A Day in the Mountains

Bali, Indonesia

A small hairy face is pressed against the glass wall of our bungalow and its brown eyes are thoughtfully examining the room. Soon it is joined by a few more faces and a short but noisy monkey skirmish pronounces the start of another magical day in the mountains of Bali.

It is impossible to sleep next to the monkey battlefield and, besides, we’re late for our first yoga class! We step outside and take a deep breath of the crisp mountain air. We stand next to a deep wooded canyon and look at the white water of the mountain river running far below. A cotton-like cloud is parked on the hilltop nearby, swallowing a Hindu temple and silencing its tiny bells. How different are the views, smells and sounds of this mountain sanctuary from the hot and humid seaside resorts, crowded with the European families on their month-long holiday!

The monkeys escort us to another bungalow, where we’re greeted by a slender English woman, our yoga instructor. Everything is ready to go: the mats, towels, water bottles and soothing music. We admit to be hopeless novices and are told to get into the lotus position, close our eyes, breath purposefully and clear our minds of everything, but the realization of self-being.

Our limbs begin to hurt and are soon followed by the pain in our back. We perspire freely, despite the cool temperature and the minimal movement on our part. The attractive instructor attempts to minimize our discomfort by placing a few towels in strategic places around our limbs, but to no avail. We also can’t clear the disturbing thoughts from our minds, and continue to see the fighting spider monkeys as well as the delicious breakfast served by the poolside.

Finally, the private torture session is over. We promise to return tomorrow and rush outside. The impossibly long and inviting infinity pool stretches into the hills. There is no one around, except for the pool attendants, who greet us with the wet towels and an impressive menu of freshly squeezed fruit juices.

We dive into the cool water and try to swim into infinity, but the green hills are not getting any closer and the growling of our empty stomachs is getting more pronounced. Luckily, an intricately covered patio is located a few steps from the pool and the sophisticated smell of Sumatra coffee invites us to the breakfast table.

Yes, we can order the usual egg-white omelette, but why bother when we can try the Indonesian rice porridge with the optional shredded chicken meat and spices? And what about such staple as Nasi Goreng – a flavorful rice dish toppled with a fried egg and sliced cucumber?

While we ponder these important questions, a dark cloud covers our hilltop and surrounds the patio with a wall of huge rain drops. The cloud gives us just enough time to finish the delicious porridge and moves on to deal with another 5-star resort visible on the neighboring hilltop.

The sun is out again and we take it as the “green light” to take the hotel shuttle into the nearby town of Ubud. We walk for hours in the town’s center and love its eclectic mix of temples and art galleries, folk dance performances and restaurants, high-end boutiques and open air markets, Internet cafe’s and health spa’s… Shop owners play a mean game of badminton on the street, monkeys roam through the trash cans, and strange high-pitch music flows from every open window…

After a while, we realize that we’re tired, hot and can’t feel our feet. It is clearly time for R&R, the Balinese style. We walk into the first health spa we see on the street and ask for the “works” treatment. The badminton match on the street is interrupted and the masseurs start working on our tired backs and legs. For just a few dollars we get an hour-long massage, refreshing shower and a pedicure.

“Life is good”, we decide as we re-emerge into the sunset and walk into Bebek Bengil, the Dirty Duck Diner. We get a table on a raised platform above the flooded rice field and order a few bottles of our favorite Bintang beer. The sun is setting just behind a distant temple and dozens of colorful birds are piercing the air of their rich hunting territory.

The Dirty Duck Diner turns out to be the best place in town for the crispy duck, which arrives in its entirety on our table and helps us to absorb the Bintang.

Indeed, life is good in the mountains of Bali. It has the soothing qualities and it can heal our souls, often worn out by the concrete jungles of the “civilized” world. Bali is located clearly on the other side of the planet, but is well worth the visit. Make it a “must” on your busy schedule as well…

Bali, Indonesia – 2009

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