I was really excited about coming here, not just for the place but to finally see family again after four months. I arrived, settled in, and waited patiently for my sister and her family to arrive. Jhenai lives in Australia, so even when I am in New Zealand I only get to see her once every year at the most, which means her daughter, Keira, had again grown so much and I felt like she reintroduced herself as a young girl this time instead of the baby I met before.
Because getting around in Bali isn’t as easy as going for a short walk, we hired a driver to take us from place to place all day, and who would happily wait in the car while we looked around and had lunch. Drivers cost roughly between 45 to 50 dollars and is usually priced in AUD as Australians are the most common tourist to go over to Bali. We would get around eight hours of his time, and pay only a small amount more if we went over.
My sister had been recommended a driver from her friend back in Australia, so we met up with Komang, the sweetest guy who Keira warmed to immediately.
You don’t have do the touristy things, but to see the culture is always great so I’ve listed my favourite experiences here;
Our first visit landed us at the place where they have the most expensive coffee in the world, except in Bali it is the same price as an average cup of about five bucks. Kopi Luwak, or civet coffee, refers to a type of coffee that is partially digested by a mammal named civet. The animal itself is called a Luwak, and is a nocturnal cat that inhibits Southeast Asia, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
What happens is the coffee beans – which are actually seeds – are eaten off of the Coffea tree by the Luwak, they are then digested and through this digestion the pulp around the seed is removed. A unique fermentation then occurs in the gut of the Luwak, who always chooses the highest quality of berries, and after 24 hours the beans are then excreted.
The beans are then washed, dried and pounded to removed the skin before being roasted to create coffee.
To be completely honest, I’ve had better coffee and I definitely wouldn’t pay 50 dollars a cup for this one. Also not all Luwak coffee places are ethical, and the Luwaks are often kept in small cages all for the sake of this coffee that doesn’t really taste like the best coffee in the world. The place we went to did have cages but they were massive and I really hoped the Luwak snoozing in his little hidey hole was a happy one.
Make sure you find where the Balinese make silver jewelry and handcrafts like clothing, cushions, purses and other materials. These are both in different places, but they are well worth the visit even if you don’t buy anything. To design what the Balinese call a Harmony Ball, each tiny detail is delicately placed on individually with resin to stick, all hand made and the sphere are then tapped out into shape. You don’t barter in these places as the work that is put into it all is magnificent and to pay less than value would be an insult to the quality of workmanship provided.
When we first walked in we were handed a piece of paper that explained in English what the story behind the dancers was about, but even if you didn’t have the story, the dance itself with the colours and the costumes is more than enough reason to come watch the traditional Balinese dancing. Not only the outfits, but the way they dance and act out the characters is so unique and entertaining. Even young Keira enjoyed the giant lion moved by two people, and the monkey that scrambled all over the stage.
The temples here are unlike any I have ever seen before. They are carved by hand, and the details are so intricate and complex that I can imagine the commitment and time that would have gone into them. However prepare to have a bunch of other tourists with you unless you can find some temples that are less visited.
Other things to know
It is always great learning differences that Bali has to other cultures, so talking to the locals is always great. We stayed at Putu’s Airbnb and loved it, and he also liked to tell us quirky things like how they drink coconuts for cleansing or rituals, or that what we thought was a huge spider in a hole in our yard turned out to be a harmless land crab.
The Balinese people also have only a few names to choose from when born; one, two, three and four. Wayan, Made, Komang and Ketut. Once they get to the fifth child, the cycle starts over again. Occasionally an additional name that suits the person can be added with the number, like fat Wayan or skinny Wayan, or Wayan who owns the vege shop. I met maybe two or three Wayan’s in the first couple of days.
Another is about the medicinal plant, Kelor. I had heard of this on the ‘Bali Bogans’ Facebook page that my sister added me to, but it wasn’t until I looked it up online to find out this native plant was actually Moringa.
I’ve used Moringa a lot before in New Zealand, and it’s a fantastic plant. Here’s just some of the benefits;
Seven times more vitamin C than oranges
Ten times more vitamin A than carrots
Seventeen times more calcium than milk
Fifteen times more potassium than bananas
Twenty five times more iron than spinach
Moringa is easily cultivated and therefore more sustainable than other sources. It has anti diabetic properties and anticancer properties, and personally I have experienced great energy increase almost immediately after having a smoothie with a tablespoon of Moringa powder in, more than anything else I have tried. To find out where it is native to was super exciting for my inner herbalist.
To round it all up, for those who like the shopping and bargaining for the knock off brands go on over to Kuta, for the others who like the more ‘hippy’ and alternative places check out Ubud.
And go to beaches, take photos, have fun and make memories.