Bye-Bye Bali at the Indus

A fabulous, farewell dinner seemed appropriate as my departure date looms ominously closer. I didn’t know what to expect from Indus, a legendary eating establishment outside of Ubud, but what I got far exceeded whatever I could have imagined. When our driver pulled up to the entrance I thought he’d made a mistake. I was visually blown away. It looked like we had arrived at a palace. A flight of incredibly wide buff colored steps flanked by lions lead to a spectacular door, blue highlighted in gold. Stepping through the doorway we entered a gallery space with exquisite Indonesian art adorning the walls. Passing through yet another portal we found ourselves at the top of a second broad staircase overlooking the restaurant itself. Anyone who stands there for the first time and does not feel like Cinderella entering the ball is in the wrong story!

A gracious Balinese hostess welcomed us and led Karin, my friend from Manhattan, and me through the inside dining area to the terrace. The view of the Tjampuhan River gorge plummeting hundreds of feet downward, just the other side of the railing, absolutely took my breath away.

There are layers of terraced yards stepping down to the rushing river at the bottom. I had specifically requested a “table on the edge,” and that’s what we got. From our seats we could see another of the restaurant’s terraces below us and then nothing but down, down, down!

The fragrant breeze helped maintain a perfect temperature.

The little table for two hugging the railing is our table on the edge!

This is the view looking back into the restaurant from our table.

The menu was one of those that makes you salivate just reading the descriptions of the food! It took awhile, but I finally chose the Tempe Curry with Sweet Potatoes, Shredded Bean Curd and Red Rice.

Oh! Oh! Oh! I never get tired of eating in Bali! Every dish is an adventure and they all have happy endings!

This time I yielded to temptation and ordered rice wine with lime juice and seltzer. It was remarkable.

I had dessert too of course, my favorite, coconut ice cream, but I forgot to snap a photo. It looked just like coconut ice cream!

I happened to look across the gorge just in time to see the faint outline of Mt. Agung before the clouds once again piled up around her obscuring the view.

Here’s Karin in her new silk sarong and me in my flowy, tie-dye pants!

We had stretched dinner out for 2 1/2 blissful hours, but these cliff-side tables all have reservations and our time was up. We paid the ridiculously reasonable bill and I asked the hostess if I could use their phone to call a taxi. She asked where I was staying then said, follow me please. She led us out of the restaurant and told us that their complimentary driving service would take us back to our hotel. What a lovely ending to another perfect day. But if I thought it would make me feel better about leaving…not so much.

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Reincarnation – Tell me about past lives…

Dewa and I had a long conversation about reincarnation yesterday. I was carrying those thoughts with me as I went about my day and suddenly one line appeared on a mental blank page.  “Tell me about past lives,” it said. I was near a familiar Warung (local restaurant) so I removed my sandals, stepped up to the spotlessly clean white tiled floor, took a seat on a bamboo stool by a bamboo table, pulled my notebook out of my backpack, requested a pineapple juice, and began. Half an hour and a chicken curry dish later I closed my notebook, returned it to my backpack, paid for my $3.00 lunch, retrieved my sandals, and strolled slowly home. Back in my sweet little room I took myself,  my laptop, and my notebook to the balcony and translated the scribbles. The result is this poem.

Journey’s End

.

Was I here before? I want to know.

Tell me about past lives.

Was I a temple prostitute

Or one of the sultans’ wives?

.

Did my cries ring out on a battlefield?

Did I dance to pagan drums?

Was I burned at the stake for my witching ways?

Sometimes a memory comes…

.

Not clear like a snapshot photograph

But wrapped in a cloudy haze

Hinting at something long ago

Reminiscent of ancient days.

.

I seek to know myself, and yet

Can I plumb the depths of these wells

When my soul spans ages of lifetimes

And old knowledge resides in my cells?

.

When the sound of a Celtic fiddle

Makes my feet do an unknown dance

And I already know the Sanskrit words

That the kirtan leader chants.

.

I am trapped in Scandinavian skin

With a penchant for curries and heat.

A crucifix haunts me from behind

While I kneel at Shakti’s feet.

.

The teacher smiled with a knowing

And quietly said, “My friend…

The questions are the journey

The answers are journey’s end.”

.

Sherry Bronson

Here Comes the Balinese Bride!

A traditional Balinese wedding takes three days. It goes something like this:

Day 1: The groom goes to the home of the bride and informs the family that he wants to marry her. This of course has been planned for years so it comes as no surprise to anyone. The family and friends of the groom begin to prepare his family compound for the wedding.

Day 2: The groom returns to the bride’s home, gathers her and her belongings, and takes her to his home which is with his family. Family and friends continue with the decoration and preparations. Three pigs are slaughtered in the morning and two in the afternoon to make bbq’d pork satays for the 1500 guests that have been invited.

Day 3: The bride awakens at 3:00 a.m. and meets with her makeup team. Both the bride and groom are painted and polished until they absolutely glow. There is an abundance of gold in the headdresses, the fabrics, and the jewelry that they both wear. The groom has a sword tucked in the back of his cummerbund, similar to Prince Rama from Hindu lore.  The guests begin arriving early, about 9:00 a.m., although there is an order that is loosely followed, relatives first, then close friends start coming a little later, and finally the third tier of relationship. In this case he is a dentist and she is a professor teaching nursing students.  Their co-workers are invited and other business related acquaintances of the families.

Guests enter from the street through an elaborate arch of woven palm fronds and flowers. There is a long table with the guest book at one end and chafing dishes holding an array of delicacies. Each guest is given a small woven bamboo leaf plate and we help ourselves.

This is a picture looking back at the reception table.

As I arrive the Holy Man is blessing the couple and performing a wedding ritual in this highly decorated pavilion.

They are just completing the first ritual. There are many more to follow as the different groups arrive.

The bride and groom move to these elaborate thrones for family photos.

A very handsome family indeed!


The couple then moves to the Western equivalent of a receiving line. Note the exotic headdresses worn by both.

The bride is exquisite and the groom is so handsome.

I sat by this guest later and complimented her on her hand. “Tatoo,” she said. I murmured, “Beautiful.” and quietly thought, Ouch!

From the receiving line we move into another area of the compound that has been tented and a huge buffet awaits. As an uninvited guest I do not presume to help myself to the food but find a chair in the shade and watch, enjoying the colors, the people, the happiness. In a matter of moments a Balinese woman approaches me and in the universal language of hand signals and head nods invites me to partake. I smile and delightedly accept.

The tables are arranged in a horseshoe shape. They hold Indonesian delights: tuna tempura with sambal, curried tofu and vegetables, chicken rolls, pork satay, tempe, batter fried green beans, of course rice, and pistachio ice cream for dessert.

Guests mostly sit at tables and on chairs that have been draped with white fabric and red accents, talking, laughing, eating.

On the left is the tented buffet. This is a small section of the seated guests. I must say a word about the attire of the female guests. I take the opportunity to really scrutinize the outfits in their various forms. Most of the ladies are wearing a sheer lace blouse like the one front and center. But upon close inspection, underneath that lace is a tight CORSET!! The corset is sometimes the same color as the lace, sometimes flesh colored, and sometimes a bright contrasting color. The lace blouse extends down to mid-thigh but is usually secured at the waist by a cummerbund or scarf often of the same pattern as the sarong.

The lace plunges to a ‘V’ in the front sometimes secured by a lovely pin as you can see on the woman in brown at the left of the photo above. The Balinese are not shy about mixing patterns and color! I see every imaginable combination and it is all simply spectacular.

When I purchased my sarong for the event I had no idea if I would be appropriately dressed. Putu informed me that I should wear a T-shirt, not a sleeveless top. So here’s what my attempt at a wedding outfit looks like. Next time I’ll have my tight corset and lace shirt!

About now you’re probably asking, “How does Sherry know about Balinese weddings?” Let me say again, the Balinese people are incredibly kind and hospitable. At one point the lovely young woman in the next photo, Desak is her name, approached me to make certain I had eaten. She spoke beautiful English and was kind enough to explain what was happening. She is a cousin of the groom, a Kindergarten teacher, and is eagerly anticipating her own wedding in about six months.

She tells me she wants four children, then adds that the Balinese government is suggesting that couples have just two. “It’s for the population, so it doesn’t get too large for the island.” I think I must have looked shocked. “But it’s still okay to have four,” she explains with a huge smile.

Back in my room I am suddenly overwhelmed with intense gratitude for the people I’ve met, my precious time here in Bali, and the opportunity to learn first-hand about their customs and time-honored traditions. It is a privilege that feels sacred. It feeds my soul.

Directionally Challenged Meets Cuke as Fruit

To suggest that I am directionally challenged is a kindness. In truth, if there is a wrong way to go, I will find it. Its a gift. Today was no exception so its good that I had no particular place to be and no particular time to be there. My goal was to try a different restaurant, one that I had never visited before, in a different part of Ubud. After wandering for about 3/4 of a mile I saw Gayatri Cafe with a broad doorway and a little bridge over a coi pond. That’s my kind of aesthetic.

The menu was displayed on a stand at the entrance and there were plenty of Indonesian dishes to choose from. I’ve found its best to stick with the local fare. Why would I order Italian food or a Mexican burrito in Bali? I’ve seen the looks on the faces of tourists who make that mistake.

It was as pleasing inside as it was from the street. I took this shot just before the whole place filled up with hungry diners. The sweet servers in their Balinese sarongs and long shirts were delightful and this one graciously allowed her photo to be taken holding my banana/papaya smoothie.


As I sipped the delicious drink and waited for the main course, Kare Sayur (Curried Vegetables) the sun slipped behind clouds and a torrential downpour lasting all of four and a half minutes watered the already lush landscape. Most of the restaurants in Ubud are open to nature. Very few choose to shut it out and refrigerate it.

My dish arrived with a towering cone of rice! “Mt. Agung.” my server explained, then laughed. Mt. Agung is one of four volcanoes on Bali and is home to the mother temple, Besakih. My taste buds were poised and ready for the rich curry sauce and I was not disappointed. Polishing off the last flavorful carrot, I remembered seeing a page of desserts in that menu. This really has to stop…tomorrow!

I selected Rujak Manis, a fruit bowl with a chili tamarind sauce. Now last time I read my fruit chart I did not notice cucumber included in the list. This fruit salad definitely contained cucumber…papaya, pineapple, melon, and cucumber. I’m not sold on the cuke as a fruit. I am much more comfortable with it in the vegetable family. So, I’m sad to say, this dessert failed the taste test.

Stuffed to the gills, I paid the cashier and exited the Cafe. Why did I not pay attention and make a mental note to self like “Go Right When You Leave” before I went in? I went left. Of course I did. And it was the wrong way. Of course it was. But you know what? This is just another one of those little glitches that make me who I am, and my new mantra is:  I’m okay with that!

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