Thursday, August 03, 2006

Never too much down time

Two weeks in Bali. Really, two weeks in Bali. Need I say more? This is a blog, so the answer to that is yes, probably I do.

The beach in Bali is gorgeous and breezy, but it is the interior of the country, riverside, that has stayed with me. It is extraordinary, lush and green and verdant - it feels as though you have been shrunk and are leaving within blades of the most beautiful grass. I never knew there were that many shades of green - sunlit grass green, deep emerald green, mossy wet green, pale jade green, translucent birch green, greens without words. The river rushing outside my room provided the perfect background noise – you know, the kind you see in travel ads, but then never actually see for yourself when you get there? Bali is the ultimate example of a destination that exceeds your expectations - surpasses the ads - makes your dreams come true. I defy anyone to go there with fantasies or dreams of their ultimate resort experience and not come away completely fulfilled.

I spent days in silence, sitting with a book, thinking about NOTHING. Which, after all, is not as easy as it sounds, even in Bali. When you try to think about nothing, to empty your mind, it is easy for the first 3, maybe 2 seconds. And then, WHOOM, thoughts come rushing to fill that void from every direction. Did I really need to buy those shoes? Should I have bought that dress? Does the skirt I wore last night make me look fat? I shouldn’t eat any pasta tonight. Boy the pizza at PJ’s was good yesterday. And all of a sudden, nothing is everything, and you might as well be home on the couch.

Suffice it to say, other than reading (I wanted to read one book a day, and I did) – I exercised my mind with nothing. I truly focused on not thinking about any of the worries and anxieties I had left behind and that were no doubt waiting for my return.

Getting to Bali is a commitment – there’s no question. But unlike many commitments, this one lives up to its side of the bargain, I promise you. I flew from Los Angeles, changing planes in Tokyo, and spending a brief night at an airport hotel in Hong Kong, before the last leg of the trip deposited me on the southern tip of Bali, to be greeted by a smiling woman in a green suit, who ushered me through all the processes and paperwork necessary to let me into the country. And then I was in a car, on my way to the Ayung Gorge.

From the slender bridge leading to mahogany stairs down to reception, from the pools of reeds waving subtly to and fro, from the 20 foot high ceilings, from the moment I arrived, the Ayung Gorge enveloped me in a sense of silence and peace unlike anywhere else I have traveled. Not thirty minutes after arriving, I was ensconced on my private patio, with a gingerade by my side, reading my first book. Later on, I meandered up to the restaurant, where I met Denny, the world’s best hotel chef, bar none, who was serving up a gorgeous spread called Rijsttafel, or “rice table” – a remnant of the days the Dutch ruled of Indonesia. Dish after dish arrived at our table, infused with spices and flavors and all served over Balinese rice, which is grown throughout the country, but only enough for local consumption – it is not exported.

Five days by the river, soaking up the greens and the water and the sun and the peace. Five days by the river, catered to by the most gracious and serene staff. Five days by the river, reading a book a day. Five days by the river, and then it was time to go to the beach.

But more about the beach later this week. This is long enough, dontcha think?

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