BALI TRAVEL TIPS: 5 DELICIOUS TREATS AROUND RURAL BALI
Visitors to Bali who venture away from south Bali’s hideously over-developed, sprawling tourist region will quickly transport themselves into an entirely different world- traditional Bali, still quite intact. Discoveries of stunning visual scenery, unique cultural arts, delicious food, and local daily lifestyles await travelers who take the time to explore rural Bali island.
To whet your appetite, here are 5 delicious treats that you won’t find in ‘the sprawl down south’. In my upcoming reports, look forward to more wonderful discoveries in Bali: little-known places around the island that you’d love to experience if you only just knew about them, tasty Balinese foods that you won’t find in tourist restaurants or hotels, and wonderfully scenic, little-trafficked roads around the island. For today, I bring you:
5 delicious treats found around ‘the real’ Bali:
1. Kue- traditional Balinese sweets
Kue are traditional sweets made of rice flour and/or agar-agar (a seaweed that makes gelatin). Dozens of varieties of kue are available, but can broadly be categorized into cake-like sweets, firm pudding-like sweets, jelly-like sweets, and deep-fried sweets. Many Balinese kue are the same ones that you’ll find in Malaysia, strange as that may seem.
Some kue are sprinkled generously with natural coconut flakes, others are drenched in brown sugar syrup. Some are filled with a sweet coconut mixture or crushed peanuts or yellow bean paste. Fried kue include fried dough (much like donuts), batter-fried bananas and sweet potatoes, and glutinous rice balls filled with peanuts or bean paste.
Quite sadly, kue seem to have mostly disappeared from south Bali, save for a few small local markets patronized by residents. But once you leave Bali’s tourist region, you’ll find kue just about everywhere, from cities to rural villages.
In villages, you’ll find them at morning markets or road-side stalls. In cities, you might also find them at a few local bakeries and shops. The most delicious kue bakeries I’ve found in all of Bali are in Seririt City, on Bali’s north coast, and in Negara city, in Bali’s southwest corner.
2. Fresh strawberries in Bedugul
As much as I love the tropics and tropical fruits, I have to admit that I occasionally really miss berries. Since childhood, red raspberries and strawberries have been 2 of my favorite fruits. Sadly for me, berries just don’t grow in the tropics. That means that since 1998 I’ve rarely been able to indulge in fresh berries. Don’t get me wrong- you can find strawberry ice cream, berry-flavored desserts, and even berry flavored yogurt and candies. But real, fresh raspberries, strawberries or blueberries? Forget it.
So the first time I explored Bali, I was absolutely astounded and delighted to discover real strawberries, by the pint-full, on sale in Bali’s central mountains at a little town called Bedugul, located near famous Lake Bratan. Even more amazingly, the strawberries were super cheap. I promptly bought a pint and ate them all on the spot. Then I loaded up with more to eat later.
Bedugul’s strawberries are a tiny, delicate variety with plenty of flavor. So rare are fresh berries in SE Asia, that I personally think it’s worth a special trip up to Bedugul every time I’m in Bali just to eat fresh strawberries. In fact, that reminds me to go there next week!
Travelers who venture up to Bedugul will also discover lovely Lake Bratan, graced by the much-photographed Balinese temple. Bedugul is located in central Bali, about 1-1/2 hours’ drive from either the south or north coast.
3. Balinese coffee ‘picnic’ on a crater rim
Not far from Bedugul and Lake Bratan, on the north side of that vast crater rim, there’s a fantastic viewpoint over-looking Lakce Tamblingan and Lake . The two placid lakes are located wayyyy down inside the crater. Along that scenic stretch of crater rim road, several unobtrusive shops have set up benches, chairs and tables outside, right on the very edge of the crater.
My favorite spot offers a few tables set with black-n-white checkered table clothes, reminiscent of summer-time picnics. It’s an incredibly charming location, shaded by a huge pine tree. The restaurant across the road, serves exceptionally delicious Balinese coffee. I was so smitten with their coffee, in fact, that I promptly bought bags of beans for my coffee-loving mom, dad, and brother for Christmas.
Up on the crater rim, the weather is much, much cooler than down along coastal Bali. Daytime temperatures often hover at 16-18C, while down beside the sea it’s 30-35C. Clouds roll in quickly throughout the day, and temperatures drop even more. Rain is common and cold.
Be sure to go prepared with warm clothes and rain gear. If you’re not keen on cold weather, you’ll probably want to skip mornings and evenings and, instead, venture up there midday. You can always sit inside if it rains.
4. Clove orchards on the road to Kintamani
Just east of Singaraja City a wonderful little-used, long winding road weaves its way, 36 km, up to the heights of Kintamani town, on volcanic Mt. Batur’s crater rim. Clove orchards line the lower 20 km or so of that road, splashing out the sweet, pungent aroma of cloves. Traveling by bicycle or motorbike, you’ll be inundated with the enticing, heavy clove fragrance.
You’ll pass cloves laid out on tarps beside the road, drying in the sun. If you’re lucky, you’ll come upon workers picking cloves from bright, leafy green trees or raking drying cloves to turn them over. If you’re adventurous, stop to chat, as best you can, and take some pictures. Locals love posing for photos, and you’ll get some really unique travel shots.
5. Fresh grapes near Seririt
The first time I ventured west of Lovina, on Bali’s north coast, I was amazed to come upon road-side stalls selling fresh, dark grapes. I’d never heard of grapes growing in the tropics and had no idea they grew anywhere in Bali.
As a huge fan of fresh fruit, I couldn’t help but stop to buy a large bundle… and then proceed to eat as many as possible before continuing my journey. Just like the strawberries up in Bedugul, the grapes near Seririt are very inexpensive and quite tasty. Be sure to get some if you drive along Bali’s north coast.
I hope these delicious island treats peak your curiosity to travel around Bali and make your own discoveries. I certainly urge every visitor to abandon south Bali, which has few remnants of Balinese culture remaining, and go experience first hand how absolutely wonderful the real Bali is. … and check back here for more suggestions on Bali explorations, coming soon! Cheers, Lash
Have you visited rural Bali? If so, have you tried any of these treats?
Do you have any other great Balinese tips to add?
If you haven’t been to Bali yet, what would you like to see and do when you visit?