I visit France often for the shop, but over the past year I have felt that I needed a change of scenery. A trip to a far away land, something to give me sense a different reference point. Well Bali, Indonesia did just that for me.
I headed east to the most intriguing island I have ever been to. I decided to travel alone, and didn't realize how unusual that is these days until my sister insisted that I text her daily. I was surprised by the response I got when people asked me who I was traveling with. Me, myelf and I. What???
I did not create a rigid itinerary, and instead let the island lead me. I started off at a boutique hotel called Viceroy Bali; is consists of 25 villas situated in the middle of the rice fields outside of Ubud. It is owned by an Australian family, and the brother and sister were there to greet me in the open air restaurant and bar. They were so kind and gave me the low down on the surrounding area. It was heavenly environment with a small pool in the back and a thatched roof lounging area.
I headed to the Maya Resort and Spa to see about getting Balinese massage to remove some of the kinks from the 20 hours plane ride it took me to get to Bali. A very kind attendant drove me in a golf cart down to the River Café, next to the spa, where I stopped for lunch. I ordered the Petan Jamu Tonic – description “It’s the drink we Balinese drink for our glow and vitality”. It was pure bliss. A mixture of turmeric, lime and tangerine juice, honey and a cinnamon stick straw with a mint leaf garnish. That was just the beginning of nirvana.
My experience at the Maya Spa began with a Balinese massage followed by a turmeric scrub, yogurt moisturizer and a soak in a bath filled with flangipani flowers situated right above the riverbed. I scooped up the flowers and held them up to my face and breathed in the most divine smell I have ever experienced. It couldn’t possible get any better that this…
...but then, it did. The attendant, Rupa, who had driven me to the spa said he was available to show me around if I needed transportation. I told him about the High Priestess Water purification ceremony I had read about, and he said he would take me to her the next day.
The following day, he picked me up at the hotel and told me I would need to dress in ceremony attire. He had brought along a few sarongs from his his own wardrobe and drove me to a clothing store to buy a T-shirt. He explained to the sales associates that I needed to be properly dressed in temple attire. They wrapped me up in the sarong and sash, and voila!
Off we went to the countryside to see the youngest & lowest in her class, yet High Priestess Ida Resi Alit Melukat. We drove for quite a while, but finally arrived at her humble home and waited for the ceremony to begin. There were four Australian women also waiting, and I struck up a conversation with them - they were delightful! It seemed as if an instant sisterhood formed while we stood in front of the chanting priestess as she purified us emotionally with the blessed spring water. It was a moving experience.
I was also lucky enough to attend a John Hardy jewelry workshop. Hardy is a Canadian entrepreneur that lives in Bali and started his world renowned jewelry line outside of Ubud. He recently sold his business after deciding to focus his energy on The Green School in Bali (watch Hardy's TED Talk about The Green School). The school attracts an international clientele and the focus is on sustainability, experiencial learning and holistic education. What a way to learn! I highly recommend a touring the school as well as the Kul Kul farm next door, which is operated by Hardy's son.
The majority of Balinese people practice Hindu Dharma (85%), and are constantly preparing and making offerings to give thanks for their lives, the sun, earth and the entire universe. Their expression of gratitude is contagious, and I learned so much from the locals.
One evening, I had the good fortune of attending a ceremony at a temple on my way from Ubud to Jimbaran Bay. My newfound friends, Komang and Putu, picked me up from a Balinese cooking class and were dressed in their sarongs with an extra set of proper temple attire in the back seat for me. We stopped by a drive-thru to pick up an offering (consisting of a woven palm leaf basket with flowers, special grasses and incense.
When we arrived, we entered the temple and went through a series of gratitude prayers, each with a different color flower in our hand to indicate what we were giving thanks for. Yellow for the sun, red for the Earth and a combination of yellow, red and green for the Universe. Afterwards, the priest performed a series of water blessings. It was so different from what I have ever experienced with my Catholic upbringing and I was very intrigued by the whole experience.
Not only were the Balinese people fascinating, but the food was clean, healthy, and absolutely delicious! A typical Balinese diet consists of exotic fruits/tonics, soups and curries and eating is a means of healing and balancing the body based on ancient ayurvedic traditions. I have never felt so good! One of my favorite spots was a restaurant outside of Ubud called Kayan meaning “Heart”. Honoring its name, everything at Kayan was performed with love. There was a beautiful garden situated right next to the kitchen, which I enjoyed very much. I met the owner, Sudiana, as I was leaving the restaurant and he was kind enough to give me an in-depth tour. It turns out that this restaurant is just one of his many passions! He also owns a wood carving and painting business and creates the most intricate installations for temples all over the world!
For my last few nights, I stayed at the Ayana Resort near the beach. It is situated on the Jimbaran Peninsula and the sunsets were absolutely outstanding! It was a great way to end the trip, and get some writing done and take time to reflect on one of the most life changing trips I have ever been on. Thank you Bali for your beauty, people and guidance!