I arrived in Bali on the eve of the Hindu New Year in the Balinese Saka calendar.
“You know tomorrow is Silence Day, yes?” The friendly customs officer informs me. I tell him I am a regular visitor to Bali, but this is my first time during the sacred holiday. It makes an impression.
I am greeted by Suta, a driver from Vision Villas. He hands me an ice-cold bottle of Aqua and we set off to maneuver through the many colorful parades that are spread out along the road as the Hindus celebrate on the evening before their day of silence.
In Indonesia, they celebrate their New Year through purification and sacrifice. On New Year’s Eve, the villages and homes are cleaned, food is cooked for two days and in the evening people make lots of noise to scare away the devils.
Suta tells me there is a great lot of activity and exorcism island-wide. The devotees in traditional Balinese costume go to puras to worship and collect holy water. They also carry and burn the ogoh-ogoh, a giant papier-mache statue representing evil spirits. The next day will be the day of total peace and quiet, where everything stops for a day. They do not leave their homes, cook, or engage in any activity. Streets are deserted, the airport is closed and tourists are not allowed to leave hotel complexes. He then laughs and says, “It is only one day at least, for the sake of the environment. The air will be clean tomorrow.”
He is absolutely right. There is always a logical explanation behind the ancient wisdom.
Vision Villas is located in Medahan, not too far from the artisan villages of Gianyar. It is set in breathtaking surroundings, amidst nature at its best, in rural Bali. It is a personal enrichment resort. I am intrigued.
Pure Balinese Elegance Komang, the very efficient and friendly receptionist, welcomes me with a refreshing lemon drink and after I have registered, asks me for my dinner order. It is late, but she says the kitchen is open. “Would you like your food on your verandah?”
What could sound better?
She takes me through a well-manicured lush garden, the candles illuminate our path, we walk towards the pool, up a few steps to Ganesha room.
The four-poster bed with its silk cushions and a most comfortable bed with fluffy pillows sit in the middle of the room. There are beautiful artworks along with a Ganesha statue in the wooden display case which also cleverly hides the stocked up mini-fridge. The arrangement with the welcome fruit basket is a work of art in itself and my favorite flower, the frangipani, is everywhere. The gorgeous bathroom, with its flower arrangement that sits inside a fresh young coconut, is exquisite and there is a statue of a graceful lady hiding the nozzle in the outdoor shower. Pure Balinese elegance coupled with meticulous attention to detail in this five-star luxury boutique resort, in the midst of rice and vegetable fields is astounding. Wireless Internet throughout the resort. Heaven!
I have come with an open mind, and I feel I will be blessed by many insights that this place is ready to offer me” and being here at this auspicious time will be a special experience. I think pure thoughts, I want to see all the dimensions that Roger and Renate Hamilton have set for their guests to discover. I leaf through the information booklet about the Ganesha room.
From my years studying in India, I know Ganesha is the ‘God of Knowledge’, or as it says in my folder, “‘God of New Beginnings’ – the elephant head denotes wisdom and its trunk represents Aum, the sound symbol of cosmic reality.” I read on. “You are in a better place now than when you were at the end of your last cycle. Pause in this place and take the time to connect and reflect before your new beginning. What are you grateful for? Who are you thankful to?”, the folder in my room taunts me.
After a night of blissful slumber, I sit on my verandah, on a wooden sun chair, a silk cushion supporting my head. I have John Grisham’s latest book on my lap but don’t feel like reading. The place draws me in. It is shrouded in soul-pleasing foliage that attracts the birds and butterflies, the pool shimmers with its turquoise blue water and the fountain overflows with joyous rhythm. The bees buzz and circle the flower-laden trees. I am neither thirsty or hungry. This beauty has fulfilled my soul. Bali is the ‘Island of Gods.’ Is this the Eden we all crave to be in?, I wonder.
Mythology and Symbolism
I look at my surroundings with an open mind, searching for meanings and nuances. Ancient mythology and symbolism play a big role in the creation of this resort. Will I be able to peel away layers to delve into the deeper meanings of this magical place as I am challenged to do by my hosts? Or should I just enjoy the beauty it offers, to relax and rejuvenate my spirits? I go around taking pictures and committing to memory the spots that are inspiring and gorgeous. Beautiful thoughts, beautiful places.
Renate – Guests Come First
Reading the information in my room urges me to go on a discovery tour around the special rooms at Vision Villas. I must look for my guide and hostess Renate who has so graciously opened her home to me during this holiday. She has even kept a few of the staff for me to feel comfortable. I feel humbled and grateful. “Guest always comes first”, she tells me happily while showing me her resort.
“There are 12 rooms which follow a cycle, telling a tale from creation to preservation to completion. Each room represents a Hindu God who is part of the cycle.”
I poke my head into most rooms. Every room is different, and all the decorations are unique and have been personally researched and found by Renate and her interior designer/friend Desley Truscott.
“We did the whole place in three weeks just before the XL Results Foundation Country Managers’ meetings last March. We were still hanging curtains when people were arriving. Roger is the person who had the ideas about how each room, every statue, fountain, and pathway was going to be designed and how they all had to be connected in a cosmic cycle.”
True Seekers Find the Answer
The extensive write-up in each room lets guests get a glimpse of Roger’s whole vision and an indication of his depth of knowledge in this area. “Everything comes together in harmony and completion in the chain of 12 rooms while the 13th room watches,” he writes. There are questions but only the true seekers will find the answers.
On the other hand, one does not need to be a philosopher, a Hindu, or even religious to learn and appreciate the thought that has gone into creating this resort. Anyone can enjoy the fabulous ambiance and the many amenities that it provides for its guests or what it does for charities in Bali.
Renate, a radiographer by profession, is very passionate about the association of Vision Villas with John Fawcett Foundation, where she volunteers three days a week. “I do anything there, including cleaning the toilets.”
A one-night stay at the Villa results in a donation that provides one eye operation for a Balinese. Every day that you stay here you give vision to a person. Renate is very big on charity and, like her husband, strongly believes in making money and giving it away. She has set up a gift shop in the resort which she sources locally made unique gifts for, with all proceeds going to the Foundation. There are silver jewelry, wooden statues, silk ware, handmade soaps, and toiletries on sale.
An auction was organized after last year’s Entrepreneur Business School (EBS). With the help of friends and associates, it raised RP40 million for John Fawcett Foundation. She proudly displays the receipts from the donations at her gift shop.
Renate is a very fit looking lady and she radiates a healthy glow. I ask if she is into any fitness regiment. She casually mentions that she was a champion swimmer in her youth in Ireland, where she won lots of trophies in the nationals and county meets. I find her worldly and so down-to-earth. She is very enthusiastic about Bali and her volunteer work. Her positive attitude and enthusiasm for life is contagious. We chat about her childhood. As a youngster, she lived in Zambia with her family and loved the outdoors and the animals.
In the Flow
Bali is home she says and coming home through the gates its positive energies envelop her and she feels calm and in harmony with her surroundings and she feels her life is worthwhile. She volunteers at the Bali International School with her friend, Jane Manser, a New Zealander, whose parents were Olympic swimmers. The coach 80 children from 27 nationalities and promote internal competition.
We walk through the gardens and she shows me her favorite spot, the spa pavilion which sits in the middle of a big square pond where the water lilies and lotus flowers jostle for attention and wait to be kissed by the rays of the sun. White muslin curtains hang from the four corners and it is a very romantic and peaceful setting for a relaxing spa treatment. (But today everyone is off and I will have to wait for another time to experience it.)
A ‘Presence’ in the Spa
She tells me a story about the Parvati room that faces the spa bale. “In the beginning, the staff would refuse to go in as they felt a ‘presence’ inside. A few family members who are spiritual teachers felt the same way so the village priest had to be called in and after the rituals and ceremony, white curtains had to be hung across the room at the pavilion to attract the ‘presence’ outside and talismans were put on opposite sides of the bale. Now the room is fine and the feeling that someone was there is gone.”
But then this is Bali. Superstitions rule, I say!
We keep walking and she shows me the tennis court and the library. “We also sponsor 33 students from the village, they could not afford to go to school so we help them out.” I am sure the villagers are very grateful to have such a generous neighbor within them. “We feel very safe here,” she adds. “They protect us. Most of the village is in some way connected to the resort. They employ everyone locally and Renate is very pleased with her management team who are very competent in their positions.
Vision Villas has held a wedding, XL Country Managers meetings, EBS gatherings, and even a detox workshop week put on by a Life Member. “It has been a very enjoyable year so far,” she says, “and it has been a blast living here and meeting so many interesting Life Members.”
The Children Impress
I felt as if I had monopolized Renate long enough. This was the long weekend for the children and they needed her attention. Kathleen, a very smart young lady of 12, shows me her drawings. She likes to draw and design clothes while Luke, the youngest, who is eight, impresses me with his poetry. Ten-year-old Theresa is ready to make a cake. I leave them and wander around the compound.
I find my favorite spot on the second floor near the library. The reading pavilion is peaceful and overlooks the green fields. Comfy cushions and a good book are what the doctor ordered, so I sit to read and look at the stone monk on the floor. Some kids see me from the field and yell, “hello”. I wave back, then change places so they can’t see me. I don’t want them to get into trouble. Silence Day isn’t over until 6.00 am tomorrow morning.
Nugget Says Hello
There should be no lights, no music, and only candles. We have an early dinner. The staff asks me if I want something from the menu, and I say I will have the same as the family. Renate has cooked lasagna, which is delicious. We have the cake they all made together, and everyone agrees it is a marvelous effort and very tasty indeed. Kids go to their rooms. Nugget, the adopted dog, comes and says hello, and Renate and I sit in the candlelight and chat for hours. Candles are everywhere.
I bid goodnight and goodbye to my gracious hostess and return to my room. “The room you are in is prepared to offer you a personal insight if you are prepared to accept it. The full vision that this place offers is a magical treat that it unravels over time.” I will come back to discover more. I have found a few answers to the questions, which made my stay meaningful. If your soul aches for peace and tranquility, make a stop at the Vision Villas “to get vision and to give vision”, as their mantra goes, and in the process feel recharged and rejuvenated.
I left the room of Ganesha, the god with the elephant head, to travel across Bali to meet real elephants who were rescued and taken care of by a very caring soul, which you can read about in a future edition of XL Magazine.