Bali: Serendipitous Lunch with Balinese Characteristics

Food + Beverage

Hindu ceremony provides a colourful backdrop to a mouth-watering lunch at a small cafe, evoking nostalgia in a repeat visitor to the Island of the Gods.  Sometimes it pays off not to read things too carefully!

Café Ketai Coffee and Restaurant is an informal café on Jalan Hanoman in Ubud, Bali, serving yummy Indonesian and Continental cuisine as well as hot dogs, sandwiches, burgers, pasta, pizza – the list goes on.

It was just as Sophie Digby, editor of Yak magazine, promised me on my first evening in Bali several years ago.

I was on a press trip, and dozens of us spent the day visiting factories and workshops. The last stop on our whirlwind tour was a 5 star hotel, where we would have dinner and spend the night.

The bus taking us to the hotel got caught up in a traffic jam as a parade of children and adults wearing the most beautiful clothes imaginable sauntered past.

Their outfits were so beautiful that I actually thought that they might be performers, who would entertain us during dinner.

Not making any progress, the driver of the bus finally got out and had a long conversation. When he returned, he looked embarrassed.

Important Ceremony

“I am very sorry, but you cannot enter the hotel through the lobby,” he said.

“There will be an important ceremony tonight so you will have to enter the hotel through the employees’ entrance. But don’t worry. Someone will carry your luggage for you.”

As it turned out, there was some kind of sacred shrine at the entrance of the hotel, and an important ceremony would be held there that evening.

When villagers lease their land to the developers of hotels in Bali, they usually maintain the right to worship or hold ceremonies at any of the sacred shrines or other sacred objects at the hotel.

We were told to go to our villas, freshen up, and meet by the pool at 7 pm. When I arrived, several tables had been set up and waiters were serving wine. The ceremony was already underway.

Enchanting Backdrop

We dined that night against a backdrop of tiki torches and flags flapping in the breeze from tall bamboo poles.

Rhythmic drumming and chanting served as background music to our conversation over a magnificent Indonesian banquet and copious quantities of wine.

I said to the others sitting at my table, “I’m so lucky that this ceremony is taking place on my first evening in Bali!”

Sophie looked at me and said, “Mike, stuff like this happens in Bali all the time.”

Fast Forward to the Present

Because of the heat I decided to eat lunch as close as possible to the homestay I am staying at. That meant eating at a café across the street and up the road a bit.

I went into Café Kedai Coffee and Restaurant and ordered what I thought was Nasi Goreng, or Indonesian style fried rice, and an iced green tea.

When my food arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. I had not read the menu carefully. What I had ordered was actually Nasi Goreng Nanas, which is chicken (or vegetable) fried rice with cashew nuts and raisins served in half a pineapple with thin strips of eggs laid crisscross across the top.

It looked fantastic and tasted even better!

Hindu Ceremony

The café was located next to a temple – or should I say house? All Hindu homes in Bali are actually temple complexes that people live in. A Balinese ceremony was going to take place there.

Just as I was about to start eating, the first arrivals got out of a car in front of the café. When an elderly woman looked inside the café and saw me, she smiled happily.

I wasn’t sure if she was a rural villager seeing a foreigner in person for the first time, if her family owned shares in the restaurant since it was next to the temple and she was happy to see it had business, or if she knew I would take photos of the ceremony and post them on Facebook.

Indonesians – and especially the Balinese, I have learned – love taking selfies and having their pictures taken.

Mutual Respect

Attendees continued to arrive in dribs and drabs, most of them wearing the magnificent clothes that the Balinese wear to their ceremonies, and they seemed as intrigued by me and the Japanese ladies dining at the next table are we were by them.

Many of them peered inside the café, and when eyes met, smiles were exchanged. I wanted to take pictures, but I’m always a bit shy about taking pictures of people I don’t know. I feel it’s an invasion of their privacy.

So I employed the strategy I learned at TBEX a few weeks earlier. If you want to take someone’s picture, never show your camera until you have first made eye contact.

After making eye contact, smile, establish rapport, and only then – if the vibes seem right – raise your camera and indicate through either words or body language that you would like their permission to take their picture.

And then I did what I have always done when I take someone’s picture with a digital camera: I showed them the pictures that I had taken of them.

It is a small gesture, but it is always appreciated. It demonstrates that you see them as a person and not an object.

On subsequent trips to Bali, I have learned that what Sophie had told me was right. Stuff like this happens in Bali all the time.

Where

Café Kedai Coffee and Restaurant, Jalan Hanoman No. 56, Ubud, Bali. telephone: (0361) 745 3692.

 

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