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Entries in BALI TRAVEL GUIDE (3)


The new Bali ~ Food, surf, shopping, fun and more...

Asia > Indonesia > Bali

36 Hours in Bali

Justin Mott for The New York Times

Meditation area at Fivelements wellness center, near Ubud.

MAYBE it was the topless women that the German painter Walter Spies captured in his lush landscapes of Bali during the 1930s. But ever since, foreigners have come to undress. Shirtless Australians, surfboards strapped to the side of their motorbikes, cruise around for the best waves. At five-star resorts, bronzed Italian women in tiny bikinis while away the days with wine. Farther inland, spiritual seekers wrapped in body-skimming sarongs commune in temples. The natives don’t go topless anymore, but that doesn’t stop the throngs of sunbathers who let it all hang out on Bali’s busiest beaches.


5 p.m.


Punctuated by temples hidden behind ornately carved archways and petal-filled lanes, Ubud is Bali’s artistic hub. And beyond the painted masks and shadow puppets that spill out of countless storefronts are a string of new galleries that offer one-of-a-kind treasures. Jean-François Fichot (Jalan Raya Pengosekan 6, Ubud; 62-361-974-652; carries striking gem- and stone-encrusted gold jewelry and objets d’art. Next door is the Nusantara Gallery (Jalan Raya Pengosekan 7, Ubud; 62-81-797-97804), which sells rare primitive art, including wooden statues and fine weavings gathered from all over the Indonesian archipelago. And at Rio Helmi Photography (Jalan Suweta 24A, Ubud; 62-361-978-773;, Mr. Helmi, who displays his own photos of Bali and elsewhere, has a new book out, “Memories of the Sacred,” that chronicles 30 years spent witnessing Bali’s enduring traditions.

7 p.m.


Culinary karma seems to emanate from Jalan Raya Sanggingan, a winding road about 15 minutes northwest of Ubud’s center. Joining Mozaic’s famed French-Asian fare and Naughty Nuri’s legendary ribs is Minami (Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Ubud; 62-361-970-013;, a stylish Japanese restaurant opened in 2009 by Miho Oshiro from Osaka. You can sip a yuzu-infused sake-tini (85,000 rupiah, or about $9.75 at 8,703 rupiah to the dollar) as you settle into the baby blue, jasmine-scented dining room, which overlooks a lantern-lit garden. The six-course tasting menu (210,000 rupiah) includes melt-in-the-mouth Tasmanian salmon sashimi and tissue-papery zucchini leaf tempura. Even the flavored salt (the recipe is a secret), imported from Japan and served in a tiny bowl, is exquisite.

9:30 p.m.


You’ll most likely have Ubud’s streets to yourself soon after dinner, but cute cocktail spots are on the rise. At Cafe Havana (Jalan Dewi Sita, Ubud; 62-361-972-973;, salsa bands and dance classes take place among mismatched hand-painted chairs and framed photos of Che and Fidel. Drinks at artsy Lamak (Jalan Monkey Forest, Ubud; 62-361-974-668; are mixed at an open-air bar; go for the sweet yet punchy El Diablo, made of tequila, crème de cassis, lemon juice and ginger ale.


7:45 a.m.


It’s hard not to fall for Bali while cycling its quiet back roads, which are lined with stepped rice fields, blooms in every shade of the rainbow and women in bright sarongs balancing temple offerings on their heads. Half-day tours with Bali Eco-Cycling (Jalan Pengosekan, Ubud; 62-361-975-557;; 300,000 rupiah) start with breakfast overlooking the 5,600-foot-high volcanic Mount Batur and its crater lake, followed by a caffeine kick at a coffee plantation. The mostly downhill 17-mile ride isn’t very challenging, but it is spectacularly scenic and photo-friendly.

1 p.m.


Follow the dreadlocks and Aladdin pants to Kafe (Jalan Hanoman 44b, Ubud; 62-361-780-3802;, a sunny, art-filled cafe that is made of reclaimed wood. Run by Meghan Pappenheim, an ex-New Yorker, the hippie-chic spot serves vegan and raw food like Meg’s Big Salad Bowl — a heaping plate of greens, cabbage, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and crunchy tofu-tempeh cubes (36,000 rupiah) — and kitcheree, a hearty stew of lentil, brown rice, ginger and turmeric (32,000). There’s also a selection of baked goods for the less virtuous.

2:30 p.m.


It took 30 months to build Fivelements (Banjar Baturning, Mambal; 62-361-469-206;, a stunning wellness center and five-room hotel tucked away in Mambal, a sleepy village 20 minutes by car from Ubud. Transcendental massages are offered in incense-filled rooms built of polished bamboo, reclaimed wood and spiral thatched roofs (90 minutes from $80). Post-treatment ginger-lemongrass tea is served on a private deck overlooking a bamboo forest and the Ayung River.

5:30 p.m.


Bali’s legendary sunsets can be a controversial affair. Ask around for the best perch to catch the nightly psychedelia, and you’ll get an earful. Still, there’s no denying that one of the most stylish places is the Rock Bar (Ayana Resort and Spa, Jimbaran; 62-361-702-222;, an outdoor lounge built into the cliffs at the newly opened Ayana Resort and Spa along the island’s southwestern tip. The muted, minimalist bar with interconnected decks is perched above the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean. Get there early to avoid the lines and to get a good seat (though the best are saved for hotel guests). Order a cold beer (80,000 rupiah) and watch the sun melt into the water, casting the sky in brilliant shades of pink, violet and orange.

8:30 p.m.


Seminyak, Kuta’s upscale neighbor, has become Bali’s see-and-be-seen center of night life. So it was refreshing when Sardine (Jalan Petitenget 21, Kerobakan; 62-361-738-202;, an artsy down-to-earth restaurant, made everyone feel at home. With rice fields as the backdrop, diners sample what the executive chef Michael Shaheen, from California, calls “cuisine du soleil” — healthy, light food suited to hot climates. That includes just-caught seafood like pink snapper sashimi with shimeji mushrooms (65,000 rupiah) and pan-seared scallops in a parsley-truffle emulsion (195,000 rupiah).

10:30 p.m.


Bali’s beautiful people gather for drinks, jazz and D.J.-spun beats across the street at Métis (Jalan Petitenget 6, Kerobokan; 62-361-737-888;, a candlelit bar that’s the latest venture from the folks behind Kafe Warisan. In the center of town, design aficionados gather at Word of Mouth (Jalan Kunti 9, Seminyak; 62-361-847-5797;, a boutique that doubles as a cool lounge at night, with impromptu parties that have developed a loyal following (check its Facebook page for updates).


9 a.m.


Bali’s giant waves have been luring surfers since the 1960s, promising year-round swells that can soar upward of 10 feet. After spending time admiring the perfect tans and free spirits of Bali’s surfing community, you’ll very likely want to join. Surf shacks with teachers abound. To minimize first-timers’ humiliation, try a private 75-minute lesson (450,000 rupiah) with Marcy Meachin (62-812-385-9454;, a talented Aussie teacher who’s spent much of the last 30 years chasing surf in Indonesia. Beginner courses are taught on Legian Beach, where the shallow waters, sandy shores and small waves provide a gentle introduction.

11:30 a.m.


Breathtaking beaches edge the Bukit, the island’s southern peninsula. Book a car and driver to get to secluded spots like Padang Padang, an oasis of calm water shaded by soaring cliffs that was a setting for the film “Eat Pray Love.” Another stunning beach is at the Nammos Beach Club (Karma Kandara Resort;, reached by a steep trail etched in a limestone cliff. Interlopers can enjoy aquamarine water for an entry fee of 250,000 rupiah, which includes 100,000 rupiah toward food. The open-air kitchen serves a mean wood-fired pizza with toppings like fig, prosciutto and Gorgonzola.

2 p.m.


Bring home some Bali chic from Jalan Laksmana, which has emerged as Seminyak’s boutique street in recent years. Try bohemian-cool Press Ban Cafe at No. 50 (62-361-730-486) for handmade wooden shoes, Jackie O. shades and fitted vintage plaid button-downs. Lily Jean (No. 102; 62-361-847-5872; carries sexy strapless jersey pantsuits and bandaged cocktail dresses. And Simplekonsepstore (No. 40; 62-361-730-393; prides itself on one-of-a-kind design: limited-edition graphic T-shirts, origami-inspired bags and hand-dyed tunics that reinvent Bali’s rich tradition of batik in totally unexpected ways.


The 20 chocolate- and toffee-hued villas at Uma Sapna (Jalan Drupadi No. 20 Basangkasa, Seminyak; 62-361-736-628; come with private pools and outdoor patios. Seminyak’s shops are within walking distance and the beach is a short cab ride away. Doubles from $175.

The W Retreat & Spa Bali-Seminyak (Jalan Petitenget, Seminyak; 62-361-738-106; is expected to open in March or April, with 237 rooms offering knockout water views. Doubles from $575.


Celebrating A Gift From Bali: Delicious Confusion

Celebrating A Gift From Bali: Delicious Confusion

NO longer quite the inaccessible Shangri-La of antique travelogue, Bali remains, for artists of all kinds and seekers of a spiritual bent, an isle of pristine enchantments. To musicians with or without the cosmic baggage, the fascination lies in the intricately layered pulse and shimmer of the gamelan, the indigenous form of orchestral ensemble, dominated by percussion and associated for centuries with Balinese ritual and devotion.

Christine Southworth

A projection of Nyoman Triyana Usadhi above Desak Made Suarti Laskmi, wearing a yellow robe, next to a set for “A House in Bali.”

Erik Jacobs for The New York Times

The dancer Kadek Dewi Aryani performs in a scene in “House in Bali,” Evan Ziporyn’s opera, directed by Jay Scheib. The opera will be performed Thursday through Saturday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival.

Since the 1980s the clarinetist and composer Evan Ziporyn has made the pilgrimage often. His new opera, “A House in Bali,” celebrates his forerunner Colin McPhee, a Canadian-born composer and scholar best remembered by fellow acolytes of Bali’s musical heritage. Happening on a few scratchy phonograph records from Bali in 1929, McPhee found his calling. If not for him, the traditions that flourish today might be extinct.

The opera is based mainly on McPhee’s memoirs of the same title, published in 1946 to a rave review in The New York Times by the anthropologist Margaret Mead, who had known McPhee in Bali. “This book,” Mead wrote, “is not only for those who would turn for a few hours from the jangle of modern life to a world where the wheeling pigeons wear bells on their feet and bamboo whistles on the tail feathers, but also for all those who need reassurance that man may again create a world made gracious and habitable by the arts.”

For logistical and sentimental reasons Mr. Ziporyn’s opera received its first, unstaged, preview in June 2009 on the steps of a temple in Ubud, a Balinese arts mecca, surrounded by spreading rice terraces and plunging ravines. The stage premiere followed three months later in Berkeley, Calif. This fall the opera reaches the East Coast, with performances in Boston and in the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival Thursday through Saturday.

The scoring is for a balanced ensemble of Western (the Bang on a Can All-Stars, of which Mr. Ziporyn is a founding member) and performers from Bali whose contributions are equal but for long stretches separate. On Oct. 30 a program of Mr. Ziporyn’s compositions in the Making Music series at Zankel Hall will include further examples of Western-Eastern fusion.

Born in Montreal in 1900, McPhee was hardly the first Western composer to thrill to the gamelan. The former Wagnerian Claude Debussy was transfixed by Balinese musicians at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1889. The cosmopolitan Maurice Ravel was likewise taken. But it was left to McPhee to sail halfway around the globe to experience the music in its home.

For much of the 1930s he made Bali his home, studying, redeeming historic instruments from pawnbrokers, recruiting children to learn and play. He left in 1938, never to return, but worked on his magnum opus, “Music in Bali,” for the rest of his life. He had barely finished correcting the page proofs in the medical center of the University of California, Los Angeles, when he died, in 1964.

In his memoir McPhee’s evocations of gamelan music are bewitchingly specific.

“At first, as I listened from the house,” one passage begins, “the music was simply a delicious confusion, a strangely sensuous and quite unfathomable art, mysteriously aerial, aeolian, filled with joy and radiance. Each night as the music started up, I experienced the same sensation of freedom and indescribable freshness. There was none of the perfume and sultriness of so much music in the East, for there is nothing purer than the bright, clean sound of metal, cool and ringing and dissolving in the air. Nor was it personal and romantic, in the manner of our own effusive music, but rather, sound broken up into beautiful patterns.”

McPhee went on to analyze the music’s layered architecture: the “slow and chantlike” bass, the “fluid, free” melody in the middle register, the “incessant, shimmering arabesques” high in the treble, which ring, in McPhee’s phrase, “as though beaten out on a thousand little anvils.” Add to all this the punctuation of gongs in many registers, the cat’s-paws and throbbings and thunderclaps of the drums, the tiny crash of doll-size cymbals and the “final glitter” of elfin bells, “contributing shrill overtones that were practically inaudible.”

The scales, though pentatonic, fail to duplicate the assortment we know from the black keys of a piano. And pitch variations from gamelan to gamelan (fundamentally irreconcilable with Western tuning) amount to a science in itself.

The narrative of “A House in Bali” makes delightful reading too, despite some extreme air-brushing. McPhee’s wife, Jane Belo, a woman of means and an anthropologist, is never mentioned, though they traveled (and built the house) on her money. Bowing to the taboos of his time, McPhee passes over the awakening of his homosexuality in Bali, though the charged nature of his attachments to numerous men and boys (consummated or otherwise) is hard to miss. Impending war, one factor that drove him from Bali, is hinted at. Crackdowns by the vice squad, another factor, are not.

In shaping the stage action, the librettist Paul Schick picked out several episodes that McPhee’s readers are sure to remember: the long-drawn-out construction of the house, a comic shakedown by his native neighbors, an unsettling call from a suspected Japanese spy, a visitation by spirits of ill omen. Much of the dialogue is straight from the book; most of the rest quotes writings of the opera’s two other Western characters, Mead and the German artist Walter Spies.

As for the staging, audiences who anticipate an ornamental divertissement along the lines of the “Small House of Uncle Thomas” sequence from “The King and I” are in for a surprise. Mr. Ziporyn seems to have been thinking along these lines too, but the director, Jay Scheib, had other ideas.

“McPhee and Mead and Spies were all deeply involved in image making,” Mr. Scheib said recently between rehearsals on an iffy Skype connection from Ubud. Bali. (Signs of the times: Mr. Ziporyn remembers when the closest telephone was an hour away in the capital, Denpasar.)

“Mead was working out the methodology of visual anthropology, based on the scientific premise that you could infer more about a culture through careful photography rather than through written notes,” Mr. Scheib added. “McPhee shot hours of silent film footage of dance training and rehearsals. And Spies was documenting Balinese culture in a very interesting way through painting.”

With all this in mind Mr. Scheib has opted for extensive use of live video, giving audiences virtual eye contact with performers, even when they are confined to enclosed spaces where viewers in the auditorium cannot actually see them. This, at least, was the case in Berkeley; the production was still evolving.

At the heart of the opera, and often front and center, is Sampih, a shy, skittish country urchin who rescues McPhee from a flash flood, becomes a servant in his household and is trained, at McPhee’s urging, as a dancer. In 1952 the real Sampih achieved international stardom touring coast to coast in the United States as well as performing in London. Back home in Bali two years later, at 28, he was strangled under nebulous circumstances by a killer who was never caught.

Though the correspondences are far from exact, McPhee’s infatuation with Sampih has reminded many of Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice,” in which the elderly, repressed aesthete Gustav von Aschenbach conceives a fatal attraction for Tadzio, an exotic youth. The opera by Benjamin Britten (a close friend of McPhee’s who for a time shared a Brooklyn brownstone with him and other arty types like Leonard Bernstein) reinforces the parallels, such as they are. Not only did Britten assign the role of Tadzio to a dancer; he also scored his music for gamelan.

The part of McPhee in Mr. Ziporyn’s opera was originally sung by Marc Molomot, who was unavailable for the current performances. His replacement is Peter Tantsits, an adventurous high tenor, who has studied the voluminous source material and McPhee’s circle in depth.

“As an opera singer it’s rare to get to play a character who existed in the flesh, and not all that long ago,” Mr. Tantsits said recently from Boston. “My first impression when I was offered the part was, ‘I’m too young to play Aschenbach,’ which is a role I’d love to do maybe in 20 years. Right now I’m 31, the same age as Colin when he went to Bali. I don’t think the relationship with Sampih was a case of sexual attraction but something more like an adoption. The way he’s described in the book is quite sensual. This is hard to talk about. I don’t think we’ve completely decided what we will decide.”

No Pandora, Mr. Ziporyn has deliberately kept a tight seal on the ambiguities.

“As McPhee presents himself in the book, he’s very transparent yet completely opaque,” Mr. Ziporyn said on a recent visit to New York. “I wanted to mirror that. I think of McPhee almost as a Nabokovian unreliable narrator, as in ‘Pale Fire,’ or even ‘Lolita,’ if that’s not too charged an analogy.

“Every quest is a quest for yourself. In going to Bali, McPhee was looking for his own artistic or personal essence. ‘I’ll always be the outsider,’ he said after he’d been there for years. He was talking about the music, he was talking about Sampih, and he was speaking in general. I wanted to convey that sense and let viewers draw their own conclusions.”



Shopping In Bali- Bali And It's Art Of Shopping


Bali And It's Art Of Shopping

In Bali, shopping is not simply going into a shop, choose something off the shelf and paying for it. In every traditional market, art shops or simply clothing shops around Bali, bargaining is a must! In fact, in Bali, we call shopping an art and bargaining a skill that we have to master!

Even if you're not a seasoned negotiator, be prepared to enjoy the bargaining process. It is definitely fun! Just be patient and for sure, you'll find good buys with the best prices! If you're lucky, you may even get away with cheaper prices than what the Balinese normally gets! In some places you can bargain until you get 50% discount. Always start by bargaining at 30% of the price. Yes 30%! It's the norm so don't be shy. Walk away if they don't want to bargain, until you get the price you want or at least 75% of the price they quote at the beginning.

Shopping and bargaining this way makes your shopping in Bali very fun. You can feel the warmth of human value in all your shopping transactions. However, do take note, before you embark on your shopping adventure in Bali, please have cash with you because most places do not accept credit cards unless you're in shopping malls.

I recall seeing a Dutch lady negotiating for an umbrella on Kuta beach. She did extremely well in the bargaining process. Instead of paying Rp 30,000, she paid only Rp 5000! Yes at only 1/6 of the initial price quoted. She was so happy and walked away smilling gleefully. Isn't that the main quintessence of bargaining? To be happy with your purchase and satisfied with the price. So where can you go to spend your Rupiah?
Do read my article on "Bali Shopping Destination" and "Bali Travel Guide" to ensure you enjoy shopping in Bali and you have a blast in Bali!

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