Bali: Paradise Found…..Weight Lost

Young Balinese girls greet guests at the Amandari resort in Ubud.

Bali is sometimes referred to as the “Land of Paradise” and I truly believe this.  I don’t think it is a place I could live in for an extended period of time – I like temperate climates and I think I’d miss my creature comforts (like 2,000 cable channels) – but it is truly a beautiful, paradisiacal place.  Not Tuscany vineyard beautiful or striking gothic cathedrals of Budapest beautiful or bright red mountains of  Namibian desert sand beautiful, and not even Laotian impoverished beauty.  It’s simply a visually stunning place with some of the kindest, friendliest local people you will ever meet.

Rice field just outside our villa in Kerobokan.

Bali is one of over 17,000 islands that make up the Republic of Indonesia, but it is unique in that the predominant religion is Hindu, not Muslim like most of Indonesia.  Tourists coming to Bali settle into a handful of villages.  There is Kuta for the young, backpacker party crowd (dominated by Aussie surfers), Nusa Dua for the five star hotel properties, Ubud, up in the mountains for a more spiritual, healing experience and Sanur for families with children.  Francesca and I stayed our first week in a village called Keroboken which is still largely undeveloped with no large hotels and only a handful of quaint villas sprouting up between rice fields.

Franny at the stone gateway to the Dewani Villas in Kerobokan. Notice the white ‘thing’ on the ground (just above the word “play”) and see photo below.

It is a ritual in Bali to place offerings, called canang, at the entrance to your property several times per day.  Walk, ride or drive anywhere in Bali and you will invariably see men or women placing these offerings (food, flowers, trinkets made from bamboo, etc. placed in a container made from palm leaves) on the ground along with incense.  The amount of offerings placed depends on your financial situation, but generally it is thought that the more you offer the better protected you will be against evil spirits.  You can see massive offerings at any of the four or five star hotels in Bali.

The Dewani Villa courtyard.  Our room was the top floor of the round building with the conical roof.

After months of ravaging our bodies with too much food and too little exercise Francesca and I decided to enjoy a healthy 10 day detox program and colon cleanse and figured the isolated Dewani Villas in Kerobokan would be the ideal place.

Garden path to our villa.

For those of you who have never tried a detox program (or think I am referring to sobering up from a drug binge) I will present the basics for you.  Detoxification is designed to help support the function of your digestive system and help your body eliminate waste more effectively, or at least that’s what it says on the Blackmore 10 Day Detoxification packaging we picked up in Sydney.  The package continues with five ways in which this detox program works:

  1. Maintain healthy functioning of the digestive system
  2. Assist sluggish liver function (we sure need that after all the drinking we’ve been doing)
  3. Balance and maintain healthy gut flora (I had no idea my gut had flowers in it!)
  4. Gently help cleanse the bowel (yeah, gently my ass! No pun intended)
  5. Assisting the removal of dead skin cells via exfoliation

At each meal during our day Francesca and I would take, as instructed, Milk Thistle (liver), Acidophilus Bifidus (Intestines), Digestive Bitters (stomach – totally nasty tasting liquid!) and Blackmore’s patented Colon Care (colon) which helps ease the discomfort of your loose bowels.  Every other day we would put on these electric blue exfoliation gloves and rub ourselves silly, all in the name of healthcare of course.

Me using the Dewani Villas’ outdoor kitchen to cook up a tasty tofu and veggie stir fry meal.  The secret, kids, is in the generous use of soy sauce.  I purchased the ingredients at a small, local roadside warung (like a bodega) near our villa.

In addition to the pills and potions there was a diet regimen to adhere to as well.  It was essentially a true vegetarian diet (no chicken or fish either) and no dairy and limited carbs.  Having been carnivorous gluttons for three months we thought this abrupt diet change would cause us problems, both physically and mentally, but we found the side effects to be largely benign.

The Pulp Art Spicy Baked Tempe Wrap was our favorite.

On a walk around our neighborhood on day one we discovered Pulp Art, an amazing organic wrap restaurant where we ended up eating the majority of our meals (sometimes dining in their free wi-fi zone, sometimes getting take out).  While we tried many delicious wraps, our favorite was the Spicy Baked Tempe Wrap.  Tempe, as I found out, is a cake form of soybeans originated in Indonesia which tastes, surprisingly, a bit like chicken (but not really).  We ate a ton of tempe while in Kerobokan.

The winding, country road that leads to Dewani Villas.

We spent a lot of our time walking, both for exercise and for transport – even though the Dewani Villas had a complimentary shuttle on standby for quick trips around the neighborhood.

Each rice field has one of these “hooches” where guys sit around all day and try to keep birds away from the rice crop.  They accomplish this in two ways.  One way is to pull on those strings attached to the little hut which in turn waves those white flags and rattles the tin cans thereby scaring away the birds.  Another way is to scream their heads off at the birds until they fly away.  The former is by far the more pleasing to the bystander.

Balinese women working the rice fields near Dewani Villas.  While the men do all the plowing the women are right in there, bent over during the planting and harvesting process.

We also took advantage of the incredibly cheap prices for massages.  There was an upscale “Antique Spa” right next door to the Dewani Villas, but we only went there once because at $25 for a 1 hour Balinese massage it was way more than the typical $6-8 places scattered throughout the neighborhood.

“Antique Spa” in Kerobokan

While the adage “you get what you pay for” generally holds true in most situations, we discovered that this is not true for the massage trade in Bali.  Our $6 massages from the ladies calling tourists in off the streets to their makeshift massage rooms were equally as soothing (sometimes more so) than the full service, upscale spas.  Of course it is nice to have all the accouterments that you get with a full spa – the welcome drink, showers and decor that contributes to a zen-like atmosphere – but since we were on a budget and getting a one or two hour massage every day we figured it made sense to forego these amenities on most occasions.

A traditional Balinese massage always begins with a foot scrub.  Francesca says I have Hobbit feet, but I think they’re gorgeous!

Francesca and I have now tried massages all over the world and many different styles, and we both feel strongly that the traditional Balinese massage is without a doubt the best we’ve encountered.

No matter how low budget the massage place, they will always have flowers in a bowl of water beneath the headrest, a nice touch I think.

The Balinese massage is essentially a combination of deep tissue and Swedish massage with some elements of a Thai massage thrown in.  During the first part of the massage the masseuse will get up on the table and use her weight to push down on several key areas of your back and legs.  Then she’ll proceed to really get in there with some deep tissue action.  Finally, and this part takes up the majority of the hour, she’ll massage the full body (excluding your privates – this isn’t Hong Kong after all!) with long, strong strokes using scented aromatherapy oils of your choice.  Ahhh, heavan.

Most of the Bali massage places provide you with little unisex underpants to put on during your session.  They are flimsy, little garments that resemble a grandmother’s shower cap with holes cut out for legs.  Needless to say not a great look.

Franny relaxing in the Dewani Villa pool after an evening massage.

While we were very good about adhering to our diet we did treat ourselves one evening to a seafood spectacular on Jimbaron Bay beach.  We had heard from our friend Andrew (see Sydney, Australia posting) about the tasty fish served right on the beach.  He advised to skip past the myriad restaurants with their tables in the sand and just go down to the market where you can buy your fish just after its come off the fishing boat and have it grilled up for you. Then you sit on these low, plastic chairs in the sand and nosh away.

I’m not sure if we went there too late, but we never did find any fishing boats or market.  So we doubled back and ate at one of the beach side restaurants choosing the one with the most amount of locals eating there figuring that would be the best.  The food was pretty good, but the dining conditions were less than ideal.  The evening wind whipped up so fiercely that each bite of delicious lobster had the extra crunch of sand grains.  Plus it was apparently karaoke night at this restaurant so we had to endure the locals’ off key renditions of classical Balinese techno pop.  Unlike Filipinos, not all Balinese can sing well we found out.

We did a lot of window shopping for glassware, ceramics and the famous Balinese teak wood furniture, but stopped short of make any purchases because of the ridiculous amount of red tape and expense to get anything shipped to the States….and because we realized we don’t have a house or apartment in which to put it.  It was fun shopping with faux intent just the same.

Japanese tourists taking a beginner surf lesson on the filthy sand of Kuta Beach.  I love that they have helmets on!

I wanted to try my hand at surfing, but I did not do so in Kuta.  I figured I can do that when we get to Lombok Island in a few days.

Upscale shops like Dolce & Gabbana are not quite the same in Kuta as they are in New York or Paris.  That is assuming it is even authentic D&G.  An expat friend living in Bali told us that while there are copyright and intellectual property laws in Indonesia, it’s the first person or company to copyright a logo or slogan that gets protected, regardless of whether they are the originators or not.  For example, some random Balinese guy copyrighted the Polo Ralph Lauren trademark and logo in Bali before Ralph Lauren did so he can use it and Ralph Lauren cannot. Its sounds incredibly unjust, but apparently that’s the way it goes here.

Kerobokan had some amazing sunsets, but not nearly as spectacular as those we witnessed in Lombok, the next stop on our RTW journey.

We’ve still got a few more days in the detox program – plus a 2 day juice fast that Franny has put on the agenda – but we already feel better about ourselves and have started to fit back into some of our clothes that had, heretofore, been a tight squeeze.

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7 Responses to “Bali: Paradise Found…..Weight Lost”

  1. detox in bali: brilliant – i presume those loud shorts are just a temporary measure until you slim down and fit into the real ones ? 😉 j

    • aroljahns Says:

      Correct Jules. I had to get this pair when i could no longer fit into my original pair – which i have sent back home. They are there awaiting my slimmed down return. 🙂

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