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

Asam

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Pandan Leaves

Suji

Galangal

Belecan

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.

Advertisements

Balinese Fashionista!

Maybe you recall my post about the Balinese wedding I was so fortunate to attend. And perhaps you remember the photos of the women in their beautiful clothing, and me in my black T-shirt and sarong. Well, no more! I have been invited to two more ceremonious events in the coming weeks and I shuddered to think of showing up so inappropriately garbed. I asked Dewa about the lace blouse that so many of the women wear. “You mean kebaya?” he corrected me. “Yes, the lace blouse, kebaya, where can I get one?” Well, it seems if you want it to fit properly you buy the lace and go to a tailor. “Very expensive,” he said. I didn’t doubt it. A few days passed and I again broached the subject. This time his wife brought a bag of fabrics to show me. None of them were lace. “Too hot!” I exclaimed. “Need holes!” They laughed and again Dewa warned me, “Very expensive.” It occurred to me that something might be available ready made at the market. I asked and his answer was affirmative. “Yes, you can buy there, small, medium, large. Not tailored.”

The next day I took myself to the market. Even though that in itself is a challenge not for the faint of heart, I was on a mission. Passing stalls of jewelry, soaps, incense, carvings, and food, I finally found my way upstairs to clothing vendors. The first person who accosted me with, “Sarong? You buy sarong today? Good luck buy from me.” I said, “Kebaya?” It was like an army snapped to attention and suddenly kebayas were everywhere, cotton ones, polyester ones, every color of the rainbow, and yes, lace ones! I won’t belabor the details, but with much buttoning and unbuttoning (there is a row of 12 tiny buttons down the front and they are all displayed buttoned) and trying on and taking off, I found the perfect kebaya. Then with hand signals to represent the cummerbund around the waist the exact item was located. Some quick bargaining and I had hunted, captured, and bagged my prey! I actually found my way out of the market without getting completely turned around and hurried home. Assembling the outfit on my bed to get the full effect of the shopping expedition, I have to say I was thrilled. Here it is, my event-appropriate costume for ceremonies Bali style.

What a day!

It’s 6:30 a.m. Light rain is falling as I head down a deserted Hanoman Street. For days now I have allowed the morning rain to deter me from walking to the Yoga Barn for the 7 a.m. Early Bird Yoga class. It is one of the few Level 1 classes offered and my body is happiest at Level 1. I am the third to arrive. I take a mat, blocks, and a blanket and make my way to the far side of the room settling into a seated, meditative state. When I again open my eyes, the room is filled. There are, at quick glance, at least 20 people on their mats, waiting. The class is perfect, flowing from one pose to the next, fluidly, slowly, with the breath. I leave, calmed and energized.

Back to my homestay for breakfast and a quick change of clothes, then I’m off to the market. The sky is now a brilliant blue with bright sunshine. I gaze upward and can’t resist this shot. Who says you can’t take a picture directly into the sun?!

One must be mentally and physically prepared for a visit to the market. As with markets everywhere (with the possible exception of stoic Budapest) I am accosted every step of the way with, “Miss, a sarong today? A beautiful sarong?” “Miss, silver bracelet for you? Silver jewelry?” “Miss, Miss, good price for you today!” I find that the best answer is to respond in a sing-song voice, “Not today…thank you.” Most often I get a sing-song “Thank you…” in return. Sometimes I hear, “Miss, tomorrow?” I smile and move on.

The air here doesn’t move. There are offerings and incense at every vendor’s stall. I’ve wormed my way deep into the bowels of the marketplace. In the mid-day Bali heat I start feeling slightly woozy. I find my way to a balcony and inhale a deep breath of fresh air.

Yes. All those rooftops house more of the market. I wonder how many of the thousands of sarongs available here are sold on a given day, or how many of the I “heart” Bali T-shirts?

Finally, 200% over-stimulated, I look for an exit and escape. Uh oh! This street isn’t familiar. I go back inside, wend my way in the opposite direction, or as close to that as possible, and emerge somewhere else. Once again outside I recognize a landmark. The Oops Bar. I strike out confidently in the wrong direction. After a short distance I realize my mistake and make the necessary correction. I am heading for the Wayan Cafe, sweet oasis in the midst of sensory overload. It is a fair distance from the market but, dripping with sweat, I am bound and determined that a long, leisurely lunch there is just reward for the trials I have endured.

My persistence pays off. I ask the blue turbaned attendant if there is an available table in the garden. He invites me to go in and choose for myself. As I follow the winding path through rich foliage bursting with blossoms, I hope that I will find the perfect spot, secluded and tranquil. I pass many opportunities for seating but they aren’t quite what I’m hoping for. Then, on my right, is a high platform with a thatched roof overlooking a lovely lotus pond. It sits all by itself as if just waiting for me to find it. I remove my sandals and ascend the platform, sinking gratefully into the cushions.

And now the part my “foodie” friends have been waiting for. You know who you are! The menu is extensive and every dish delectable. I decide on an iced latte to start. The smiling blue turban appears and wallah! Iced coffee.

I’ve decided on an Indonesian dish called Cap Cay (pronounced Chop Chay) for my main course. It is described as “cabbages, carrot, cauliflower, onion, and green vegetables in  a red sweet chili garlic sauce served with plain rice.”
My mouth waters and my stomach rumbles anticipating the flavors.

Oh delight! I am not disappointed. I savor every mouthful and wonder how I will summon the capacity for dessert. Exercising tremendous restraint, I do not lick the bowl. My happy attendant returns to remove the empty dishes and I tell him I must have dessert but I will have to wait a bit. “Take your time,” he says. I’m grateful for that. It is the perfect opportunity to take a few more photos of my idyllic surroundings.

The view to my right…

The view to my left…

And the view straight ahead. I’ve studied the dessert menu and, much against my better judgement, I order two: coconut meringue pie and green tea ice cream. The ice cream comes first. It is every bit as refreshing as it looks.

Yes, I should have stopped there. But Wayan Cafe is also a bakery. One should never leave without tasting at least one of their specialty desserts. Their coconut meringue pie is a pastry lovers dream.

The pie arrives. Gorgeous! I manage to polish off the whole thing. Did you have any doubt?

Reluctantly I know the time has come to leave my little island of calm and head home.

I thank my server again and slowly take myself and my very full belly, down off the platform and back through the serene gardens and home. It has been quite a day and it’s only 3 p.m. I make myself comfortable on the balcony with my laptop and find the place in the Word document where I left my protagonist hanging yesterday. The story starts to unfold in my mind and my fingers follow it, clicking over the keys.

%d bloggers like this: