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The magic of Nyepi: Bali’s unique Day of Silence

in Culture by
Villa Zelie - Staff praying

While most cultures celebrate the new year with rowdy celebrations, revelry and fireworks, in Bali the dawning of a new year is ushered in with a unique day of silence, known as Nyepi.

This year Nyepi falls on 7 March and for 24 hours shops and restaurants will stay closed, the streets and markets will remain empty, the beaches will be deserted and the waves un-surfed. Even the airport is shut down as Bali falls under a magnificent cloak of silence.

Ocean Temple - Tanah Lot

In order to understand Nyepi, is it necessary to briefly dip into the dualistic world of Balinese Hinduism which is woven into the very fabric of life on the island. Imagine a cosmic dance in which the forces of good and evil are in constant play. Order is represented by the gods, known as dewa and dewi, while disorder is represented by the earth demons known as bhutas and kalas.

Balance must be maintained so that evil doesn’t get the upper hand. Through a myriad of religious offerings and rituals, the gods are thanked and asked for blessings, while the forces of darkness who seek to upset the equilibrium are appeased. Of all the ceremonial days on the island, Nyepi is one of the most important.

Des Indes I

Why the silence?

Theological explanations vary. Some say that by staying hidden the evil spirits will think the island has been abandoned and will pass by, thus bringing an auspicious start to the new year. But Hindu scholars say that the noise and revelry of the preceding evening, Nyepi Eve, wakes up the demons so that they will see the offerings, including blood sacrifice that have been laid out for them. In this view, the silence is a symbol of contentment and gratitude that the demons have been appeased for another year. Regardless of theological explanations, Nyepi is a day reserved for quiet contemplation and self-reflection and Balinese Hindus are prohibited from work, entertainment, travel and lighting fires. Priests and those with a higher spiritual calling will also fast, observe total silence and pass the day in prayer.

nyepi ogoh ogoh bali art

How does Nyepi effect visitors to the island?

Even tourists must respect Nyepi and stay within the grounds of their accommodation and keep noise and lights to a minimum.

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Heaven in a Muntigunung Hammock – Handmade in Bali

in Shops by
Handmade Hammock

Nothing says tropical holiday quite like a hand-woven hammock which evokes thoughts of bleached white beaches, dream-filled siestas, sea-breeze cocktails and star-gazing nights.  

There’s something magical about being suspended in mid-air; the hammock’s gentle swaying calms your thoughts, settles your heartbeat, and lulls you into reverie or slumber. That’s true whether you’re beachside in Koh Samui or nested in a goose down comforter someplace cold, daydreaming about a good hammock swing.

And yet, unlike Central and South America, Asia has no hammock-making tradition. That is set to change now, thanks to the persistence of Daniel Elber, whose non-profit Future for Children has been changing the lives of the poorest communities in the drought-prone mountain slopes of eastern Bali. 

BALI HAMMOCKS  

Daniel was looking for new ways to provide a sustainable livelihood for the women of Muntigunung, whose sole source of income was begging in Bali’s more prosperous tourist areas. Could their basket-weaving skills be re-imagined for making hammocks, he wondered?

That’s how one master hammock-maker Walter Cruz from El Salvador —the ‘Land of the Hammocks’ (and considered to produce the best in the world) spent three months in the remote village of Kulkul, teaching his ancestral craft to 35 mountain women. And while they had no common language — he spoke Spanish and they a Balinese dialect — what they now share is an uncommon ability to craft absolutely stunning hammocks.

Muntigunung now makes a range of high-end hand-woven hammocks that are arguably the best in Asia. Top of the range is the Agung, which has twin spreaders of elaborately carved camphor-wood, is embellished with crocheted lace, and can incorporate customised lettering (such as a house or person’s name) — statement-making perfection for upmarket rental villas or private residences.

Lighter and less expensive is the chongos-tassle-decorated Muntigunung, which is as stylish but, without the spreaders, will even go into your hand luggage. If you prefer a more upright seating position to lying supine, the chair hammock will appeal — it looks as good in a living room as by the pool.

There are also custom hammocks and chair hammocks, and anyone with a tiny tot in the family will find the baby hammock irresistible. These incredibly comfortable artisan hammocks are so much more than an alternative seating choice or lifestyle accessory. Each is an individual work of art,

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The Muntigunung Trek – a walk on the wild side of Bali

in Recreation by

If you’ve visited Bali before, you might have taken a day trip to Kintamani to take in the stunning views across Lake Batur towards the mountains. And the experience will have stopped there. But beyond the lake and the steep mountains is a side of Bali so far off the tourism trail that few have had the chance to visit — unless they have joined the exclusive and award-winning Muntigunung Trek. Seduced by the promise of breath-taking vistas and heart-warming encounters in the once-forgotten villages of Muntigunung, we eagerly signed up and set our alarm clock for the pre-dawn start.

After driving northwards for two hours in the company of Pica, our principle guide, we stopped on the crest of the caldera to marvel at the sun rising behind the mountains beyond the lake — an early Instagram-worthy moment. “That’s where you will be trekking”, he pointed. The drive itself was part of the experience; we drove past amazing rice terraces and rural vistas, then dropped down into the caldera weaving across lava fields from Gunung Batur’s 1968 eruption and along the lake to Songan.

Ready for jaw-dropping vistas?

Time to lace up your boots, lavish on the sunscreen, have selfie-stick at the ready, select a sturdy bamboo walking stick, and  then take to the trail with Pica and the local guides as they lead their way up the steep mountainside. The views are spectacular — at one stage the trail follows the top of a ridge and the expanse of ocean shimmers towards the horizon on one side while, down a vertiginous drop far below, Lake Batur sparkles towards Kintamani perched on the far rim of the caldera.

It is unimaginable to think that this mountain trail was once the only route the women and children of the Munti villages could take to secure water for their families – a perilous five-hour round trip every day. It was also the start of their journey to go begging with their children in Ubud and on Bali’s main beach resort streets — then their only source of income.

EH Muntigunung logo

Making a difference, step by step

But that’s one of the joys of completing the trek; with every step, you’re making a positive contribution to the livelihood and wellbeing of the island’s poorest, most neglected communities. For the trek is just one of the extraordinary initiatives that have transformed their lives,

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Noku Beach House – Seminyak’s Only Private Beachfront Villa

in News by
Noku Beach House - Stunning beachfront view

There was a time when affluent travellers seeking the ultimate island paradise would slip into a holiday resort – then came luxury villas. Bali has again raised the bar for lavish travel with the launch of Noku Beach House. This game changing retreat is perfectly perched on the Seminyak beachfront – a rare place of privilege and a privately held gem on Bali’s exclusive oceanfront.

The six-suite mansion is oriented toward the sea with a long azure swimming pool, multiple dining areas and alcoves amid curated tropical gardens and pristine lawns. A full-size portable tennis court – in Noku camouflage colours – rolls out when time for play. Deep inside the villa flanking the massive entrance is an exclusive spa which boasts as its centrepiece an oasis pool adorned with hand-made decorative tiles. Here a glass window also converts into an outdoor cinema.

Noku Beach House is opulent six-star luxury dedicated to the mores of the new jet set and those who appreciate rarefied grace and élan. An exclusive and highly skilled army of staff, including a private chef, operates discreetly to service whims around the clock. Leading international luxury villa marketing and management company; Elite Havens, exclusively operates the estate and in doing so they have delivered a lux villa experience that transcends all others.

Elite Havens secured the creative skills of award-winning interior designer Alex Zabotto-Bentley to bring to life this outstanding refurbishment on an essential part of Bali’s famous Seminyak beach landscape. Zabotto-Bentley has created a Zen-style space with a soothing colour palette of light turquoise and blue, which is paired with Moroccan accents. He has commissioned custom furnishings and an art collection of bespoke outsized tribal bead work, antique Indonesian artefacts from across this amazing archipelago and some of nature’s most exquisite designs. Everything from plates to teapots has been artisanal crafted in tiny Balinese villages. The outside poolside dining and rooftop terrace are built from a 100-year-old pier from Borneo.

Guests will revel in the luxury within the flowing spaces of the estate dotted with deep sofas and multiple living zones and endless vistas of ocean and sky. Six contemporary and elegant bedrooms with beautiful bathrooms have every comfort from soft linens to cloud-like beds. Balconies embrace the views – water or lush gardens.

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10 Bali Villas for Corporate Groups and Wellness Retreats

in Tips by
Sanur villas for groups

Mix business with pleasure at your next corporate meeting, training or wellness retreat and lap up the luxury of one of Bali’s fabulous villa estates.  Let’s face it, nowhere does villas like Bali does, and unlike large, impersonal resorts, a villa grants you absolute privacy and exclusivity, with your own state-of-the-art facilities. Best of all, service is highly personalized with a round-the-clock team of butlers, housekeepers and security at your beck and call– not to mention highly skilled chefs who can cook exactly what you want when you want it. Healthy meeting snacks? Canapés and cocktails at sunset? Seafood barbecue by the pool? Balinese themed dinner with live dance performance?  You name it and villa staff will provide it, all with the smiles and warmth of hospitality that Bali is famous for.

Expansive, fully-staffed villas in fabulous locations around the island are well set up for groups, with large capacity common areas for group activities and special events. Most offer all the mod cons, from Satellite TV to high speed WiFi and business centre facilities, alongside generous en suite bedrooms, stunning pools set in lush gardens, sensational spa services, and plenty of space for everyone to spread out.

Sound good? Here are our top ten villa picks for your next corporate event, training or wellness retreat.

Sanur Residence – Sanur

Sanur is the most southerly town on Bali’s ‘Sunrise Coast’ and retains its laid back charm with leafy streets, art galleries, cosy cafes and atmospheric seafront promenade. The three sleek, supremely spacious villas that make up Sanur Residence are wonderfully located on the quiet beach of Padang Galak, just minutes from town and accommodate up to 18 people. The epitome of contemporary elegance, each stylish villa has expansive en suite bedrooms, kitchen and open plan living areas, with one villa housing an ocean-facing, semi open-air banquet/meeting/dining room with the capacity of a 20m² meeting table or up to 40 people in 8 round tables, ideal for presentations or panel discussions. A 23-metre infinity pool, delightful manicured gardens, expansive roof terraces and huge lawn create ample space for socialising and soaking up the endless ocean views.

Villa Pushpapuri – near Sanur

If you like the idea of being slightly more remote, a Pabean Beach villa near Sanur is an inspired choice.

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