Well, it took 29 hours to get here, but it was definitely worth it. Bali is a very special place. I’ve been here for just over a day and I can feel something in me softening… Not only is it a tropical paradise, but the Balinese people have a connection to spirit that’s very tangible. There are shrines and offerings everywhere!
Today was my only full day to myself with the retreat starting tomorrow, but I had no real plans. Fortunately, the staff here at Ananda are incredibly helpful and friendly. I wound up hiring an awesome driver/Guide, Nyoman Sada at the suggestion of my housekeeper Wayan. He speaks wonderful English and used to be a teacher, so he was a fascinating companion for the day. First we went to stop by a family woodcarving shop. I had a quick introduction to the process and to the woods they use, then browsed through their shop. My guide there was incredibly warm and lovely. He was a wood-carver as well, and showed me some of his epic crazy pieces. I wish I had taken some photos. Due to suitcase space, I only bought 2 small pieces, for my dad and father in law, but I wanted to bring back all of them. The detail is just insane, and all the pieces are carved from imagination, rather than an image or photo. I especially loved the ones of Shakti and Shiva.
After that, Nyoman took me to the Elephant Cave temple, Goa Gajah Bedulu, which was built into a jungle ravine. It was breathtaking… He had no idea how old it was, since they only started keeping records like that recently. I could feel the sacred energy pulsating through the jungle there.
Next my guide brought me to a coffee plantation, where a lovely young Balinese lady brought me a sample plate of about 9 different kinds of tea and coffee they make on site, including Luack, the one where the little animal eats the beans, ferments them in their belly and poops them out. They’re then collected and turned into some of the most delectable and expensive coffee in the world. I haven’t been drinking coffee since about December, but I definitely had sampled these grown on-site blends. This is as local as you could possibly get and everything is hand-picked, and hand roasted. No machines! The sampling site was also overlooking this amazing jungle vista which was their plantation. They also grow herbs, spices and cocoa and some fruits which they turn into teas. It was so idealic and relaxing to sit and sample these drinks, having a lovely conversation and nibbling on dried bananas. It really kicked in that I’m on vacation and some residual travel stress just melted away.
We then went to the Tirta Empul Tampaksiring Water temple, which I am going to see again with the group. I didn’t go in the water since it was actually a cool, overcast and drizzly day, but I want to go and splash about, blessing and purifying myself in the water.
After the temple, we drove to one of their teeny mountains. By the way, I should mention, the roads here take some getting used to. They drive on the left side, like in Europe, and I’m not gonna lie, it seems a little sketchy at times. Anyway, back up the mountain where I went in to the Sari restaurant for lunch while Nyoman relaxed with his driver /guide buddies. It was a buffet which was only so-so. Lots of fried food, which was out for me (no gluten), but it was completely worth it for the view! I sat at a bar that overlooked a jungle, a volcano, a mountain and a lake. EPIC!!! For about 3 minutes, then it started pouring, which was almost even more epic! It was so foggy at times I could only see a few meters into the mist, which made it look kind of like a mysterious end of the world scene.
I didn’t eat tons but I savored my ginger tea for at least 45 minutes, staring out into paradise.
I could feel myself relaxing more deeply. It was so interesting to just sit, and drink it all in. So often when I eat alone, I read or watch a show or something. This was just me and the world, with my day-to-day life just melting away.
We checked out a rice terrace on the way home and chatted about life, and religion… Very smart, well read man. He spoke at length about the morality he wants to teach his children, and how important it is to make other happy. We talked a lot about the importance of balance for happiness. I couldn’t agree with him more.
I capped off the day by attending a traditional Balinese dance performance… It was absolutely unreal. The costumes, the music (which was really intense at times, almost a cacophony!), the themes… Very epic tales of love , death and demons!
My favorite was a trance dance, done by two women after they had been blessed by a priest representing how the gods and goddesses bring art spirit to earth in their benevolence. Their movements were the most incredible things I have ever seen. The hands were very Bollywood, but then they were popping and locking moving their heads in this amazing indescribable bird like manner… They looked like they were possessed by the gods. I couldn’t look away.
As much fun as I had touring around, I can’t wait for the retreat to get started. I’ve run into a few participants from week one and they were glowing. I’m ready to get started and make some new friends!