TABANAN, SIDEMEN, UBUD
You know those places you set a foot on and your heart immediately beats a little faster sending a note to your brain that reads something like...”You are HOME.”? That precisely is Bali to me. A gem I visited twice this year, and one that is back on my list for 2018. “Until the Bali bug bites you!”, said a friend the minute I bought my ticket. Some people dream about their first big home in the suburbs, I dream of my first eco-friendly villa in Bali. Honestly. That’s how much I connected with this piece of green heaven on earth. Therefore, this past November for my 30th birthday, I chose to celebrate in…. Bali.
During the first week of November, I hosted a wellness and culture retreat (which I'm hosting again in 2018 for those that couldn't make it in 2017!) at the eco-friendly hotel I stayed at, and reviewed on my blog, last year. 20+ hours of flying and a cold shower- with live water running through pipes straight out of the waterfall beneath my eco-friendly villa- later, I found myself walking barefoot into infinite rice fields with my wet hair that smelled like the perfect combination of coconut oil and peppermint, and a few rain drops slowly landing on my skin.
Every morning started at 5.30am with no alarm clock but the sound of the waterfall beneath me. I smiled, opened my bed’s mosquito net, walked to the windows, rolled up my blinds, took three powerful inhales admiring that majestic waterfall, smiled even bigger, walked to the hand-carved table that held the clay cups and organic coffee, made myself a cup, and sipped my coffee slowly for 30 to 40 minutes. Taking it all in. This otherworldly sensation I just described, is the reason for which I only stay at eco-friendly hotels that understand and respect nature’s gentle healing power. Bali Eco Stay takes all that into consideration and more. From the architecture and design of each villa to the hydropower used as energy, the drinking water that comes from a natural spring, and the organic orchards and rice fields that surround the hotel. Paradise doesn’t even begin to describe it.
I stayed at BaliEco with my 14 retreat yogis. We started our days with fresh organic coffee and a power yoga class, and finished them with Balinese flower offerings and wood carving or cooking classes. We laughed, smiled, cried, hugged, cried again, and grew. So so much! The overflow of love I felt every day was truly indescribable. These beautiful women (inside and out!) came to Bali to find inspiration, light and connection without realizing that they would give me so much more in return. They helped me realize that deep within me I have an unstoppable, powerful and overflowing source of energy capable of building doors where there are none, and making everything around me flow peacefully and blissfully. Just like water through skin. Besides these magical experiences and connection, we also enjoyed our days with a colorful sunset at the Tanah Lot temple paired with a cold Balinese beer and some handmade products we bought at the market.
Once the retreat was over, I drove to Ubud to meet the faces behind Social Impakt- an organization devoted to bringing clean water to rural communities of Bali through water filters made of natural clay and bamboo charcoal. These filters remove all bacteria and chemicals from water reducing the risk of diseases related to contaminated water in Asia. Jerome, the Founder, started this life-changing project three years ago and- with the funds received from their last UpEffect crowdfunding campaign- his team was able to give 1000+ filters to schools and homes. Can you believe I was able to visit four schools and deliver and ensemble the filters myself?! As if that experience weren’t indescribable enough, I also witnessed- with a heart wide open and teary eyes- how 3 to 12 year olds sang mantras to us.
“Om Bhur Bhuva Swaha Tat Savitur Varenyam,
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi Dhiyo Yonah Prachodayat”
The Gayatri mantra being one of them, and my favorite one! The one I chant every day.
During this trip to Sidemen with Social Impakt, we stayed at an eco-friendly hotel called Darmada Eco Resort in the middle of rice fields and mountains, with a pool filled with natural spring water. No chlorine is ever needed because the water flows from the natural spring to the pool and back. Flowing constantly. Pure, clean, live, cold, deliciously refreshing and cleansing water. The rooms were gorgeous too! Each one painted in different colors- pink, purple or blue- and with an outdoor bathroom and a hammock perfect for spending me-time listening to the symphony of the river that flows next to the rooms and through the hotel.
After spending three days delivering water filters with Social Impakt throughout Sidemen, we drove back to Ubud where I met my Balinese bestie and got ready to celebrate my 30th birthday. Little did I know he had the most amazing surprise ceremony planned for me! An entire day of Balinese ceremonies focused on my life’s essence: Water Through Skin. Experiences that are as refreshing and cleansing as water but have the power to penetrate skin and reach the soul. We started with a visit to the Tirtha Empul Temple (holy spring water temple) where I changed outfits, took my shoes off, and walked into a big water fountain with fresh flowers floating everywhere. I sent my prayers to the universe, drank water from the fountain, and placed my flower offerings. It was something out of a movie! Surreal. Majestic. We then continued the celebration at my friend’s home where his family had prepared a one-of-a-kind blessing ceremony and the most delicious plantbased lunch for me. A day I will never ever EVER forget and the best way to start my 30s!
The last day of this 3-week Bali trip, I made one last stop.... I went to Be No Square Bali Tattoo Parlor to get some spiritual tattoos and touchups with vegan and nontoxic products (ink, soap, and ointments). I met Lidya last year in Bali and fell in love with her parlor’s values and practices, and now I adore her even more because she started using biodegradable non-plastic bags made of cassava (a root similar to yuca) as goodie bags for her clients! This is a must stop if you are a tattoo-lover!
Other places I would recommend:
Bali Eco Stay, of course.
Swasti Eco Cottages (amazing vegan food too!)
Sage (one of my favorite vegan restaurants. Order the jackfruit tacos!)
Earth Café (They also have a little movie theater, Paradiso!)
Love Stories Market (they sell handmade, fair-trade and charity-oriented clothing and products that are beyond pretty!)