By Kavita Chandran
I visit Bali at least once a year. It’s a must for my spirit, my soul, my happiness and my wellbeing. There is just something very magical and compelling about this beautiful Indonesian island that calls out to every yogi to return.
So, last December, when my extended family pondered where to go on a vacation, I raised both my arms up swaying “Bali. Bali. Bali.” Everyone agreed, in part also because I convinced them it would be spiritually beneficial for my young, but unfortunately unwell, sister-in-law who had been battling hospital visits and was in dire need for a getaway.
Once we decided on the place, we had to consider other aspects to ensure her trip was smooth. Her diet is strictly vegetarian, so that was a priority. We didn’t want to be too close to traffic and noise. We also wanted to be closer to nature instead of a beach.
Ubud, Bali’s mystical abode, seemed like the best bet. And the one place that seemed to check all our boxes was Being Sattvaa, a quaint vegetarian resort in the village of Kenderan, barely a 10-minute drive from Ubud center.
We booked the Rice Paddy villa at Being Sattvaa (Sattvaa means ‘goodness’ or ‘true essence’ in Sanksrit). It was a 3-bedroom villa with a large open terrace, a dining area and kitchen, should we feel the need for privacy and self-cooking. There was also a home theater in the basement where the kids could enjoy themselves while the adults spent quality time upstairs.
We arrived early from Singapore at Denpasar airport, coincidentally on my sister-in-law’s birthday, and were fetched by Being Sattvaa’s car where Soni, the driver, greeted us with cold towels and bottled water. His smiley disposition immediately filled us with warmth, and he brought much excitement among our children as he joked with them throughout the one-hour journey to the resort.
Just like Soni, we were greeted by a team of warm smiles and exceptional service at the reception, a pavilion with a landscaped pond growing lotus and water lilies. We were assigned a personal butler, Dewa, who miraculously appeared at our service wherever we were. (Once while driving us to the Ubud market, he amusedly mentioned that he was Julia Robert’s security guard during the shooting of ‘Eat Pray Love’ in Ubud.)
Being Sattvaa is an integrated resort within an exclusive setting of ten Balinese garden villas with open bathrooms in a garden setting, tastefully done furniture made of Indonesian teak wood and Indian designs in every room. Televisions can be only seen at meeting places or at the villa we rented. The yoga pavilion is a delight as it stands perched like a tree house, well equipped with mats and accessories, at the edge of a ravine. The Spa is tucked away under the pavilion with a range of massages and salon services to choose from. The reception area leads to a large open living-cum-dining area where you can eat or read or just gaze at the forest or the pool, or frankly just sit and stare at the sunrise in the morning.
What impressed us most were the staff and their eagerness to be truly hospitable, and how each person willingly helped out with other chores. We got to know their names just as well as they did ours. We watched as Soni helped out in the kitchen when he wasn’t driving, how Juli would be helping the cleaning staff when he wasn’t setting the table at the restaurants, how Rina would be driving guests when she wasn’t at the reception, and how Dewa would, well, pretty much be doing everything. They all seemed to belong to one big happy family!
The owners of Being Sattvaa are former bankers who built this resort as their “labour of love”. They had kindly enquired if there was any special occasion during our visit, and as a result, had decorated my sister-in-law’s room with rose petals on the inside and marigold garlands outside. What a wonderful way to start her break and her birthday!
Pretty much everything after that in the resort was targeted towards her wellbeing. The staff took great care to ensure she was well looked after. She would wake up in the morning and sit outside her verandah to watch the sunrise, while the good staff arranged herbal tea and biscuits in the dining room of our villa.During the day, we would do gentle yoga (we even did a kundalini meditation once!), swim or go for a morning trek along the paddy fields and villages, where the Balinese would be waking up to pray and decorate their homes with ritualistic offerings.Some allowed us into their homes, while others offered us delicious local fruits, Mangosteens and Rambutans.
In the evenings, we would take a stroll by the sprawling gardens amid healing sounds of water, listen to the chirping of the birds and whispers of the winds. The resort has lush green foliage with tropical plants, fruit trees and Balinese style lanterns. What was most healing was the soothing sound of water everywhere – from the entrance pond, to the pool, to the streams running along the gardens. Faint fragrances of familiar foods engulfed us as we walked past edible plants in the garden – sugarcane, mango, starfruit, coconut, areca palm, durian, gingers, lemongrass, orange and pineapple.
The food was well balanced too – organic vegetarian produce suitably made to suit all dietary needs. The menu has something for everyone, a good mix of ancient and western cuisines.
While we had the option to choose activities such as water rafting, mountain biking and river kayaking, what attracted us most was a visit with my sister-in-law to one of the oldest healers in Bali, and a trip to the Holy Spring Temple at Tirta Empul in Tampak Siring. We immersed ourselves in the holy waters, one with properties that the locals believe can heal body, mind and soul.
The healing is synonymous with Bali, and we returned rejuvenated, our spirits enwrapped in spiritual bliss. The resort, the people and the healing rituals once again endorsed my love for Bali, and assured my return next year.
Read more about Being Sattvaa here.
Kavita Chandran is the editor of Yoga Journal in Singapore, a yoga teacher and a wellness enthusiast.