I didn’t really want to go to Bali. I’ve been seriously into France since childhood and added Italy as an adult–my travel dreams swirl around those two. But a friend of mine leads a sacred tour to Bali every year and some years back when he needed two more people to avoid some big penalties for not making quota he offered me the two week trip for a price so low I couldn’t refuse.
Nothing could have prepared me for the magic of being in Bali. The sights, the sounds, the smells… When I came away it was especially the scent of the air that stayed with me. Flower offerings with burning incense are everywhere. Exotic flowers bloom and release sweet and spicy scents that mingle with the incense and create an entrancing aroma wafting constantly through the air.
Breakfast was served each day on the terraces outside our hotel rooms. All you had to do was go out and sit on the terrace in front of your room and someone would come take an order. For me it was fresh fruit plus some sort of pancake made with more fresh fruit every day. Plus the lovely, strong Balinese coffee. Amazing flashes of color went by as beautiful birds darted from tree to tree. That lovely aroma enveloped me. Probably the best breakfast moments I’ve ever had.
Inexpensive spa/massage places abound. Most days for $8 I had a lovely massage including a body scrub and then being led to a beautiful tub of warm water, on which flower petals floated, to soak. My health issues were at a low at the time and it’s hard to express how great it felt to be nurtured like that (and at a price I could afford!).
We visited a number of temples and attended services, learning the proper etiquette. Also attended many dance performances, full of color and astonishing movement, always telling a story from the Ramayana.
We also met a lot of native teachers who offer classes in batik, wood carving, dance, etc. and we were allowed to pick a couple of classes to take. I chose dance and learned that many years of yoga didn’t give me nearly enough flexibility to manage Balinese dance… The weather was unusually hot while we were there–even the Balinese complained of the extreme heat–so we kept asking to stop the lessons to drink water and ply our teacher with questions about life in Bali. I didn’t learn much dance but what lovely classes they were.
What impressed me most about Bali, though, was the people and the philosophy. In Bali service to others trumps personal pursuits. Everyone serves the temple community above all and then they serve others. They’re very attuned to other people and I soon realized that the driving, which initially looked frighteningly chaotic, involved everyone doing a sort of dance in which they moved in awareness of one another.
The economy of southeast Asia had just collapsed and Bali suffered great losses but everyone stayed completely gracious. Even in the bargaining, which they love to do — I kept trying to bargain up since I knew times were hard and they kept bargaining me down. The tender treatment of others and the sense of reverence everywhere continued unabated despite the losses. It opened me to looking at the world through new eyes.
I keep imagining how the world would be if all people everywhere thought of the world as a place to serve and bring happiness to others instead of a place to pursue individual happiness. That’s what I think about when I remember Bali. Travelling to a place not just physically far away but another universe in terms of world view.
This post is for today’s Daily Prompt, which is Come Fly with Me; write a story about the farthest you’ve ever traveled. Bali is definitely the farthest. And to be honest I find flying that far sufficiently miserable that I don’t know that I care to spend that much time on a plan again… But I wouldn’t have missed that trip for anything.
- A place like no other…BALI (arpitasb.wordpress.com)