We stayed nine days in Bali. It was still such a brief immersion into the country and still, we felt a deep connection to the authentically kind people. There is a sense of joy and of integrity here. We stayed for 5 days near the town of Ubud, and for 4 days in Seminyak, two very different regions with extremely different energy. Ubud has become one of the most cherished and populated sites for alternative healing and alternative lifestyles on the planet and sits embedded in the central jungle. Seminyak is a bustling, overgrown city on the beachfront, filled with brand names and style entrepreneurs, and tasty restaurants and way too much traffic! We learned a lot in both areas, but I must say...Ubud stole our hearts. We will go back.
In this post and the next, I’ll summarize our time in each spot.
We woke up and were still in paradise. We still could not believe our luck. We luxuriated in the peace of not having a bombardment of tours or meetings...and slept in. Immediately after breakfast, we both had massages and other treatments in the tropical spa that shed all of our rush and bustle. We napped. We ate dinner. We slept.
That was our first day in Bali...we had to downshift “our grabbing for the moment gears"...to just be.
Did I mention it was paradise?
The next day? Oh, you know...breakfast...and then...massages! By then we finally felt the knots that excitement and hurry and anticipation bring untie themselves. It was a great and timely gift to us. We knew we had to move into another room on this day because our unit (unit? what to call this space?) was a temporary upgrade to a two bedroom (others were sold out). So we were prepared to be disappointed that our new space, number 7...would be less than paradise. We could not have been more wrong. Every detail was nurturing, and the lap pool literally lapped up to the bedroom door! It was just as beautiful and just as unexpected.
Xuwicha’s daughter, who we had met in Cambodia, was by chance visiting Bali with a friend and called us to invite us to the town of Ubud for a treat that night. It was our first foray into town, and we went early to explore. It was a shock...a bit of a flashback to our time in the 60’s. We labored over broken sidewalks and lingered at every shop window. How to describe Ubud? It is a town that has embraced and expanded the business of natural diet, yoga, treatments of all kinds, music, and dance. It was intoxicating. It is filled with Westerners looking for all it had to offer. It was great fun to shop and explore, and one visit was enough for us this time. Then we found our way to the Paradiso café, a small natural foods restaurant, store, interesting shopping and a cinema! Yep. A cinema with couches and tables, running very cool movies. We met Nancy there for a French adventure/comedy film, *The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec * (we thought it was hilarious, so if you get a chance, and don’t mind subtitles...). The extra charm of the theatre is that you can order a vegan dinner while you watch the film. I know that by now Nancy has forgiven me for eating her dinner by mistake in the dark! Sorry, Nancy (smile). Come visit, ok?
By the time we were full, entertained, and found an ATM, we were ready to wait for our ride in the warm night, on a bench just outside of one of the thousands of Hindu temples in Bali, listening to the music accompanying a Temple dance. The streets were full of people having fun, or seeking health or relief of sorrow, or full of curiosity...or all of that. Sleepy, we returned to our Number 7 and fell into bed.
Bali is the only Hindu island in the predominantly Muslim Indonesia. It is unique in its adherence to its beliefs and cultures. A fellow traveler described Balinese steadfastness as a result of how Hinduism is enacted there...it is a religion of action, of ritual, of allegiance to right-minded choices. It shows in the music, the dance, the family temples in every home, the respect of elders and ancestors, and in offerings. Offerings are everywhere. There was one on a special shelf outside our hotel door every morning. You could find them on a door stoop in town, or by a sculpture on the road, or in front of a shop. They are usually made of a base of woven grass, filled with a stunning design of fresh flowers. The mindful attention to each creation and the prayerful gift of each offering was both humbling and felt like an honor to receive. I came home determined to bring a fresh awareness and spirit to the actions and gifts I intend for others.
The next day we had booked a guide for a drive, mostly to discover the famous Green School, (https://www.greenschool.org/). Inspired by the film “An Inconvenient Truth”, it was built to live up to ideas of creative thinking, local resources, and sustainability. I had learned of it from an architect friend who had got to research its success. Ultimately we were unable to visit because of school holidays, but I highly recommend you looking into this successful experiment of a school. Our guide was Tana...we fell in love with him as we did Idris in Casablanca. Sometime during the day, he asked if we’d like to hear some music from a popular band from Europe, and before we knew it the three of us were singing to the Beatles’ “Love Me Do”! Ah...music!! The universal language...again and again and again.
The next day we went out again with Tana...to studios and workshops and galleries. In the Ubud area, villages are famous for one skill particularly, a traditional apprentice legacy of ceramics, or wood carving, or stonework, etc...and we made the rounds. We saw exquisite workmanship everywhere. Tana took us for a break to a local coffee place...serving Lawak coffee. We didn’t know for awhile that the beans were the processed remains of the Lawak’s (a member of the cat family), mmm, fecal matter! We saw the process, drank the samples, and giggled to hear Tana call it, cat-poop-chino!
We visited a compound of Hindu Temples and were amazed at the stories carved in stone, the offerings on every altar, the open air compounds, the community nature of worship, and the rituals and reverence at every turn.
Our final exploration that day was to the Sacred Monkey Forest. Oh, yeah, the monkeys! You could buy bananas and the monkeys would crawl every which way to get their treats. I was very happy to video Julian with the monkeys, but he rightly reminded me that this was a lifetime opportunity, so I sat on a stone bench, meekly holding a little banana, and was delighted and relieved when a wee baby monkey came on my lap. I was in brief monkey bliss...when an older, bigger, cranky, jealous cousin, leaped out of nowhere and chomped my arm! And yes, it hurt, indeed. I tried to make light of it, but when we got back to the hotel the bite (though not really bleeding) was hot, swollen and bright red. I went to the receptionist to say, I didn’t want to make a big deal out of this, but...she took one look and called the clinic, and before either of us knew it, Julian and I were on our way to the nearest doctor! Dr. Defid (at BIMC Hospital Clinic) was wonderful! Fully experienced, he said he usually sees at least a couple of monkey bites a day! So, yes, I needed a series of rabies shots. I got my last one about a week ago in Gulf Breeze, and am perfectly okay...but be careful if you go to the Monkey Forest!