Blissed out in Bali

A heal­ing hol­i­day for body, mind and soul

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - HE­LEN AN­DER­SON

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.