Travelogue: How to Make Salt the Traditional Balinese Way

Bali alila soori salt makers

Michael Taylor (middle) poses with the last remaining salt makers on Kelating Beach in Tabanan, Bali. Photo Credit: Dewa Komang Aradi.

Bali Part 15

Michael Taylor is currently in Bali, Indonesia. Following eight nights in three of the island's key travel destinations – Nusa Dua, Kuta Beach, and Seminyak – he heads off the beaten tourism track to West Bali, a part of the island largely undiscovered by foreign tourists.

While staying at a sumptuous five star resort on a black sand beach, he learns how salt water is turned into salt.

Balinese Salt Making 101

I have always wondered how salt water was turned into salt, and now I know. At least I know how it is done – but perhaps for not much longer – on the sands of Kelating Beach in Tabanan, Bali, where Alila Villas Soori Bali is situated.

The phone rang. It was my driver at Alila Villas Soori Bali, where I was spending two nights. He wanted to know if I'd like to see how salt was made. Of course, I said, “Yes!”

“I'll be there in five minutes,” my driver said.

My enthusiastic driver was from the region, and he seemed eager to share his knowledge with visiting travelers such as me. He escorted me to the black sand beach in front of the hotel. We walked for about 20 minutes.

Along the way, my driver pointed out such things as how high the water could get at high tide and why some elderly people were buried halfway into the sand.

“It's good for rheumatism,” he said.

Balinese Strip Mall

We walked past a rural Balinese version of a strip mall – complete with shops selling junk food and teenagers on motor scooters. There were also some little grass shacks that had all but fallen down.

Towards the end of the beach, a wizened old man wearing a thatched hat was carrying something on shoulder polls.

“He and his wife are the last of the salt makers,” my driver said.

“The others have all died off.”

It's easy to romanticize about traditional lifestyles, but when I observed the hard life that this couple had endured … And yet, in a way, it IS sad to know that they are the end of a long, long line …

How to Make Salt Balinese Style

Bali alila michael raking salt

Michael Taylor tries his hand at raking salt on the sands of  Kelating Beach in Tabanan, Bali. Photo Credit: Dewa Komang Aradi.

After observing the old man and his wife – and listening to my driver's explanations – this, according to my understanding, is ROUGHLY how salt is made according to the Balinese tradition.

The couple are following methods that have been handed down through generations. It is all but unlikely, however, that this craft will survive into the next generation.

My apologies if I've mixed things up a bit. This is just to give you an idea of how it's done.

If you are considering a career switch, however, I hasten to point out: one rice bowl's worth of salt – which takes a huge amount of time and an immense amount of effort to produce – yields about 10 US$ cents.

Salt making is most definitely NOT a get rich quick scheme!

  • Fetch wet sand near shore in bucket.
  • Dump wet sand further back on beach, where sand is dry. Let it dry in sun for several hours.
  • Dump dried sand into big pile, for future use.
  • Shovel dried sand into trough, which has drain that will filter out sand.
  • Fetch fresh water from nearby stream and pour into trough.
  • Rake substance in trough.
  • Take water that emerges from trough and boil for four hours.

Not only will crystallized salt emerge, you will also have the makings of Balinese tofu!

The old man and his wife don't make much money making salt, but they seemed to take tremendous pride in their craft. You couldn't help but admire them. They were delighted when I asked if we could do a photo shoot.

When I showed them the results, the old lady burst out laughing and affectionately slapped her husband on the back.

Sometimes life's greatest pleasures are the simplest.

To Be Continued

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