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Balinese culture has its roots in the Majapahit Kingdoms of Java, which date back to the 8th century, so it stands to reason, Jamu, Java’s traditional healthy and beauty system, has blossomed on Indonesia’s last remaining Hindu island. Just as the point of Balinese spiritual life is to cultivate harmony by balancing light and dark energy, Jamu balances hot and cold elements within through a regiment of tonics made from indigenous plants. Some tonics induce sweat, others relieve stomach problems, and kunyit or turmeric is a popular daily tonic used by millions to detoxify the blood and stimulate healthy circulation. Even in today’s modernizing Bali, this ancient art thrives as it’s often more affordable for folks to consult with a Jamu healer than a medical doctor. And Jamu tonics are available from herbalists and in some cafe's throughout Ubud, the island’s cultural heart. (photo by Dinuraj K: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kdinuraj/)
It took three years to realize this passion project: a spa retreat built mainly of bamboo. Book a riverfront suite, or the hotel can arrange a stay in a rural family’s home. From $475. 62/(0) 36-146-9206. Image by Djuna Ivereigh/Fivelements. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
After experiencing the more aggressive monkeys of Ulu-watu, I enjoyed the experience of walking around the quiet Sangeh Sacred Monkey Forest, just outside Ubud, and seeing the monkeys that call this small forest and its temples home. Mothers were holding babies close, feeding and grooming them, while juveniles ran around and large males watched from above. The guide, who meets you as you enter and takes you through the park, was very friendly to us and respectful toward the monkeys. Apparently, the monkeys have lived there for a long time, and the place and its monkeys are considered sacred (hence the temples). A great day is to combine going to the Bali Bird Park and Sangeh Monkey Forest. A driver can be hired to take you to both places if you are not staying close enough to bike there.
Rice is something that we eat all the time. So few of us though, have ever seen it grow. I was amazed as I walked through the rice paddies of Jatiluwih to see that rice is just another, tall, robust form of grass. These tiny seeds are what about half of the worlds population survives on. It was mind-blowing.
Pura Luhur Batukaru is one the most important temples on the island of Bali as it is one of the nine directional temples that protects the island from evil spirits. Unlike other Balinese sacred sites, Batukaru sees very few tourists due to its remote location high on the slopes of the volcano with which the temple shares its name, Gunung Batukaru. The peaceful area around the temple is known as Wangaya Gede and provides a relaxing base to explore the region. The highlights of the area include the temple, hiking Gunung Batukaru and the UNESCO rice terraces in Jatiluwih. Additionally, Bratan Lake is a short half day trip from Wangaya Gede, which is home to Bedugul village and the beautiful floating Ulun Danu Bratan Temple. Prana Dewi is a yoga retreat in Wangaya Gede with compfortable, Balinese style Bungalows uniquely situated amongst rice terraces and the resort is within walking distance of Pura Luhur Batukaru. Anyone looking to find a peace of unspoiled Bali should head up to Batukaru and chill for a few days.
Flowers and offering to the Gods are everywhere in Ubud, Bali - a peaceful, beautiful and simply lovely place. In Bali you cannot help but make local friends in Bali. The Balinese are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet.
This is Coffee. In Bali we were lucky enough to meet a man who actually loves coffee more than me. He generously offered to take us to his business partners coffee plantation and show us around for the day. I learned more about the growth, processing, selling, roasting, and creating of this nectar of the gods than I ever knew was possible in those hours. This is our friend picking a ripe coffee fruit.
The rice terraces of the Tabanan region of Bali are so extensive and stacked to such heights that they were given UNESCO World Heritage status. The most impressive views begin at the village of Jatiluwih, which lies in the center of the island about midway up the Batukaru volcano. The region could be explored as a long day trip from any location on Bali, but I would recommend spending a couple of nights at a highland hotel or yoga retreat soaking up the environment and visiting a couple temples. The Hindu temple Pura Luhur Batukaru is particularly attractive and devoid of tourists and annoying "guides".
Bali sometimes gets an unfair review as being an overhyped and overly-touristed exotic destination. On the contrary, my husband and I enjoyed our three weeks there immensely. We divided our time between unassuming, coastal Jimbaran and Ubud (of Eat, Pray, Love fame). Jimbaran is a convenient launching spot for exploring Bali as it's close to the airport, but far enough away from the more popular, yet tasteless, Kuta. Our simple but extremely pleasant $18 a night guesthouse (Villa Puri Royan), was located in a residential neighborhood, allowing us to mingle with the locals and even participate in their special family ceremonies. We were also within walking distance from a traditional market, countless temples and the beach. We left Jimbaran having had rich experiences and a feeling that we were truly immersed in the Balinese culture.
Arguably the most luxurious yoga resort in Bali, Como Shambhala has 30 rooms, suites, and villas set on 23 acres of jungle-covered riverbank near Ubud, each with its own butler and infinity pool. Yoga programs led by visiting masters such as Rodney Yee are held throughout the year and typically include five hours of daily practice over five days. The spa offers Balinese and Ayurvedic treatments, and off-site activities range from jungle treks to visits to Ubud’s famous temples. From $350 per night, including breakfast. 62/(0) 361-978-888, cse.como.bz. Image courtesy of Como Shambhala Estate. This story appeared in the January/February 2012 issue. Find other yoga retreats:Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga InstituteKripalu Center for Yoga and Health, MassachusettsAqua Wellness Resort, NicaraguaJicaro Island Ecolodge, NicaraguaGaia Retreat and Spa, AustraliaAnanda, IndiaDomaine de la Grausse, France
At Bali’s newest Alila hotel, villas are sandwiched between emerald rice terraces and a black-sand beach. The spa, a temple of lava rock and marble, offers traditional Balinese massage. From $510. 62/(0) 36-1894-6388. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
When he sold his jewelry company in 2007, Canadian expat John Hardy and his wife reinvested much of the money into the Green School, an innovative K-12 school in Sibang Kaja, Bali. The curriculum is very experiential—the international and Balinese students learn everything from aquaculture to Balinese puppetry. The school, named greenest school of 2012 by the U.S. Green Building Council, is worth a visit, if only to see the far-out architecture. Many of the complex buildings are constructed entirely of bamboo. Jalan Raya Sibang Kaja, Banjar Saren, Abiansemal, Badung, Bali 80352, Indonesia
One of the most important celebrations in Bali is Galungan. Beginning in or around late March, the festival symbolizes the victory of virtue (dharma) over evil (adharma). Hear the mysterious clangs of gamelan music; see women and girls in elaborate dress; and don’t miss the Barong Dance, in which young boys parade around as a dragonlike creature to fill the village with holiness. Photo by Mast Irham/EPA/Corbis. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
Entering this temple, we had to put on a sarong for modesty. It was an amazing complex of temples, gardens, water gushing out of the walls where locals purify themselves. I love the intricate decorations on the temples, vibrant colors. The area of Ubud is such a magical place where you can hang out with the locals, go to temples, watch craftsmen create works of art and great private villas that are still affordable. I went to a cooking class to learn basic traditional recipes and I had the best Babi Guling (roast pig) in my life. It was served with spices and rice and that was enough to send me to food heaven. I spend days dreaming about going back to Bali someday, maybe I was a prince in another life!
Balanced on the edge of Bali, high overhead the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean at what almost seems to be the edge of the world...is Uluwatu Temple. There, every day at 18:00 a Kecak Fire Dance is performed which is the Balinese telling of the Hindu legend of Prince Rama. However, this version relies more heavily on the character of the monkey: Hanoman. A chorus of men chant in a circle in which the drama is performed and visitors sit just outside the chorus surrounding the entire production. The fire is real, the heat can be blinding and the drama... most definitely entertains. Uluwatu is still a functioning Hindu temple so visitors do need to follow traditional custom by wearing a sash or sarong (if your legs are not already covered). Entrance to the show is the equivalent of 5 USD. The Kecak dance lasts for about an hour and it's recommended to arrive well in advance to get a seat and see sunset over the ocean before you do.
Walking into our guide's house we were treated to a scrumptious spread of the best food we had had in Bali. Lightly sauteed spinach with chicken satay, noodles, Balinese spices and pickles along with tofu dipped in a delicious sauce made for a finger licking, mouth watering meal. To experience this contact Jegeg Bali Cycling and after bicycling through small villages you will be treated to lunch at the guide's house with his family. Our guide's hospitality, meeting his family, and hanging out at his family compound made this day a memorable one!
A colorful Garuda statue stands guard in a traditional Balinese house-turned-art-gallery in Ubud. Garuda is a giant mythical bird and the national symbol of Indonesia.
The temples in Bali, Indonesia are famous for their multi-tiered thatch roofs. This was taken at Pura Taman Ayun in the village of Mengwi. Visitors are not allowed to enter the temples - we could only view from outside the walls. Thankfully the walls aren't very tall :)
Tegalalang is one of the best rice terrace view in Bali it's located in Ubud area. It is impossible to visit Bali and not come across numerous temples and rice field terrace. Rice, in addition to being a staple food Balinese, is part of the local culture. Cultivation is done according to ancient rituals, inextricably linked to religion and philosophy site. The planting and irrigation system of rice field terrace is known as Subak. The land is cropped out into layers or terraces (rice terrace) for the water begins to be accumulated in certain spots, but it also flow naturally from the hilltop to the lower area. The idea is to cultivate rice, creating a harmonious relationship with the gods, with the ground and with other people. This, indeed, is the basis of all Balinese philosophy – Tri Hita Karana
There is a growing organic and locavore movement in Bali. Sari Organik is 800 meters in from the Ubud main road. About 15 mins walk through padi fields (some of which are sadly being built on) and you find simple organic fare (not vegan or vegetarian as fish, chicken and dairy are served). The vegetables are from the small holding next door and the tranquil views out over the fields make this a place to linger at.
Every morning, before the day has truly begun, Balinese women come to the market shrine in the center of Ubud, Bali. They light incense and leave their offerings, origami folded banana frawns bearing crackers and cookies and flower petals for the gods. By midmorning the offerings have accumulating into towering stacks of “Canang Sari." I love spending time in the Ubud central market, but because of tourism you have to get up with the sun to experience the market that the locals frequent. Get to the market as early as 5:30-6am, eat a breakfast of small pastries and spicy Babi Guling (roast pig). By 8:30 am the locals' market is already dispersed and the tourist market—filled with gilded sarongs and carved masks—has taken its place.
After weeks of exhilarating, yet exhausting travel through Indonesia, I recommend pampering yourself at the end of the journey at a place like Maya Ubud. The resort is set seamlessly among the lush jungles and rice terraced slopes of Bali, near the town of Ubud. Maya Ubud's tranquil grounds accompany the massages and poolside lounging perfectly, so all your aches and pains melt away. Although it is tough to pry away from the beautiful gardens and multiple infinity pools, Ubud offers many attractions just minutes away. Ubud is the scene of gorgeous hindu temples, Balinese dance performances, walks through the mind blowing rice terraces and dynamite cuisine. If that's not enough, the nearby rivers and volcano allow you to indulge in more intense activities, such as white water rafting and predawn treks to the volcanic summit.
Clear Café may specialize in raw and vegan food, but you won’t find dream catchers or hemp tablecloths here. Instead, you’ll see marble-and-stone tabletops, driftwood sculptures, and a small courtyard pool. Notable menu items include black pepper tuna and raw zucchini linguine. Jalan Hanoman No. 8, Ubud, 62/(0) 36-1889-4437. Photo courtesy of Clear Cafe. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
Rejang dancers make haste to catch up with the procession going to Goa Gajah, the sacred Elephant Caves outside of Ubud, Bali. They will be one of the many ritual performances that celebrate the temple's odalan, or anniversary.
The Agung Rai Museum of Art is probably the most high-profile museum in Ubud. The buildings and grounds are huge and filled with traditional paintings, carvings, sculpture as well as art by modern Balinese and foreign artists who lived and worked on the island. The museum is also the venue for a number of art and cultural events and exhibitions. Dance classes for aspiring Balinese dancers are held every afternoon and gamelan (traditional Balinese music groups) practice on the grounds many times a week. It's basically the center for culture in Ubud and is not to be missed.
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