Jour­neys to in­ner space

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

It was Nyepi Day in Bali this past week (March 9) and on this an­nual day of si­lence, which lasts 24 hours from 6am and marks the Saka new year, no fires must be lit nor travel un­der­taken, while lights and noise lev­els are kept very low. Denpasar air­port is closed and so are busi­nesses of all kinds. Most re­sorts keep one din­ing out­let open and op­er­ate with a skeleton staff. It is all about self-re­flec­tion and spir­i­tual cleans­ing, and pro­vides the ideal op­por­tu­nity for tourists, too, to take time out and stop buzzing about like ag­i­tated bees.

Now that most of us can’t func­tion with­out check­ing our small-screen devices ev­ery few min­utes, I reckon we need to in­tro­duce a slow day into ev­ery hol­i­day itin­er­ary. In the old days, even a whis­tle-stop tour pro­gram would have a “Day at Rest”, but rarely would any­one take that as an in­vi­ta­tion to sleep. Shop up a storm more likely, or go golf­ing or some­such. But such in-be­tween breaks are ac­tu­ally splen­did op­por­tu­ni­ties to sit and watch the world go by, es­pe­cially at an out­door cafe, and if you can’t find a strate­gi­cally placed one of those in any city worth its or­ganic coffee beans, then you are just not try­ing.

Lots of us pay good money to go to spas and well­ness sanc­tu­ar­ies and be forced to sit still, med­i­tate or do im­prov­ing things like yoga, and ad­just our di­ets and re­bal­ance our what­nots. I am as guilty as the next trav­eller of fork­ing out for such pricey in­dul­gences, but what bliss it would be to have a make-be­lieve Nyepi Day once a week, ev­ery week, one on which you would just talk (or not) qui­etly to your fam­ily or com­pan­ions or be hap­pily alone and just stay very still.

The lu­nar date of Nyepi Day changes each year, but it’s March 28 in 2017, a tad later than usual. I was in Bali on my birth­day one Nyepi Day and the villa staff found a way to de­liver a cake in the dark, com­plete with an em­bar­rass­ing num­ber of can­dles that couldn’t be lit as matches were on the taboo list. I was se­cretly thrilled that we were un­able to see, let alone count, the tell­tale can­dles, and the staff then cleared off and we cut it into big chunks to eat by moon­light in the pool.

That was also the year the ad­ja­cent spa, much rec­om­mended by villa staff, had a birth­day pro­mo­tion that gave you a dis­count in ru­piah of the num­ber of years you were cel­e­brat­ing. At my great age, that rep­re­sented the sort of sav­ing that could have sent them broke. “They will have to pay money to Madam for her mas­sage,” ob­served but­ler Wayan, with a sun­beam smile.

Some tourists de­lib­er­ately stay away from Bali on Nyepi Day but I rec­om­mend it as a cleans­ing rit­ual. Lock the mo­bile phone and iPad or lap­top in the gue­stroom safe and pick up a book. Sit by a pool. Jot in a jour­nal. Next day it’ll all be on again, busier than ever, al­though I like the idea of con­tin­u­ing the non-techno theme and leav­ing the telly and the iPhone switched off and just saun­ter­ing to my favourite cafe in Seminyak. That’s the one where the black­board reads: “No Wi-Fi here. Write a let­ter to your mother.”

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