Making magic in perfect harmony
HERE I am, not yet a day into my stay in Ubud, and my arm is aching as I use a mortar and pestle to pound a piece of aloe vera into a gel. Not exactly how I expected my week of relaxation to start.
“Not smooth enough yet,” smiles Dewi, who runs Ubud Botany Interactive, as she looks into my bowl of glug.
I sigh. But in this small studio off one of Ubud’s quieter backstreets, it is impossible to feel anything but serenity.
I have signed up for one of UBI’s botanical workshops, in which participants create their own body-care products from all-natural ingredients Dewi has sourced from around Ubud.
In front of me is my mortar and pestle, a timber chopping board, a traditional knife, an array of plants and flowers and a bowl full of enchanting essential oils such as frankincense, ylang-ylang and tuberose. The smell is intoxicating.
I have already made a shampoo from finely chopped hibiscus leaves and frangipani flowers, and now I am working on a natural sunscreen, made from aloe vera, coconut milk and coconut oil.
With a little help from Dewi and her ever-smiling team, my sunscreen finally passes the test. It is poured from the mortar through a strainer and into a glass bottle, ready for me to take back to my hotel.
Dewi clearly has a passion for plants. She grew up on a nearby farm and studied botany at university in Denpasar. Her enthusiasm is infectious. But it is not just her love of plants that shines through.
Her love for her Balinese community is also evident. She is aiming to create a business that promotes the local economy and is environmentally sustainable.
After finishing my third product
– a face mask and body scrub made from rice, tomato and turmeric – Dewi (pronounced Day-Wii) notices my sniffle.
“You have cold?” she asks. I nod. “This will fix,” she says.
We are making our fourth and final product, a traditional Balinese healing scrub called boreh.
It is made of rice, clove, ginger and galangal, all ground together using the mortar and pestle. Once Dewi is satisfied with my boreh, she gently scoops some up in her fingers. She rubs blobs on my forehead, temples and behind my ears, then smears the rest on my neck.
“Do you feel it?” she asks.
“Nothing yet,” I say sceptically. But then the sensation hits me. There is a feeling of warmth. My nose starts to clear. I feel reenergised.
UBI also offers guided walks of the rice paddies around Ubud. A particular highlight of the walk is watching a local farmer scale a coconut tree. He brings a coconut down then cuts it open for us to share in the sweet juice inside.
The workshop and walk are a perfect introduction to life in Ubud. A couple of hours’ drive from Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport, Ubud feels like a world away from the gaudiness of tourist magnets such as Kuta and Seminyak.
For the adventur- ous, it’s a little over an hour’s drive to Mt Batur.
The trek up this active volcano for sunrise is well worth the early start. But be warned: it is a strenuous climb in darkness the muscles will certainly ache after the descent.
Luckily I have my magic potion, a bottle of handmade boreh, awaiting me at the hotel.
PICTURESQUE: A farmer working at rice field in Ubud.
A local farmer climbs a coconut tree.