On September 2, I married Adam Augustus Renzi aboard the Adirondac Steamboat out of Lake George Village. The ten days that followed our wedding led us on a Honeymoon Adventure in Bali. It turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of our lives.
Our wedding officiant, Reverend Britt Hall, mentioned last year that there was a special travel agency devoted to creating retreats and pilgrimages to spiritual destinations around the world. It would be leading a 10-day trip to Bali that would depart one day after our wedding. It did not take us long to determine this would be a perfect honeymoon destination. The timing was a miracle, since the Spirit Tours travel dates of September 4th to 14th were announced nearly a year after Augustus and I determined our wedding date would be September 2nd, 2017.
We mentioned this possible adventure to Augustus’ mother, Margaret, and she turned it from a neat idea into a feasible plan by gifting us the down payments that very day. Within a week of learning about the tour, we began planning this journey to the other side of the world.
I inserted the Bali trip schedule into my iPhone’s calendar and the excitement began to build as I realized that in several months, weeks and then days we’d be experiencing the magic of Bali. The iCalendar allowed me to look ahead and daydream about my upcoming adventure. I imagined that on a Friday in the distant future we would be participating in a snorkeling adventure and on an coming Tuesday I’d be rafting Class III rapids along the Ayung River. Then butterflies fluttered in my stomach as I realized I’d soon be learning how to tie and wear a traditional Sari while visiting Bali temples, including Goa Lawah (the Bat Cave), Pura Gunung Kawi Sebatu, and the famous seaside temple of Tanah Lot.
My heart pounded with excitement as we neared our departure date. We newlyweds would fly out of JFK for a 15-hour flight to Taipei, Taiwan where we would transfer to our final 5-hour flight to Bali. Upon arrival, we would meet our guide, Jim Cramer, the rest of Spirit Tours crew and be whisked off to our first stop on the tour, the beautiful Puri Santrain Beach Resort.
Oh my gosh, this is happening tomorrow!
It’s hard to believe that we returned from this life-changing trip two weeks ago. There were so many wonderful experiences that I can’t capture them all, but here are a few highlights:
The Puri Santrian Beach Resort was set within beautifully landscaped grounds leading to a white sandy beach. Four gorgeous pools offered uniquely different experiences and we made sure to enjoy all of them. We received a complimentary couples massage and savored many delicious meals during our stay. We (along with 28 fellow pilgrims) were also given a copy of the Gayatri Mantra, which we recited together each morning 108 times while sitting in a circle of white chairs in a beautiful raw art space. The Gayatri Mantra is:
Aum Bhur Bhuvah Swah
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi
Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat
The loose translation is:
The supreme one, self-existent, absolute consciousness omnipresent
That source of all things (of the sun) the best (who is worthy)
Glorious light God-quality (divine) let us meditate (focus our mind on)
Thoughts (intellect) that inspire (may it push)
The second hotel on our journey was the Rama Candi Dasa. It was perched above a rocky beach, with views of mountains cascading down from the flanks of a nearby volcano and of peaks on distant islands. The ocean water was a cyan blue and its swells were ever changing.
The third hotel we checked into was the Komaneka Rasa Sayang Resort located on Monkey Forest Road in Ubud. Lovely red roses and white Plumeria blooms formed a heart in the center of the bed and also filled the clawfoot tub. It was such a romantic welcome! Unfortunately my husband was not feeling well our first night after coming down with an ailment that we dubbed “Bali Butt”, I will just leave it at that…
During the following days we enjoyed shopping for souvenirs and visiting to the famous Monkey Forest, where the public can cautiously feed bananas to these wild mischief-makers while attempting to capture photos with the monkeys sitting on their heads and shoulders. I tried to coax a cute little baby to join me for a photo op, but after eating several bananas given to him by other photo seekers he just looked at mine and ran away up a tree. Oh well, I guess “photo with a monkey on my head” will have to remain a wish on my bucket list for a while longer.
All over Bali, we saw small offering baskets made of palm leaves filled with flowers, rice and incense, which are called canangs. They were used to harmonize public spaces and charmingly littered the streets of Bali. This is but one of the many colorful and fragrant memories that fill my smiles. Like the crashing waves, poolside drinks, temple ceremonies and experiencing the organized chaos of Bali driving, I will never forget any of this.
One favorite moment occurred while hiking out of the canyon that we had just white water rafted through. I watched my husband remove his wet camouflaged Nike sneakers and trade them to a local wood craftsmen who hiked up the hillside, negotiating with us in broken English the entire way. He said he would give the sneakers to his doctor (it was unclear what kind of swap that would be, but I enjoyed witnessing the exchange). He traded some of his carvings (book ends and a chop stick collection with case) for the shoes. My husband then made his way back to the bus in bare feet feeling he had made a great trade.
Later in the journey, we were treated to a special performance of Balinese dance by Semara Raith (Sun and Moon), one of Bali’s premier dance and music groups. I learned after the dance was finished that the reason all the musicians were intently focused on the lead dancer is because he is their conductor. While dancing, he conducts the band’s live music through his hand gestures and eye movements.
Our tour group was invited to the dancer’s private compound a day earlier where we met the lead dancer, his wife and daughter, who also danced, and his son who played a drum that night. This modest family electrified the audience with their brilliant costumes, makeup and various musical talents.
I find myself sharing and re-watching the videos I took of the performance. Our reserved seats were close to the stage and allowed me to watch the musicians expertly handle their hammers to create harmonious bell like tones from their traditional instruments. The music was fast and exciting, my husband joked “now I know what it’s like to live in a pinball machine”! It was fascinating to observe this very different style of music and dance, particularly after spending so much time practicing and learning our own “First Dance”.
Thirty strangers came together from across the United States and began each day as pilgrims reciting the Gayatri Mantra. This foreign hymn is written in Hindu and became my anchor to connect with the divine and to this special new family with whom I got to share my honeymoon. I now find this mantra peacefully fills my mind when I’m strolling down the grocery aisle, finding a seat on the crowded A Subway Train or while hailing a taxi. These foreign words create harmony at times when my brain may otherwise