time I’ve met a troubadour.
Turns out he is sponsored by people from around the world to produce his songs on his website, and to do other unspecified good deeds for humanity. A countrywoman of mine, an Australian, apparently gives him $100AUD a month. He says he rang and asked why she was giving so much money to a stranger. She was said to have answered, “if you can make other people feel as good as you made me feel, it’s worth $100 a month”. I wasn’t sure if he was a miracle worker or a gigolo.
My friend Maria says later he’s a charlatan travelling the world on other people’s money. Being a romantic, I think of art patrons in the Renaissance, and take down his name so I can look up his site. I don’t, and time goes by, and I think I’d rather donate to a charity for children in Asia, than support a white, privileged South African to travel the world writing songs. Then I do look him up, and hear some magical music. I’m glad my parting comment to him was to take care of himself: “you can’t pour from an empty cup, look after yourself first”, my new mantra for 2016, from a Facebook meme.
Back at the Garden Kafe, it’s very quiet except for the construction noise next door. It’s always quiet in a yoga studio space and there’s always construction noise in Asia. We tip the staff and buy large, crumbly, crisp, home made choc chip cookies in crackling cellophane bags (you can’t be too healthy). I’m grateful for them after I climb Mt Batur the next morning. I eat the whole bag.