Enjoying Bali (Sustainably): Best Places to Eat, Stay, Shop & Give Back on the Island

For CheapOAir MilesAway blog, October 2016.

The paradise island of Bali attracts tourists from all around the world, who are mainly interested in exploring its pristine beaches, surfing waves, colorful festivals, and yoga studios. With 6 million visitors each year, the small Indonesian island receives a lot of stress on its resources. Conscious travelers can leave a positive footprint on the island by making smart choices about their accommodations, dining and activities. Here are some of my personal recommendations for where to eat, stay, shop and give back in Bali.

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WHERE TO STAY

Bali offers a myriad of options to spend the night, ranging from five-star branded properties such as the uber luxurious Bulgari Resort, which starts at $700 a night, to budget friendly hostels at only $6 a night, and everything in between (including home stays and farm rooms). Most visitors prefer to stay at the beach resorts in Kuta or the bustling central Ubud, though boutique hotels and eco-friendly resorts are scattered all over the island.

At Puri Gangga Resort and Spa, pristine natural surroundings meet lush accommodations. This unique hotel is located in the quiet village of Sebatu in East Bali, and strives to be completely sustainable in its architecture, food and other activities. The rooms, which are made using all natural materials, keep the villas cool while blending in with the surroundings. Even the partially open roof in the bathroom hydrates the plants around the shower with rain water. All of the employees at the hotel come from the Sebatu village itself, thus insuring that the local economy thrives on the resort as well.

WHERE TO EAT

Dining options in Bali also range in price, ambiance and cuisine. From vegan and vegetarian cafes, beachfront bars and casual Indian bistros, to high-end restaurants serving French and Italian menus, there is something for everyone here.

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Warungs are small family-owned restaurants that offer traditional Indonesian dishes, such as chicken satay, gado-gado, and nasi goreng. These are the best places to taste local flavors and buy from the locals. Most of the warungs have their own rice paddies and poultry farms (sometimes at the back of the restaurant), so the food is fresh and organic.

Fair Warung Bale donates 100% of its profits to the Fair Future Foundation, which provides free medical care to people in need.

Slow Food Bali gives out a seal of approval to those restaurants that act ethically and responsibly, in particular by ensuring at least 75% of their menu uses ingredients produced in Indonesia, they sustainably manage their waste and pay fair wages to their employees. Some of these establishments include Bali Buda, Locavore (rated #1 restaurant in Bali), Batan Waru, Cuca, and Puri Ganesha.

WHAT TO DO

Where we shop and the activities we engage in as tourists also have an impact on the places we visit.

It is very important to respect the local culture wherever you go. Bali is home to some of the most beautiful Hindu temples in the world and certain measures of respect must be followed. Most guides will help you wear a sarong to cover your legs and show you how to ask for blessings. Make sure to not disturb others while praying, especially by taking pictures.

Indonesia is also well known for its art and crafts, such as its stone statues, decorated wooden carvings, painted wicker boxes, woven baskets and printed Batik. Instead of buying these items from souvenir shops, visit the artists in their studios or homes. Travelers can enroll in a day-long Batik painting class with world-renowned artist, Widya, where he shows you how to create your own scarf or t-shirt using all natural colors and beeswax.

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Cooking classes are a great way to learn about the native food and interact with locals. Unlike other hotel-led classes, Paon Bali Cooking School is a family-run establishment at a private home. The chef, Aunty Puspa, is not only educational and entertaining, she employs many of her extended family members in her village, thus creating a sustainable source of income for the women.

HOW TO GIVE BACK

Poverty on the island of Bali often goes unnoticed by tourists. There are thousands of kids who fend for themselves by selling souvenirs on the streets, because their families cannot provide enough for them. A local nonprofit organization, Bali Children’s Project enrolls kids in school, gives them free books, uniforms, meals, blankets and more — all through individual sponsorships. They are always looking for volunteers to assist in their offices or at one of the schools.

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ProFauna offers opportunities to volunteer in West Bali, where you can assist with preserving sea turtles. Activities include taking care of eggs, relocating and releasing hatchlings.

For CheapOAir MilesAway blog, October 2016.

The Many Faces of Sustainable Tourism – My Week in Bali

huffpost-travel

October 2015

Do you know the difference between ecotourism, sustainable travel, responsible travel and volunteer vacationing? While there is a lot of overlap with each of these terms, they all have one common theme – that is to improve lives through travel and tourism.

On a recent Yoga Retreat in Bali, Indonesia through international nonprofit, Go Eat Give, I experienced an all encompassing meaningful holiday where we actually supported the community we visited in many different ways, perhaps without even realizing it.

Ecotourism – “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” (TIES, 1990)

Most visitors to Bali either head to the beach resorts of Kuta, or the hippie city center of Ubud. Our accommodations were at Puri Gangga Resort and Spa, a 4-star 20-bedroom property located in the highland village of Sebatu (about 30 minutes from downtown Ubud) in East Bali. Enclosed by rice paddies and forests, the resort was a peaceful oasis overlooking Gunung Kawi Sebatu, a tranquil temple with gardens, and ponds full of blooming lotuses and enormous carps.

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The resort was small, yet charming. It blended well with the peaceful environment and embodied nature into everyday living. From the fishpond at the reception, the stone pathways leading to the rooms, to the open-air restaurant, I always felt the presence of life surrounding me. Even my luxurious villa had thatched roofs that naturally repelled mosquitos and furniture made of Indonesian teak wood. My bathroom was huge, boasting great views of the surrounding paddies, and had a partially open roof in the shower. When it rained, the water just drained off into the rocks and plants around my toilet. I felt I had the luxury of indoor plumbing, set in an all-natural ambiance.

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Each morning I woke up at the crack of dawn to the sounds of birds chirping and roosters crowing. I walked along the infinity pool in the morning mist of the forest, to attend my yoga class. At 7am, a few early risers gathered in a spacious room with open windows facing east on one side, and west on the other. This week, we practiced meditation and graceful poses, using The Warrior of Light by Paulo Coelho as a spiritual guide.

Sustainable Dining – Food which is healthier for people and the planet.” (SustainableFood.com)

A relaxed yoga session was followed by breakfast at the resort’s restaurant, Kailasha, with a bird’s eye view of the temple below. The 3-course breakfast service included a plate of fresh cut tropical fruits, Indonesian coffee or tea, and tropical juices squeezed to order. A woven basket full of assorted baked breads arrived with pineapple and strawberry jams made on premise. Options for Western and Balinese style breakfasts were presented – coconut pisang rai (steamed bananas), Martabak sayur (savory stuffed pancake), Nasi Goreng (fried rice), Dadar Gulung (sweet coconut pancake), or eggs and toast. Like most Balinese families, the restaurant bought all the ingredients very early in the morning, many of which were picked from the adjacent farms.

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I returned to Kailasha restaurant for dinner a few times, and enjoyed healthy, fresh and delicious local flavors. Baby spinach dressed with sunflower sprout and tossed in virgin coconut oil was the perfect Nature Healing Salad, while the main course, Balinese Tipat Cantok – rice cakes with steamed beans, carrots, bean sprouts and peanut sauce, made for the most scrumptious vegetarian treat.

Cultural Tourism – A discerning type of tourism that takes account of other people’s cultures. (UNESCO)

My intention of living in the village was not only to decompress, but also experience the authentic life in Bali. At the resort I stayed, there were activities designed to do just that. Puri Gangga offers a “Living in Culture” package that includes accommodations with daily yoga, afternoon tea, massages, and several cultural activities.

Some of the evenings, young Balinese dancers and Gamelan players would be invited from the village to perform for the guests at the resort. Watching talented girls of 8-10 years of age up close, dressed in their colorful costumes, and synchronizing their eyeballs with the music, was simply mesmerizing. I looked around and noticed the reaction of all the other spectators – fixated on their camera lenses, wanting to capture every single moment of this special treat.

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I learned to make Balinese Canang Sari, an offering where we weaved palm leaves and decorate the square shaped plate with bowls. It took me almost an hour to make one, and every Hindu household on the island makes 20-50 of these each day! While walking around the streets, you will see these offerings left at the doorsteps of businesses and homes after being blessed at the temples.

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During the village tour, I visited the workshops and homes of local artists. Everyone I came across was busy working on some craft they had honed – be it sculpting stone statues, decorating wooden carvings, painting wicker boxes, or weaving baskets. Many of the products looked familiar, as I had seen them in the markets. It’s hard to conceptualize the time and labor behind the knick-knacks we pick up as souvenirs, and understand that someone’s livelihood may be entirely dependent on our purchase.

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Sustainable Tourism – Travel that attempts to minimize its impact on the environment and local culture so that it will be available for future generations, while contributing to generate income, employment, and the conservation of local ecosystems. (World Tourism Organization)

Everyone who worked at this resort was a member of Sebatu village, so my dollars spent remained mostly in the area. I visited the homes of a hotel’s staff – a petite girl in her early 20’s who taught yoga, led people on tours and conducted cultural lessons. She she lived with 50 of her family members in a compound where she had a little house of two rooms. Her parents slept in the kitchen, while she had a tiny windowless room to herself. When one of my friends gave her a generous tip of $100, she was super excited and narrated how she would purchase books for her younger sister, give some money to her mother, put some aside, as well as help with the temple maintenance. Imagine what a 21-year old in the western world would do with $100 in cash!

I also signed up for a Balinese cooking class at Paon Bali Cooking School, where aunty Puspa and her husband, Wayan run an enterprise out of their home in another nearby village. He picks up the guests, shows them around the rice paddies and brings them to their home, where Puspa teaches visitors how to cook 10 Balinese dishes in one session! Over the years, through the growth of their business, they have been able to employ many of their relatives and neighbors, who would otherwise be selling art on the streets for pennies. Here they get to walk to work, eat whatever they want, and have fun teaching tourists about their native cuisine.

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Batik is an ancient art form made with wax resistant dye on fabrics. Batik in Indonesia is perhaps the best known and an important part of their heritage. I decided to take a lesson in Batik at the home studio of a local artist, Widya where I spent about 5-6 hours learning the art from start to finish. I started with a blank piece of white cloth, stenciled a design with a pencil, and then drew it out with wax using a spouted tool called a canting. I wax stamped the borders of the cloth, while one of Widya’s many assistants, who are also excellent artists, help me correct my errors. They showed me my selection of all-natural colors to fill in between the wax. The cloth is then dried in the sun, boiled in hot water to remove the wax, and air-dried again. While I worked diligently to create a masterpiece, Widya’s wife took my lunch order and ran off to the kitchen to cook Gado-Gado (a traditional dish of cabbage, green beans and peanut sauce) and served it with fresh watermelon juice. It takes a lot of patience, good vision and a steady hand to create these pieces, and I was nowhere close to being able to fetch a price for my work! Widya sells his work to shops and galleries around the world. It can take him a week or a month to make a single wall hanging, depending on the intricacy of its design. Like Puspa, he has created a small business at his home to sustain other artists who don’t always get the fame they deserve.

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Volunteer Tourism – “A form of tourism in which travelers participate in voluntary work, typically for a charity: at the core of voluntourism is the desire to help others.” Oxford Dictionary 

Lastly, I spent some time learning about the poverty in Bali’s villages and how it has impacted the children. I met with the staff of Bali Children’s Project (BCP) and learned that many of the families are so poor, that the parents unable to sustain, end up committing suicide. Young kids are left to fend for themselves and end up working on the streets selling cheap souvenirs. I also saw some of their living conditions where a family of 4-5 would sleep in one dingy dark room on a torn mattress with dirty coverings. BCP has enrolled 300 kids to attend school through a sponsorship program, but that is only a fraction of the kids in Bali who need help.

I visited some of the schools where BCP sponsored kids are studying. We spend time doing arts and crafts with third graders. They took to me instantly, calling my name and teaching me words in Balinese. They were eager to show me their work and surrounded me when it came to picture taking time. Despite their circumstances, these kids were very outgoing – smiling, laughing and eager to know me.

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In my short time there, I couldn’t do much except donate some money to purchase beddings and commit to sponsoring two kids till the age of 18. It costs only $40/ month per child, a small sum in comparison to the big difference it can make in the life of a child. By receiving an education, these kids have some chance to break out of the cycle of poverty.

When I think about all the lives that were impacted directly and indirectly because of my 10-day visit to Bali, I am pleased. I feel I was a sustainable traveler, leaving a positive impact on the environment, society and economy.

Beyond The Beaches in Bali

As seen in Khabar Magazine January 2014 print issue

bali for Khabar 2014

Bali: exploring hinuduism outside India while also enjoying pristine beaches, dive sites, all-inclusive resorts, and year-round temperate weather.

I arrived on the island of Bali, Indonesia, during an auspicious time. Palm trees adorned homes and businesses, colorful offerings for deities sat on doorsteps, and locals, dressed in traditional white garb, carried baskets laden with fruits and flowers. Children played the gamelan, a traditional musical ensemble, and processions taking Barongs (mystical beasts) paraded the streets. Every home and business had its penjor (palm tree) decorated with fruits, coconut leaves and flowers. It looked like a tropical Christmas.

It was the week of Galungan, the most important festival for Balinese Hindus. It marks an occasion to honor the creator of the universe and the spirits of ancestors. The festival symbolizes the victory of good (dharma) over evil (adharma), and encourages the Balinese to show their gratitude to the creator and the saints from their ancestry. During this holy period, people cook special cakes (known as jaja) in pots of clay, visit family members, and pray at multiple temples.

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The Tanah Lot—the most photographed temple in Bali

It is easy to get lost in the architectural beauty of over fifty thousand temples in a mere 2,232 square miles. I questioned my host, Sri Ekayanti Ni Wayan (who goes by Eka), why Balinese people felt a need for so many temples. “It is mandatory to have a temple at one’s home, a family temple and a village temple. Every village also has three temples, each dedicated to the Gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Therefore, a Balinese person prays at least three temples daily,” she informed me. They would also visit some of the larger temples during festivals or special occasions.

Eka invited me to her family temple, in the village of Sukawati. The family members, consisting of about 100 people, gathered in the evening to celebrate the temple’s anniversary, which is held every six months. Women are required to cover their legs before entering the tem¬ple; therefore sarongs (similar to the Indian lungi) are available at most public temples. There is a technique for properly tying a sarong with a sash, which Eka had to demonstrate for me, even though I have draped myself in a sari many times before. I was taken through the common grounds of the temple into an inside chamber, where we sat on the floor. Some of the women blessed me with flowers and incense, sprinkled holy water and dotted my forehead with uncooked rice. It was not clear which God we were praying to, as the Balinese Hindus do not practice idol worship. (Different colors identify each God: red for Brahma, black for Vishnu and white for Shiva.) Then we gathered to watch children from the community perform traditional music and dance.

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A procession of temple offerings during Galungan

The Balinese temples (called pura) are different from an Indian Hindu temple. An outdoor complex of small buildings leads into a series of gates to reach the interiors of the temples. The Balinese people are associated to a particular temple by virtue of descent, residence, or some mystical revelation of affiliation. Some temples are associated with the family house compound (also called banjar in Bali), others are associated with rice fields, and still others with key geographic sites.

While visitors cannot enter most family temples, there are some well-known temples in Bali that are also major tourist attractions. During my stay in Ubud, the central region of Bali that is nestled among rice paddies and volcanic hills, I visited Pura Tirta Empul. Dating back to 926 AD, the temple has a pool known to have healing powers. Locals take a dip in the sacred waters hoping to purify themselves.

Taman Ayun (“beautiful garden”) is a family temple belonging to the Raja of Mengwi and built in 1634 AD. This is one of the most beautiful temples in Bali, characterized by towering Balinese pagodas (known as Meru) made of odd-numbered black thatched roofs. The temple complex is surrounded by gardens that are packed with locals picnicking with families over the weekends.

My favorite of all was Tanah Lot, rightfully named one of the most photographed temples in Bali. It is lo¬cated on a cliff jutting out into the sea, surrounded by black sand and surfing waves, and makes for a picturesque view especially during sunset. During high tides, the rock looks like a large boat at sea.

The profusion of temples in Bali is not surprising considering almost 85 percent of Bali’s population fol¬lows Hinduism, which is said to have come to Indonesia from India in the fifth century. By the eleventh century, Java and Sumatra were seeing an increase in the popularity of Buddhism, which was eventually replaced by Islam. However, due to geographical barriers, the island of Bali was the only part of Indonesia that remained Hindu, while the rest of the country experienced Muslim conversions.

There are similarities between Balinese Hinduism and that found in India. It follows the belief of rebirth, karma and nirvana, divides the cosmos into three layers (heaven, human and hell), and is deeply embodied in rituals celebrating birth, marriage, death, and everything in between. Balinese Hinduism is deeply interwo¬ven with art and ritual, which is reflected in the various festivals celebrated throughout the year.

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A typical meal of whole grilled fish, steamed rice, and sambal.

Hindu mythological characters and scriptures also inspire Balinese music and dance. Traditional dances depict episodes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and are taught to children early on. At the Sukawati temple celebrations, Eka’s nine-year old daughter and her classmates performed temple dances dressed in one-shoulder gold wrap and peacock-shaped headwear, gesturing with captivating eye and facial expressions. A dance-drama played out the battle between the mythical characters Rangda (a witch representing adharma) and Barong, the protective predator (representing dharma), in which performers fell into a trance and attempt¬ed to stab themselves with sharp knives.

Dance schools around the island run by genera¬tions of artistes hold classes for adults and children who want to practice traditional Balinese dances. For spectators, many local restaurants, temples, and cul¬tural centers offer Balinese folklore performances for a cover charge of about $8-10.

In recent years, Bali has become a major attraction for travelers seeking spirituality through yoga, meditation, healing, and vegetarianism. Many yoga schools, retreat centers, and spas offer a chance to develop spiritual and physical being. Styles of yoga and movement taught in Bali include Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, Yin, Laughter, Power, Anusara, Ashtanga, Silat, Capoeira, Poi, Qi Gong, and Juggling. The annual Bali Spirit Festival gathers world-renowned musicians, yogis, and dancers to illustrate the Balinese Hindu concept of Tri Hita Karana: living in harmony with our spiritual, social, and natural environments. Yoga teacher training, cleansing detox, and meditation retreats are offered to international vis¬itors before and after the festival. Balinese Hindus, unlike a large percentage of other Hindus, are not vegetarian. They eat chicken, fish, and pork. However, there are many juice bars, vegan restaurants, and vegetarian restaurants serving international cuisine in Bali. It is common to overhear tourists from different parts of the world discussing afterlife and spirituality over a lunch of tempeh curry and herbal tea at a café in Ubud.

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Yoga Barn

Coming back to the festival of Galungan, I am lost in the sights and sounds that make up the spectacle of the Dance of the Barong, performed through the streets of Bali during this time. Like in a dragon dance, two people wear a costume as they lead a crowd of followers through the village with much clanging to announce their approach. The Barong, even though frightening to look at because of its fiery eyes and animalistic hair, is meant to restore the balance of good and evil at a Balinese home.

The tenth day, Kuningan, marks the end of Galungan, and is believed to be the day when the spirits ascend back to heaven. On this day, Balinese families get together, make offerings, and pray. Then they have a feast where traditional Balinese dishes such as lawar (a spicy pork and coconut sauce dish) and satay (chicken tenders grilled on bamboo sticks) are served.

While most Western tourists visit Bali for its pristine beaches, dive sites, all-inclusive resorts, and year-round temperate weather, the more unforgettable attractions remain the region’s colorful art, vivid dances, rich culture, and Hindu festivals. Hindu customs in Bali have been preserved over thousands of years and form an integral part of everyday life.

Most popular temples in Bali Pura Besakih – Also known as Mother Temple or the Temple of Spiritual Happiness, this is the most import¬ant temple for Balinese ceremonies.Pura Tanah Lot – The most photographed temple in Bali sits atop a high rock with a backdrop of foamy white waves and black sand.

Pura Luhur Uluwatu – Perched on cliffs against a surf break against the sea, it is spectacular to visit during sunset.

Pura Tirta Empul – Fitted with two holy springs, it is a popular place for the Balinese to bathe for spiritual cleansing.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan – Situated in beautiful surround¬ings, the temple juts out onto a lake.

Goa Lawah Temple – The 1,000-year-old-cave temple swarms with bats and is one of the most unique temples in the world.

Taman Ayun Temple in Mengwi – Surrounded by beautiful gardens, it is a good place to see the famous Balinese pagodas.

Pura Goa Giri Putri – Nestled inside a mountain cave, the dwelling place of God symbolizes the power of a woman.

Eat, Pray, Spa in Bali: How to Heal Your Mind, Body and Soul on a Budget

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The moment I landed on the island of Bali in Indonesia, I sensed a peaceful energy take over me. As I made my way out of Denpasar airport late in the night, tropical heat and humidity awakened my senses. People were out and about, waiting for family members, snacking on satay and carrying grocery bags on motorcycles. Even at 1am, everything around me felt alive.

As I drove into Ubud, the center of Bali, I noticed a plethora of temples. Practically every corner had an architecturally intriguing Hindu temple that called out for a peek inside. There were temples outside hotels and restaurants, at palaces, in gardens, next to construction sites, between marketplaces and at courtyards of homes. After a few hours of strolling around, getting lost taking photos, I found out that there were over 50,000 temples on a mere 2,232 square miles of the island. It would therefore be mind boggling to stop at each one.

Hinduism is the main religion in Bali and said to have come to Indonesia from India in the 5th century. The Balinese Hindus have a harmonies perspective of live, with strong beliefs in cause and effect of one’s deeds (karma), attainment of salvation (nirvana), and continuation of human spirit (rebirth). They immerse themselves in colorful ceremonies, festivals and rituals that can be observed by spectators throughout the year. The Balinese people are very religious and it is not uncommon to see processions of worshippers dressed in traditional white garb carrying baskets of fruits and flowers or kids playing the gamelan and marching a Barong (mystical beast) from door to door.

Doing daily yoga, meditation, prayers and holistic healing are part of everyday Balinese lifestyle. At sunrise, locals gather on the beaches to practice yoga, often times led by instructors for free. There is also a large concentration of yoga schools, detox centers and retreats in Bali that are open to both natives and tourists. Many different styles of yoga classes can be found in Bali, including Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, Yin, Laughter, Power, Anusara, Ashtanga, Silat, Capoeira, Poi, Qi Gong and Juggling.

I woke up every morning to the sound of roosters outside my hotel room and effortlessly went to the Yoga Barn for a yoga and meditation class. For an hour and a half, I renewed my spirits practicing “flow” overlooking a panoramic view of lotus ponds and rice paddies. Only after a couple of days, I recognized more controlled composure, less stress and a stronger ability to concentrate. I was sleeping fewer hours but feeling more energetic. Perhaps it is the spiritual sanctity of the land of a thousand temples that makes people more receptive and heightens their senses.

While spiritual retreats are in progress throughout the year, annually held Bali Spirit Festival is the largest one attracting 6,000 visitors from over 50 countries. The festival celebrates Balinese Hindu concept of Tri Hita Karana; living in harmony with our spiritual, social, and natural environments through a gathering of world-renowned musicians, yogis and dancers. Yoga teachers training, cleansing detox and meditation retreats are offered to international visitors before and after the festival.

In order to enhance physical, mental and spiritual well-being, the Balinese people visit spas on a regular basis. Because of this strong spa culture, foot rituals, body scrubs, facial masks, flower baths and Balinese massages can be found at hotels, resorts, day and health spas. The Aniniraka Resort and Spawhere I stayed offered a free foot ritual upon arrival to the guests. I also tried a Balinese back and shoulder massage to get rid of the kinks from my 21-hour long flight. Most spas in Bali have a relaxed unpretentious atmosphere with a friendly staff. Aromatic oils, lotions and scrubs are commonly used during the procedures. While some of the higher-end spa resorts can charge as much as $70 for a treatment catering to foreign visitors, an authentic experience can be enjoyed at spas frequented by locals for $20-30.

Being an island rich in tropical fruits, vegetables and seafood, food in Bali is fresh, delicious and cheap. Most Balinese families visit the farmers market early morning to pick up their produce for the day. Hardly anything is refrigerated and there is no concept of leftovers. Dishes are made to order and most ingredients are organic and locally sourced. Therefore, you need to wait for at least an hour to get your meal when you go to any restaurant.  It is very likely that the chicken you are eating was the one you met on your way into the eatery.

While traditional Balinese food includes pork, chicken and fish, there are several cafes and restaurants in Ubud that serve vegetarian and vegan food. Keeping with the demand for health and well-being, organic juice elixirs, smoothies, herbal teas, and naturally sweetened desserts are commonly found. I enjoyed several meals consisting of tempeh, a soy based product that is a rich source of protein, fiber and vitamins.

One of the best ways to learn about Balinese cuisine is by taking a cooking class at the Paon Bali cooking school. The class includes a tour of the market and rice paddies led by Mr. Wayan, followed by a hands-on experience at his home conducted by his wife Puspa. Aunty Puspa taught us how to make coconut oil from whole coconuts and a total of 11 dishes including Gado Gado (green beans), tune in banana leaves, chicken in coconut curry, vegetables with peanut sauce and the famous Indonesian chicken satay.

Bali is not only a place of aesthetic and physical beauty, but also an ancient land with a deeply spiritual and unique culture. It is hard not to feel transformed after the body is nourished with healthy natural food and a few spa visits, the spirit is rekindled from yoga/ meditation classes, and a connection with a higher being is establish through the presence of thousands of historic temples.