By Marie Whitehead
A good friend from Calgary asked me a year ago if I wanted to be her roommate when she went to Bali last fall. I committed to the adventure right on the spot.
Cathy Gotfried from Erawan Travel Adventures in Calgary has been organizing Bali tours for more than 20 years. Babes in Bali is the name of the well-organized all-women 14-day tour. My fun group consisted of 13 women from Western Canada, three from Toronto, one American and one from Sudbury. It was my first time in Asia.
We did things women love to do: sightseeing, shopping, hiking, snorkelling in the Indian Ocean, eating great meals, talking, laughing, bonding, and of course, drinking wine.
We enjoyed a Balinese cooking class, participated in yoga classes, relaxed during spa days, went dolphin watching, and visited the market and an orphanage.
I was a bit nervous leaving Canada as Mount Agung was threatening to erupt. As it turned out however, we were lucky and made it home before Bali’s largest volcano erupted.
Life in Bali, an Indonesian island that is mostly Hindu, is different from the rest of the world. Their way of life encouraged us to learn to let go, respect and embrace new ways of living, thinking and believing. The Balinese are so kind and thoughtful and are also known for their innate sense of hospitality, gentle spirit, and creative minds.
The two-week trip was split up into three towns. Our first part of the trip was spent in Ubud at the Kumara Sakti hotel for one week. The town is located in the middle of the island, surrounded by jungle. I was not sure if I would like it, as it was not located right on the ocean. But it was amazing.
Ubud is a remarkable town. For more than a century, it has been the island’s centre for music and art. While it once was a haven for backpackers and artists, Ubud is now a hot spot for well-heeled tourists looking for culture, art, nature and inspiration.
Ubud is surrounded by most of the things that bring people to Bali – scenic rice fields, small villages, art and craft communities, fabulous spas, ancient temples, palaces, rivers and the most wonderful restaurants on the island.
We were the only guests at the small plateaued Ubud hotel which was located in the middle of the jungle. We woke up every morning listening to tropical birds and watching monkeys jump from tree to tree, right outside our private balconies.
The hotel had the best and most inexpensive spa I have ever visted. Massages are
followed by a coffee bean scrub, a real papaya body mask, a hair cream bath and a hibiscus hair shampoo treatment. This lovely day was finished with fantastic rose petal bath in a private room with an open wall overlooking the jungle while sipping on a natural fruit smoothie. That memory is imprinted in my memory bank forever.
We had the privilege of watching the Balinese celebrate Galungan Day, one of their biggest celebrations of the year. Balinese devotees pray at the temples and make their offerings to the spirits.
One evening we got to experience a purification ceremony at the Tirta Empul Temple, Bali’s most sacred spring pools.
Balinese come from all over the island on pilgrimages to bathe in the holy springs at the temple and thus cleanse themselves spiritually. Cleansing in the holy water pools is part of the purification ceremony. We were each given a white sarong at the temple, which was worn over our bathing suits. I am still wearing the fabric “Purification” bracelet the Hindu priest gave me. We are supposed to wear it until it falls off.
One of the highlight was our visit to a children’s orphanage outside our village. The school is operated by a local couple with the help of many volunteers from the area and around the world. We got to spend time with the children and shared our donations with them. We had all brought half or full suitcases with children’s clothes, shoes, toys and school supplies. The children and staff showed an abundance of appreciation. It was a very touching experience. I stayed with them for as long as I possibly could and had tears in my eyes when I finally left.
The second part of the trip took place in Lovina on the northern shores of Bali and the last three nights we stayed at another beach resort in Legian on the Indian Ocean.
One early morning we boarded traditional outrigger boats and set sail to watch the friendly dancing dolphins that were welcoming the morning sun. There must have been 300 dolphins dancing around us! An unbelievable sight.
I have been blessed to have many unforgettable trips. This certainly was one.
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