A guest post by Candace Rose Rardon.
It seems an unfair choice to have to make – deciding between serenity, bliss or peace. Can’t I have them all?
But here in the Beach Spa of Orient Express’ Jimbaran Puri Bali resort, tucked away on the narrow isthmus connecting mainland Bali with the island’s southern Bukit Peninsula, I must indeed choose. While serenity’s soothing scent of bergamom is tempting, as are the vanilla and sandalwood tones of bliss, ultimately it’s the sweet-smelling frangipani and ylang-ylang in peace that win out.
I point to one of a few glass vessels set out on the spa’s front desk and indicate I’ve made my choice.
As you might’ve guessed by now, I’m referring to which oil I’d like for my traditional Balinese massage. But it isn’t until my massage therapist Mariana begins to smooth the oil over my skin, using the long strokes and stretches characteristic of this treatment, that I realize while I may have had to choose between oils, there’s no need here to choose between the actual qualities each are named after.
From the moment I stepped foot into my villa, I’d felt suffused with serenity – that glorious state of calm not always easy to find in today’s fast-paced world. All of the resort’s rooms are detached suites – both its 42 cottages and the 22 villas that Orient Express built when they took over the property in 2004. Not only does this small number of rooms give the property an intimate atmosphere, but having your very own retreat within a retreat adds to the sense of escape. My deluxe pool villa is hidden away over a short wooden bridge, which spans a waterway of lily pads and lotus blossoms. There, behind a beautifully carved door and foliage-covered walls, my villa awaits.
When I can pull myself away from my private pool, I settle into life inside my villa, which features separate living and sleeping areas as well as a spacious bathroom and outdoor shower. White marble floors running throughout are cool beneath my feet, and high peaked ceilings – made from natural alang-alang fibers that have been wound tightly around beams of bamboo – soar above my head.
I start each day with a cup of coffee, a piece of fruit from the tropical fruit tray that is refreshed daily, and a silent word of thanks at finding this slice of serenity on Bali.
Bliss, I discovered soon after waking my first morning, is best attained at breakfast, a buffet affair held beneath one of the resort’s two open-air restaurants. Although there is plenty of seating available in the restaurant itself, I ask my server Rustini to lead me to a section of eight tables set just off the beach beneath a stand of coconut trees, desperate to be as close to the water as possible. I order a cappuccino and eggs benedict from her before making my way inside, arms ready to bear a multitude of plates.
Although breakfast standards like muesli, yogurt and cereal are available, it is the flavors particular to Bali that draw me in the most. I fill my first plate at what is known as the buffet’s “coconut corner,” a feast of all things coconut – small glasses of young coconut juice, heavenly coconut financier cakes, and bright green roll-ups of dadar coconut pancakes. Next is the fruit table, where I unabashedly load up on slices of papaya and tamarillo, jackfruit and dragon fruit, expanding my knowledge of and love for tropical fruits by the second. Back at my table, I savor the veritable feast before me, noting with joy how the sweet fruits are perfectly complemented by the salty air, blown over gently by a breeze across the bay just steps away.
As for peace, I find it face down inside a tiny thatched bale hut in the Beach Spa. As I lie still on the bed, Mariana smoothing frangipani-scented oil over my shoulders and down my arms, I wonder if I should have waken early to see the local fish market come alive as the fisherman returned with their daily catch, or if I should be out on the waves with the resort’s canoes and body boards free for guests to use, exploring the coastline. But then I quiet my thoughts.
Ultimately, the only choice I’ve had to make here is to either worry about what I should be doing, or to just enjoy my everyday rhythms slowing to keep time with the sway of coconut trees and feel each quality – serenity, bliss and peace – seeping deep into my soul.
And there’s nothing unfair about that choice. Nothing unfair at all.
About the guest writer
Candace Rose Rardon is a travel writer, photographer, and sketch artist from the state of Virginia, but is currently living in Delhi. She recently completed a Masters in Travel Writing from London’s Kingston University and celebrated by driving an auto-rickshaw 3,000km across India. Thankfully, she lived to write about it.