It’s time to return to the natural medicine metropolis that is Ubud. I’m feeling more grounded and ready to explore classes, events, and connection, so Ubud is the place to be for this. I’m also really yearning for some superfood smoothie action, it’s a bit like when the English go abroad and want their fish and chips, well I just want my familiar spirulina and maca smoothie for breakfast. And Ubud has A LOT of vegan, raw, superfood restaurants to choose from.
I’m surprised to find that The Grand Sunti in Ubud is cheaper than the original Ubud home stay I booked through air b&b. (Which by the way if you read the first blog of this trip‘At The Gates To Bali‘ you’ll be please to know air b&b gave me a full refund) This hotel which is located at the south end of the city has a pool, beautiful garden, yoga shala and spa AND it’s really very decent in price. So I’m in. I arrive and get grounded, enjoying these facilities and then have fun going to the supermarket in Ubud and pretending I live here. I decide I’m going to get a scooter lesson and join the scooter crowd. I also get a new hair cut. A opt for a no 3 cut out on one side. Cliche I know but at least I hold myself back from the full head no 1, even though I feel the urge.
The next day i join a herb walk tour guided by Nadi Herbal, which leaves from outside the Puri Lukesan (art museum next to the Saraswati Temple) at 830am every morning. Nadi Herbal have a wonderful shop downtown selling very similar things to my own business back home, Indigo Herbs. The herb walk is lovely, we are a small group of four with Elik our female guide. She shows us the indigenous medicinal plants growing in the rice fields just outside Ubud. Including coconut, moringa, gota kola, turmeric, long pepper, ylang ylang, and more.
It’s a lovely morning with good connections, ample fresh coconut juice and I treat myself to a bottle of organic frangipani essential oil from the Nadi Herbal shop where we finish our walk, which is quite frankly my go to heaven aroma. We are served a delicious herbal tea of lemongrass, ginger, star anise, cardamom, gotukola and cinnamon.
However I’m feeling really homesick, for the first time today, it just comes over me. I want a day off being really out there. Ketut Jaya, my Balinese healer friend invites me over and its just what i need really. A visit to his lovely homestead. In the afternoon we chat but Ketut is busy really so I chill out with the dogs and his mum. She’s 85 and has dementia, but I just hang out with her a bit on the central Bale, and she talks away in Balinese and I plait her hair, we take selfies and i show her pics of all my family. It warms my heart right up and its just a normal thing that brings me back down to earth.
Ketut invites me to go to a Balinese ceremony at the local temple with him in the evening so as i’m in a go with the flow mood i agree. However first I must dress in traditional Balinese temple dress, so i ask his eldest daughter Wayan to help me look proper. I feel utterly lush in these clothes i borrow. Wayan works on it and gets the look and photos just right.
Turns out it’s actually going to be a temple ‘crawl’, so to speak, starting at the house temple, then going down to the big event at the village temple, then onto a special temple location.
Going to this temple ceremony stirred up many feelings for me. Firstly it was beyond beautiful with endless flower offerings, dedicated and decorated altars of marigolds flowers, yellow umbrellas, so many silks and satin textiles, and the temple and people just looking so exquisite. Really dressed for God and Goddess. The woman, lace blouse, best sarong, temple sash, flowers in their hair, black hair beautifully turned into twist and gleaming. The man, all in white with white head turban. Secondly I was the only westerner. Just me. I felt so aware of people looking at me, were they perceiving me invade upon their community? I felt the necessity to be super respectful and just hold myself sovereign in my heart and space.
The ceremony of prayers is just beautiful, flowers and incense, to God, Goddess, spirits of the temple, forgiveness for all beings, mother earth, giving thanks. People arriving to conduct their personal prayers in their own time but all the same prayer ceremony. Such beauty. Four woman directly in front, one with a baby so excited to give him his blessings, rice to the forehead and heart. So different yet so familiar.
Then across the road to the temple theatre where a large golden Dragon was preparing to dance. The play is the story of God protecting the people from evil or black magic played out with elaborate costume and dance. Here men and women sit separately, again as respect I tell Ketut I’m going to sit with the women, so over I go. I ask to sit where there is a space (so English asking for permission) and soon I am sitting with Made (pronounced Madi) and her sisters. So welcoming, where are you from, how come you are here, what is your name, how many children do you have, then before long all the family pictures are being shared with me on smart phone, lots of blessings and Om Swastiastu (Blessings on you) for my trip in Bali. We even do video call with her aunty in hospital! Ketut signals to dig me out of there and I give all my love and Suksma (thankyou) and off we go.
Ketut explains to me that all Balian, (Balinese healers) primary connection is from Ratu Gede. Ok what is this? Ratu Gede is Great Mother Goddess. And so we now go to a special temple to Her. This temple is very small next to woodland and a primary school. What can I say? This is the best temple I’ve been to yet on the whole trip, its so tucked away, unassuming. It remains me of home, back in the southwest of England, connecting with standing stones and the Goddess of the land. I really like this spot and I wholeheartedly meet the great mother goddess here. I give thanks that i really found her on the day i was missing home, seems perfect somehow. Ketut has called at the shop to buy offerings and all they have is crisps and chocolate cake bars so he buys these to leave at her shrine. I find this utterly hilarious somehow, ok I find the great mother goddess earth energy spot in Bali and it’s pulsing and so what do we do? We leave her a packet of crisps, yep you couldn’t make it up.
The next day i have a scooter lesson booked for 7am! Well I’ve never ridden a scooter before and Ubud is crazy traffic so my inner parent got this sorted for my wild maiden self. My instructor turns up and we do 2 hours practice, first on the football field, then on small lanes, then on big roads with traffic. It’s such fun and I get it pretty quickly but it’s good to really feel safe, in control AND wild and free.
We stop off at a Luwak coffee farm for a break, and it’s a lovely spot. They bring a free tea and coffee tasting tray out which is pretty cool, with things like saffron and tamarind tea, and ginger coffee, very nice on first impressions.
BUT I’m not cool about the Luwak thing at all and it reminds me of a similar experience we had the day before on the herbal walk. So Luwaks are a bit like beavers and they eat the coffee beans then poo them out and this is the way the beans are fermented in the Luwaks digestive system basically, then the beans are de-husked, roasted, ground etc. But its not really OK because the Luwak are basically stuck in cages and used for the production of the coffee. Its really inhumane. They are often prisoners in a cafe enviroment too, where their teeth are cut so they dont bite tourists and they are stuck on a high stand for photo opportunity. They look incredibly distressed in these conditions and its not acceptable. The world animal protection are active on this so find out more here
It’s scorchio when i get back to the hotel so I lounge by the pool for the rest of the day eating my supermarket mango and avocado, doing meditation, aqua yoga and floating. In the evening I decide I’m going to go out and explore a ‘concious’ party put on by Ubud Events. It’s a cacao ceremony, with DJ for ecstatic dance, ending in the beautiful vocal sounds from Sundari, (alcohol, drug and smoke free of course). It’s venue is New Earth Haven 20 minutes outside of Ubud. The venue just is a total ode to beauty, this is it with Bali, it’s just so lush, green, full of flowers, and soft soft energy, and you think you saw the most beautiful thing then you are totally blown away again as the heights are just scaled. New Earth Haven is a master bamboo eco-building in a organic flowing design with exquisite details. Decorated with Hindu statues and offerings but with a contempory theme. There are flower petals lining the path each side, fresh ones! And a golden, pink sunset to frame this heaven on earth.
We have a fair amount of cacao ceremony culture back in Glastonbury UK, (My home town) and the idea is that hot chocolate made from the raw cacao bean, with sometimes just hot water, or maybe coconut milk is drank together as a sacrament to open the heart and bring about merriment, vitality and maybe healing. Its often combined with dance for this reason as it really brings your awareness into the body and makes you relax muscle tension. These actions are all because of its phytochemical profile, with the active constituent theobromine being stimulating to blood circulation and Ananide being stimulating to production of happy brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin.
However in the case of cacao ceremonies back home, the best case scenario is that the circle is well held by the person serving up the cacao. Well the cacao drink at New Earth Haven is delicious, the enviroment stunning, and i relax and connect with a couple of lovely shakti yoga teachers from Austria who are holding two different retreats out in Bali over the next 6 weeks, and then in Glastonbury in September so we make a great connection and I offer to show them all the sacred spots of Avalon. However the style of ‘ceremony’ is not really for me, it’s a bit too lacking in boundaries and form, and a bit too over sharing, and a bit forced, for me. So I enjoy delicious food and surroundings at the New Earth Haven bar instead.
The next day i wake up and I am super emotional. I just have strong feelings tumbling through me like waves. A trip like this is such a zone for transformation and that comes with feeling the feelings one might ordinary avoid. So I totally spontaneously decide at 7am to hire a taxi to take me to the famous Ulawatu on the south west tip of Bali. I’ve heard there are crazy waves there and this is the surfers paradise hang out, and I know I just need wide expansive spaces, big waves and perspective to help me process what came up on my beach this morning. It’s a right drag in a taxi from Ubud, over an hour, and my first stop at the famous Ulawatu temple, Pura Luhur Ulawatu, just plain doesn’t do it for me. Total Nada, so I ask my driver to take me on to Ulawatu beach. This is the spot and i just sit and drink Balinese coffee and look out at this view for a couple of hours and become the water and waves, without thoughts. The ocean weaves its magic and im bigger than my little self again and feel the pattern of my life fitting into its place. I attempt to freeze frame this perspective in my memory bank to get out at any time when i need it.
The sheer cliffs are populated by lots of steep stone steps and little warungs with a few trendy restaurants, but it’s all about picking your vantage point to take in this vast expansive view and watch the big waves and surfers dance about together in the big blue. Highly recommended.
So for the last nine days of my ‘time out of ordinary life’ I’m going to attend a retreat, running here in Ubud at Under the Banyan Tree. This nine day immersion is dedicated to the vedic Goddess Durga, she who removes pain and suffering. Durga represents the archetype of motherhood, strength, courage, bravery, she who protects the people who follow universal values, she is a leader & mentor. We will be doing yoga, pranayama, Puja and ceremonies to honour the rites of passage in woman’s lives. We will also be doing women’s health through Ayurvedic medicine. This retreat just called out to me as a perfect way to complete my journey, in a sisterhood circle. I’m very excited and there is a long list of ‘sacreds’ to bring, such as crystals, herbs, feathers, photos of ancestors etc, most of which I have back at home, which is a shame. But I do have my travel altar, so this will be my medicine bag for the ceremonies.
May all the beings in all the world’s find meaning and purpose in their lives.