Bali is a land which borders on the culture of east and west, a popular holiday destination between Australia and Asia. The contrasts reflected in the two very different worlds, one of tourism, the other rich in Indonesian culture and tradition, became apparent as soon as we left the parts populated with holiday makers.
Kuta beach is a sensory overload in itself, narrow pathways weaving through the street vendors, dodging scooters as they zip past you. The smell of pollution intertwines through the incense & flowers from the scattered yet ever-present offerings sprinkled throughout the streets.
Leaving the bustling streets was a welcome retreat. With the tourist riddled alleys fading further into the backdrop, we ventured toward a world of warm nourishing sticky rice, lush green rice paddies and thick humid air laced with the aromas of marigolds and spices.
As we ascended further up into the mountain ranges the air became thinner and cooler, a stark contrast to the muggy humidity of where we began. We discovered endless valleys of cacao plantations and overlooking the abundant jungles we sipped on Balinese coffee spiked with locally grown vanilla beans. Sweet, aromatic and rich, crackling and toasting, releasing puffs of scented smoke, the beans were hand roasted and ground in front of us.
This was a tour of the real Bali, far removed from the westernised Starbucks and nightclubs of Legian or the day spas of Seminyak. A peek into the way locals eat and produce their food.
Our hosts opened their home to us in the evening for a banquet of home-cooked Balinese cuisine. Considered one of the most complex cuisines in the world, the preparation of different meats, vegetables and spices were all laid out in clay pots and banana leaves for us to feast on.
The influence of Chinese and Indian was apparent in the depth of flavour, bold and pungent fish paste, delicate and creamy coconut, warming galangal and refreshing kefir lime leaves. Invigorating yet soothing, a lively combination mimicking the local culture, colourful and courageous yet refined and unassuming.
I achieved a rare glimpse into the real Bali that day, a delicious slice of Indonesia often obscured by persistent sarong-vendors and relentless tourism.
Tasting Bali, a sensory adventure
Tabanan Bali Indonesia