Over the next few months I am going to post a series of writings on the various places I’ve had the pleasure of visiting on my journey so far. This is a travel blog, after all, and I haven’t written as much about travel as I might like. I’m going to kick this writing series off with Bali, my first experience of non-western culture.
This originally appeared (in a slightly different version) at http://eatyourworld.com/destinations/asia/indonesia/memories/tasting_bali_a_sensory_adventure
Bali is a land on the border of east and west, a popular holiday destination resting provocatively between Australia and Asia. The contrasts became apparent as soon I sought refuge from the onslaught of tourism and stepped away from Kuta beach. Two very different worlds; one of tourism, the other rich in Indonesian culture and tradition greeted me almost simultaneously throughout the 10 days I spent exploring this vibrant island.
Kuta beach is a sensory overload in itself, narrow pathways weaving through the street vendors, dodging scooters as they zip past. The smell of pollution intertwining through the incense & flowers from the scattered yet ever-present offerings sprinkled throughout the streets. If Bali were a perfume, it’s base notes would be fragrant, musty incense cut with top notes of sharp sambal to the nostrils.
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 into the mountain ranges, the air became thinner and cooler, a stark contrast to the muggy humidity of where we began. Endless valleys of cacao plantations gave way to abundant jungles as we sipped on Balinese coffee spiked with locally grown vanilla beans. Sweet, aromatic and rich; crackling and toasting, releasing puffs of scented smoke as beans were hand roasted and ground by hand.
This was a sensory 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 the locals live, eat and produce their food.
As dusk crept over solid teak temples, I was welcomed into a local Balinese home for a banquet of home-cooked local 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 to feast from.
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, soothing and surprising, a lively combination mimicking the local culture, effortless yet surprising – colourful and courageous yet 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.