Posted on July 9, 2014 at 6:00 am
I may have fallen asleep, although I didn’t mean to. The light breeze from the ceiling fan cooled my skin as massaging hands kneaded away at the muscles underneath, the sweet scent of frangipani, soft trickling of a nearby waterfall, then…a rooster. I opened my eyes, focusing on the perfectly manicured toes of the Balinese masseuse, not to end a dream, but to wake up in one…
Our trip to Bali didn’t specifically include plans for a singing bowl massage. It wasn’t on the menu of the small spa my sister-in-law and I frequented near our hotel in Ubud during the first few days of the trip. Massage was a nice way to deal with jet lag from the 24 hour flight, and you couldn’t beat the price. A one hour massage was less than 10 US dollars, and the massage was a good one!
The second half of our trip found us along the coast in Nusa Dua, a touristy area with lots of all-inclusive resorts. While nice, the area wasn’t as friendly to exploring on foot as the inland Ubud area. When there were sidewalks, they were uneven cobblestone, and very narrow, leaving only inches between you and the speedy Vespas, often carrying 3 people, whizzing by. Discovering this area through the downloaded travel guide on my Kindle seemed a little easier than it might otherwise have been.
Bali is a travel destination, but we were well aware that Indonesia is still a developing third world county. The Balinese continue to be troubled over the 2002 terrorist bombings that happened in Kuta. They still talk about it as if it happened yesterday. In Nusa Dua, our taxi was scanned for bombs every time we returned to the hotel. Our goal was to experience the culture and not be limited to only tourist attractions, so we had to be smart. Before the trip, we did our homework to learn the dos and don’ts and I used the library’s resources to prepare. As “travel light” was the recommendation, I didn’t want to carry books and maps, so my Kindle was loaded with resources and travel guides from our Digital Library.
Five days into our stay, we had already seen countless temples (easy to do in Bali), sat front row at a Barong dance, watched young women in a textile factory make Batik by hand, talked with woodcarvers who sat on dirt floors creating masterpieces every day, tasted Luwak coffee (yes, the Luwak digests the coffee beans first, ew), marveled at the terraced rice paddies and even had dinner on the rim of a volcano. It was during a brief respite in our air-conditioned hotel room that the Periplus Adventure Guide to Bali on my Kindle proved to be invaluable. I discovered Jari Menari, just down the street from the hotel, and on the menu… a Serenading Singing Bowl massage. The Adventure Guide said they would even provide free transportation to and from the hotel. My sister-in-law got excited, and being one to always want to try something new, I agreed to give it a whirl. I called to see if we could get in, an interesting experience in itself since I only know two words of Indonesian, and the gentleman on the other end of the line spoke just enough English to understand that I wanted to make an appointment. We were scheduled for the next day.
Jari Menari did not miss a detail. All the modern conveniences were there, but somehow they intertwined with the natural elements of a tropical island so perfectly that this oasis seemed to propel me into a different world. As soon as I stepped inside the door I could feel a change in my energy—I sensed that I was about to experience something special.
Thick, fluffy robes and flip-flops were provided. Pebbled walkways led to individual open-air massage rooms that overlooked a pond. All the practitioners are male and well-trained. Just as every knotted muscle was massaged and relaxed, the large Tibetan Singing Bowl was brought out.
Since our trip, I’ve taken a greater interest in learning more about Indonesia. I discovered an older book, Ring of Fire—An Indonesian Odyssey by Lawrence Blair. It chronicles the 10 years the author and his brother traveled and filmed in Indonesia during the 1970s. PBS ran the Ring of Fire series in the 1990s. After reading the book, I had a great desire to see the series, and was able to get a copy though our interlibrary loan program. The quality of the video isn’t the HD standards of today, but it shows how much Indonesia has changed in the past 30 years.
Part of me doesn’t want to tell anyone about Bali. I wish it was a secret that I could keep only to myself, as I don’t want it to change. But with a population of more than 4 million on a 2200 square mile island, it’s far too late to be thinking that way, especially as it has been promoted for tourism since the 1930s. It’s only been in the last couple of decades that the speed of change and technology has come to the island. Wherever we went it seemed that everyone had a cell phone, yet their daily lives are often still consumed with preparing offerings to please the gods. Where there are curbs along the streets, they are painted an alternating pattern of black and white to signify balance. My hope for the people of Bali is to find and maintain that delicate balance for themselves.
…A brief pause of quiet shuffling, then the weight of the Tibetan Singing Bowl, first on the soles of my feet, then on the small of my back. In this highly meditative state, the mallet tap on the bowl’s rim echoed vibrations through every inch of my being. I felt calm. I was balanced.
The two words of Indonesian I know…Terima kasih (Thank you).