Bali – a destination of pure culinary delight!
Don’t get me wrong – I think New Zealand is just the most incredibly beautiful place and I would LOVE to go back – but, to say I am a little jealous about Matt’s world travels is a total and complete understatement. I am absolutely green with envy!
A bit of a culture shock
Anyway, even though Bali is pretty close to home – I was super excited about going there for our 11-night honeymoon. We both agreed we wanted a relaxing tropical honeymoon filled with food, cocktails, massages etc. After an amazing wedding, we couldn’t wait for some rest and relaxation!
However, when anyone ever asks me how our honeymoon was or what I thought of Bali – I sheepishly admit that I was pretty culture shocked.
People talk about Bali like it’s a part of Australia – just like they do about New Zealand. But while there are plenty of Westerners around – it certainly felt like I was a world away from home.
Now I’m normally the more forward part of our pair – but in our first two weeks of married life – Matt certainly took the lead!
I gripped Matt’s hand so tight as we walked into the truly rundown building that is Denpasar airport. The walls were lined with dirty, damaged and very old air-conditioners – everything seemed kind of like it was falling down. Someone from work had told me they had seen rats at the airport – and for someone who has a ridiculous rodent phobia – it was hard not to feel myself looking for them as Matt whisked me quickly though the customs area.
Another friend told me there would be military guards with machine guns. This actually scared me less than the before mentioned issue – but that’s phobias for you. Thankfully, we saw neither. After a little confusion with a guard who wanted to take our passports away (we told him no thank you and that we would be happy to wait in line to pay our entry) – we headed out the front to find our driver.
There were people everywhere! They wanted to help us with our bags, or offered us their driving services. The whole way Matt politely declined as he walked his slightly shocked wife through the crowds, his 6″4 height a clear advantage when getting through the people. I spotted my new surname on a white card and a feeling of sheer relief washed over me. Matt steered us towards a smiling man and he welcomed us like we were old friends. Dharma shook Matt’s hand, asked us about our flight, took our bags and replaced them with bottles of cold water and placed garlands of flowers around our necks. We suddenly felt like we were on our honeymoon!
We jumped into an air-conditioned mini-van which smelt of tropical flowers and with cool towels pressed against our sweaty cheeks – we were on our way.
Relaxation melted away completely as the driver began to duck and weave around the late-night traffic. By this time it was about 11pm – we were tired, but excited – and suddenly, we were on a roller coaster. Horns beep non-stop on Balinese roads – but not in an aggressive sort of way. Just a light beep here and a longer beep there as the van passed moped after moped.
Dharma was as cool as a cucumber – no seat belt on as he turned in his seat to chat to us, asking about our wedding and whether we had been to Bali before. He gave us tips about how to remember what the money is worth and how to barter. He told us about some tours we should do in a day or two – he said he’d pick us up. Not wanting to be rude, and unsure of what to say, we nodded and smiled and agreed to a tour.
Our very own oasis
Before we knew it, the ducking and weaving was over and we were pulling up out the front of Kamuela Villas. Once again there were warm welcomes, cool towels – and a very tropical drink – filled with ICE! Alarm bells started ringing in my head because everyone back home had said not to have drinks with ice in it, for fear of the dreaded Bali Belly. Reading my mind, the porter gently reasurred me “Mrs Cummins, the ice is made with mineral water – it’s very safe”. I was so relieved and took a great big sip. This drink was AWESOME! It had chunks of lime and lemongrass, maybe a little palm sugar and soda water. So refreshing! It was also the first time anyone had called me by my married name … it was a special moment 🙂
After a tour of our gorgeous room, we hit the pool for a late night swim. Pure bliss!
Getting into the Bali lifestyle
One of the things I never understood is some people’s unwillingness to embrace local food and culture when they go overseas. I was determined to immerse myself in the Balinese culinary experience, from the very first day. So, I ordered the Balinese breakfast almost every day – while Matt enjoyed a bit of all the worlds. From Nasi and Mi Goreng to delicate curry – I really enjoyed Balinese breakfast. If you’re a lover of savoury food – it’s really great!
While I was keen to embrace the food, Matt remembered some of his Indonesian from primary school and with the help of Google translation – he began welcoming and thanking everyone we met! He was really good by the end of our trip – and I think the locals appreciated the fact he made the effort! His favourite was “sing ken-ken” – which apparently translates to “no worries mate” or something to that effect.
Restaurants to tantalise the taste buds!
We did a little shopping while in Seminyak, but the key things were to go to two places (both food related). One was Ku De Ta. This is an exclusive bar and restaurant on the beach. Although it was similar to Aussie prices, we sat for hours, drank cocktails and had some nibbles while watching the sun set. It’s a wonderful place to go if you don’t want people coming up and selling you things all the time. The music is groovy and the parties and food are famous, but, we just had a small taste of what they had to offer.
The other place that I was desperate to go to for dinner was Breeze Restaurant at the Samaya. We had considered staying at this hotel, but it just wasn’t in the budget. The night we went it was sort of raining, and so for a portion of our meal we had to sit in the under-cover part of the restaurant. However, once the weather cleared, we were promptly moved by the very attentive wait staff to the beach-side tables.
I had a chilled crab salad for entree, which came in a gorgeous glass bowl filled with ice. It created real drama for the dish and made it feel very special. Matt had a Spanish-inspired dish with chorizo and potato – which was right down his alley. This was followed by a beautiful, fragrant laksa for me, and mi goreng for Matt. We couldn’t help ourselves, we had to have dessert – tropical-flavoured creme brulee to share, plus a few cocktails to finish. Needless to say, we could barely move as we walked out!
Another highlight of Seminyak was La Lucciola – a gorgeous Italian Restaurant, right on the waterfront. Words cannot describe how wonderful it was, so I will leave it to the photos!
A truly magical and amazing place. We couldn’t recommend it more for anyone visiting Seminyak.
A day of adventure!
As mentioned earlier, Dharma did show up three days after our arrival to take us on a “tour”. We didn’t know where we were going or what he had in store – but we knew it was going to be fun!
So, it was back in the tropical flower-smelling, air-conditioned mini-van for a tour of the inner part of the island where we stopped at various places along the way to see how Balinese people live, including their villages and temples. It’s certainly a very different way of life to Australia. We watched ladies hand-painting fabric using bees wax to create intricate designs for sarongs and other clothing. We brought gorgeous little dresses for our nieces, which they just love! We also watched artists paint. We couldn’t resist and brought three gorgeous pieces.
Wood carving made by the most incredible craftsmen were just extraordinary, and seeing how sterling silver jewelry is made was fascinating.
But, what truly captivated both of us – was visiting a local farm where they grow Balinese coffee – which we absolutely fell in love with while we were there. As we toured the plantation our guide showed us many of the local herbs and spices that are grown there, including lemongrass, cinnamon cloves, vanilla pods and many others. While I’d seen many of them on supermarket shelves, I’d never seen how they grow before.
We tasted so many different varieties of coffee and tea and were glad to be able to buy some to bring home. To find out more about the tour we took – click here.
Romance – just like the movies
Every meal was really special in Bali – delicious – and there was just so much of it! We were also told that we couldn’t visit Bali without going to Jimbaran Bay, with its tables on the beach, lobster and crab. We sure weren’t going to miss that!
It did take us a while to get to Jimbaran Bay from our villa in Seminyak because there were some pretty major roadworks going on. We were scared we would miss the sunset – but a lovely lady was guiding us to our table on the sand just in time! As we sat, all I could say as I looked left and right along the beach was – wow! There were fire lanterns strewn across the sand – tables with linen white table cloths, each with a candle. It was like a scene from some romantic movie. This was further highlighted when a band came by and serenaded us with their rendition of “Brown Eyed Girl”. It was movie-scene material!
As you can see – the food also did not disappoint! YUM!!
The grass is greener on the other side
After seven days in Seminyak, it was time to head up into the central, rice-paddy filled land of Ubud. We were really looking forward to less hustle and bustle and to a truly serene location. As we made the two-hour trip, everything seemed to get greener and greener as we headed towards the country.
Our new hotel had been described on sites like Trip Advisor as “heaven on earth” by the majority of reviewers. Needless to say – we could not wait to get there!
The Chedi Club at Tanah Gajah in Ubud could not have been more beautiful. From the moment we walked down the winding paths to the open lobby area – we truly felt like we were in heaven! We were introduced to our private butler, Komang – and he looked after us incredibly.
From a hand-written welcome letter from the hotel manager to ice cubes, an outdoor bath filled with rose petals and a three-tiered platter of afternoon tea … everything was, well, perfect!
On our first night we were treated to our first of four cocktail hours. You sit in the first part of the open-air restaurant – watch the sunset while sipping on a whiskey Sour, Mojito or whatever other cocktail you might like. This was followed by a dramatic display of traditional Balinese dancing, It was a truly awesome performance – rhythmic dancing and singing with fire throwing. The photo below is of us sitting with the whole group following their performance.
As we walked back to the restaurant for our first meal – which was to be crispy duck – we could hear the most beautiful music. It turns out there were two men sitting on the ground, playing a traditional bamboo instrument. Every time a guest would walk in or out – they would play. It was a truly royal experience!
Not only that, but when it came time for our food to arrive – this is how it was delivered to our table. It was explained that this honour was bestowed on us because we were the “king and queen”!
The Chedi Club was such an amazing oasis, that except for out last day when we decided to make our way into Ubud for a spot of shopping – we didn’t leave! We enjoyed beautiful massages, amazing food – and Matt even organised a romantic dinner in the middle of the rice fields. It was truly magical.
Our Chedi Club butler, Komang – he was a really cool guy. He was so warm and looked after us exceptionally. Every night we would go to dinner and we would return to a beautifully lit bedroom – and he would make elephants, or dogs or some other creation out of our towels. Just fantastic. The Chedi Club was an absolute dream and we really hope we will get to go back there one day.
Bali – just relax and go with the flow
I may not have travelled very much overseas – but I’m not so naive to think that Bali was going to be just like home. In saying that, I didn’t expect the “boutique” area of Seminyak to look like there had been an earthquake. There are no proper footpaths and open sewers – it’s certainly not the high-end place I had envisioned.
But, while the country is clearly very poor – they are the nicest people we have ever met. Warm, friendly, appreciative of the fact we had come to Bali – it was really nice to spend time with Balinese people and learn how they live their lives and what they value. Balinese people are clearly survivors – they do what they need to do to get by – even if it means a mum, dad, and three children are all piled on one motorbike. Watching people with massive loads of heavy cargo propped against their backs as they ducked and weaved through traffic was amazing. But while life is clearly hard for many people, they always seem to be smiling and happy and welcoming. I guess it proves that money can’t always buy you happiness.
Before our wedding we visited a Balinese restaurant in our hometown of Geelong – and from the open kitchen, the chef poked his head out to ask us if we’d enjoyed our meals. We said it was delicious and that we were excited to get a taste of what was to come on our honeymoon. He told us the key to having a great time in Bali was to just relax and go with the flow. He couldn’t have been more right about that!
From a culinary perspective Bali was an absolute taste sensation – from mi and nasi goreng to crispy duck, satay and sambal – we truly loved every morsel and ever moment.
Have you ever been to Bali? What were your experiences and what did you think of it and the food?
P.s My apologies this post is late and that I have been MIA for a few days. Matt and I have both been very sick for the past week and so this post was left incomplete. But, we are getting back to full health now. See you on Thursday for a delicious recipe!
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