My 4 day whirlwind of adventure & indulgence in Bali began with a dark ride through narrow streets dodging scooters and other on coming traffic while we made our way to the beach town Canggu. At the Eastin Ashta Resort Hotel my goddaughter was staying up to greet me but a one hour drive from the airport turned into 2 hours and by the time I arrived to my room she was sound asleep. The next morning started with a hazy sunrise accompanied with the smell of something burning lingering in the air. This is a familiar smell in Bali, I found out.
My goddaughter and her family meet me for breakfast and then we threw on our bathing suites to hit the beach. It was 9 am and the sun was already intense. In Bali, the sun rises and sets at the same time everyday, a function of living on the equator. Beach life in Canggu is rustic. The waves are huge and dotted with dozens of surfers. The sand is dark and quickly disappears as the tide moves in during the afternoon, forcing sunbathers to climb up the bank to picnic tables and lounge spots that over look the ocean. By night this area turns into one large beer garden of sorts with many Australians on their honeymoon, or in a surf retreat. After taking in the morning sun, I went for a massage at E Space, a new boutique that had opened recently and for 2 hours of pampering at $28 USD total I was in heaven. Surf and massage, I quickly learned, was the name of the game, in this part of Bali. Too bad I was way too intimidated by the waves to try the surf part out…
The following day, with my goddaughter and her family, we went to the Canggu market after a long morning at the pool. We browsed around the tiny stands, had a healthy snack of coconut power balls and coconuts to drink, and headed back to the pool to cool off. The heat was so intense and at the market we saw a victim of heat stroke get taken away by an ambulance. In the late afternoon we sadly sad our goodbyes as my weekend buddies headed back to Jakarta, where they now live. I headed back to the spa and indulged in another massage with aloe facial before moving to a different town.
After 2 days in Canggu, I headed to Ubud, the spiritual heart of Bali. Not planning much on this trip, I had booked three nights at the Green Field Resort Hotel on a friend’s recommendation. Showing up again at night, I was forsaken the beautiful visuals of temples and jungle vegetation that you’d see during the day on a trip across the island. However, waking up at Green Field I was rewarded a plenty where I had breakfast overlooking a rice field and caught up on emails at an open air desk that looked out onto a pond of lily pads and blooming pink flowers. This now felt like the tropical paradise Bali is known for!
During my short stay, I visited the Ubud Market (overpriced), the Ubud Palace (lots of tourists), and a pop in to the Yoga Barn on the first day before coming back to the sanctuary that is Green Field and having a Balinese massage, complete with the Balinese boreh treatment, that comprises of ginger, white & red rice grains, clove, green beans, black pepper, wild ginger, mesoyi, cadramom, and capaluga, applied as a mask onto the body. Magical and tingly, I’ve never experienced such a powerful topical treatment!
In Ubud, there are many different adventures you can try, or you can just take it slow and relax by a pool, get body treatments and stay hidden from the chaos of scooter and foot traffic in the streets. I decided that checking out a rice field was a must, should I never be lucky enough to come back to Bali. A friend had given me a name of a driver to use, but he was busy with a tour so he suggested another driver, Putu. Putu picked me up early on Tuesday and took me to the Tegalalang Rice Terrace. We negotiated a 4 hour day of touring at rate of 400K Indonesian Rupiah, about $26 USD. Putu is from Ubud, has never been anywhere but Bali. And doesn’t plan on going anywhere but Bali. Like his fellow Balinese people, they live in the present, they make their offerings in their home temples each morning and carry those blessings with them through their day. Their language has no conjugation for past or future. It’s all present. The social consciousness in Bali is just that, live in the present. What a wonderful state of mind! And you are reminded at every corner by all the Hindu statues of their different representations of god and buddha.
After finishing our 1.5 hour hike through the rice terrace, we drove through the countryside, more like jungle, to visit the Pura Tirta Empul, a Balinese Hindu temple with holy water for purification rituals. To enter women must wear a sari and cover their shoulders. Many tourists were there partaking in the bathing ritual, I did not, save for cupping some water in my hand and drinking it. That day was a ceremony day for the Balinese and many students were there on a field trip for purification. After a stroll around the peaceful grounds, Putu took me to one more place, a wood carving studio / gallery. Unfortunately it felt very much like a tourist trap. As we arrived they asked which language I spoke, assigned me an English speaking salesperson and then quickly ushered me over to the outdoor carving area where about 10 people were sitting on hard tiled benches, carving wood. Unfortunately I ended up buying some souvenirs, against my gut that said “These are way overpriced, even with bargaining. And the wood carvers they have staged out front are indentured servants, not happy about their jobs at all.” I ended up negotiating way down from all the USD prices they had marked on the pieces, to Putu’s astonishment, but felt dirty inside, wondering how my beautiful wooden Buddha would refill my karma bank sitting in my tiny apartment back home. I just hope that some of my contribution to their local artisans actually gets to them.
Later that afternoon, I had my last massage treatment of the trip, this time with an energy healer, Punnu, at the Yoga Barn. After a brief chat, he did a shiatsu treatment combined with reiki technique to address my more 360+ meridians in my body. Unlike any of the other massages I had received, this one left me floating with energy hours, even days, later. A powerful experience to end the trip, that I had wished wouldn’t end. <3 Bali.