Galungan and Kuningan in Bali

March 28, 2013

Galungan, the most important of the Bali holidays, is an ideal time for a Bali vacation. Galungan lasts for over a week, and culminates on Kuningan, the final ceremonial day. The Balinese believe that their ancestors and gods return to earth for Galungan, and depart on Kuningan.

It is impossible to ignore the preparations for Galungan and Kuningan. To welcome the gods, the Balinese come out in full, formal dress and perform special ceremonies that create piles of offerings and incense in temples, trees, and street corners.

Everything is decorated beautifully during Galungan, and the most dramatic decorations are the large curved bamboo poles called “Penjors” that represent the victory of good over evil. Penjors are hung with fruits, coconut leaves, and other offerings to serve as a as a symbol of gratitude for nature’s bounty.

Galungan and Kuningan happen every 210 days, and this year Galungan begins on March 27, with Kuningan on April 6. The next Galungan celebration starts on October 23, with Kuningan on November 2, and in 2014 Galungan will begin on May 21, ending with Kuningan on May 31. Our Bali luxury villa books very quickly those dates, so plan ahead if you would like your Bali vacation to coincide with this very special holiday.


Yoga at the BaliSpirit Festival

March 13, 2013

Looking for things to do in Bali? Consider planning a stay at our Bali villa that coincides with the BaliSpirit festival in Ubud, happening this year March 20-24. A “spiritually charged event that celebrates the synergy of global cultural collaboration through wellness and the arts”, the BaliSpirit Festival is like nothing else.

Yoga enthusiasts will delight in the range of workshop offerings from world-class instructors, from traditional Hatha, Vinyasa, and Ashtanga yoga, to trendy Acro yoga and lesser known varieties such as Mysore Ashtanga, Zen Thai, and Yoga Ethnocoreology. And yoga is just the beginning – visit the BaliSpirit Festival website to learn about workshops that focus on meditation and philosophy, conscious movement, healing, self-development, and more. In addition, the BaliSpirit festival hosts local Balinese musicians alongside musical acts from all over the globe.

Children are welcome at this year’s festival, with a yoga class just for kids, and a special day for Balinese families and their children. Hari Cinta Keluarga (We Love Family Day) welcomes Balinese families at a discounted or donation-based price.

Our Bali luxury villa in central Ubud is perfectly situated to enjoy the BaliSpirit festival. If you are planning to attend the Bali Spirit festival, book your stay at our Bali villa well in advance – accommodations fill up fast.

Celebrating Balinese New Year

February 26, 2013

For those who would like their Bali vacation to include an education in Balinese culture and a day devoted to their own spiritual growth, Nyepi is a great time to visit. The Balinese devote a full 24 hours on Nyepi or “Day of Silence” to meditation and prayer. Everything closes (even the airport), and people stay inside their houses from sunrise to sunrise the next day, which is Balinese New Year. This year Balinese new year will happen on March 12 (it changes according to when the new moon appears).

Unlike other Bali holidays, you won’t see any public celebrations or processions on Nyepi. However, the days before and after the holiday are particularly busy. Two days before Nyepi, there are processions from the villages to the beaches, where the residents purify temple artifacts as a way of spiritually purifying the whole village. The Balinese use the day before Nyepi to prepare for their day of silence by thoroughly cleaning their houses and villages, and cooking everything they will need for the next day. At dusk there are very noisy ceremonies intended to drive all of the evil spirits away. “Ogoh Ogoh” or demon effigies are carried through the streets, making quite a spectacle.

Balinese new year and Nyepi can be a wonderful time for your Bali holiday, as long as you are prepared for your own day of silence and introspection in a beautiful setting at our Bali luxury villa.

Yoga in Ubud

February 13, 2013

Bali is a dynamic spiritual center, host to a number of retreat centers, holistic wellness education programs, and a thriving yoga community. If you are looking for healthy, spiritually centered things to do in Bali, you can’t go wrong with a yoga class or two, or even yoga teacher training certification.

There are so many yoga studio options in Ubud, we can’t list them all, but a few stand out. The Yoga Barn is a popular choice for those wanting to try a yoga class or two, and maybe explore some other spiritual wellness options. This beautiful space is “dedicated entirely to Yoga, Movement and Healing, for the sole purpose of bringing together Community.” They even have their own café (“Little K”) which serves living raw vegan food.

If the goal of your Bali vacation is to immerse yourself in yoga, Intuitive Flow yoga studio is a good option.  Intuitive Flow focuses on spiritual development and healing, and offers yoga teacher training programs for serious yoginis.

Bali Yoga Retreat offers a 7-day lifestyle change program – this wellness retreat combines yoga with raw food, colonics, and massage in a holistic program designed to “relax your mind, refresh your body, and renew your spirit”.

Or, just turn our Bali luxury villa into your own private yoga studio – check out the alignment of your “triangle” pose in the reflection of the pool, or roll out your yoga mat in the spacious living area. Whatever option you choose, Bali is a great place for yoga.

Raw Food in Bali

January 30, 2013

For those who prefer to eat raw foods, Bali is truly paradise. While the kitchen of our Bali luxury villa has everything you need to prepare your own raw foods, Ubud also has an extensive selection of restaurants and cooking schools that focus specifically on raw and vegetarian cuisine.

If you want raw food to be an integral part of your Bali vacation, start with the Raw Food Bali website. It has information about raw food classes, restaurants, and a description of all the exotic native foods that enhance raw cuisine, such as coconut, soursop, mangosteen, durian, raw cacao beans, and irish moss.

Or, if you are really serious about cooking raw food, you can get your raw food chef certification at Radiantly Alive, a retreat center that also offers yoga classes.

Of course you can experience world-class raw foods at one of the many restaurants in Ubud that specializes in this type of cuisine. Bali Buddha  is one of our favorites, and it’s just down the street from our Bali villa. They serve vegan, raw, and vegetarian dishes in addition to more mainstream cuisine. Clear café  specializes in raw, vegan food, and seafood. Kafe offers raw, organic food – and they deliver! Lastly, Sari Organic focuses on local, organic foods fresh from their own farm.

Eating like the Balinese

January 17, 2013

It is not hard to eat well in Bali, but finding traditional Balinese food might be harder than you think.  Going out to dinner is not part of Balinese culture, so every day food, which consists mostly of rice, vegetables, a small amount of fish or meat, and condiments, is almost always cooked at home. The fancy fare, like suckling pig, is saved for festivals, but if you want to give it a try, it is available at Ibu Oka restaurant.

One way to experience true Balinese cuisine is to cook it yourself in the well-designed and well-stocked kitchen of your Bali luxury villa. This may be especially appealing to those who prefer a raw food or vegan diet, since most traditional Indonesian dishes such as nasi goreng, mie goring, and satay almost always involves some animal products. The kitchen at Villa di Abing is especially well-suited to raw food preparation.

You’ll need to learn how to cook it first, and that’s the fun part. There are several cooking schools in Ubud that specialize in traditional Balinese food – one of our favorites is Casa Luna. Janet de Neefe of Casa Luna has been teaching Balinese cooking since 1987, and in her hands-on classes you will learn how to prepare both every day and ceremonial dishes.

In the cooking classes at Paon Bali, your class experience takes place in the community kitchen of a small Balinese village. You start out by shopping the markets in Ubud for authentic Balinese ingredients, and then learn traditional methods of preparing them. Of course, if you’d rather not cook, the cook staff at your Bali luxury villa is available to prepare a traditional Balinese meal for you.

Things to Do in Bali: Hari Raya Saraswati

June 23, 2012

We previously mentioned that no matter what time of year your Bali vacation takes place, you will likely be able to enjoy the sights, sounds, and scents of some sort of celebration. While April and October are generally the busiest times for Bali holidays, there are festivals and ceremonies all year round, and this past 16th of June marked one of our favorites: Hari Raya Saraswati.

Balinese Hindus see knowledge as a key aspect of fulfilling human potential, and Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge, science, the arts, and literature in particular. Libraries and schools honor the goddess of the intellectual and creative realm as their patron goddess, and you may well see a sculpture of this four-armed beauty at their doors. On Saraswati Day, celebrated every 210 days, there are ceremonies and prayers not just in the temples, but also in schools and other institutions of learning.

Saraswati Day is a special day for students. Nobody is allowed to read or write, and children dress in colorful costumes instead of their school uniforms. Students bring offerings of fruit and cakes to the school temple, and pray for success in their studies during a special morning ceremony. Books, especially the sacred “lontar” (palm leaf) books), are blessed with offerings of fruit, flowers and holy water.

If you are lucky enough to be staying at our Bali villa on the next Saraswati Day, you will be rewarded by a colorful spectacle of celebration throughout the village.

Things to do in Bali: Ubud’s Visual Arts Scene

June 6, 2012

Bali provides inspiration to countless visual artists, both native and those who have visited and fallen irrevocably in love with the tropical scenery and the mystical serenity of the island. You need look no farther than the walls of our Bali villa to enjoy the work of some of Bali’s best-known visual artists. However, if you are looking for things to do in Bali that give you a different perspective on everyday village life, Ubud is the place to be. Spend a day or two visiting some of the many galleries and museums in Ubud to see why Balinese artwork is internationally sought after.

The Blanco museum, which showcases the work of Spanish/American artist Don Antonio Blanco, is housed in the artist’s mountain-top home (a gift from the King of Ubud in 1952). Blanco and his wife, a Balinese dancer, lived together in this home until Blanco’s death in 1999. Surrounded by lush gardens and rice fields, the building is a flamboyant blend of Balinese architecture and Spanish influence, and the actual studio has been preserved as the artist left it when he died, an unfinished painting still on the easel. “The Fabulous Blanco,” as he was known, painted mainly fantasy portraits of beautiful women, a selection of which are on display at the museum.

Another expatriate makes for an interesting stop on your tour of the Bali art scene: Visit Horizon Glassworks to see hot glass artist Ron Seivertson work his magic with this exciting and dynamic medium.

If you are looking for something a bit more traditional, the Museum Puri Lukisan is home to a collection of 21st century Balinese paintings and woodcarvings. The museum was opened in 1956 as a way to keep Balinese art in Bali at a time when international collectors were showing a great interest in Indonesian art. Or, for a real taste of what is going on in Bali right now, the relatively new Tanah Tho Gallery showcases contemporary and abstract paintings by young, Indonesian Ubud residents.

Things to Do in Bali: Visit the Elephant Cave

May 23, 2012

Just 6 kilometers from our Bali villa, Goa Gajah or the “Elephant Cave” is one of Bali’s most historically significant and mysterious sites. Not much is known about this site, but a mix of Hindu and Buddhist representations make for a unique visit among things to do in Bali. Built around the 11th century, it was discovered in 1923 and only partially excavated in the 1950s. Goa Gajah may be known as the Elephant Cave because of its close proximity to the Elephant River or because one of the primary creatures carved into the rock at the cave entrance resembles an elephant.

It is believed that Goa Gajah was used as a hermitage or sanctuary by Hindu priests. However, a nearby Buddhist temple suggests that the site was also sacred to early Balinese Buddhists. While the entrance to the cave is quite dramatic (you enter through a demon’s gaping, fanged mouth that may represent the Hindu earth god or possibly “Rangda”, a child-eating witch from Balinese mythology), the cave itself is very small. Inside the cave you will find a statue of the Hindu god Ganesha , and two altars with fertility symbols (yoni and lingam). The crevices inside the cave may have been secret meditation chambers.

Built at the confluence of two small rivers, the bathing pools in the cave’s courtyard contain water that is said to possess magical youth-preserving powers. When visiting Goa Gajah, keep in mind that this cave is an active worship site – please wear proper dress and be respectful of people who are praying.

Things to Do in Bali – Visit a Temple or Three

May 12, 2012

One of our favorite things to do in Bali is visit the local temples. The village temple acts as the center of everyday religious activities for the village inhabitants. Other temples are reserved for festivals and special ceremonies. Time your visit with one of Bali’s many holidays or on a temple’s anniversary, called an odalan, to be sure and witness a religious ceremony. If you can make it for the odalan of Pura  Batur Sari, a royal temple devoted to Mount Batur, you will be sure to see the ritual dancing that occurs with some ceremonies.

There are numerous temples or “puras” in and around Ubud. Several Balinese temples are home to elaborate carvings: Pura Goa Gajah, known as the Elephant Cave, is famous for an elephant carving, and Pura Yeh Pulu is also host to a variety of life-size carvings depicting everyday Balinese life. The holy waters of Bali are another reason that the locals visit certain temples — Pura Tirta Empul, which dates back to the 10th century, is known as the purifying temple for its holy spring that is said to not only cleanse your body, but clear your mind. Another temple you won’t want to miss is Pura Besakih, which locals call the “Mother Temple”. Perched at 3,000 feet on the slopes of Mount Agung, this complex of 23 separate temples is considered the most important Hindu temple in Bali.

Be sure to observe temple etiquette in active temples. If you are unsure of the customs, ask any native for advice. A few tips: Modest clothing and demure behavior is appreciated, and it is traditional to wear a sash tied around the waist when visiting a temple. Be respectful of those who are praying, and be sure to keep children from climbing on the structures.