I sleep in, past the preparation of breakfast, and find a plate neatly wrapped and still warm waiting for my consumption. There is a traditional Balinese thin pancake under a steel platter cover with local honey. My host assists in arranging a motorbike ride for me to head into town to explore; as I walk through the compound to meet my chauffeur at the gate I am sanctified in the daylight by the sights of noni and other exotic fruit trees, a lush pool, an open aired yoga and lounge studio with fat pillows and Balinese wood furniture, private bungalows with floor length windows, bamboo and Hindu décor.
In town I fall in love again. Ubud is a yogi’s paradise, a town of studios, healing centers, vegan cafes, colorful temples, elaborate altars and statues, exotic flora, like-minded folk. I am home. I feel the dejavu crawl up my spine, an energy similar to a kundalini awakening. I want to cry tears of joy for a portion of my soul has returned to its rightful place.
I sit at Buddha Café, a restaurant that offers raw cuisine as well the most comprehensive list of blended beverages, fresh juices, tonics, nut milks, vegan hot drinks, kombucha. I could sit all afternoon under the bamboo covering, loafing on the purple pillows, eating cashew pate. Conversations of fellow diners include “his energy wasn’t right for you at this time…the spirit of your business is beautiful…yoga at the barn at 6 pm…there is a woman’s healing circle tomorrow…” There is an adjoined store selling bulk health foods and herbal remedies as well as organic baked goods with a large community board in the front.
Along the main road I duck into a fruit market where I sample yet another arbitrary local item called snake fruit. Serpents and I are apparently now good friends. The Balinese produce has a scaly and thin covering identical to snake skin, which when peeled reveals a hard and slightly waxy center with a few black pits. I cannot compare the taste to anything familiar although I can say that it is delicious.
The girls at the counter laugh at my pleasure and educate me about many other indigenous delights…soursop, rambutan, custard-apple, makiza, logan, kefir lime, more durian.
I continue perusing the tiny streets of Ubud, my head floating happily in the clouds before I hear a call “Sarah!” It is none other than my sister from NYC who is visiting Ubud for a few days. I knew she was in Bali and seamlessly we crossed each others path with no effort at all. The vibration is perfect.
I jump on the back of her motorbike and we cruise along with a friend, passing yet another sister (a friend from Thailand). Goddess circle of light on galactic motorbikes. We ride to a place to fetch my sister’s backpack before arriving at the home of a French jam maker, an abode with gardens and open bungalows for slumber. It is Eden with a sexy accent. The mezuzahs on the wall make me tear up for some reason I feel called to celebrate Passover this year, even more blissfully along with Ganesha and Shiva. (My aunt in NYC kindly reminded me via email only a day ago about this holiday and I was certain that an opportunity would present itself and synchronistically, perfectly, it did.) I am invited to a weekly Shabbat dinner as well as one for Passover at a local family in Ubud. Jewish traditions can flourish here despite being in the sea of Islamic Indonesia. Gratitude.
The streets of Ubud are filled with parades of men and women, some carrying ornate altar offering of fruit, flowers, and sweets on their heads, others playing traditional gongs, xylophone-esque things made of bamboo, cymbals. It is a gamelan, a native Balinese ensemble of instruments. The women are wearing stunning printed long skirts and lace tops tied with shiny sashes around their waists, the men with cotton head wrappings, rice bindis, and ankle length longis. The preparation for Nyepi is in full swing, the Balinese New Year. It is the holiest of holidays and I am so appreciative of being present.
Three days before Nyepi is Melasti, a day dedicated to cleansing with the intention of becoming closer to the all. The ceremony aims to connect amerta (the source of eternal life) from the water. All the statues of the Gods from all the village temples are taken to the river in long and colorful ceremonies where they are bathed by the Neptune of the Balinese Lord, the God Baruna, before being taken back home to their shrines. Today is this celebration and all are actively participating. My NYC sister and I watch a traditional performance of dance and music, gazing at those parading down the street concurrently, before sharing a delish vegan dinner at another restaurant with zen-like elegance.