I've decided that in my next life, I want to be reincarnated as a goddess. A Bali Goddess to be specific. Any initial worries I may have had about cliques, yoga guilt (the guilt you feel when you miss a yoga class) seem to have dissipated during the first two days. The other Bali goddesses are friendly and everyone slips in and out of groups fluidly. There are none that you would want to avoid (although obviously this depends on the group that you get) and everyone joins together at the end of the day to discuss what they've done.
It's day three of the retreat and our second bliss day. A bliss day is a hand picked activity of our choosing from a list of twelve. For me and three others it was a visit to the enormous markets along the Badung River. It's a place for handicrafts, souvenirs as well as a wet market. It's a 30 minute drive to the market from the villa and we depart at the sensible time of 9am. I've missed morning yoga again in deference of a sleep in.
We meet retreat reservations manager Joyce and start with the wet market where we pass vendors sipping sugar cane juice and carrying precariously large loads on their heads. Perfumed cempaka flowers fragrance the air with their sweet scent. There's a busy trade in Balinese offerings with flowers, fruit and crackers, some already made. These are put out three times a day in front of houses and business to appease the gods.
Counteracting the sweet smell of fruit and flowers is the meat area where butchers ply their trade filleting chickens. Blue eggs sit alongside brown while shiny purple eggplant are sold alongside bright red chillies.
A woman scoops little spoonfuls of sweets into little plastic bags. These colourful, textural sweets are sold as sweet breakfast snacks.
Our next stop is the handicrafts markets for two floors of items from touristy trinkets to wooden homewares. I find a wooden tray at a steal for $7.50AUD while two wooden stands used for offerings set me back just $10 for both.
Shopped out for a bit, we retreat to Bhineka Djaja, an historic coffee shop established in 1920. They specialise in Balinese coffee and Kopi Luwak coffee. We order coffee with milk that comes with paper thin sugar dusted biscuits. We munch on these and sip our coffee as fruit sellers walk past selling slices of watermelon and pineapple.
The walls feature paintings drawn using coffee and the atmosphere is old world and relaxed. People sit and smoke cigarettes and one man reads his phone while another buries his head in a newspaper.
Our last stop before lunch is a batik store that also sells silk. Christina, Megann and Sam make several purchases for silk scarves and batik. At the villa, they have arranged a seamstress to come by and take measurements for cushion making that afternoon.
Lunch today is at Warung Bendega, a short drive away. The restaurant is an outdoor restaurant with traditional Balinese cuisine. We leave the ordering up to Joyce as she has visited before and I go for an apple, watermelon and mint juice that is refreshing in this warm weather. It's actually quite seasonable as it is winter here in Bali and that means that the temperatures are reasonable.
Mie Goreng Ayam 35,000/$3.19AUD
Lunch is included in the tariff for Bali Goddess. We start with the mie goreng, a classic noodle dish and this one features chicken. The tangle of noodles is tasty with plenty of vegetables to bolster it up and give them texture.
Pepes Ikan 25,000/$2.27AUD
The pepes ikan is one of those healthy dishes that you tend to order as it is made up of steamed fish wrapped in banana leaves. The flavour is good but alas the fish is a tad dry.
Ayam Suir Jejeruk 45,000/$4.10AUD
Everyone's favourite dish is the pulled chicken with a coconut sauce paired with snake beans. The sauce is delicious and fragrant with lemongrass and other spices while the chicken is tender.
The gado gado is made up of bean sprouts, tempeh, tofu, egg, potato and cucumber with a satay sauce and it is a tasty version of another classic dish.
I've been craving vegetables and the urab is a tasty stir fry of bean sprouts and green beans topped with fried onions that add so much to a dish.
We return to the villa and encounter a traffic jam on the two way road. We see cars and motrbikes banked us as far as the eye can see so our driver turns the car around and takes us along another road. We drive through kilometres of furniture places - one thing Bali does well is mimic trends and the current trend of sanded, painted wood is well represented and one could easily fit out a cafe or restaurant here. We arrive back at the villa but follow our bliss and instincts as we are keen to explore more of Seminyak.
We pass a coffee shop called Grocer and Grind and continue further towards the beach. While it looks like there isn't much, about 10 minutes later we end up at a busy area for restaurants and boutique shopping. The boutiques have gorgeous items but they are expensive, some even more expensive than in Australia for certain items.
We stop by Sea Circus for a drink, I order a Granny Smith blended juice with apple, mint and lime-it's not bad although it is a bit pulpy while Megann orders a margarita. We want to order guacamole and chips but they're fixing the water system so no food can be served.
It's a relaxing place to eat and chill out and we watch other tourists with selfie sticks taking photos of themselves. The rainbow glass louvres are eye catching and they have vintage clocks telling the times in various surf locations around the world.
A few doors down is Lello Lello, an Indian restaurant famous for its gelato. While the aroma of Indian curry is strong and pervades the senses, we spy the gelato cabinet at the back of the restaurant. Samples are offered and there are flavours like pavlova which has meringue dust and passionfruit and an intriguing and mild cashew flavour. I'm drawn to the Snoop Dog a wickedly rich concoction and Megann goes for the dark chocolate. We take these to eat in and they scoop them into a glass and we take a seat, the aroma of curry still strong.
Snoop Dogg gelato and dark chocolate, 28,000RP each (about $2.60AUD)
The Snoop Dogg is a chocolate gelato with caramel sauce and shards of chocolate. As I haven't eaten chocolate in four days, I enjoy it immensely and the texture is smooth with just the right amount of sweetness.
Dinner tonight is away from the villa at our own cost. Sally from Bali Goddess has booked dinner at Urchin, a new seafood bar on Jalan Laksmana in Seminyak, just a few doors down from Sea Circus. There are a few casualties from today's bliss days as some stay in their room. The snorkelling and elephant rides were apparently less of a success than our market visit as the drives to each were long and winding - some of the bliss day choices involve driving up to two hours each way.
We take taxis to Urchin - it's walking distance technically but perhaps not proudent at night where there are open waterways and the roads are narrow and there are still plenty of passing cars.
The menu is simple but tempting and I am excited at the amount of seafood on offer although there is also steak and pork to choose from too. I'm mindful that I have a 9pm spa appointment back in my villa so I can't make it a long night. I am intrigued by the coddled egg so I add that in for good measure.
Individual Coddled egg, sea urchin, caviar 55,000/$5AUD
The individual coddled egg comes with the top sliced off with a gorgeously runny egg inside filled with sea urchin, creme fraiche and caviar on top. I enjoy every spoonful of this velvety smooth and comforting food. Perhaps this is comfort food for those born with a silver spoon.
Roasted scallops, cauliflower, potato, chicken jus 130,000/$11.84AUD
The scallops are a generous portion and we didn't expect so many juicy seared scallops for the price but perhaps I'm thinking of Australian prices. The scallops are crisp on the outside and soft and buttery on the inside and they are served with a thin slice of potato and a cauliflower and chicken jus puree.
Line caught squid, edamame, spring onion, ginger 110,000/$10.00AUD
It's Wendy's dish of line caught squid in black squid ink that has me swooning. Some of the goddesses are harder to convince to try this but it's tender squid coated in a rich, gorgeous slippery sauce. it's worth the black tongues and mouths afterwards (and of course, that means that its selfie time with black tongues out for some of the table!).
Crispy red snapper, carrot pickle, almonds, sherry vinegar 185,000 $16.86AUD
My choice for a main is the crispy red snapper, served crispy skin on and paired with ribbons of carrot pickle, toasted almonds and a sherry vinegar. It's the most popular main and I like the lightly sweet aspect to it from the carrots and the fish is well done without being too dry.
Confit suckling pig, kangkong, black garlic, pork jus 230,000/$10.96AUD
Corinna's suckling pig however is the best main. From the carapace of crispy crackling to the soft, yielding meat underneath it is given a burst of flavour from the black garlic and pork jus while the kangkong or water spinach offers it a counterpoint from its meaty goodness.
XL Pot roasted prawns, garlic, lemon parsley 250,000/$22.78AUD
I try some of Wendy's pot roasted prawns. They're enormous specimens and served with the shell on. I think shell off might have been a bit easier to eat and they're a tad overcooked and in need of a bit more seasoning. Some chilli might have lifted these nicely too.
Alas there is no time for dessert as I must get back to the villa to bidding my fellow goddesses goodbye, I jump in a taxi back to the villa. I am in for a treat tonight with a four handed massage from Yeni and Dayu Wi - a treat because these massages can cost upwards of $300 at home because you are booking two therapists. Here it is one of the complimentary spa treatments with your included 7 hours and it is valued at three hours.
I start with a foot bath before moving to the bed and Yeni the senior therapist takes the top of my body while Dayu Wi concentrates on a reflexology massage on my feet. The two work in tandem well and it's slightly different from another four handed massage that I had where each therapist took the left or right side of my body. It's a blissful experience that is made even sweeter because it is done right outside my villa room and all I have to do is walk through the door, open my mosquito net and fall into bed asleep. Serenity now.
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever had a four handed massage? And what or who would you like to be reincarnated into in your next life?
NQN stayed at Bali Goddess Retreats as their guest
Bali Goddess Retreats
Phone: +1 858-997-0808
Rates start at $2495USD for 7 nights accommodation