It’s hard to explain what I experienced in Bali. I think most people feel this way when they travel to a place that is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced. To say it’s a magical place is an understatement. Yes, it’s overrun with tourists. Yes, I wish I could have visited the Bali that was pre-Eat Pray Love. But what I experienced during my retreat at Alam Sari (and Ubud) was magical to say the least.
Two weeks prior to the retreat I spent time with Lori (my partner for the retreat) hanging out, cooking, chatting, workout out, and planning the final details. Even though we had only been “internet” friends up until this point, it was like we had known each other for years. If you are a blogger or part of the modern day social media world you know how that goes! My friend Crystal met me 5 days before the retreat for some time on Gili Islands and then we headed to Alam Sari to prepare for the guests to arrive!
This was my first week-long retreat and it went smashingly. There were a few minor mishaps here and there, but all and all I would say it was life-changing for the guests and that’s all that mattered to me. On the final night after our second cooking class we went around the table to share our favorite moments of the retreat…and there were tears. Lots of happy tears. And laughs. Every single woman received just what they needed, made lifelong friends, many celebrated birthdays and honored loved ones that had passed. Some just got the relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life they needed so badly.
For a full day to day account of what happened, what we ate, and more from the retreat totally check out the Vegan Noms blog! I’d like to give you a few snippets of things I really enjoyed that make this retreat special and unlike any retreat you could go on. Our first day started with a 2 hour walking tour around the grounds and the village where Alam Sari is located (about 20 minutes drive north of Ubud). Dewa, who grew up in the village of Keliki and has worked at Alam Sari for 17 years, took us around the garden showing us all the wonderful things they grow to use at the resort. It all my years as a gardener I had never seen fresh ginger growing!
Later that day we had a cooking class at Dewa’s house making many traditional Balinese and Indonesian dishes. If only I had time to make my own sauces from scratch in a mortar and pestle every day! The recipes we made used the same ingredients in different measures for almost every dish yet they all tasted unique. I find that’s the case with many Thai dishes too. Dewa and his wife were such beautiful people and opened their home to all of us so graciously. At the end of the class, he thanked me for giving him a job to do. During our walking tour Dewa shared with us the philosophies of their religion, the way to live a simple life, and be happy with what you have. It was a great reminder to us to slow down, but also showed me how completely spoiled we are in the US. I would like to do things a bit different when I finally return home. As many of you know traveling can change your very core and what I learned from the Balinese people and culture has struck a chord with me.
The food during the retreat was above and beyond my wildest dreams! I had written up a tentative menu for the week using some of my recipes, a few things off their own menu, and sample menus they gave me from other retreats held there. They had never done an all vegan menu. Lori and I planned everything out giving them leeway to make changes depending on the availability of ingredients.
For each meal we wanted to have something for everyone; something raw, rice or potatoes or yams, a tofu and/or tempeh dish, steamed veggies, some other veggie dish, sometimes a soup or appetizers, and fruit and tea for dessert. Each day had an ethnic theme. The kitchen/restaurant manager, Agoon, was my right-hand man chatting with me each day about the following day’s meals. He made us homemade vegan and gluten-free bread from red rice flour (traditionally the Balinese eat red rice and make flour from it). Every single thing they made for us was delicious. I couldn’t have been happier with the food and I think the guests all had something to enjoy no matter what their dietary preferences included.
We included three fitness talks and two exercise classes along with four yoga and two cooking classes during the retreat. This made it like a conference rather than just a yoga retreat. Since my goal and passion are to educate and share my knowledge with others on healthy eating and effective exercise it was important to include these kinds of classes. Of course, all the classes and talks were optional. Some guests were out and about doing their own thing while most stayed and enjoyed the program that I had laid out for the retreat. We had two excursions, one to Ubud Village, which included some traditional Thai dancing, and one to the beach. I felt like this was a good amount of things to do and they were well attended.
The background for the retreat couldn’t be more beautiful. It was a short car ride outside of Ubud city center, which made for a more relaxing environment. Each guest had their own bungalow surrounding the pool. I wasn’t really sure what Alam Sari was going to be like until I arrived and walked up to this very spot in the photo. My mind was blown and I knew I made the right choice!
I look forward to planning my next retreat, but I’m not sure it could ever top what we experienced in Bali. I’m chatting with a friend about having an adventure retreat in Chiang Mai next fall so keep your eyes peeled for the details! I’m also looking for a place in the US to hold a 4-day weekend retreat in the spring next year. I hope you can make one!
Thank you again to all the beautiful women that attended and to my partner Lori for helping make it an experience I will never forget!