Travel Alert: Is Bali’s Mount Agung About to Erupt?

Karangasem Side Trip Part 3

Increased seismic activity in the vicinity of Mount Agung, an active volcano in Eastern Bali, indicates that the volcano may be about the erupt. The volcano last erupted in 1963, killing more than 1,000 people.

Around 10,000 people have been evacuated as the Indonesian government issues the highest level of alert. A further 200,000 people have received travel warnings.

People had initially been moved to at least 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) away from the volcano, but that radius has since been increased to 12 kilometres.

Bali-map-mount-agung

Click to enlarge the map. Mount Agung is located in Eastern Bali.

Mount Agung is located in Eastern Bali in the regency of Karangasem. It is relatively far removed from the province’s capital city of Denpasar or the key tourist districts of Kuta, Nusa Dua, Seminyak, or Ubud.

The closest town with significant tourist facilities is Candidasa, which I visited in 2014. I stayed at the Alila Manggis, a lovely four-staf hotel on the outskirts of town.

While it is difficult to be sure that a volcanic eruption will actually take places, officials are erring on the side of caution.

In addition to increased seismic activity, there have been other signs that an  eruption might be imminent. Apes, snakes, and other wild animals have been feeling the area.

The same thing occurred in 1963, the last time Mount Agung erupted, sending large amounts of debris skyrocketing into the air.

More than 1,000 people were killed in that eruption. In addition to debris, there were large amounts of gas and massive flows of lava.

Mount Agung sits along the so-called “Ring of Fire. It is among roughly 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia.

Bali’s international airport in Denpasar, used by millions of foreign tourists every year, is currently operating as normal.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, however, has warned that an eruption could have an impact on air travel and suggests that travelers contact airlines or tour operators  “to confirm travel plans”.

Executive Chef Realizes Dream,Opens Restaurant Overlooking Mount Agung

I had the pleasure of dining at Bali Asli Restaurant  two years ago while spending 30 days in the Island of the Gods. My review of the restaurant follows:

Bali Asli Restaurant and Cooking School is located on a hillside overlooking Mount Agung. Reflecting the restaurant’s name, which means “authentically Balinese”, it serves authentic Balinese cuisine.

Executive Chef Penelope Williams realizes every chef’s dream: opening her own restaurant in what has got to be one of the world’s most spectacular settings. But how’s the food?

Following a 4-year apprenticeship at the Savoy Hotel in London, England, Penelope Williams spent 12 years working in Sydney, Australia, wielding a knife at such cutting edge eateries as Restaurant 41, Boathouse, and Bather’s Pavilion.

From Australia, Penny headed to Bali, where she served as Executive Chef for 3 years at the Alila Manggis Hotel.

During her stint at the hotel, she became enamored of the “amazing freshness and vitality of the produce” that was available at her doorstep.

Penny managed to talk her Balinese kitchen colleagues into letting her accompany them to their villages, where she learned the ins and outs of traditional Balinese cookery.

Penny went into people’s homes and took part in village ceremonies and festivals.

She was even allowed to help prepare festival feasts, an honour, she says, because many of this dishes served at these feasts were only supposed to be prepared by men.

Mount Agung

When her contract at Alila Manggis was up, Penny decided to do something that every chef dreams of doing: open her own restaurant.

But Penny wasn’t about to take her knowledge back to Australia and open a Balinese restaurant there.

She wanted to open a Balinese restaurant serving authentic Balinese cuisine in Bali – Eastern Bali, not far from the Alila Manggis, to be exact.

Penny only had to visit 2 sites to decide on a location. When she saw the spot in Gelumpang Village with an unobstructed view of Mount Agung, it was love at first sight.

The only thing between the site of the restaurant she wanted to build and the mountain was rice paddies and a couple of farm houses!

After acquiring the land, it took 9 months for the restaurant to be built. It has been in operation now for 4 years.

Wood Burning Stoves

Food is prepared in an authentic Balinese style kitchen on wood fired, mud brick stoves.

My parent’s generation always insisted that food cooked on wood-burning stoves tasted better, and the lunch that I enjoyed at Bali Asli bore witness to that.

I’ve often wondered, if the food really did taste better cooked on wood-burning stoves, why did they switch to gas? And if food really tasted on gas stoves, why did they switch to electricity?

Megibung

The menu at Bali Asli varies depending on what Penny or her chefs find at the market, what is in season in the restaurant’s garden, and what is available from her neighbor’s garden next door.

Generally speaking, there are two menu options each day. The day I had lunch at Bali Asli, Megibung was served.

Megibung is a popular dish in Bali, and it is served family style on bamboo platters at the centre of the table. It comprises white rice,  vegetables, peanuts, eggs, and satay. The day I had lunch at the restaurant, chicken satay was served.

Nasi Campur, which is plated and served individually, is also offered.

I’ve had Balinese style chicken satay before, and I must say in all honestly that Penny’s version was the best I’ve ever had.

The restaurant is open for morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and sunset cocktails. Dinner parties and various other kinds of special events can be arranged.

Because of the restaurant’s somewhat isolated location, advanced reservations are highly recommended.

See: Shopping for Fresh Produce at a Balinese Market.

Where

Bali Asli Restaurant and Cooking School, Gelumpang Village, Ammlapura, Karangasem, Bali. Telephone: 0828 9703 0098. The restaurant is 30 minutes from Candidasa, 30 minutes from Amend, and 90 minutes to 2 hours from the airport depending on traffic.

Heart-felt thanks to Penelope Williams, Executive Chef and Director of the Bali Asli Restaurant and Cooking School , who so graciously invited me to have lunch at her restaurant in addition to taking me to the market and arranging sightseeing tours in the region.

 

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