High up in the misty forests of central Bali, far from the crowded cities with their bright lights and traffic snarls, is the tiny village of Jati — just a handful of houses amid rice terraces and market gardens on a small road that leads, eventually, to Mount Batur.
In ancient times, a holy man lived under a mahogany tree in this secluded spot, and villagers built a temple to pray for a long life, harmony and happiness. Today, that temple is the highest point in a luxurious wellness retreat, Bagus Jati Health and Wellbeing Retreat, that spreads across five acres of terraced gardens, plunging down to a secret river and a waterfall. Luxury villas, built in a circular style, dot the landscape, with enormous balconies that look across to the forests. Four poster beds draped with soft with white curtains and intricately carved dark timber furniture create an old-world air of romance.
Bagus Jati Health and Wellbeing Retreat is the perfect place to forget the stress of everyday living and get healthy, doing yoga and meditation, with classes synchronised with the rising and setting sun. The two yoga pavilions have floor-to-ceiling foldaway glass doors that open on to the forest. As our class sat there one morning, working our way through the asanas to the sound of bird song and squirrels darting through the leaves, we were suddenly the object of great curiosity to a small troop of wild monkeys, who found our efforts intriguing and showed off their far greater flexibility as they hopped from branch to branch, watching us as if we were participants in a reality TV show, put on for their amusement.
Almost all the food served in the restaurant is grown in the organic gardens run by the retreat. You can learn how to prepare a Balinese meal in a three-hour cooking class, which starts by picking many of the ingredients from the trees, vegetable beds and herb gardens. You learn to prepare the ingredients using traditional implements, such as a mortar and pestle, in an open-air kitchen. By the end the class at least some of us were flipping Balinese crepes like an old hand. We also made minced seafood satay sticks and a delicious Balinese lawar salad with snake beans, fresh coconut, lime, kaffir lime leaves, chilli, ginger, galangal, turmeric, lemon grass, shallots, coriander seeds, candlenuts and shrimp paste. With the help of the staff it looked remarkably professional and tasted delicious.
Spirituality suffuses Bali. As Hindu animists who revere Buddhist saints, there are sacred spirits everywhere, to be propitiated or appeased but the mountains, particularly the volcanoes, are the holiest places. The retreat offers free activities every morning and afternoon to teach guests about the culture. On the nature walk, your guide explains where the spirits are, the way the land is cared for when farming and takes you to his home in the village where you can see how sacred ceremonies are integrated into everyday life.
In another class, you learn how to make ‘canang,’ an offering in a palm leaf tray with lime, betel nut and the gambier flower, to thank the Supreme God for the peace given to the world. Staff also teach you how to make traditional medicine with turmeric or aromatic roots. You can learn a Balinese bird dance which looks remarkably graceful when the instructor performs it and hilarious when large foreigners try to imitate the intricate finger movements and facial expressions. If you miss a class, you can pay for a private session. There are a range of trips you can do outside the resort, if you can tear yourself away. One that is nearby is to go to the village and ride on a Balinese swing that takes you right out over the valley where the resort is located. It looks vertiginous and is exhilarating.
For the ultimate indulgence book in for a series of spa treatments. All the treatments look tempting, but I tried the two-hour cellulite and slimming treatment which includes a massage concentrating on the regions where the pesky dimples accumulate, an invigorating coffee scrub and a hydro bath with green tea and herbs. It is deliciously relaxing, almost good enough to drink.
The resort can organise a car to ferry you to and from the airport but beware, it will be hard to leave.
Bagus Jati Health and Wellbeing Retreat is 3kms from the village of Banjar Jati, about 20 kms north of Ubud. For more information see bagusjati.com
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