BALI – You know the crowded beaches of Kuta and the bustling restaurants of Seminyak, but Bali is supposed to be all “Eat. Pray. Love.” right? Well, it is – if you know where to look.
The idyllic paradise of Bali has become one of the world’s fastest tourist-transformed destinations and has endured the years to remain a hot spot. And while this might have changed the vibe, be assured that a retreat can still be within reach.
If you’re trying to find refuge and a mind spa on the island, here are some ways to fall in love with the original contemplative spirit of Bali.
1. Be Healed
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Begin your sojourn with a spiritual refreshment. Since the aforementioned movie, traditional Balinese healers known as Balians have been sought out to provide physical and spiritual therapy to the mind and spirit. While Ketut Liyer has passed on, Wayan Nuriasih who also appears in the movie is still very much active in Ubud.
For the curious and believers, Balinese traditional healing is a rejuvenating session with a different perspective. For the skeptic, it can be taken as a cultural exchange that may yet surprise you with the degree of rejuvenation that follows.
2. Get Grounded
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It can be a good idea to stay connected with the earth. Even planes do that once in a while.
If you’re the sort who loves their aviation, Bali has collected some abandoned planes that are free to be explored. Rumours are that these shells were purchased to be turned into tourist attractions but were neglected, and so have organically turned into one themselves!
There’s one you can spot from Benoa Square in southern Kuta, or respectfully shoot the one near Pandawa Beach in Bukit Peninsula. If you really love the forgotten, go to the one atop the closed Gate 88 Mall. Seeing these may be a good reminder of how time treats all things fairly, and help you sort your priorities right.
3. Fire up the Energy
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Giving a nod to the active volcanic island, we now pay homage to the element of fire with a Kecak show.
Choosing the right one can be tricky as they are popular with tourists, but the best one we reckon is at Uluwatu Temple.
The rich display of culture and theatrics is especially stunning when set against the scenic backdrop, and the natural amphitheatre is framed by brilliant sunsets and the roaring ocean. It’s a vivid performance and one that will briefly teleport you out of your heritage and into another world full of power and energy.
4. Dive Deep into Prayer
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Well, sort of. Over at Nusa Lembongan, there’s an underwater temple garden with submerged Buddha statues!
Pick up a snorkel set and weave among the stone pieces, many of which have become home to a lively habitat of coral and fish. Floating among the waters is calming in itself, but seeing these meditative images below the water adds to the amazing serenity.
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Then face off with another aspect of the element, as you witness the spectacular blow hole of Nusa Dua. 30 minutes from the popular beach, you will find a natural water feature (especially during high tide) when strong waves will push water out from a blow hole.
5. Feel Your Mortality
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Something a little macabre, but sobering and profound, is to visit the mountainous village of Trunyan. Why? Because they don’t bury their dead.
You’ll find bodies placed in open bamboo cages and left to the elements below a Banyan tree. Once clean of flesh, the skulls are cleaned and placed together with others to make a shrine. Partly curious sight, but more an unabashed look at death, a visit will surely have you understanding your own place in the universe as you stand in contemplation by the eastern shores of Mt. Batur.
6. Then Laugh it All Away
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It’s not making it trivial, it’s about understanding what matters.
There are many spiritual workshops and classes but the airiest has to be the Laughing Yoga at Ambar Ashram in Ubud.
It may seem silly to the onlooker but if you release your judgement and go with the flow, both physically and mentally, you’ll find that a chortle and giggle really has an immense impact on your psyche.
Couple that with some stretching and body movements and you’ll soon be flowing with the universe once again.
7. Get Your Hands Dirty
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There’s just something about nurturing your own nourishment that is incredibly rewarding. Knowing where our food comes connects us deeply to the land and urban farming is a reflection of that desire.
Over at The Organic Farm, you will have an opportunity to really cultivate produce. While others are snapping pictures of padi fields, you will be wading through the muddy rice terraces to actually plant or harvest some.
The experience will leave you appreciating that the process is not just labour, but a skillful tradition that will give you a greater appreciation of the value of sustenance.
8. Sail Into the Sunset
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There’s plenty of water-based activities in Bali but they most often cater to the adventurous. We don’t think water-skiing or surfing, as fun as they are, are built to relax the mind or bond with others.
Luckily there’s options like dinner cruises that sets the pace to a nice stroll on the waters. Bali Hai II is a luxury catamaran with state-of-the-art amenities to sail you into the sunset with style. There are three decks of enjoyment, catering to all types of groups.
The main deck offers air-conditioned comfort with a buffet and bar ideal for catching up and great conversations. Afterwards, move to the open promenade for panoramic views as the sun paints the skies with golds and pinks. Finally, party the night away on the bridgedeck with live music and cabaret, to celebrate under the stars with cocktails in hand.
You’ll find plenty of transport touts in Bali and it can get quite overwhelming to the point that you can’t think straight. And sadly, ride apps like Grab are frowned upon by the taxi operators so it may not be the best option at popular spots.
We recommend using the Bluebird taxi app to get trusty metered service when you’re getting around or going with recommendations from where you’re staying. It’s also easy to make friends in Bali – Indonesians are among the friendliest people on the planet! – so ask around to get help.