Bali is a small island of Indonesia. You have probably seen, through pictures or in real life, the beautiful blue-green waters and tropical paradise. But when you step outside of the center tourist trap on the island of Bali you escape to world that is surreal and mystical.
I stayed with the gracious hostesses Emma and Tajna of Inner Temple Retreat. These beautiful women provided a week long retreat of daily yoga practices, meditation, vegan meals, raw chocolate classes, creative art workshops, and cultural immersions. Unlike other yoga retreats I have experienced, Inner Temple Retreat staff did not pressure us to stick to a rigid schedule and instead allowed each guest flexibility to explore as they so desired.
While I was in Bali, locals celebrated the Balinese holiday of Galungan. Galungan is a religious holiday of Hinduism that celebrates the victory of dharma over adharma. Essentially, it is a holiday to celebrate a new beginning that thanks the spirits for watching over them and providing a new perspective for the remainder of the year. Penjors, which are beautiful decorations made of palm leaves, lined the streets. It was magical passing the communes that surrounded our villa. Bali was alive, ready for to make a new beginning and prepared to begin again.
Every morning the local women would set out offerings at the entrance of their communes and by the central penjor to welcome in the good spirits for a new day. The offerings included rice, cigarettes, and various flowers. Local women that worked for Inner Temple Retreat taught the guests the significance and meaning behind the offerings’ flowers. The women explained that red flowers were offered to Lord Ganesha, white for Lord Shiva, pink for Lord Vishnu, and yellow flowers for Ma Lakshmi. Although the flowers may change based on the season and different customs of offerings, the women were proud to explain every details – the significance of every small part of the set up. The women beamed with pride and I was humbled to experience their kindness and welcoming despite language barriers.
One afternoon I walked from the villa down through the village to Canggu Beach. After passing small communes, where small children played along the streets with dogs laying lazily by their sides, I strolled along a small pasture filled with a water buffalo. Like every day, the heat and humidity started picking up to a heavy fog in the mid afternoon. I stopped in to a local shop to temporarily rest from the sun and see a town’s vendor. To my amazement I stopped in to a tailor and cloth shop. The shop was full of beautiful, bright lace and cloth. It perfectly represented the vibrant flora and fauna of Bali. Although I could not speak Indonesian, the female owner was so very welcoming. After pointing, laughing, and a little bit of gesturing to communicate I was fortunate enough to have a kebaya made for me. I chose a delicate lace that was embroidered with black, gold, and red. I wear the kebaya with pride, forever humbled of the experience and chance that I found my way into the shop.
Another day our group traveled to Tanah Lot. Tanah Lot Temple is a unique Hindu temple situated on the southwest coast of Bali. Although it was quite touristy and flooded with foreigners, it was an unforgettable experience. Watching the sun set behind the coastal temple as we made our way to the dance will always be ingrained in my mind. The Kecak Fire Dance was also a great show! The men and women performing were captivating. The costumes were intricate and the men’s chanting was hypnotic. It is something you must see for yourself. You are captured in a story of life, love, death, pain, and happiness based on traditional Balinese customs.
Step outside of your comfort zone and go off the beaten path when traveling. By following your heart and simply walking you’d be amazed at what you can find. Bali is a perfect place to wander and not only explore your immediate surrounds but to also find yourself.