A luxurious meander in East Bali, Indonesia.

I’m lying on a white sand beach, the sun warming my back, getting a massage while having sips of a fresh watermelon juice and waiting for our lunch of fresh mahi mahi satay with peanut sauce.  

I am on a job assignment ~ writing and taking photographs for a 5 star green award hotel in East Bali. It’s hard work, but hey, someone has to do it…

A driver for the Alila hotel picks us up in Ubud and from the moment we enter the plush car and are given ice cold cloths to cool us down for the journey ahead we feel pampered and a little bit like celebrities. After all …this is not our usual style of traveling. We appreciate dipping our toes deep into luxury for a few days, as its a nice treat (though our more adventurous travel style has a certain edge of unpredictability which keeps us on our toes…)  For now, it will be a luxurious meander in East Bali with specific stories which we will write about for Alila Manggis, our host.
East Bali is starting to emerge as a destination in Bali. All right, a bit of geography here;  South of Viet Nam, our last home for 3 months, is the immense spread of 17500 Indonesian islands.  Arrow below points to Bali.

 

Ubud is our current home, near the center.  Now look right to Candidasa – that’s where we are off to.

 

The attention to detail at Alila Manggis Hotel is reflected in the design and overall attitude of the ever vigilant and attentive staff aiming to deliver constant comfort. We are most pleasantly surprised by the incredible culinary gastronomy of classic Balinese food (different to Indonesian food) which has many different tastes and flavors which are completely new to us. In fact, neither one of us recalls ever having seen a Balinese restaurant anywhere in our travels.  These culinary adventures are served up in the gorgeous open dining room surrounded by ponds with water lilies and facing the sea
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Beautiful attention to detail at Alila Hotel in East Bali.
Open air dining room to the left of the water lilies.
Alila goes all out for its guests… a private table next to the ocean or under the night stars.
Open air dining room
Breakfasts are very artistic as well as delicious at Alila. Great presentation.
Traditional black rice pudding with coconut milk and topping of shaved coconut. Bowl of yumminess.
Huge pool walking distance from the ocean front.
One of Alila Hotels surprisingly different features: afternoon complimentary tea  with local homemade sweets.
Fresh ginger, lemongrass and cinnamon herbal tea.
Then there is the work part..a variety of social and environmental activities Alila is involved with, which we will visit and write about afterwards for the hotel blog. We take the Balinese cooking lesson from the Executive Chef Sankita, in the organic gardens after a tour by the gardener/farmer Sugita.
The gardens are in the midst of the lush rice paddies, with a view towards the ocean.
Sugita is an organic farmer ~ as were his ancestors. He proudly shows us the apple eggplant ready for picking.
Such a treat to get a tour of everything that is growing and used for the kitchen at Alila hotel. Many types of herbs, vegetables and fruits. Some familiar, others totally new to me.
Balinese spices essential for Balinese dishes… chilis, garlic, ginger, turmeric, lime. Two knives only are used in Balinese cooking. One large, one smaller.
Expert chopping happening here.
Bambu Bali list of ingredients… crucial to Balinese food. Crushed together on stone mortar and pestle.
Doing our best to grind those flavorful spices into a paste.
The chef prepares the rice flour mini “crumpets” Balinese style… crispy on the outside, soft inside. Cooked of course on the wood fire stove for extra flavor. Topped with crunchy bits of coconut. “Lak Lak”
Vegetarian? No problem.. Chef substitutes tofu for pork and mushrooms for chicken.
We are taken on visits to two local cottage industries… Artisanal  sea salt making and  organic soap and chocolate making.  We take photos, we write notes. Ben asks excellent in depth key questions which yield great answers. Both industries are supported by the hotel, thereby enabling them to have significant social impact.
Sea salt is made of course at the beach, by a family that have been doing this for generations. These are the huge barrels made from coconut trees where the salt is filtered from the sea water.
Hollowed out wooden troughs were the water evaporates in the sun and the salt is left to be scooped up.
Good batches of sea salt are very reliant on sunny days for the salt to dry out. Totally hand made, no chemicals, no industrial processing, just one family hard at work day in, day out, as long as the sun shines.
  One more stop ~ organic artisanal chocolate and soap making…
Good scenery along the way…
Open air, community cremation… not something one sees every day.
Charly ~ having social impact with his chocolate and soap making. Charly came to Bali years ago as a surfer and never left.
Liquid soap swirls with black carbon and coconut in this batch.
The soaps have great handmade paper wrappings in a variety of bright colors.
Trying out Charly’s “Chair of Instant Enlightenment” swing. See how I overcome my initial feelings of trepidation.

A few words about the work part: all kidding aside, it was a significant amount of work.  We produced 5 distinct stories (which we will post as links once Alila Manggis posts them on their blog).  The stories covered 1) the hotel and its magnificent cooking class al fresco in the middle of the rice fields, 2) a set of observations about the hotel’s motto “surprisingly different” which indeed it was, 3) The disappearing trade of artisanal salt making, 4) social impact, one bar of soap at a time, 5) Environmental practices and Coral Reef restoration at Alila Manggis, as well as 6) as short video.  We toured by day and wrote feverishly like elves by night,  about 4 or 5 hours every night, leaving the full set of stories and pics to the hotel management on the day we left – our turn to be surprisingly different!

Once we are done with the visits for stories part of our jaunt, we select little stops of interest for the driver to stop at along the way. We are not used to being driven from point a. to point b. but rather a more zig zag type of opportunistic approach, driven by curiosity and our noses.

We visit the incredible bat cave temple (one of the nine national temples) where a local guide gives us an introductory lesson in Balinese Hindu belief system. Now we understand why some of the trees at temples have their trunks wrapped in cloth.. They are sacred trees, specifically selected by the priest. The checkered black and white cloth we see everywhere is symbolic of good and evil, the yin and yang of life. The harmony which is at the core of Balinese life and culture.

This symbol also called a swastika, predates the Nazi swastika by a few hundred years. The nine points of this Hindu symbol connect to the nine spaces in Balinese housing complex and many other Hindu references around the number nine. It is a symbol of harmony and piece. (The Nazis took this symbol and reversed it… rather ironic considering the peaceful character of this Hindu symbol.)
Sarongs have to be worn by both men and women at any temple visit and are handed out at the entrance if you need one. Tree pose for sacred trees of course.
Hard to believe the thousands of bats on the roof of the temple cave top left. The right hand side has no bats at the top as pythons live there and tend to feast off of the bats.( Sure keeps the mosquito ratio down at this temple.)
This 700 year old village is surrounded by walls and set in the mountains and jungle.
Beautiful entrance way made up of pebbles from the sea and carved wooden door with intricate design.
The Banyan tree is where Buddha meditated for a long time before changing the course of history.
An elderly resident invites us into his house. Proudly shows us his family shrine.
Intricate basketwork lines the pathway, drying in the sun.
Delicate eggs and wooden eggs painted with classic and modern designs.
Beautiful traditional marionettes hang from trees.
Residents take a rest at the central community meeting place.
A painted protector, guardian of the shrine.

When we are done exploring, we ask some local guys for a ride on their motorbikes, hop on the back and feel the wind in our hair, as they expertly wind and weave through the forested streets, back to the hotel.

3 thoughts on “A luxurious meander in East Bali, Indonesia.

  1. Sharon Rosenzweig

    So, HOW did you get this job??? I mean, you’re PERFECT for it, and they’re lucky to have you…. The photos are great. They make ME want to go and I hate travelling. Pete looks very cool in white and the cocky little hat. And not many women of my generation would be comfortable to be photographed full frontal in a bikini.

    I’m interested in the raw egg over a bowl of who knows what. Have you seen the chickens? Your loyal blog follower requests an investigation into the lives of the local poultry wherever you go. I mean, if you get a chance. We’ve seen water buffalo, and baskets of eggs. Are there flocks roaming the streets, like in Granada?

    I’d be all over the artisanal salt, soap and chocolate, not necessarily in that order. Love the painted eggs and puppets.
    Very cool that people gather at a community meeting place to rest. Great little puppy there too.

    I was relieved when you dumped the driver. Maybe you could have a business leading tourists YOUR style, follow your nose, hitch a ride, see where the road takes you.

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