Many travelers claim that the spirit of Bali has the power to seep into your unconscious mind and radically change your thoughts, beliefs, and actions. If you are capable of finding a sense of awe in watching colored puffs of incense rise from small flower offerings and centuries-old Balinese temples scattered throughout stunning natural settings, then no other place on this planet is more ideal for you than Bali. There is a good chance that if you visit these places in Bali, you may go back home as a better person.
The Holy Waters of Gunung Kawi Sebatu – Ubud
This temple is unique and infrequently visited. Lush and scenic, it is perched upon a forested hillside drawing water from holy mountain spring-fed water sources. It was embellished with statues, ornamental fish ponds, water shrines, and bathing spots around the temple complex. You can think of the Gunung Kawi Sebatu temple as one of the finest tranquil and soothing retreats that stands far away from the busy streets and the bustle of Ubud. From here, go to the Pura Dalem Pingit, which is revered as a purification spot among the Balinese Hindus.
Pyramids in Sea – Semeti Beach
The test of this place is that to reach the vantage point for a phenomenal view, you will have to cross an extremely rough and rocky path on Semeti Beach. The stones on this beach share an uncanny resemblance with the crystal box in planet Krypton. But after you reach there, you will be able to see pyramid-like rocks rooted in the sea and crossing these towards your vantage point will call on a lot of your conviction and perseverance.
Bali Spirit Festival – Ubud
This is an annual event taking place in March. Yoga practitioners and instructors from Bali and all around the world, artists, dancers and musicians performing colorful concerts gather for this event. Participate in yoga workshops, Dharma Fairs that have health bazaars and organic food stalls. The stage acts as the center of attraction and many world musicians keep up the vibe of the celebrations throughout the day.
An Almost Private Island – Gili
Some of the Gili Islands are so isolated that they will feel like your own private island! So, if you’re looking for a place to self-exploration and retrospect whilst island-hopping in Lombok, then the white sandy shores of the Gilis are made for you. Here, you can sunbathe, swim, snorkel or even explore the marine life around the breathtaking coral reefs.
Magic Tree in Trunyan Village – Kintamani
This is an ancient and remote village on a Balinese lakeside which is known for odd burial rites and a magic tree. The magic tree, locally known as Taru Menyan, grows in this village’s open-burial cemetery and releases a strongly fragrant resin which interestingly neutralizes the odors coming from the decomposing dead bodies. The silence of this remote area coupled with the chilling sight of graveyard skulls and bones will most likely unnerve you, but your close encounter with the ancient and upheld traditions of this place will teach you to be accepting.
Battles of Tenganan Pegringsingan – Candidasa
The old Balinese village is only a 15-minutes north of Jalan Raya Candidasa road. The age-old tradition of the Perang Pandan ‘battles’ is a highlight event of this place and is unique to only this village. This ritual is actually dedicated to the Hindu Mythology god of war and sky, Indra. The battles entail friendly duels between male villagers who are each armed with a rattan shield and a tied packet of the thorny pandan leaves. This ritual highlights their sportsman’s spirit and comradeship.
The Twin and Spiritual Gitgit Waterfalls – North Bali
Gitgit is Bali’s most popular waterfall that is both a beautiful natural attraction and an important spiritual destination for visitors. You will be able to reach its base after a few minutes trek by foot, after which you can enjoy the tall twin spouts that constantly crash into a rocky pool. For spiritual travelers, another bonus waterfall awaits near Gitgit that can be reached via forested pathways adorned with cacao trees, called the Jembong waterfall, which is considered to be a place for spiritual purifications and healing.
There are a lot of unexplored and unconventional places in Bali that have a completely different energy than the regular tourist places. So, coming here and exploring something that may not be on your regular itinerary can make you see things, think of them and feel their significance like you have never done before.
~ By guest blogger, Palak Narula. Palak is a full-time travel writer who visited Bali in 2017. She lives for good conversations, holistic experiences and the beauty of words. Follow her on Instagram @Wordbeatle
To book a personalized sustainable individual or group trip to Bali with a focus on spirituality, yoga or volunteering, contact us.
I first discovered NOVICA a few months ago while researching for an article I wrote for CNN. A partnership with National Geographic, NOVICA is a online shopping portal that connects buyers with artists all around the world. The basic philosophy is that you don’t need to purchase fake souvenir items and haul them back in your luggage when you travel. Instead, go to the website and order genuine handmade pieces directly from the creator and get them delivered right to your door. This provide artists another outlet to market their products at non binding, fair trade prices.
When I was in Bali for Go Eat Give’s Yoga Retreat this September, NOVICA’s local staff offered to meet our group for dinner and invited one of their local artists to join. We met at Baleudang, a beautiful restaurant near Ubud, that has floating dining huts known as bale. We sat on mats with our legs dangling over the large pond of coy fish, as the evening breeze lingered around us.
At the head of the table was an elderly man dressed in traditional Balinese attire of a sarong, shirt and head tie. He had a big toothless smile beaming from under his grey mustache. We exchanged pleasantries through a translator, as he didn’t speak any English.
This was Mr. Nyoman Lentong, a 95-years old antique bamboo flute maker. Born in a highland village of Bali in 1920, Lentong use to operate a warung (casual restaurant) along with his wife for most of his professional life. It wasn’t until 1971, that he got interested in crafting bamboo flutes with traditional paintings. Designing antique bamboo flutes painted in traditional styles allowed him to merge his passion for painting and music.
The bamboo flute has special characteristics that have been commonly used by Balinese musicians to express artistic feelings through melodious flute music. Its sound is soft but sharp, that touches our ear and heart. In olden times, most Balinese men played flutes as a way of attracting women. The Balinese named this flute suling, or seruling. Lentong picks up a dozen of so flutes in all sizes and lays them on the table in front of me. He hands me one and raises another one to his lips, gesturing me to follow his league. We begin to move our fingers and blow into the flute. While Lentong’s flute produces a gentle melodious sound, mine makes what sounds like intermittent blow horn noises. I can barely manage to keep up with Lentong’s stamina, as I gasp for frequent breaths of air. It is amazing to see how at 95, he can manage to play the flute beautifully for long periods of time.
Our dinner arrives. A large variety of plates including honey grilled prawns, deep fried carp, corn fritters, sautéed bean sprouts, water spinach, sambal, fried tofu, rice and much more. As we dig in, Lentong is the first one to notice that I am unable to open my water bottle and immediately asks the person sitting next to him to help me. At his age, he is more alert than a hawk.
We continue to discuss his flutes with the help of a translator. He points me to the carvings he has made by hand, depicting Balinese symbols, such as geckos, snakes and goddesses. At first, they looks like drawings made with a black pencil, but on closer look you can see that he has actually carved each design with a sharp knife and then added burnt coconut ash to give it the black coloring. The designs are so intricate, they require perfect vision and a stable hand, both of which Lentong is blessed with. Unfortunately, he is the only one on the island who knows this art and his children took no interest in learning it. After him, there won’t be anyone left to carry on this legendary craft.
It takes Lentong about two weeks to make each flute. He sells about half of them in local stores, and the other half online through NOVICA’s website. I couldn’t help but get one of his flutes, not only for their artistic beauty, but for the inspiration Lentong gave me. He is living his passion, creating what he loves, and age is not going to stop him.
Lentong signs his work as “Pan Nasib, Sangeh,” as he is known in his village. Pan means father of and Nasib is the name of his son. Sangeh is the name of the village where he lives.
As you begin to stock your pantries with chocolates and candies, pay attention to the list of ingredients listed on the package. Depending on the brand and quality of chocolate, it may be a product that is harmful to your own health, as well as to the environment and wildlife.
However, there is a chocolate brand that we like, as it surpasses all expectations of quality ingredients, refined taste, and global standards. Nuubia is a new ethical chocolate shop based in San Francisco that goes far beyond many other brands.
Hand Crafted and Environmentally Friendly
Nuubia hand-makes specialty confections from humanely sourced ingredients, without using either palm oil or GMOs. Founder, Alexandra Saunders, was born in Java, Indonesia, and has dedicated to life to conservation (cultivating palms for their oil is highly destructive of the environment so Nuubia has found a way to make ganache without the use of palm oil). Just a few weeks ago, Alexandra Saunders was an Honoree at Pongo Environmental Awards.
Nuubia is the first chocolatier to not only refuse to use palm oil but to ensure that what they make has no negative impact on the rainforests of the world. The company is also working to launch the Chocolate Wildlife Project which provides farmers with a viable source of income. For example, Nuubia purchases its ethical chocolate and ingredients directly from farmers who learn to produce sustainable, habitat-friendly crops.
With Indonesia being the world’s 3rd largest exporter of palm oil, the production of palm oil has devastated the natural habitats of the animals and orangutans that inhabit the area. Founder, Alexandra Saunders, took a personal interest in orangutan conservation when she lived in Indonesia and studied them in graduate school at UC Berkeley. It was through this passion that Nuubia created the Chocolate Wildlife Project, which provides small farmers living on the edges of the Orangutan habitat with a viable source of income to abstain from destructive farming practices.
The Delicious Products
Some standout ethical chocolates from Nuubia include fresh-squeezed lime juice with vanilla bonbons, Caramelized Hazelnut Spread Sauce, that can rival just about any Nutella out there, and finally Johnny Walker Black Espresso Ganache Half Spheres! So when a box of chocolates is under the tree, you know that no orangutans were harmed to make your chocolate and that your treat can be enjoyed guilt-free.
Not to mention the OMG Candy Bar was awarded “Best Foods in the U.S.” by Esquire Magazine. Layers of hazelnut praline, sea salt caramel, rice crisps, and dark chocolate come together in harmony to create the perfect mood-altering balance. The chocolatier at Nuubia is Lionel Clement in 2011 he was named Chocolatier of the Year by Pastry Live.
Nuubia also offers a heart-shaped chocolate special (for pick up only), filled with more chocolate bonbons. This is the ultimate sweetheart gift for any special occasion.
Connect with Nuubia Today
In February 2015, Nuubia San Francisco opened its first flagship retail space in the newly built “Market on Market” inside the Twitter building, bringing fine chocolates, confections, natural spreads, macarons, handcrafted ice creams and seasonal specials to the city. Either take a selection of these handmade items home or stay and enjoy a chocolaty treat with freshly brewed latte in-store while sitting at Nuubia’s Chocolate Counter. The chocolates can be purchased directly from their instore location or ordered online. When ordered online they arrive very well packed with an ice pack and delivered within a couple of days directly from the store.
Do you know the difference between ecotourism, sustainable travel, responsible travel, and volunteer vacationing? While there is a lot of overlap with each of these terms, they all have one common theme – that is to improve lives through travel and tourism.
On a recent Yoga Retreat in Bali, Indonesia through international nonprofit, Go Eat Give, I experienced an all-encompassing, meaningful venture into sustainable tourism, where we actually supported the community we visited in many different ways, perhaps without even realizing it.
Sustainable Tourism, A Stay Off of the Beaten Path
Most visitors to Bali either head to the beach resorts of Kuta, or the hippie city center of Ubud. Our accommodations were at Puri Gangga Resort and Spa, a 4-star 20-bedroom property located in the highland village of Sebatu (about 30 minutes from downtown Ubud) in East Bali. Enclosed by rice paddies and forests, the resort was a peaceful oasis overlooking Gunung Kawi Sebatu, a tranquil temple with gardens, and ponds full of blooming lotuses and enormous carps.
The resort was small, yet charming. It blended well with the peaceful environment and embodied nature into everyday living. From the fishpond at the reception, the stone pathways leading to the rooms, to the open-air restaurant, I always felt the presence of life surrounding me. Even my luxurious villa had thatched roofs that naturally repelled mosquitos and furniture made of Indonesian teak wood. My bathroom was huge, boasting great views of the surrounding paddies, and had a partially open roof in the shower. When it rained, the water just drained off into the rocks and plants around my toilet. I felt I had the luxury of indoor plumbing, set in an all-natural ambiance.
Each morning I woke up at the crack of dawn to the sounds of birds chirping and roosters crowing. I walked alongside the infinity pool in the morning mist of the forest, to attend my yoga class. At 7 am, a few early risers gathered in a spacious room with open windows facing east on one side, and west on the other. This week, we practiced meditation and graceful poses, using The Warrior of Light by Paulo Coelho as a spiritual guide.
A relaxed yoga session was followed by breakfast at the resort’s restaurant, Kailasha, with a bird’s eye view of the temple below. This sustainable tourism location features a 3-course breakfast service that included a plate of fresh-cut tropical fruits, Indonesian coffee or tea, and tropical juices squeezed to order. A woven basket full of assorted baked bread, arrived with pineapple and strawberry jams made on-premise. Options for Western and Balinese style breakfasts were presented – coconut pisang rai (steamed bananas), Martabak sayur (savory stuffed pancake), Nasi Goreng (fried rice), Dadar Gulung (sweet coconut pancake), or eggs and toast. Like most Balinese families, the restaurant bought all the ingredients very early in the morning, many of which were picked from the adjacent farms.
I returned to Kailasha restaurant for dinner a few times and enjoyed healthy, fresh, and delicious local flavors. Baby spinach dressed with sunflower sprout and tossed in virgin coconut oil was the perfect Nature Healing Salad, while the main course, Balinese Tipat Cantok – rice cakes with steamed beans, carrots, bean sprouts, and peanut sauce, made for the most scrumptious vegetarian treat.
My intention of living in the village was not only to decompress but also to experience the authentic life in Bali. At the resort I stayed in, there were activities designed to do just that. Puri Gangga offers a “Living in Culture” package that includes accommodations with daily yoga, afternoon tea, massages, and several cultural activities.
Some of the evenings, young Balinese dancers and Gamelan players would be invited from the village to perform for the guests at the resort. Watching talented girls of 8-10 years of age up close, dressed in their colorful costumes, and synchronizing their eyeballs with the music, was simply mesmerizing. I looked around and noticed the reaction of all the other spectators – fixated on their camera lenses, wanting to capture every single moment of this special treat.
I learned to make Balinese Canang Sari, an offering where we weaved palm leaves and decorate the square-shaped plate with bowls. It took me almost an hour to make one, and every Hindu household on the island makes 20-50 of these each day! While walking around the streets, you will see these offerings left at the doorsteps of businesses and homes after being blessed at the temples.
Visiting With the Locals
During the village tour, I visited the workshops and homes of local artists. Everyone I came across was busy working on some craft they had honed – be it sculpting stone statues, decorating wooden carvings, painting wicker boxes, or weaving baskets. Many of the products looked familiar, as I had seen them in the markets. It’s hard to conceptualize the time and labor behind the knick-knacks we pick up as souvenirs and understand that someone’s livelihood may be entirely dependent on our purchase.
Everyone who worked at this resort was a member of Sebatu village, so my dollars spent remained mostly in the area. I visited the homes of a hotel’s staff – a petite girl in her early 20’s who taught yoga, led people on tours, and conducted cultural lessons. She lived with 50 of her family members in a compound where she had a little house of two rooms. Her parents slept in the kitchen, while she had a tiny windowless room to herself. When one of my friends gave her a generous tip of $100, she was super excited and narrated how she would purchase books for her younger sister, give some money to her mother, put some aside, as well as help with the temple maintenance. Imagine what a 21-year old in the western world would do with $100 in cash!
There is no better addition to a venture into sustainable tourism than to be taught first hand by a local! During my visit, I signed up for a Balinese cooking class at Paon Bali Cooking School, where aunty Puspa and her husband, Wayan run an enterprise out of their home in another nearby village. He picks up the guests, shows them around the rice paddies, and brings them to their home, where Puspa teaches visitors how to cook 10 Balinese dishes in one session!
Over the years, through the growth of their business, they have been able to employ many of their relatives and neighbors, who would otherwise be selling art on the streets for pennies. Here they get to walk to work, eat whatever they want, and have fun teaching tourists about their native cuisine.
Batik is an ancient art form made with wax resistant dye on fabrics. Batik in Indonesia is perhaps the best known and an important part of their heritage. I decided to take a lesson in Batik at the home studio of a local artist, Widya where I spent about 5-6 hours learning the art from start to finish. I started with a blank piece of white cloth, stenciled a design with a pencil, and then drew it out with wax using a spouted tool called a canting. I wax stamped the borders of the cloth, while one of Widya’s many assistants, who are also excellent artists, help me correct my errors.
They showed me my selection of all-natural colors to fill in between the wax. The cloth is then dried in the sun, boiled in hot water to remove the wax, and air-dried again. While I worked diligently to create a masterpiece, Widya’s wife took my lunch order and ran off to the kitchen to cook Gado-Gado (a traditional dish of cabbage, green beans, and peanut sauce) and served it with fresh watermelon juice. It takes a lot of patience, good vision, and a steady hand to create these pieces, and I was nowhere close to being able to fetch a price for my work! Widya sells his work to shops and galleries around the world. It can take him a week or a month to make a single wall hanging, depending on the intricacy of its design. Like Puspa, he has created a small business at his home to sustain other artists who don’t always get the fame they deserve.
Volunteering in the Community
Lastly, on this sustainable tourism journey, I spent some time learning about poverty in Bali’s villages and how it has impacted the children. I met with the staff of Bali Children’s Project (BCP) and learned that many of the families are so poor, that the parents unable to sustain, end up committing suicide. Young kids are left to fend for themselves and end up working on the streets selling cheap souvenirs. I also saw some of their living conditions where a family of 4-5 would sleep in one dingy dark room on a torn mattress with dirty coverings. BCP has enrolled 300 kids to attend school through a sponsorship program, but that is only a fraction of the kids in Bali who need help.
I visited some of the schools where BCP sponsored kids are studying. We spend time doing arts and crafts with third graders. They took to me instantly, calling my name and teaching me words in Balinese. They were eager to show me their work and surrounded me when it came to picture taking the time. Despite their circumstances, these kids were very outgoing – smiling, laughing and eager to know me.
In my short time there, I couldn’t do much except donate some money to purchase beddings and commit to sponsoring two kids till the age of 18. It costs only $40/ month per child, a small sum in comparison to the big difference it can make in the life of a child. By receiving an education, these kids have some chance to break out of the cycle of poverty.
More than Just Memorable
When I think about all the lives that were impacted directly and indirectly because of my 10-day sustainable tourism visit to Bali, I am pleased. I feel I truly became a sustainable traveler, leaving a positive impact on the environment, society, and economy.
Sadly, most children we sponsor do not even have a comfortable bed to sleep in – but that has already started to change thanks to new donations for mattresses.
One of the things that is shockingly apparent when we visit families of sponsored children is their poor sleeping conditions. We’ve teamed up with Go Eat Give to donate 8 new mattresses to needy families in Bali.
When Go Eat Give visited us recently, they asked us what they could do to help give immediate comfort to the children we help. Of course, mattresses was right at the top of our priority list.
With all sponsorship funds going to support children’s education, it is sometimes difficult to provide things that we know families need – such as mattresses.
It’s a sad fact that the majority of children we sponsor don’t even have a suitable bed to sleep on. The families that were previously struggling with school fees simply don’t have the disposable income to afford mattresses.
Mattresses are often old, falling apart or simply thin sheets that are extremely uncomfortable.
A complete set of good quality mattresses, pillows and sheets can cost over $120 – more than most families make in a single month. It really puts it into perspective how much need there is for decent quality beds.
Go Eat Give supporters clubbed together to raise $1,000 USD – which enabled us to buy 8 top quality mattresses for the most needy families on our sponsorship program.
Meanwhile, Tsarina, who recently sponsored Novianti had also asked if she could donate a new mattress to Novianti’s family. Tsarina had been to visit Novianti with our staff and had seen their sleeping conditions first hand.
Our team had the pleasurable job of purchasing and delivering fully equipped mattresses to the delighted families.
We were greeted with huge beaming smiles of families that were so grateful to finally have something comfortable to sleep on. The children were especially excited with the rare gift.
The families of gone from only dreaming of new mattresses, to actually having them.
We are so pleased to be able to provide additional support for families of sponsored children. But we can only do it thanks to the support of kind donors.
Soon we will be launching our Mattress Appeal, which aims to secure many more mattresses for the children we sponsor. Please stay tuned!
If you would like to donate a mattress, please consider giving $120, which will purchase a new mattress, pillows and sheets for a child. We will provide full receipts and photographs of where and who your mattress has been donated to.
Indonesia is a country brimming with sights, shopping, and fabulous food. As a country known for its diverse use of spices, its cuisine is one of the most colorful and vibrant of any in the world. Here is a quick overview of some of the most traditional and popular foods of Indonesia, and some of what you can taste at Go Eat Give Destination Indonesia on March 26th in Atlanta…
1. Gado Gado
Gado Gado is a traditional Indonesian dish suitable for every foodie, including vegetarians. The dish, translated to “mix-mix,” is a blend of various vegetables, tofu, and tempeh in a peanut sauce. It is sometimes served with crispy crackers as a snack, or on its own as a side or entree with rice.
An Indonesian dish the is well known in the West and is similar to a shish kabob. Sate consists of different kinds of meat roasted over coals on bamboo skewers, and is often times paired with a peanut sauce. The meat may include chicken, beef, pork, tofu, and more. Saté originated in Java and was a creation of the Indonesian street vendors, but has spread around Indonesia and to neighboring countries.
3. Kerak Telor
This dish is a crispy Indonesian “frittata” made with sticky rice, shrimp, coconut, shallots, and spices. Duck or eggs are commonly added to the meal based on the customer’s preference. Kerak Telor is one of the most popular street foods in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, and derives from the Betawi culture. The dish also is said to resemble the western omelet though its spice and crispness set it apart.
Rendang originated in Pandang, a city in Sumatra, and is one of the most flavorful and iconic dishes of Indonesia. It is referred to as “West Sumatran caramelized beef curry” by culinary experts and was named the #1 most delicious food in the world by CNN International readers. The dish is made with beef, which is marinated, in a special curry for hours. Rendang can also be served dry as a soft jerky, but this is reserved only for special occasions.
Cendol is a traditional Indonesian dessert drink that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen or tasted before. The base is made up of coconut milk, palm sugar, and shaved ice, and is mixed with various kinds of jelly noodles. The noodles are made out of red beans, rice, or even grass jelly. Iced cendol with durian fruit and chocolate milk is also popular in Indonesia.
6. Bintang Bir Pilsner
If you ever find yourself in Indonesia during a night out, you’re bound to run into someone drinking Bintang Beer. It was introduced to the country by the Heineken brand during the 1930s under the original name Java Bier, and later took on its’ current name in 2006. Bintang means “star” in Indonesian, and the Bintang bottle features a red star that is reminiscent of the classic Heineken bottle. Additionally, the taste of Bintang is said to be very similar to Heineken with its’ malt and hop flavor.
You planned every detail, put aside savings, and waited all year for that two- week vacation abroad. The last thing you want to do is fall sick during your time in the magical new place and not be able to enjoy it.
Unfortunately, our bodies do get sick every so often depending on what we expose ourselves to. In our day-to-day life, we come into contact with co- workers, friends, kids and neighbors who could pass on an infection to us. Travelling intensely magnifies your chance of picking up germs, as you pass by thousands of people at airports, train stations and attractions. Add to that the changes in weather, time, altitude, latitude, sun exposure, air quality, food, water, and sleep patterns and your body becomes a lot less resistant to fighting the cocktails of bugs you may have picked up along the way.
After travelling to almost 50 countries, I still don’t have all the secrets that will prevent you from falling sick. I travel almost every month and do fall ill from time to time. What I have learned through my own pitfalls is that taking certain precautions can help keep you healthy while on the go.
1. Drink lots of water – but not tap water – throughout the trip. Make sure you drink only boiled or bottled water from reliable sources. Keeping hydrated will help you deal with many illnesses caused by heat, humidity and high altitudes.
2. Avoid taking ice in your drinks. Oftentimes, tap water is used for making ice, so be sure to ask the server if the ice is made from filtered water before consuming it. To be safe, drink only pre-packaged sodas, juices or hot beverages. A few weeks ago, I thought I was drinking a vitamin-packed fresh orange juice at a market in Cuenca, Ecuador, but ended up with a stomach flu due to the unfiltered water mixed in with the juice.
3. Carry a surgical face mask when travelling to cities where pollution may be a problem. Properly wash the mask from time to time or use a disposable one. Changes in air quality can cause respiratory problems, sinus and throat infections or even the flu. Not realizing that the valley trapped all the pollutants from motorcycle exhausts, I found that my expectation of breathing clean mountain air in the Himalayas was unmet. The moment I arrived in Kathmandu, I started coughing insatiably and had to run to the pharmacy for medicine.
4. Do yoga, meditation and stretches every morning. Even if you are not used to exercise, you will find that a few minutes of engaging your organs will aid in better digestion and give you more energy to enjoy the rest of the day. If your hotel offers group exercise classes or a gym facility, be sure to take advantage of it.
5. Do not forget to take your vitamins every day just as you would at home. If you take multivitamins, fish oil, B capsules, probiotics or any other supplements, don’t stop just because you are on vacation. My chiropractor swears that if you take 1000 mg of Vitamin C and 3 to 4 tablets of zinc daily, you will never fall sick.
6. Use your judgment before deciding where to eat. Don’t think that just because the restaurant is well-rated it will meet your sanitation requirements. Take a peek into the kitchen to ensure that the floors and counters look clean, there are no flies or insects hanging around, and the chefs are wearing gloves and hairnets for protection. Especially when travelling to third world countries, it’s important to understand that every culture has its own standards of hygiene.
7. Many people may say otherwise, but my advice is to eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables when travelling so long as they are peeled and properly washed. Constipation is the number one complaint that travellers have, so make sure you get your required daily intake of roughages. I love going to the Caribbean as there is always a variety of affordable fresh fruits available.
8. Don’t eat street food. It can be very tempting to eat where the locals eat so you can taste authentic dishes and save money, but try to have self-control. Know that street food is not always bad, but your stomach has not yet acquired the native enzymes to break it down properly. While in Honduras, I gave into temptation and tried Baleadas (wheat taco) prepared by ladies on the wayside and came home with a rare type of Caribbean hook worm.
9. Eating at people’s homes can be a bit trickier. You don’t want to sound like a snobby foreigner and also want to be grateful to your host. Be polite and use your good judgment. In India, it is considered rude to decline food or drink when you are invited into someone’s home. It doesn’t matter whether you are hungry or not, you simply have to accept it.
10. Long flights, strange beds and flat pillows can cause back and neck aches that make a trip less enjoyable. I always take my own Tempur-Pedic pillow with me, even if all I have is a carry-on bag. If you don’t find the bedding comfortable, ask the hotel’s housekeeping staff to bring you a firm pillow, preferably with an anti-allergy pillow cover.
Disclosure: I am not a medical professional and this article is not meant to appear in a medical journal. These tips are based solely on my own personal experience of working as a travel writer and crisscrossing the world every few weeks.
I arrived on the island of Bali, Indonesia, during an auspicious time. Palm trees adorned homes and businesses, colorful offerings for deities sat on doorsteps, and locals, dressed in traditional white garb, carried baskets laden with fruits and flowers. Children played the gamelan, a traditional musical ensemble, and processions taking Barongs (mystical beasts) paraded the streets. Every home and business had its penjor (palm tree) decorated with fruits, coconut leaves and flowers. It looked like a tropical Christmas.
It was the week of Galungan, the most important festival for Balinese Hindus. It marks an occasion to honor the creator of the universe and the spirits of ancestors. The festival symbolizes the victory of good (dharma) over evil (adharma), and encourages the Balinese to show their gratitude to the creator and the saints from their ancestry. During this holy period, people cook special cakes (known as jaja) in pots of clay, visit family members, and pray at multiple temples.
It is easy to get lost in the architectural beauty of over fifty thousand temples in a mere 2,232 square miles. I questioned my host, Sri Ekayanti Ni Wayan (who goes by Eka), why Balinese people felt a need for so many temples. “It is mandatory to have a temple at one’s home, a family temple and a village temple. Every village also has three temples, each dedicated to the Gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Therefore, a Balinese person prays at least three temples daily,” she informed me. They would also visit some of the larger temples during festivals or special occasions.
Eka invited me to her family temple, in the village of Sukawati. The family members, consisting of about 100 people, gathered in the evening to celebrate the temple’s anniversary, which is held every six months. Women are required to cover their legs before entering the tem¬ple; therefore sarongs (similar to the Indian lungi) are available at most public temples. There is a technique for properly tying a sarong with a sash, which Eka had to demonstrate for me, even though I have draped myself in a sari many times before. I was taken through the common grounds of the temple into an inside chamber, where we sat on the floor. Some of the women blessed me with flowers and incense, sprinkled holy water and dotted my forehead with uncooked rice. It was not clear which God we were praying to, as the Balinese Hindus do not practice idol worship. (Different colors identify each God: red for Brahma, black for Vishnu and white for Shiva.) Then we gathered to watch children from the community perform traditional music and dance.
The Balinese temples (called pura) are different from an Indian Hindu temple. An outdoor complex of small buildings leads into a series of gates to reach the interiors of the temples. The Balinese people are associated to a particular temple by virtue of descent, residence, or some mystical revelation of affiliation. Some temples are associated with the family house compound (also called banjar in Bali), others are associated with rice fields, and still others with key geographic sites.
While visitors cannot enter most family temples, there are some well-known temples in Bali that are also major tourist attractions. During my stay in Ubud, the central region of Bali that is nestled among rice paddies and volcanic hills, I visited Pura Tirta Empul. Dating back to 926 AD, the temple has a pool known to have healing powers. Locals take a dip in the sacred waters hoping to purify themselves.
Taman Ayun (“beautiful garden”) is a family temple belonging to the Raja of Mengwi and built in 1634 AD. This is one of the most beautiful temples in Bali, characterized by towering Balinese pagodas (known as Meru) made of odd-numbered black thatched roofs. The temple complex is surrounded by gardens that are packed with locals picnicking with families over the weekends.
My favorite of all was Tanah Lot, rightfully named one of the most photographed temples in Bali. It is lo¬cated on a cliff jutting out into the sea, surrounded by black sand and surfing waves, and makes for a picturesque view especially during sunset. During high tides, the rock looks like a large boat at sea.
The profusion of temples in Bali is not surprising considering almost 85 percent of Bali’s population fol¬lows Hinduism, which is said to have come to Indonesia from India in the fifth century. By the eleventh century, Java and Sumatra were seeing an increase in the popularity of Buddhism, which was eventually replaced by Islam. However, due to geographical barriers, the island of Bali was the only part of Indonesia that remained Hindu, while the rest of the country experienced Muslim conversions.
There are similarities between Balinese Hinduism and that found in India. It follows the belief of rebirth, karma and nirvana, divides the cosmos into three layers (heaven, human and hell), and is deeply embodied in rituals celebrating birth, marriage, death, and everything in between. Balinese Hinduism is deeply interwo¬ven with art and ritual, which is reflected in the various festivals celebrated throughout the year.
Hindu mythological characters and scriptures also inspire Balinese music and dance. Traditional dances depict episodes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and are taught to children early on. At the Sukawati temple celebrations, Eka’s nine-year old daughter and her classmates performed temple dances dressed in one-shoulder gold wrap and peacock-shaped headwear, gesturing with captivating eye and facial expressions. A dance-drama played out the battle between the mythical characters Rangda (a witch representing adharma) and Barong, the protective predator (representing dharma), in which performers fell into a trance and attempt¬ed to stab themselves with sharp knives.
Dance schools around the island run by genera¬tions of artistes hold classes for adults and children who want to practice traditional Balinese dances. For spectators, many local restaurants, temples, and cul¬tural centers offer Balinese folklore performances for a cover charge of about $8-10.
In recent years, Bali has become a major attraction for travelers seeking spirituality through yoga, meditation, healing, and vegetarianism. Many yoga schools, retreat centers, and spas offer a chance to develop spiritual and physical being. Styles of yoga and movement taught in Bali include Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, Yin, Laughter, Power, Anusara, Ashtanga, Silat, Capoeira, Poi, Qi Gong, and Juggling. The annual Bali Spirit Festival gathers world-renowned musicians, yogis, and dancers to illustrate the Balinese Hindu concept of Tri Hita Karana: living in harmony with our spiritual, social, and natural environments. Yoga teacher training, cleansing detox, and meditation retreats are offered to international visitors before and after the festival. Balinese Hindus, unlike a large percentage of other Hindus, are not vegetarian. They eat chicken, fish, and pork. However, there are many juice bars, vegan restaurants, and vegetarian restaurants serving international cuisine in Bali. It is common to overhear tourists from different parts of the world discussing afterlife and spirituality over a lunch of tempeh curry and herbal tea at a café in Ubud.
Coming back to the festival of Galungan, I am lost in the sights and sounds that make up the spectacle of the Dance of the Barong, performed through the streets of Bali during this time. Like in a dragon dance, two people wear a costume as they lead a crowd of followers through the village with much clanging to announce their approach. The Barong, even though frightening to look at because of its fiery eyes and animalistic hair, is meant to restore the balance of good and evil at a Balinese home.
The tenth day, Kuningan, marks the end of Galungan, and is believed to be the day when the spirits ascend back to heaven. On this day, Balinese families get together, make offerings, and pray. Then they have a feast where traditional Balinese dishes such as lawar (a spicy pork and coconut sauce dish) and satay (chicken tenders grilled on bamboo sticks) are served.
While most Western tourists visit Bali for its pristine beaches, dive sites, all-inclusive resorts, and year-round temperate weather, the more unforgettable attractions remain the region’s colorful art, vivid dances, rich culture, and Hindu festivals. Hindu customs in Bali have been preserved over thousands of years and form an integral part of everyday life.
Most populartemples in Bali Pura Besakih – Also known as Mother Temple or the Temple of Spiritual Happiness, this is the most import¬ant temple for Balinese ceremonies.Pura Tanah Lot – The most photographed temple in Bali sits atop a high rock with a backdrop of foamy white waves and black sand.
Pura Luhur Uluwatu – Perched on cliffs against a surf break against the sea, it is spectacular to visit during sunset.
Pura Tirta Empul – Fitted with two holy springs, it is a popular place for the Balinese to bathe for spiritual cleansing.
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan – Situated in beautiful surround¬ings, the temple juts out onto a lake.
Goa Lawah Temple – The 1,000-year-old-cave temple swarms with bats and is one of the most unique temples in the world.
Taman Ayun Temple in Mengwi – Surrounded by beautiful gardens, it is a good place to see the famous Balinese pagodas.
Pura Goa Giri Putri – Nestled inside a mountain cave, the dwelling place of God symbolizes the power of a woman.
Tempeh is a soy based product, similar to tofu, that originated in Indonesia. Traditionally used as an alternate to meat by vegetarians, tempeh has a firm grainy taste that takes some getting use to. It is made from whole soybeans and has different nutritional and textural characteristics from tofu. Tempeh is a rich source of protein, fiber and vitamins. It can be found at health and speciality grocery stores, such as Whole Foods in the US.
Before cooking tempeh, you need to slice it and soak it in salt water or brine for a few minutes. Then use it for any recipe from tempeh pizza, burger, stew, chili, sandwich, stir fry, chips…the possibilities are endless!
Here is a recipe for an Indonesian style deep fried tempeh Go Eat Give volunteers learned to make at the Paon Bali Cooking School in Bali.
Deep Fried Tempeh in Sweet Soy Sauce
2 packets of tempeh
10 red chilies
5 tablespoons Indonesian sweet soy sauce, Kecap Manis
8 cloves of garlic
1 spring of onion
5 kaffir lime leaves
¼ liter coconut oil for frying
Salt and pepper
Slice the tempeh into thin strips. Boil the coconut oil in pan, add the tempeh and deep fry until golden brown then remove and set aside.
Slice the red chilies and remove their seeds. Slice the garlic, shallots, spring onion and red chilies; heat about 3 tablespoons of coconut oil in another pan and sauté then until they are light brown.
Add the deep fried tempeh to the pan of garlic, shallots, spring onions and chili and mix, adding the Kecap Manis and broken kaffir lime leaves. Stir well to coat tempeh in the sauce.
As seen at the Travel and Adventure Show in Dallas!
Gado-Gado is famous green beans dish from the island of Bali, Indonesia. Go Eat Give volunteers learn to make this dish from Aunty Puspa at Paon Bali Cooking School. Generally Gado-Gado is served as a side dish along with other entrees. It is spicy and flavorful. Try it out instead of your green bean casserole this year!
Gado-Gado (Balinese green beans)
For the veggies:
2 cups cabbage, shredded
2 cups string beans (cut into 5 cm)
2 cups bean sprouts
1 packet firm tofu
1 small cucumber
For the sauce:
1 1/2 cups fried peanuts (skin on)
1 inch piece galangal
2 macadamia nuts
2 cloves garlic
1 dry red chili
3 tablespoon Indonesian sweet soy sauce
salt to taste
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoon coconut oil
To make the sauce, first remove seeds from chili. Blend chili, peanuts, garlic, macadamia, galangal & tomato in a blender or with a mortar/pestle (bring it if you have one) until it forms a fine paste. In a small sauce pan over low heat, add water and whisk the sauce base into it. Add soy sauce, salt & lemon juice. Stir thoroughly and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. This can be made ahead of time.
For the vegetable, blanche cabbage and bean sprouts for less than a minute in boiling water. Boil the beans for 3 minutes so they are still firm. Cut the cucumber into thin slices. Cut tofu into small cubes and fry it in hot coconut oil until golden color.
In a large serving bowl, toss the tofu and vegetables. Pour the sauce over the and serve immediately with a side of steamed rice.