Bali High…it’s all about the food!
Ok, so there was no surfing to be had, but a recent girls’ weekend in Bali turned out to be an unexpected highlight of my first two months on the mountain.
It’s funny how one’s perspective is ever-changing. When living in Australia, I had not even the slightest inclination to visit Bali, none whatsoever. Now, being based in Papua, Bali presents itself as a sunny refuge with cheap daily direct flights from Timika and no need for a passport! It is, put simply, a sanity escape for many of the expats here. That being said, I never thought I’d put ‘Bali’ and ‘sanity’ in the same sentence, but there you have it!
Our trip began as it usually does here on the mountain, with an early morning chopper ride down to Timika. After a brief stopover, we boarded our Garuda Indonesia direct 3 hour flight to Denpasar. The domestic airport in Bali has recently been upgraded and my travel buddies assure me that the new version is infinitely more pleasant (and rat-free) than its predecessor. Upon our exit from the terminal building, we picked up a Bintang beer each (as you do), hired a private driver for the afternoon for the grand total of 120,000 Rupiah – around twelve Aussie dollars – and set off. We stopped off at a local department to stock up on some quality wine, cheese and nibbles (things that are all quite difficult to obtain on the mountain) and then took a very slow drive through the busy and bustling streets of Kuta to our hotel, the Kokonut Suites in Seminyak.
Seminyak is like a breath of fresh air after the chaos of Kuta. The streets are cleaner, the shopping more refined (not a hawker in sight) and the power lines somewhat orderly! As we were soon to discover, the food in Seminyak is also sensational!
This trip was really all about eating, drinking and shopping so if you’re looking for some interesting insights into the natural wonders of Bali, then this post is not for you. However if, like me, you had no idea of the modern culinary delights on offer on the Island of the Gods, then this might make for an enlightening read. In short, don’t believe everything the media would have you believe about this place. While Bali is certainly a little land of extremes, there is truly something for everyone here.
After enjoying some refreshments in our apartment, we were ready to explore and find somewhere to settle in for the evening. So, we set off on foot in the direction of what is known as ‘Eat Street’ by our fellow mountaineers in Tembagapura. There are stacks of motorbikes and taxis on the streets of Bali and very few walkable footpaths so our little excursion was an eye-opener! Between the traffic on one side of us, open drains on the other, intriguing motorbike refueling ‘stations’ and the obstacle course of lovely little offerings scattered about (sorry to the God whose goodies I accidentally trod on), this was not the time for gawking about.
Serious attention needs to be paid to one’s footfalls in this place! We were so diligent in this regard that we promptly got lost and quickly decided to surrender our pedestrian mode of transport for a taxi…a super-cheap way of getting around. Five bucks and twenty minutes later, we arrived at our destination, Jalan Kayu Aya, overwhelmed by the incredible array of bars, restaurants and boutiques on offer.
We bypassed the popular Champagne Bar and headed across the road to a restaurant called La Favela and wow, what a treat! Inside, the recycled decor was just amazing – a collection of eclectic pre-loved bits and pieces put together to create awe-inspiring, comforting ambiance.
‘Favela’ is a Portuguese word meaning ‘a collection of shacks’ and as such La Favela offers an impressive array of private dining rooms, all fitted out in different themes. There is also a stunningly beautiful outdoor garden dining setting and a variety of cozy inside bars and big leather lounge areas. Food wise, we were in heaven! Remote jungle life certainly facilitates a renewed appreciation of good food and wine…
We were thrilled to bits with our tapas starters in the garden and moved inside to sample the mains menu. Oh lamb, how we’ve missed you! Every morsel was appreciated more than I can put into words – the stunning lamb racks and melt in your mouth slow-cooked osso buco cannelloni really hit the spot. Once we sampled the Chilean Merlot, we decided to chalk the night up as one to remember. Our early start to the day meant that as midnight rolled around, we were starting to feel weary and, knowing we had a big day of shopping ahead of us (!), we called it a night and caught a taxi home.
Day two saw us indulge in a delicious breakfast in the artisan bakery attached to our hotel, before engaging a driver for the day to visit a number of local manufacturers.
Handmade ceramics and tableware, bespoke recycled furniture and various gift shops and boutiques ticked most of the items off our lists. We managed to save enough room for one of the more critical purchases, necessary for maintaining sanity on the mountain…alcohol. Yes, a quality tipple is very difficult to come by in a largely Muslim community, and importation is forbidden, so travel within Indonesia necessitates returning to Papua with a suitcase full of (in my case) wine. Such are our struggles!
That night we were off to meet up with a fellow Tembag resident at the Potato Head Beach Club on Jalan Petitenget – yet another stunningly creative venue on the eat streets of Seminyak. The façade of this place is extraordinary.
Inspired by the Roman Colosseum and decorated with antique shutters collected from across Indonesia, the entryway is an experience in itself. Inside, the attention to detail is almost too much to take in, with so many intriguing architectural elements to observe. Potato Head is renowned for its cocktail menu and on this occasion, it didn’t disappoint. Best Mojitos and Bloody Marys’ ever!
After a big day of shopping, we were a tad peckish and the pulled pork burgers were an instant hit. Pork (along with lamb) is something we see very little of on the mountain so we savoured the dripping rolls one scrumptious mouthful after the other. We happily lounged about on the revered Potato Head poolside daybeds until the early hours, relishing our cocktails and wondering what the rest of the world was up to. One of the managers selected a range of Indonesian tapas (yes there is such a thing in Seminyak!) to top off our night – firm favourites were the catfish, local eggplant and curried tofu dishes…who would have thought?!
Our final day in Bali saw us take in some much-needed day spa treatments in the morning…
We followed up with lunch at a real find around the corner on Jalan Petitenget, a little place in soft opening mode called the Smokehouse – a traditional Texas barbecue joint.
At the risk of being predictable, we yet again indulged in pulled pork burgers with coleslaw, real hand cut chips and a Bintang beer for around twelve bucks. Smokey delicious-ness right there people.
Needing to walk off all that pork, we took in a few of the local sights around Kerobokan which was just a short walk away. We passed local markets, plenty of bespoke furniture shops, homewares boutiques, street food vendors, the notorious Kerobokan Prison and passed about a gazillion motorbikes.
And then, unexpectedly, tucked away amid the hustle and bustle are working rice paddy fields, standing in defiant tranquil contrast to the chaos around them.
On our final evening, before our overnight flight home, we had planned to visit a restaurant down the road called Barbacoa – largely due to the suckling pig we viewed slow roasting over a fire pit. Sadly we ran out of time (successful shopping day) and instead decided to eat at our hotel restaurant. Apparently this was meant to be as the special of the day at the Livingstone turned out to be pork ribs! While we admit to some concern at being asked ‘how would you like them cooked’, they turned out to be meltingly delicious and a perfect ending to our Seminyak sojourn. We’ll take a raincheck on Barbacoa though…
All in all, my first trip to Bali was such an unexpected delight that it certainly won’t be my last.
Our next trip off the mountain is a much-longed-for trip home to Townsville to see family and friends for the Easter school break – see you in a week or so fellow Aussies!
Until next time,
(See you later)
Hi to you all – Your trip to Bali was a reat hit by this report. Did they run out of pigs while you girls were there? Pleased you had a well-deserved break from mountain life Kylie. We have just arrived home from our road trip south – we have a nice time and can’t wait to see you all on Monday afternoon. Take care – Much love Mum & Dad xxxx