Shopping Bali Style

I have a week left so what’s uppermost in my mind? Shopping, of course. What do I want to bring back that will remind me of these leisurely, sun drenched days, the tantalizing smells, the sounds, and food, the glorious food! I decided, having taken the cooking class, that being able to recreate Balinese dishes I love when I get home would be a really great idea. So I made a list of ingredients then narrowed it down to the ones that I’ve never, ever, in all my years of grocery shopping, seen in a Minnesota grocery store. Here’s the list:

Pandanus extract

Palm sugar


Kaffir Lime Leaves

Pandan Leaves




Tamarind Pulp

Photo by Ollie L.

Armed with my list I headed resolutely for CoCo’s Supermarket and made a bee-line for the spices. I poured over the labels then poured over them again. Nothing. One of the adorable twelve-year-old employees (they look so young) asked if she could help me. Gratefully I showed her my list. She painstakingly read through each word, then headed down an aisle at the end of which was a stunning fifteen-year-old (maybe 18). The younger girl handed the list to this new one with a string of Balinese words by way of explanation. The young lady read it and we were off again to presumably find the manager who turned out to be a male of indiscernible age. This time I got answers. “We have no leaves,” he said first. Then took off with me in hot pursuit. He found the belecan and the palm sugar. Hurray! Two down! Then told me to go to the market early in the morning. They will have leaves.  So these are fresh leaves? They aren’t dried leaves? “Oh no,” he assured me. “Fresh leaves.” Silly me. I had pictured something like dried basil leaves in a sealed container that would easily clear U.S. Customs. For some reason custom’s officials do not look kindly on REAL foliage being smuggled onto U.S. soil. Well, that saves me the early morning trip to the market. As for the other five missing ingredients…I will stop by Dayu’s Warung tomorrow and ask Dayu where she gets these exotic potions. I’ll also ask what I can substitute for leaves. They’re her recipes, after all! If anyone knows the answers she will.

The rest of my shopping was delightful. I’ve always enjoyed the art of negotiation. Here in Bali it is expected. I wanted a hand-made batik fabric. I found the shop I was looking for where the woman makes them herself, and the process began. How much? “Oh for you, special discount, 20%, more if you take two.” I only took one and ended up getting it for about 1/2 of the original quoted price. It takes awhile, you have to be so sorry, maybe tomorrow, start to leave, then you find out the real price. It doesn’t matter if the price is marked on a tag on the item. That is what I would call the “suggested starting price.” There are, perhaps, some exceptions. The high end hotel shops probably would look down their noses if someone attempted to bargain. But in the hundreds of small retail cubbyholes that line Hanoman St. and Monkey Forest Road you can get some fabulous buys.

Then a silver shop reached out and grabbed me. Oh I hate it when that happens! I love rings. I’ve been looking for a particular ring for years…truly…years. And today I found it “No!” I told myself. “You are shopping for gifts. Gifts are for other people.” I tried oh so hard to resist. I didn’t even attempt to negotiate. I didn’t say a word. I just kept fighting with my conscience and the quieter I became the lower the price dropped! I kept shaking my head, “Oh, no, no, I can’t…” and it dropped 100 thousand rupiah. “Please, stop!” down another 50,000. Finally I was afraid if I didn’t buy it they were just going to give it to me. It is fabulous! After looking at so many rings you begin to know the ones that are one-of-a-kind, designed and crafted by an artist in the Balinese style.

So tomorrow I will visit another kind of store. They are everywhere and they’re called Money Changers. Then I’ll continue shopping for Other People.

Hanoman Street in Ubud

I love the surprises each day brings. After another superb meal at Atman Cafe I head north on Hanoman Street.

Hanoman is one of the two main arteries running north and south through Ubud. I set off, camera in hand, to capture some images that are representative of the flavor of the village. This carved, painted door with a soaring crown and gargoyle is typical Balinese architecture. It is inserted into a high brick wall that surrounds a family compound or perhaps a temple.

There are always steps up to the doorway so you can’t quite see what’s in there. Today curiosity triumphed. I climbed the stairs and took a peek  through the partially open door. There was a large open space bordered by several buildings that I assume are dwellings. The ornate facades of these homes are protected by statues of gods or fierce creatures.

My mission for the afternoon is to visit the new CoCo Supermarket and pick up a few snacks for evening munching. I hadn’t realized until now what a snacker I am! Not having a kitchen with stocked cupboards handy is definitely a lifestyle change. I comb the gleaming isles of the large store. There are thousands of varieties of chips, cookies, and candies. My search is successful and I leave with two apples and a bag of spicy Thai peanuts. There is a somber look to the sky as I head home so I pick up the pace hoping to reach cover before a downpour.

I am approaching my turn when Hanoman Street becomes suddenly quiet. No traffic. That can only mean one thing. Looking up the street I see them coming. A ceremonial procession is making its way toward me.

The black and white plaid fabric is seen everywhere in Bali. I was told that it represents balance.

They pass directly in front of me on their way to the temple to make the offerings that the women are carrying on their heads.  I don’t want to be the obnoxious tourist who intrudes upon their traditional rituals with camera flashing, so I try to be discreet and probably miss the best shots as a result.

The parade continues on and I head down the walled corridor that will take me home. As I turn the corner at the top of the steps, there beside my door is a canang sari, a small basket woven of palm fronds containing an offering to the gods. The Balinese present these offerings three times a day. Sometimes I wonder how the women get anything else done. They seem to sit for hours every day making literally dozens of these small gifts.

Finally back on my balcony I watch the threatening clouds approach.

There’s a stiff breeze and…ahhh yes! Here comes the rain!

Obedient Slave

There’s only one drawback to traveling alone…it’s a little tougher to get photos of yourself! But I am here…really I am!

One of the first things we talk about in my Writing for Self-Discovery Classes is the importance of listening to your body. Way too often the mind runs the show, deciding where to go, what to do and when to do it without ever consulting the body. The body, obedient slave that it is, goes along and goes along and goes along until one day it has enough. The ONLY way the body can get the mind’s attention is to get sick. Suddenly the show stops and the mind is 100% focused on the body.

We aren’t used to consulting our bodies. So much illness could be avoided if we listened to body promptings. And I’m the world’s worst! So, the purpose of this trip, along with working on my novel, is to teach myself to slow down, be present, and pay close attention to my body.

On Friday my mind said, “Oh! Yoga is perfect for slowing down and becoming mindful of your body.” So I dragged my body through 90 degree F temps and equally high humidity the 15 minute walk to the Yoga Barn. The Level One class was not easy, but it was do-able.

This is the entrance to the second floor studio at the Yoga Barn. Whisper Zone. Those are the cleaned and drying orange yoga mats hanging on the railing.

Bing took a better photo of the inside than I did, so the Bing Search Engine gets credit for this one! It’s a huge, beautiful space, wide open to the outside. There are bamboo shades that can be rolled down in case of winds or intense sun. Just being there makes me feel uber healthy and fit!

When you’re flat on your back in my personal favorite, Corpse Pose, this view of the ceiling is equally as amazing as the rest of the space. Our yogini was a petite Indian woman with a big personality. She cracked jokes a mile a minute, some of them I got, some of them I knew were jokes because she was personally very amused. After a sweaty hour and a half I once again hauled my overheated body along narrow roads with no sidewalks where scooters, cars and trucks were zinging around curves and honking frightfully at the lone pedestrian.

But I made it and was rewarded by the sweet refrigerated air of Pertenin Spa. My mind knew that a massage is a perfect way to relax and unwind tired muscles. Wayan, woman with magic hands, was there to greet me. I climbed the curving staircase to the most exquisite chamber where soft music and exotic scents welcomed me.

An hour later, oiled and kneaded to a fine rag-doll finish, I hit the streets again, passing a monkey so close to me her hair brushed the side of my leg. She continued on, up the steps to a women’s dress shop where she looked longingly in the window, her little hands pressed against the glass. The door was open, she could have gone in. But exercising incredible restraint she allowed herself only to admire from afar.

I trudged in greasy slowness back to my room, showered, and headed out to Cafe Kebun for a little something. It’s a hoppin’ place on Hanoman Street and there were no free tables. My server lead me to one occupied by 4 women and an empty chair. I took the chair. Two were from Australia, one was from Delaware, and one from Toronto. We talked for a couple of hours. It was 9:30 when I got back to my sweet room. At 3 a.m. I awoke with a scratchy throat and stuffy nose. Uh-oh. I shook 2 packets of Emergen-C into my water bottle and drank it down. Better. Then went back to sleep.

Morning dawned, snot dripping down my upper lip. Body has gotten my attention. Then mind made a very astute decision: we (my body and me) will rest as long as we need to. Of course body was all the while screaming, “Don’t you dare try to take me anywhere until I’m good and ready to go!”

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