The Best Gym in the World
Many would be surprised to discover a hole-in-the-wall gym burrowed in the heart of Amlapura in Bali, which is where I began doing my admittedly infrequent workouts (sigh). And let me tell you, this gym is all kinds of fabulous.
Perhaps not the kind of fabulous one might attribute to the $26,000USD annual membership fee of The Madison Square Club in NYC, where Upper East Side snobs enjoy exercising in a cosmopolitan cocktail of rooftop pools, NBA-worthy basketball courts and monogrammed towels (whatever the fuck they are). Nah – Amlapura Gym is a different kind of fabulous. At a whopping $1.50USD per visit, with no membership fees and zero commitments, it’s giving reputable fitness centres across the globe a run for their money.
The entrance fee is collected via an honesty system – namely slapping 20,000 rupiah on the table as you walk in.
An impressive speaker system the size of a seven-year-old child is perched beside the ‘reception’, which blasts Indonesian techno music throughout the compact space from dusk till sunset. I literally began wearing earplugs during my visits.
There’s no aircon, and temperatures in Amlapura average 32° Celsius year-round, so every session is a Bikram workout whether you like it or not. I tend to bring my own portable mini-fan so as to avoid fainting from heat exhaustion.
Warming up becomes even more unnecessary, as people make their way through the gym simply because it’s one big obstacle course in itself.
Bare-feet is the norm, but if visitors wish, flip-flops are also permitted.
If anyone gets lazy during their workout, there are several pictures scotch-taped to the walls that are sure to inspire.
To meet such great levels of fitness depicted on the walls – namely becoming rhinoceroses – smoking breaks are permitted in the gym for muscle repair.
The seats where people perch themselves to do arm curls look like they were designed for Frodo Baggins.
All of the cabled equipment in the gym is hand-tied using rope, so it’s probably wise to check their durability prior to use.
I’m not gonna lie: using the hand-weights at Amlapura Gym is a bitch because you’re required to increase or decrease your load by hand, using screw caps. It’s like being in a free weights class from the 1970s.
There are no clasps for the chest press, so people use the leg paddings from the abdominal machine to secure their weight plates from falling off.
No rubbish bins, no problem.
No toilet, yes, problem.
Forget electronic gym equipment, forget saunas, forget lockers, forget fancy swipe-in cards, forget sexy receptionist in sports-lux active wear, forget active-wear full stop. This gym has a lot more to offer, if you ask me.
Amlapura Gym is blessed with a comical character that cannot be replicated elsewhere, which resonates with the essence of Amlapura and with the Old Bali in general. It’s heart-warming to be greeted by a group of beaming Balinese men hanging outside on the street every time you workout. Immediately, new workout buddies are made and exercise routines are conveyed to one another in games of charades. It’s faith-restoring that patrons don’t need lockers, because they know that no one will steal their shit. I even love the fact that all of the equipment is old or hand-made, but works just as well as the equipment in western gyms, despite some machinery being designed for people three quarters my height.
Visiting Amlapura Gym is a painful reminder of how distant we have become from one another in the west, where people rarely smile at strangers in the gym, and how compulsive we are about rules and etiquette – simply because we don’t trust one another. I’d sign up for a lifetime membership if I had the chance, and it wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg.