Tropical beauty Bali is situated just south of the equator in the
Indonesian archipelago and is one of the “Spice Islands” of the former
Dutch East Indies.
Bali is an island of temples set against a back drop of verdant rice fields and soaring volcanoes, beautiful beaches and glorious sunsets. Mount Agung, Bali’s largest volcano also called “The Mother Mountain”, looks down on a people rich in art, culture and religious belief with a deep sense of ritual, communal spirit and love of beauty. In Bali’s tropical climate, many aromatic plants thrive and, to my knowledge, there is no significant production of essential oils in Bali. It is none-the-less a wonderful place to experience aromatic plants such as jasmine, cananga, tuberose, frangipani, lotus, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, galangal, lemongrass and vetiver.
The Balinese religion is based on the Hindu principles of tolerance, devotion, communal worship. This devotion is often expressed in the form of fragrant offerings during their daily rituals, many festivals and ceremonies. I had the rare privilege to be invited to a family temple on Galungan Day, the most sacred day in the Balinese calendar. Prayers, incense, burning sandalwood, spices, aromatic flowers, ornate fabrics, holy water and food were all offered to welcome and entertain the family’s ancestors and to celebrate the victory of Indra (good) over Mayadenawa (evil).
Balinese Healing Traditions
The Balinese have long utilized aromatic plants as part of their traditional way of life through massage and other time-honored therapies. Many of these techniques have been passed down through the generations and originated centuries ago, in the palaces of central Java where many secrets of health and beauty were created for the benefit of the Javanese royal family.
The Balinese Boreh
Is a traditional herbal scrub used at the end of a hard working day to relieve muscle aches, increase blood circulation and create relaxation. It is also used as a treatment for headaches, fever and when there is a hint of a chesty cough. Balinese families use the Boreh, both as a curative and preventative treatment. The Boreh paste is applied all over the body, avoiding sensitive areas and then your body is wrapped with cloth to keep the paste in contact with your skin. The sensation is of a deeply penetrating heat that melts away tension and at the same time is invigorating. It is also wonderful for exfoliating and softening the skin reflexology. Gentle massage may also be used during the treatment.
I hope you have enjoyed this brief glimpse of Bali which in many ways could be thought of as just another tropical island, with beaches, resorts, shops and all the trappings of tourism. However, once you have met the Balinese and experienced their rich culture, sat at night on the edge of the jungle over looking verdant rice paddies, with fire flies floating like tiny ghosts in the air and the fragrant aroma of tuberose on the warm breeze, then you know you are in a place that deserves to be called paradise!
Jim Llewellyn has a background in applied chemistry, medical laboratory sciences and information technology as well as a keen and long-standing interest in the study of aromatherapy and aromatic plants. In 1994, with his life partner Robbi Zeck, he established the specialty tour company Aroma Tours and since then has continued to offer unique tours and study retreats to explore and study aroma and aromatherapy in a growing number of countries worldwide. Jim is a gastronomist and member of the Australian Sommelier’s Society as well as a travel writer and accomplished photographer.