Kayla Hill discusses her experience of Bali as a solo vegan traveller and visiting the world's first vegan cinema.
If you haven’t already visited Bali, Indonesia, you’ve probably heard that it’s a major vegan paradise. Many vegans have chosen Bali as their destination in recent years because of its amazing beaches, delicious vegan food, and relaxing yoga. Bali also hosts the renowned Bali Vegan Festival, which happens annually in October. Being an island that is predominantly Hindu, people also come to visit the picturesque temples and immerse themselves in the local culture. During many of my visits, I’ve often arrived in the middle of a Balinese festival, which has been wonderful in the fact that I could witness the locals wearing their colourful clothing and bringing offerings to the nearby temples.
Vegan food around Bali
Since I live in Hong Kong, Bali is only a short flight away and is such a beautiful, calm retreat compared to the bustling city life that I’m used to. Being a teacher in an Asian country is quite demanding, so I really value my holidays. Bali is one place that’s easy for me to navigate as a solo traveller: the locals are kind and happy to welcome you to their island; most people speak English; you can climb a volcano, explore a black sand beach, have many Zen moments with meditation or yoga, or visit a monkey sanctuary; and most importantly, you can indulge in delectable vegan food!
If you stay in the more crowded, party zone of the south like Kuta and Seminyak, there are still many vegan options to be had. I definitely recommend going more north, however, and making your way to Ubud. There is an abundance of vegan restaurants serving smoothie bowls, vegan Gado Gado (Indonesian salad with tofu, rice crackers, and peanut sauce), tempeh skewers, vegan crepes, coconut ice cream – you name it! Even the non-vegan restaurants will often have a vegan menu or at least several drool-worthy vegan options. In Ubud, you won’t need to order steamed vegetables, rice, or chips from the side menu in order to sustain yourself. There are a few fully raw restaurants as well, which are super healthy and delightful.
A slice of Paradiso
Earlier this year, I had the chance to visit Paradiso, which is the world’s first organic vegan cinema. You might be wondering what exactly is a ‘vegan cinema’ and how is it different than any average cinema?
Located in Ubud’s Earth Cafe & Market, an impressive vegan restaurant and shop, Paradiso shows several films every day on its 25 square-metre screen. These films range from family films, documentaries, foreign films, classics, and blockbusters. Tickets cost a mere $50 000RP (about $3.50 USD) and this ticket price is subtracted from the cost of any food that you order during the film. This makes for an incredibly affordable outing.
While waiting for the cinema to open, you can grab yourself some popcorn or other snacks at their raw bar; you can hang out in the spacious and cosy cafe upstairs, or you can browse their boutique and art gallery adjacent to the cinema. When you enter the cinema, you must take off your shoes, as is customary in many places in Bali. The cinema itself looks like a combination of classic-movie-theatre-meets-living-room. Instead of traditional theatre seats, you sit on couches, reclining loungers, or footstools, with your choice of colourful pillows.
The main event
As you get comfortable and wait for the movie to start, staff will approach you and ask if you want to order anything from the delectable and extensive vegan menu. You can also raise your hand at any time during the film and somebody will come over and take your order or assist you. I highly recommend ordering something that you can eat with your hands, as once the lights are turned off, it may be difficult to see and manoeuvre a fork and knife. Don’t be like me and order pasta with a red sauce during the film!
I managed to watch two films during my last visit. The first was The Female Brain, a clever and hilarious comedy about the science behind romantic relationships. The second was The Shape of Water, the Oscar-winning dark fantasy film that I had been longing to see when it first came out but never had the time. I also saw families with kids emerge from a screening of Wall-E, grinning ear to ear, whilst visiting Earth Market & Cafe earlier in my stay.
Something for everyone
Besides the vegan food, the thing that makes this cinema uniquely vegan is the atmosphere. You can look around and see a lot of young people and yogis, many who are solo-travellers. It’s a great place to socialize with other vegans or vegan-curious people before the show starts, especially since you may have to share a couch or table with the person next to you. The other feature, which makes this cinema particularly vegan, is that all the advertisements pre-show are vegan-related. Instead of watching film trailers, you’ll see things that say, “Build your own salad” or advertisements for the Bali Vegan Festival.
Paradiso is more than just a cinema. It’s an open vegan space, which also holds workshops, dance classes, yoga, sing-a-longs, performances, and art exhibitions. It’s a place where families, couples, or solo travellers can come for a delicious meal, entertainment, and socialising, yet not spend a fortune. Most importantly, it’s a place where everyone can feel a sense of community.
If you’ve never been to Bali, or if you’ve been apprehensive about travelling as a vegan, I highly recommend visiting Paradiso in Ubud. There’s no need to worry about menu ingredients, feel awkward about defending your vegan lifestyle, or be concerned about any animals being harmed. As a solo traveller, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting other vegans and having some entertainment in the evenings during my stay in Ubud. This is definitely a place that you need to check out soon.
By Kayla Hill
Kayla blogs about travel, food, and vegan activism at www.greedyvegans.com
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.