Friday, 31 August 2012

Michi Retreat, Ubud

Michi Retreat is an amazing place, quirky and whimsical. Arches, paths, doors and gates, rooms, steps up and stairs down. Some paths lead somewhere and some don't. Our rooms are right at the end of the complex, two rooms upstairs and one bedroom with a foyer downstairs - and a plunge pool. Always the sound of the torrent roaring below. Eating breakfast one morning we spied a young man swimming in the rapids. When he finished he stood on the rocks and stretched, oblivious to us watching him from far above. He dressed and scampered up the steep side of the ravine opposite to Michi. We saw children swimming there some days and building bridges with bamboo.

Our suite, my room on the right
The path to our rooms had a low wall with many different and eclectic statues and art pieces. Next to the entrance to the hotel a large dark stone Buddha keeps watch. I love how the statues are dressed daily with fresh frangipani flowers and small offerings; sometimes the columns are wound around with checked fabric. I used to watch out for the Balinese who do this with such reverence, never a hastily done chore.

Reception area
On our first night, Robbie and I were locked out of our suite. In fact the lock was broken, we hadn't lost the key. Wayan, the lovely hotel manager/concierge was not phased when I went to call her. She climbed up on the stair railings and swung herself over my balcony, through my room to open the door from the other side! The lock was fixed the next day.  I had to laugh when she kindly offered to bring my meals to the room as I was "... so old". Needless to say Michele and Robbie teased me about my decrepitude. The rooms are huge and a big balcony too. The furnishing is traditional and each morning I noticed a pile of fine sawdust on the floor beneath the luggage bench. The wood-borers are active, that's for sure, and the mosquitoes are always hungry!

I woke early one morning and took this photo from the balcony of my room. That is Mt. Batur in the distance. 

Sunrise at Michi Retreat
The Yoga Room at Michi Retreat is beautiful; the windows open directly over the drop to the Wos river and the noise of the water is breathtaking. Having our Yoga practice here each day was truly awesome. On a couple of occasions, Michele included a Warrior sequence I had taught her many years ago. How lovely to be acknowledged by one of my teachers in this way! After Yoga class one evening we decided to take a short cut to the dining area. We ended up in a grotto cut into the hillside and had to retrace our steps!

Once or twice we saw the Japanese professor who owns the hotel. He is elderly and quite eccentric, looking the epitome of how an ancient Japanese professor should look. One of his PhD students was staying in the hotel and we spoke to her briefly but I can't remember what her field of study was and I never did discover the professor's speciality either.

From central Ubud (i.e the Market) to Michi Retreat is a fair way and the road twists and turns. When you leave the main road, unless you turn off at the right moment you have to continue along a residential road behind the hotel with no apparent place to turn between the high walls that surround the houses. How do I know this? Well, it happened to us! The taxi driver had to do some tight manoeuvring to get us going in the right direction again, which is to say, back the way we came. On the one side there is a concrete wall that separates the road from the hotel and the sheer drop to the ravine below. This wall is not in good condition and has the odd gap! We gasped (well, I did) when the taxi driver went to turn through one of the gaps. 

A highlight of Ubud, for me, was the meal at Sari Organik. Sari Organik is a vegetarian restaurant in the paddies behind Ubud. Walk along the main street and then take a turn through what looks like a building site; follow the path and because this is another magical Bali portal, in no time you are in among the paddy fields. The path is paved at the start but soon becomes a dirt track.

Some people get to Sari Organik on motorbikes or motor scooters but it is a lovely walk with lots to see. The wild herbs and flowers flourish all along the path. I think it must be a couple of kms from the road. Since last time I visited, there has been quite a lot development. How strange it looks to see a house built right in the middle of paddy. Sad, too, because once developed there is no going back to being a paddy. 

Michele and I had Nasi Campur (vegetarian) with red rice; a memorable meal, one that I will remember for a long time. Robbie had grilled vege salad and that looked delicious too. To drink we had snake fruit wine, brewed on the premises! Robbie had a coconut so Michele and I had to drink up the wine. It was quite potent and added another dimension to the delightful meal and made the walk back to Ubud very entertaining.

Nasi Campur
Roasted veges

Michele & Robbie at Sari Organik
The best meals I had in Bali on this trip were at Putri's in Candidasa, the one at Amed and the one at Sari Organik. I had some fairly average food at other places and one or two that I'd rather forget about. Generally the food was good, fresh, inexpensive and delicious. 

Ubud has changed a lot in the three years since last I was there. It is much more Westernised now and, in my opinion, that detracts from the ambience. Michele's attitude is that this is a passing trend and puts it down to the popularity of the book Eat Pray Love, which I've never read and have no intention of reading either. 

Winding down to the end now, only one more episode before I sign off on this particular blog thread. Watch this space!

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