An east coast, easy feeling in Bali

Not that long ago I trumpeted the plus points of visiting Keramas on Bali’s east coast to anyone that would listen. This tale takes us a little further south but still on the east coast.

If you really are interested in organic experiences, ones that leave you with an overall feeling of joy and that rich sensation of engaging with the real world and in this case real Bali, then this one will do that, and dare I say a whole lot more.

Penelope Jane Williams is a one of a kind woman. Passionate, thoughtful, engaging and intense in the nicest possible way. She is a woman on a mission and a visit to her delightful traditional style restaurant and cooking school that stands under the gaze of the mighty Mt Agung will be one that will remain in your soul forever. It certainly has mine.

I am talking about a little slice of Bali life called Bali Asli. What started as a small spark inside Penny while travelling throughout Asia in the late 80’s has well and truly caught fire, and no one will be distinguishing this flame in a hurry! 

After all this was not an overnight achievement. Four years as an apprentice chef at the Savoy in London, followed by 12 years in Sydney at some of the city’s top shelf dining houses, it was her post as Executive Chef at the Alila Manggis hotel in Candidasa Bali that had her dream turning the way of reality.

A lot of hard work and total commitment from Penny has come to fruition in a way that not only has enriched her life but many of the local villages and it people as well.

A visit to see and taste true Balinese delights at Bali Asli comes with many choices too. Don’t just make it a lunch experience, that’s too easy really. I want you to engage on a higher level and join Penny or one of her team on one of the many unique and real opportunities that she has on offer.

My excursion was just fantastic. An easy trek through the local village where we met and interacted with the locals, well with the help of Penny’s translating skills as my Balinese is very minimal. We ventured into the hills where we met up with a local lady that makes palm wine or Tuak, this is made by a natural fermentation from the juice that runs out of the branch of the Jake palm, and is only found in East Bali. I have to say tasted pretty good too – and not just because it has an alcohol content!

We then ventured further up the mountain and visited a local farmer whose facial features told many a tale. You could see that he had toiled hard over the years producing, coconuts, banana, jack fruit, and cassava (a root vegetable) for the village. Still here he was with his cows, his thoughts and no outside interference. He had this wonderful peaceful presence and was more than happy to sit and watch us wander his patch.

Before we made our way back for lunch we stopped in to pay a visit to Lontar museum in Dukuh village where we were treated to a most delicious tea that is made from a type of small red onion. I know it doesn’t sound too inviting, but it really was lovely and was full of anti-oxidants.

The holy man that welcomed us here was a sight to behold, his features were large and he had the biggest smile that just lit up his face. He just made you feel relaxed and important, it was a special part of the trek, no doubt about it.

Lunch was calling and I was excited to savour the tastes that Penny had talked about earlier on the walk. Sitting with the incredible sight of Mt Agung as the backdrop we were treated to what can only be described as a sensation of the senses! The aromas, the visuals and of course the flavours. Oh, my it was almost too much to behold. Penny was going to have to roll me out of here. 

The highlight without a doubt was the ‘Megibung’; a feast created by the king of Karangasem when he ended the war in the 1500’s. Lets’ face it, there’s a reason certain things stand up to the test of time and now I knew why this dish has – just magnificent.

Penny and the team have all sorts of adventures and experiences waiting for you and I do hope you get to partake in one on your next Bali holiday. Here are a few that are on offer.

Life in the Village

A guided trekking adventure that is suitable to anyone with a moderate fitness level will lead you into Pangi village where you will have a peek into the daily life of the Balinese. You will also enjoy breath taking views over ocean, fields and mountains and get to bathe your feet in pure spring water before returning to Bali Asli to cook your Balinese feast!

The Vespa Tour

This tour starts at the King’s Palace of Amlapura with your exclusive tour behind the scenes experience followed by a ride through the streets of Karangasem and a visit to a blacksmith making traditional ceremonial knives. You continue your ride to the village of Budakling, where a holy man will show you how he makes the gold gilded decorations for the high priests head dress whilst you sit and enjoy a Balinese morning tea. Your next stop is Tirtagangga, the Royal swimming gardens, followed by a leisurely cruise to the coast where a Balinese picnic lunch will be served.

A day in the life of a Balinese Lady

You will join the chefs as they go to Amlapura market to buy the produce for the day’s menu. See, touch and smell some of the unusual ingredients and buy some supplies to take home with you. Our staff will teach you about the importance of the daily offerings and how they are linked to food. Use traditional kitchen equipment to create a truly memorable Balinese lunch.

They are just some of the experiences on offer, there are many more to choose from so have a little look at www.baliasli.com.au and see what entices you.

If you are looking for some brilliant, relaxed accommodation right on the beach on Bali’s East Coast, then I suggest you try Villa Bahagia – it is the perfect location for some east coast easy feeling.

Scott McRae is the host of “A Taste of Travel” on TEN and WIN, visit www.scottmcrae.com.au ​and www.atasteoftravel.com.au