November 2016

Bali has been a dream of mine since I discovered spirituality, Buddhism and Hinduism in college. At 18, I found myself dreaming about the day I could make my Bali trip a reality and now, I’ve finally done it! Out of the blue. No plans, no schedules, no friends to keep me company, but a solo-trip to further enrich my soul and celebrate my 29th birthday with the person I’ve learned to love and accept unconditionally: myself. Boy I learned a lot during my 2-week-trip-turned-into-3-weeks in Bali! I went beyond my comfort zone on so many levels, I gave myself a strong pat on the back the minute I jumped on the plane back home. No, I didn't fly to Bali to find myself nor escape my reality nor find the "Eat,Pray,Love way" (even though that's one of my favorite books!). I went to Bali to create another story for myself. Another story that reminds me of the person I've become in the past three years. I flew to Bali to breathe pure air, jump in waterfalls, hug strangers, learn a new culture, smile uncontrollably, swim with wild sea earthlings, play with baby frogs in the rain, spend more than I thought I would on bohemian clothing and spiritual gifts (and be OK with it!), take Balinese workshops, drink a cold Asian beer (and maybe a shot or two for my birthday!), cry whenever I felt my heart about to explode of happiness, make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and laugh...a lot! Bali does all that and more for you! It's incredible.
For the sake of not massively bombarding your brains with information and details, I’ve decided to divide my Bali trip into 3 travel posts. Starting with this one, the most precious gem of my trip: Bali Eco Stay! An eco-friendly hotel that takes sustainability, love of nature, connection with the local culture, vegan food, and architecture to a whole new level!
The minute I reached the hotel, I just couldn’t what I was witnessing. A 2-hr drive from Ubud, rests this beautiful Balinese-inspired eco hotel with 8 mind-blowing villas made with natural and recycled materials, a 12-meter waterfall that generates 58% of the electricity at the hotel (hydropower at its finest!), a permaculture garden (self-sufficient and sustainable garden with everything from peas to bananas, papaya, berries, spinach, tomatoes, coconut and so many other organic ingredients used at the hotel’s restaurant), organic rice fields everywhere you look, organic coffee plantations (yes, their coffee is freshly and organically made at their land), a yoga studio completely surrounded by the greenest forest I’ve ever seen, and a villa dedicated to Balinese massages and holistic treatments overlooking the same spectacular forest. The first night at Bali Eco, I spent at the “Springwater Villa”. A one-bedroom villa on top of a natural water stream with beautiful forest views. I felt I had my own little home away from home that night. My room (like every other villa) had no shutters or glass windows but was entirely open so that guests could fall asleep and wake up to the sound of nature. Connecting with it every second of the day! I could feel the cool breeze dancing through that tiny bamboo house as the weather cooled down in the afternoons. My room had also a desk overlooking the river, and a “coffee/tea corner” with daily hot water and Bali Eco’s delicious organic and fair-trade coffee. My bathroom was also so blissfully designed, the first thing I did as soon as I arrived at the hotel was take a delicious shower with eco-friendly bath products; moment during which I felt completely in sync with nature and surrounded and protected by it. What surprised me the most at Bali Eco was finding out that the water running through each of the hotel’s pipes was not only drinkable, but also ALIVE! Yes, you read correctly. Very much alive! The water comes from a natural spring which means it is clean, alkaline, flowing constantly, and really good for our health and skin. Not like bottled water, which is dead and acidic.
For the rest of my nights (and the few afternoons I spent in my room watching the sunset and writing) I got to experience the “Waterfall Villa”. WOW. Heaven is the only word I can think of right now to describe what I experienced. My villa had two levels; my bedroom, bathroom and living room on the top floor, and a lounge area with chairs and two single beds on the lower floor. You know what else I had private access to? The 12-meter waterfall that provides electricity for the hotel! I could hear and see the water crashing into rocks right from my window every second of every day. And, whenever I wanted to pay her a visit (which I did every morning), it was only a 30-second walk down the path below my villa!
During my stay, I decided to take a few workshops to learn more about the local culture. The first one I took was the Canang Sari offering one. 1) I spent an hour and a half learning how to make Balinese flower offerings with NimadeSumiAsih; a sweet old woman patient enough to guide me through each step! (Yes, I did ask her to write her name down for me since my memory got lost at Nima) We made offerings, baskets, feathers and even home decor. Everything out of coconut leaves, bamboo shaped into toothpick-thin threads, and fresh flowers. (Can you believe she taught me how to use these bamboo threads as staples?!) Each little basket had three leaves "stapled" together as the first layer to represent the harmony with God, with humans, and with nature (Tri Hita Karana). The last layer was an overdose of fresh flowers. Nima and I communicated in sign language, smiles and hugs. She laughed a lot every time my clumsy hands tore the coconut leaves apart instead of stapling them together. At the end she grabbed my right wrist full of bracelets, smiled, wrapped a bracelet she had just made around my left wrist and said: "for you". You’ll see these Canang Sari offerings all around the hotel. The staff leaves them around every morning to protect and bless the land, hotel and people. I offered the Canang Sari I made to Mother Nature and the waterfall below my villa.
2) The second workshop I took was with Nimade again but, this time, at her house. She taught me how to make coconut oil from scratch! And, believe it or not, it’s a 3-4 hour process! It takes 5 old coconuts, lots of cutting and grating, combining the grated coconut with warm water, squeezing it, straining it, heating up that oily water in a pot for 2 hours, then straining that again, and lastly boiling the fatty layer at high heat so every drop of water evaporates and you get your 1/2 glass of coconut oil! What's even more astonishing than that process, is the level of patience and love Balinese people put into everything they do! It's as if they are meditating during every flower offering preparation, wood carving, coconut oil making, or even cooking. No wonder they are so blissful and calm all the time! 
3) And the last workshop I took was Woodcarving with Kadek. Smart and super talented Kadek taught me how to carve a Buddha and a lotus flower on big square recycled wood piece. It was about a two-hour process during which he used different Balinese carving tools to create the most beautiful masterpiece. I tried as much as I could to carve as much wood as I could but he ended helping me and finishing the work himself. He kept telling me “No, not ready. I’ll make it nicer for you. You take beautiful reminder from Bali Eco.” I smiled and replied “Suksma” (thank you) about a dozen times!
Yoga was a big part of my days, too! I woke up every morning around 5.30 am (no alarm clock but the sound of the waterfall) and walked through huge trees to the yogashala in the middle of the forest. If that place doesn’t inspire you to flow for hours, I honestly don’t know what will! After my yoga practice the first day, I devoured the yummiest breakfast with fresh juice, fruits and organic coffee from the garden, and Pisang Goreng (fried bananas with palm syrup) or vegan pancakes! They were done with no eggs and no milk, with a Balinese twist, and palm syrup on top. Every vegan meal I had at the restaurant was a delightful explosion of flavors to my palate. Lemongrass, turmeric, ginger, curry… Delicious honestly does not do justice! My favorites were: Kari Ayam (Curry with tofu instead of chicken), Mie Goreng (Fried noodles with veggies), Cap Cay (Asian veggie soup with cashew nuts), Gado Gado (Steam greens with tofu instead of egg and peanut sauce), and the raw vegan Chocolate Cake. They also have a refreshing Lemon Nectar (ginger, palm syrup, lemon juice and water) and a Turmeric one (Turmeric, coconut water, palm syrup, lime).
Another thing I would recommend at Bali Eco is taking the tours. I took a half-day one to Alas Kedaton Temple where monkeys run wild and free and they are everywhere!! After that, my driver (Komar) took me to a local market, which gave me a unique and tourist-free perspective of what Balinese markets look like. I bought a years-worth supply of incenses, handmade metal boxes, Dragonfruit and Jackfruit!
Last but not least, John, Cath and their son Huey. What a beautiful and blissful family! Their love and respect towards nature, and every detail they took into consideration when building Bali Eco Stay in 2010, are nothing less than admirable and truly inspiring. I loved spending time with them, getting to know them, and look forward to seeing them again next year for the WaterThruSkin “Wellness, Adventures & Culture” Retreat I’ll be hosting at their hotel! Dates are set for November 2017!! Click here to read the details and hopefully join us.
I hope you guys enjoy the photos. Videos coming soon. xo