Temple in Ubud

A Silent but not so Quiet Retreat

Entrance to my room
Entrance to my room

I spent my last few days in Bali at the Bali Silent Retreat, which is set among the rice paddies and jungle about an hour and half north west of Ubud. I arrived in the early afternoon. The Angel Office Lady greeted me, showed me a video and gave me a tour of the retreat. After that, it was all silence!

My room had a balcony overlooking the jungle. There was no window, just a bamboo blind, so I could lie on my bed and look and listen in solitude. Just because it was silent, didn’t mean it was quiet! Myriads of sounds accompanied the early morning meditation as the sun came up. First the cicadas and cockerels, followed by the birds and the frogs, early morning prayers from the temple, and lastly motor scooters and voices. It was worth getting up just to listen to this cacophony.

Jungle view from my balcony
Jungle view from my balcony

After meditation, which I still find elusive, and yoga, it was time for breakfast. The food was all vegan and wonderful and despite thinking at each meal I would only have one serving, I often returned for ‘seconds’. All the produce came from the garden so was fresh and imaginatively cooked. If I wanted a hot drink, I made it yourself from herbs, ginger, turmeric and/or limes. There was not a tea bag in sight!

Each morning an activity was scheduled. During these I was permitted to talk and as I participated each morning I cheated somewhat on the silence rule! The first morning, we visited Luhur Batugaru Temple. Our transport was an old Beemo which, once upon a time, had been used for public transport. It had definitely seen better days! It was the day of the Full Moon, so the temple was full of Balinese bringing their offerings and saying their prayers, it being one of their special temple days. Family groups gathered for photos all dressed in their temple clothes which were white, yellow and/or red. Most carried colourful woven baskets containing their offerings, which comprised a woven container, flowers, money and food at the very least.

Part of the vegetable gardens at the Silent Retreat
Part of the vegetable gardens at the Silent Retreat
Rice planting at Bali Silent Retreat
Rice planting at Bali Silent Retreat
Post rice planting legs!
Post rice planting legs!

On the second day, I did a garden tour, with the head gardener. He guided us through the extensive retreat gardens where they made their own compost and kept cows solely for their manure. We also met Simon, whose garden was adjacent and who had started as the chef at the Silent Retreat. He was now the advisory chef at Zest in Ubud and had started the New Earth Cooking School which he had set up in an old chicken shed across the rice paddies from the Silent Retreat. During the trip across the fields to show us his kitchen, he stopped to chat to a family planting rice. We duly found ourselves knee deep in squelchy mud and assisting with the planting!

Simon demonstrating at the Cooking School
Simon demonstrating at the Cooking School

The following day was most enjoyable. Along with several others, I attended the cooking class in which Simon showed us how to cook whatever was in his garden. The fruit and vegetables were nothing like the vegetables and fruit that would grow at home so there would have to be some adapting to re-create the recipes. We had a delicious lunch together at the end of the class in which we ate what we had produced (although Simon and his team of kitchen staff had done most of the work!)

New Earth Cooking School in an old chicken shed
New Earth Cooking School in an old chicken shed

After lunch, yoga and meditation was scheduled, but I was far too lazy for that and lounged in my room instead, reading and enjoying the sounds. There was a Fire Ceremony on the night of the Full Moon. This required a small fire made from cow dung and ghee. It involved much repetitive chanting whilst we all made an offering and privately thought of a change we required in our lives. In theory, the ceremony assists in the fulfillment of this desire. Time will tell!

Offering at a statue at my Airbnb
Offering at a statue at my Airbnb

After four days, I was not ready to leave but my time was up. However, I still had time to take the trip to the nearby Hot Pools where I had a warm soak in an almost empty pool before returning to Ubud for the last two nights. I arrived in torrential rain. My Airbnb had no car access, and I didn’t recognise the place my driver had stopped. Luckily, he phoned my host and a scooter duly arrived that took first my suitcase and then me on the back – another stylish arrival, this time draped in a bright yellow plastic cape kindly provided by my host. My room was large, my bathroom luxurious, and I had a huge verandah that accommodated a comfy settee, table and chairs, and a kitchen. It was the best accommodation to date. There was an abundance of warungs and assorted cafes within easy walking distance so I had a comfortable end to my stay.

I caught the Perama shuttle bus to the airport on my leaving day. This meant a long wait at the airport because of the timing. I wanted to catch a later bus but when booking I was advised to take the earlier one. Traffic was so dense and unreliable in Denpasar that it was difficult to know how long the journey would take and the later one might not have arrived in time. I played it safe and did a lot of reading before joining the long queues at security and immigration.

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