Existing Member?

There and Back Again


INDONESIA | Friday, 28 August 2009 | Views [932] | Comments [3]

Making the town of Ubud our base, we spent 4 weeks in Bali in August.

The trip was an experiment in trying to live simply in another overseas culture – to find out how we cope health-wise and also to try to get a better understanding of living without TV, newspapers and other ‘western’ trappings and to appreciate the challenges facing people in Bali as well as their religious, political and other perspectives.

Our accommodation was in a family compound (Rumah Roda)a few hundred metres from the main street (Jl Raya) of Ubud. We stayed in one of 5 guest rooms. The compound also has a Warrung (Restaurant). While some were not able to speak English, we spent time interacting with members of the household and their staff.


 Most of our time was taken up with lots of walking, massages, eating, sleeping/reading, cooking classes, shopping, interacting with locals and other tourists, a couple of tours and more eating.

Sounds of Waking – About  5 am the roosters start their crowing competition; 6am Wayan is sweeping outside the rooms, swish, swish; followed by the tinkle of cups and saucers on our glass table and then the plonk of the thermos of hot water; next the sounds of  our next door neighbours opening their doors and stepping outside. “Good morning”, says Wayan, “ ready for Makan (food)?”

Other sounds to remember – the whirring of kites high up in the sky; people singing as they worked; a gamelan and drums practicing in a nearby compound; the clicking of geckos.

 There are some great walks around Ubud – you need a good map, a bit of luck or an initial guide to find and get started on the walks. In 5 minutes we could leave the hustle and bustle of Ubud and walk through the rice paddies – listen to the gurgling water in the many channels; the click clack of the “bird scarers”;  feel the soft cooling breeze and lose ourselves in the lush scenery. While nearby the rice farmers went about their work – planting, hoeing, harvesting. We tried to go on the walks as early as possible or in the evening when it is cooler and they usually ended with a meal or drink in a local Warrung.

 The massages were really special. Our favourite was a 1 ½ hour head and foot massage at ‘Lily’s‘in Jl. Bisma. (Rp 75,000 or $9.00). We also had a number of full body Balinese massages at ‘Nur’ and ‘Beji Ayu’. Several Reflexology treatments were appreciated after a day of walking. On one occasion we had the full works – full body massage, exfoliate, rub down with yoghurt and ending with sipping slowly on some aromatic ginger tea while languishing in a warm flower bath. They were all good and very cheap!

 Participating in 2 half day ‘Casa Luna’ cooking classes really whet our appetites for Indonesian/Balinese food. We prepared a range of dishes and are looking forward to hunting down the ingredients and trying them out in Adelaide.

The food in Ubud is something to experience. You can get almost anything and the foods in some restaurants are of a very high standard. Our favorite places were:

Igilanca Warrung Jl Raya – good basic Balinese food and cheap

Café Tegal Jl. Hanoman –Excellent Balinese fare.

Café Ja Juice – Juices and fresh food. (Two drinks of interest: turmeric root with honey and lemon and juice of the Soursop)

Organic Café – In the middle of the rice paddies. Salads & juices (especially, fresh avocado).

Bali Yoga Warrung Jl Kajeng

Casa Luna Jl Raya – fusion food; Iced cappuccino is divine and best coffee and cakes.

Babi Guling Warung – suckling pig. Claimed to be best in the world. Peter ate there 3 times.

And our own restaurant at Rumah Roda especially their ‘Megibung’ (Balinese buffet) and Bubuk Tutu (smoked duck)

 Toward the end of the 4 weeks and much to the delight of the locals and with no tourist in sight, we tried a traditional (chili hot!) Balinese breakfast from the women in the market. Their cakes were also very tasty.

Some Other Unusual and Addictive Tastes – Comfort tea (milk, fresh ginger and nutmeg); the mango lassie at Organic; ginger, lime and lemongrass drink; frogs legs; dalumen (a green tonic mixture made fresh each morning by a wonderful woman in the market); mangosteens and jack fruit and of course black rice pudding.

 We visited a small family cottage industry making palm sugar. This was an eye-opening experience. The family member shimmies up an extremely tall coconut palm (about 10 trees before breakfast) and using a complicated and dangerous maneuver, harvests nectar from the metre long coconut palm flower. This happens twice a day for a month. The harvested nectar is boiled in a large wok over a hot fire for 3 hours until it is reduced by more than half and thickens. The family receives about $3.00 for half a kilo of palm sugar at the local market. We were given a sample to bring back and fortunately it cleared customs ok.

We also observed the harvesting of sea salt and on another occasion sea weed. It is hard, grinding and very hot work. We were intrigued that a lot of the heavy building work or in the rice paddies is performed by women – often older women.

 We made contact with an organization called ‘Threads of Life’ that works with farmers and producers on Indonesian Islands and East Timor where they produce beautiful textiles and weaving. We hope to have ongoing contact with Cecelia from East Timor who is promoting Textiles and weaving from East Timor.

 Some memorable scenes and experiences -

  • Swimming in the holy waters of Tirta Gangga , a water palace and source of sacred springs
  • Walking through the local market in Denpasar., 3 floors of produce.
  • Watching the magnificent ‘Gunung Sari’ in the village of Pelliatan - a world famous gamelan equal to the best symphony orchestra and the exquisite dancers. Spine tingling as we watched a woman’s fingers flutter like leaves in the wind.
  • Fire flies in the rice paddies – fairies do exist!
  • Watching a stonemason carving a wall frieze from beginning to end – intricate and beautiful.
  • Old women walking stately through the market carrying their low tables on their heads.
  • Bali dogs – relaxed, disinterested but knowingly alert.
  • The meditative calm of the daily offerings.

Great People and Kind Deeds

  • Sharing ideas and meals with Henry and Margo from the Netherlands
  • Lift from Jim the paraglider from Melbourne
  • Lift from 2 German sisters driving around Bali (escaping family)
  • Tony, Barbara and Helen from Brisbane
  • The many Balinese taxi drivers – kind and caring especially Made and Ida


Did the experiment work? Apart from a mild tummy upset and Peter experiencing bouts of hay fever, from a health point of view we emerged unscathed. We enjoyed living a more ‘simple’ life but at the same time having massages and good food, lived richly.

Although Ubud is a tourist town, full of people from all over the world, it is still clear that the Balinese themselves maintain their own traditional culture – it flows through, under and over the “busy- ness” of tourism. In tune with Balinese philosophy there is a balance. Just like the mangy Balinese dogs (maligned by some) which are necessary to keep the balance, we need the good and bad, the ups and downs in life otherwise there would be chaos.

We certainly appreciated the challenges and the joys of the Balinese culture and religious life.

Peter hopes to write a perspective on this over the next few weeks and will post it as a blog item as soon as it is ready.



Sounds like a wonderful experience.Thanks for sharing.
Pleased all went well.

  Ngaire Aug 29, 2009 9:08 PM


Welcome back! I'm jealous. I'd like to talk more about 'the experiment' at some time.

  Lee Aug 29, 2009 9:51 PM


Your travel adventures are impressive and we enjoy reading them. Thank you for keeping us in the picture - we do appreciate it.
With love & best wishes, C&M

  Marian & Cyril Sep 2, 2009 1:30 AM

Add your comments

(If you have a travel question, get your Answers here)

In order to avoid spam on these blogs, please enter the code you see in the image. Comments identified as spam will be deleted.

About johnsteel

Follow Me

Where I've been

Photo Galleries

My trip journals

See all my tags 



Travel Answers about Indonesia

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.