Cul­ture and the arts: a qui­eter side to Par­adise at Spa Vil­lage Re­sort Tem­bok, Bali

YTL Life - - Contents - Words SI­MON PRIDMORE

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.spavil­­bok­bali


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