Bali, Island of Flowers. What promise, of an almost unreal mystique! It could be the title of an old Stevenson novel. Here, ‘flower power’ is everywhere, and a day without their presence just wouldn’t be normal. I woke up early to go to the market in Ubud.
The light was soft, and settled slowly on the trees and the rocks to reveal their sleeping tints. My nose quivers like a magic wand and I returned a smile to those who were opening their arms to me. Balinese women are so beautiful in the morning. It’s as though they are seated on a dress made of colorful blossoms. They are surrounded by a multitude of baskets full of bright flowers with heady fragrances.
A breeze of freshness. These flowers have just been cut, often from the women’s own gardens. There is something for everyone. I even had the crazy urge to roll around in them, and throw them in the air by the handful.
But you know me: I stopped myself. And you see, most of these flowers are meant to be used as daily offerings. They are delicately placed in Canang Sari (small woven baskets) as a tribute to the Gods. It's beautiful and soothing. Then I was struck by love at first sight. It was 'Lady Frangipane' with its helicopter-shaped head, playing the chameleon, sometimes pink, red or yellow and white. You twirl it between your fingers and a cloud of sweetness emerges. I also met the indomitable Ylang-Ylang (which, by the way, means “Flower of Flowers” in Malay), with its sweet, sometimes slightly medicinal aroma. It has the shape of crazy unkempt yellow hair.
My arms are full with orange carnations, pink lotuses, animal orchids, birds of paradise, Tumbak Rajas shaped like pagodas, Bali Hais and Champakas. I brought this enormous bouquet to my hotel room, ready to turn it into a fragrance bath. The night began to fall. I laid down outside to listen to the wild sounds of nature around me. And then she appeared: the Queen of the Night.
After all of her friends had fallen asleep, she spread her petals to release the hot and heady perfume that is hers alone. Sublime Jasmine. I fell asleep with her. Tomorrow is a new day and a new beginning. I'm leaving for Java where I will write to you soon. '