One hour from Ubud, away from the craziness of markets, shops, traffic and night life, Bali Eco -village sits quietly in the midst of a beautiful rainforest. Any time of the day , the only sound you hear is the sound of frogs, crickets and birds.
We arrived Bali late afternoon and by the time we got a cab it was dusk. The drive to Eco-village was long and a bit scary....new city, fast traffic, single lane roads with minimum lighting and valley on one side - you can imagine our state! The cab driver was very nice, he was calling the village staff constantly to make sure we were in the right direction. There was no signal so no way our phone gps was working. We were both exhausted and Surendar was giving me an angry look, thinking in his head why the hell did you book something so far away?? I was nervous.
We finally reached the village which showed sign Eco-village - 500m. Phew! Almost here, I thought. But it was the longest 500m of our lives...the road to Eco-village was probably as wide as five feet. And it was not paved. It was like a camel ride. It was really dark and no lights whatsoever. Both sides of the road the bushes were almost 6-7 feet high. The car was moving at 5 km/hour. I could see Surendar getting angrier and I was getting more nervous. Fifteen minutes later, we saw the first street light, and then another and then a face smiling at us. As soon as we got down, two women came running, greeted us with a nice and gentle smile and escorted us to the lobby. That was the Eco-village staff - three of them, waiting for us to arrive. In a split second, my nervousness and Surendar's anger was gone. We thanked the cab driver, gave him a good gratuity and sent him off. One of the staff brought us hot tea. We rested there for a while and while we were enjoying the tea, the manager-in charge Wayan told us they had upgraded our room to a bungalow! Yaaaay I thought. He took us to the room, we could not see much at night, only hear the beautiful sound of nature. The bungalow was perfect! Huge, nicely set up with a big balcony. We were so exhausted that we took a quick shower and went for dinner to the dining room. We came to know it was just two of us in the whole eco-village. Perfect getaway!
Next morning we woke up early and as soon as we stepped out in the balcony, we were in awe. All we could see was rainforest and all we could hear was chirping of birds. We knew our stay here would be amazing. And it was - not because of the views only, it was the staff and the concept of this place - all of it that made it memorable.
Bali Eco-Village opened five years ago. It is a perfect example of sustainable living, because it is in perfect harmony with its surroundings and the owner/builder made sure it is the locals who benefit from this place. It is mostly self-sufficient also. I will explain how. This place is constructed out of locally sourced material - bamboo and the owner of this place hired locals for its construction. So all the money that went into its construction helped the locals. They have a huge vegetable garden and most of the dishes on the menu use these vegetables. The rain-water is collected and they have a very intricate system with which this grey-water is circulated in the eco-village in the form of small streams, fountains and ponds and supports the growth of flora and fauna. They provide natural soap in the bathroom to reduce the amount of chemicals that make waste water toxic. They do not have electric kettles, hair dryers and only use gas to heat and cook. They recycle and compost. They have cattle and the cow dung is used for composting too, which is finally used in the garden. Only washers and no dryers - another way to reduce use of electricity and fossil fuels. All the rooms and bungalows have a great view of the forest. They also have a yoga room, a spa and a beautiful gazebo to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Isn't it a paradise? A place to getaway and enjoy the beauty in nature and silence without impacting the environment. Compared to a lot of so-called eco villages/resorts that are popping up everywhere in the world, this place is modest and genuine. It doesn't rip your wallet but provides you an authentic experience.
And the staff - what can I say. They made our stay even more memorable. We got to know most of them during our five day stay there. All of them beautiful souls....humble and always smiling. It was nice to see women preparing offerings everyday. If it wasn't for them, we would not have enjoyed this paradise. They treated us not like guests but friends. And the food was amazing!
We were told that this place has been sold recently and there is a new management coming soon. I really hope the new management maintains and promotes this place for its original concept of sustainable tourism.
If we ever go back to Bali, this place will be our one stop for sure. If you ever plan a trip, I can highly recommend this place. Here is a link to its website - http://www.baliecovillage.com/
Coffee/tea plantations and rice paddies are everywhere in west of Bali. Jatiluwih - the most beautiful rice terraces in west Bali. It is UNESCO recognized as world heritage site. The rice paddies spread across for miles and they were bright green and beautiful. We strolled in these fields, watched farmers work in the farms and perform their daily rituals. It was spectacular!
Bali is also famous for Luwak coffee - Luwak being the mongoose who eats coffee beans....beans are not digested but do go through some chemical process in their tummy and then finally comes out. Farmers collected those poop covered coffee beans every morning and after cleaning, roast and grind them. It is said the coffee has much stronger taste and aroma (of course). So we decided to taste this coffee....what can I say. It was strong for sure but both of us are not a big fan of black coffee. One thing, if you are a luwak, better be born in Indonesia! At least you will be taken care of....hopefully they are at least paid minimum wage for putting in so much work everyday! But it was sad to see that these coffee plantations have few of the mongoose in cages - for display. They are not show pieces and definitely not meant to be in cages! None of these animals are. Right?
New Zealand to Bali was a big transition. While New Zealand is nature's paradise - calm, peaceful and green, Bali turned out to be an explosion of everything! Culture, religion, people and of course traffic. As soon as we landed and got out of the airport, we had herds of cab drivers surround us....and the haggling began :o)
The place where we stayed for most of our trip was north of Ubud, the art capital of Bali. We are so glad we chose that place....away from the hustle bustle of city, in the village, surrounded by rainforest, it was perfect spot to recharge (more about this beautiful place in the next post).
During our five day stay, we visited a lot of temples near Ubud and surrounding areas. In reality, we didn't have to go to temples to learn about the culture. It was everywhere. The beauty and the richness of Ubud and the villages around it lies in its people and their devotion. Every house in the village has a temple and every village has three temples. Every morning we saw women preparing offerings to the God. Every day they prayed without fail. It was a major part of their daily routine. The offerings were simple, little bowls made out of bamboo leaves, with a marigold flower, a cake and incense. The sight was beautiful.
In the temples, the rituals were carried out by priest and people would sit in groups behind him, on the floor, with hands folded in prayer. While Indonesia is majority Muslim, Bali is predominantly Hindu. It was amazing to see how similar they are to Hindus in India but at the same time so different in rituals, temples, and the approach. It seemed more genuine somehow. In the temples we visited, we did not see vendors selling highly priced offerings or priests giving special treatment to people who purchased bigger offerings. The Gods were not adorned in glamorous jewelry and clothes. The people who were praying seemed to be really involved in the ritual. They were taking their time. It felt very different than the temple visits in India.
Thanks to our tour guide and cab driver Wayan Sida Laksana (firstname.lastname@example.org), we had an amazing time in Bali. He was also the manager in charge at the place we stayed. It really makes a difference when you have a genuine guide taking you around the new place :o)