Blissed out in Bali
A healing holiday for body, mind and soul
WAYAN looks momentarily blank when I ask for her idea of bliss. ‘‘Doing something special by yourself?’’ I prompt. ‘‘Taking a holiday?’’
‘‘Making people happy,’’ she replies with a smile that could properly be described as blissful. She is one of two resident masseuses at a Balinese villa called Bliss Sanctuary for Women, a place where the word is used frequently and freely, scattered about like the frangipani flowers and offerings I find everywhere.
Like the word awesome, bliss has morphed way beyond its original meaning (‘‘Perfect happiness, great joy; a state of spiritual blessedness, typically that reached after death,’’ according to the Oxford English Dictionary). One friend says her idea of bliss would be a week without obligations —‘‘I’d do whatever I wanted, which probably means sleeping. For days.’’ Another friend says bliss would be ‘‘reading magazines all day on a lounge and not having to do anything’’. Another says her bliss would be swimming, sleeping and reading ‘‘all night if I want to’’.
In a fretful age obsessed with achieving happiness, bliss has come to mean self-centred pleasure, indulgence, freedom from duty, a notion as individual as a fingerprint. It’s the name of a cocktail and a friend’s yacht and, in the rice paddies of Canggu, just north of the frenetic hub of Seminyak, it’s a place in which to seek a highly personalised version of extreme relaxation.
All journeys begin with a question, and I find the central proposition — what is mybliss? — hard to fathom. I’m happy most of the time, and maybe that’s as much bliss as anyone deserves. I confess, though, the past six months have been hard going. I decide bliss, right now, is finding a way to worry less and smile more. Perhaps I just need a good rest.
‘‘Many women spend their lives looking out for others and never carve out the space and time to really look after themselves, particularly at key moments of change in their lives,’’ says founder Zoe Watson. ‘‘As simple as it sounds, our point of difference is deep rest, of the kind I haven’t found elsewhere, and the space to find peace.’’
Watson, originally from Adelaide, established Bliss Sanctuary two years ago after struggling to find just such a place to rest and relax while recovering from a car accident. She plans to open 20 Bliss sanctuaries in the next 10 years; the second launches in Seville, Spain, this year.
Whatever makes one blissful (or at least happy) — surfing with an instructor for a week, daily yoga classes, shopping trips on demand, long beach walks, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, tarot readings, Balinese cooking classes — will be arranged around the only fixture on the itinerary: 90 minutes of massage a day (Balinese, Thai, hot stones, body scrubs, hair baths and more) in a pavilion by the villa’s pool or in one of the six large, simply furnished suites. Each has a leafy indoor-outdoor bathroom, abig bedcocoonedinnetting, chairs for reading andlounging, and a cool day bed outside, beyond ornately carved doors.
Several suites have twin beds, which would suit a couple of friends or mother-daughter travellers. During my stay, however, all the guests are travelling alone, and this is clearly another point of difference — no children, no men, no couples. From late 20s to early 60s, we’re a disparate bunch: a medico, a lobbyist, a mining manager, a florist, a writer and the Bliss host and confidante, Kari, a sunny Canadian taking an extended tropical break from her career as an addiction counsellor. We aren’t oversharers, but we chat about our days over dinner before retiring early, and the quiet presence of other solo travellers is comforting amid a week of introspection.
Also comforting is the warm-hearted, familial presence of the Bliss staff: masseuses Wayan and Vera; master chefs Kadek and Alit; Komang the gardener and fixer; and Ketut, our driver and guide. There’s a genuine sense that they’re taking care of us, in a non-medical way, and the absence of schedules, rules and any kind of dietary or beverage restriction makes the place feel like home, albeit a fragrant and entirely trouble-free version.
Though I plan to do little beyond sleep and yoga, my dance card is full. I’m not at all New Age-y, but I pluck a destiny card from a wooden bowl each morning and come to look forward to the aphorisms. Day one: ‘‘I accept all that happens as good and right, and I enjoy life’’ — which is easy to achieve when Kadek is making banana pancakes, gado gado, serombotan or any kind of fresh salad I might fancy, and a six-dish Balinese feast every night. In
above Bliss Sanctuary guests are treated to 90 minutes of massage a day
left A room with a view right One of the six large and comfortable suites