Culture and the arts: a quieter side to Paradise at Spa Village Resort Tembok, Bali
Venture to the less explored side of Bali in the north where the crisp country air is fresher, the sunshine and the smiles are brighter, the sky is breathtakingly blue and life ambles at a gentle pace.
Spa Village Resort, Tembok on Bali’s northeastern coast holds the key to the rich cultural treasures of the island and is surrounded by the bounties of Mother Nature. The ocean stretches away to the horizon in front; the mountains, mother volcano Agung and the vast crater wall of ancient Mount Catur, rise behind, circled by unspoilt countryside and traditional villages. This is Bali’s heartland, a world away from the bustle of the towns in the south.
At 5.30am, the ocean is like gently undulating liquid glass. Waiting to take us out on a dawn cruise, drawn up on the black sand, is a shiny white, wooden fishing canoe known as a jukung.
We find our places as the driver Komang holds the craft steady. He and a colleague put their shoulders to the outriggers to free the boat of its earthly anchorage and set it free onto the water where it belongs. Once we are afloat, Komang hops in and expertly manipulates the rudder and motor to get us going.
The sky over the neighbouring island of Lombok to the east is already light. Komang cuts the motor and we sit absolutely still in the middle of the flat, inky, blue-black sea. The horizon starts to be streaked with yellow, red and orange. Then the edge of the star of the show appears, glowing bright and illuminating the surface of the ocean.
We see now that we are not alone. There are many jukungs around us, some with multicoloured sails up and skittering across the sea, others trolling slowly for fish to feed hungry families and to sell in the market. Komang guides us back to the beach, skilfully surfing on a rippling wave. We ease ourselves out of the boat, and thank him for giving us such a memorable morning.
Next, we head for the hills. Les is a pretty hillside village with narrow lanes and numerous charming Hindu temples. Striking out across the surrounding rice fields, we find ourselves on a path skirting a stream and then climb through plantations of bananas, jackfruit and pineapples. Stopping by a lady cutting open an enormous jackfruit casing to expose the fruit within, we ask to taste some and she obliges. She watches our faces as we bite into the rubbery flesh, and smiles broadly when she sees our pleasure.
A kilometre or so farther along the increasingly forested track, we come upon the Yeh Mempeh falls, where the river drops some 40m in a long narrow horsetail. We brought swimsuits and climb gingerly over the wet rocks into the shallow rock pool formed by the incessant torrent. The spray cools us instantly and we tentatively test the strength of this natural power shower: bracing but bearable is our conclusion.
Back at the resort, it was soon time for a spa experience. The resort’s spa has a menu emphasising and celebrating the healing traditions of its Tejakula location. Fresh-fromthe-garden ingredients such as basil, neem, mint and lime are combined to gently exfoliate the skin as part of the Sangkarajaya therapy. This is followed by a treatment to relax scalp and facial muscles. A rhythmic full-body coconut oil massage completes this invigorating treatment.
Guests also enjoy frequent opportunities to learn about Balinese home crafts as well as immerse in local customs. The good humour of the staff as they share their traditions is infectious. We have a lot of fun writing on lontar palm leaves, mixing traditional healthgiving elixirs called jamu from herbs and spices, and creating traditional religious offerings for the Balinese gods, small woven palm dishes containing flower petals, rice, a piece of candy and a burning incense stick.
The gods have certainly blessed us with unique experiences and cultural insights during our short stay in Bali’s heartland. We are already planning our return.
For more information, please visit www.spavillage.com/tembokbali
THE RESORT’S SPA HAS A MENU EMPHASISING AND CELEBRATING THE HEALING TRADITIONS OF ITS TEJAKULA LOCATION.