Bali Wellness Retreat

A few months ago, we headed over to Bali for the most relaxing and rejuvenating trip. The first part of our trip we stayed at the Alila Villas Soori, located about an hour from the Bali airport. It was our first time to Bali and it was nice to know that our resort was far away from the main resorts on the island. The Alila Villas Soori was secluded and beautiful – the perfect place to detox and eat heartily and healthfully. We got to meet the Executive chef who prided himself in creating beautiful raw food and wellness centered foods. They even had the yummiest baby food menu such as coconut and mango puree. I wish I could eat some of that right now.

We tried out their wellness program with daily deep tissue massages and lots of clean foods. I’d eat about five dishes for brunch and then two dishes for dinner with little snacks in between. We enjoyed plenty of seafood and local fruits and veggies. That’s what vacation is for – getting rid of toxins and getting pretty. Here’s what we ate.

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Breakfast every morning right by the beach. Beaches are not private in Bali, but we were so far away from everything it was basically our private beach. We’d pig out for brunch and dinner and yet still lost weight on our trip just from everything been oh so good for you!

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Papaya, dragon fruit, watermelon and mango fruit bowl. 

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Banana coconut oatmeal. 

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Prawn salad with bean sprouts and greens. 

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Green juice. 

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Fried tofu. 

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Dinner would be something like this tofu salad (even though it’s fried) and a vegetarian curry. 

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Veggie curry. 

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Spa rooms. 

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Couples massage.

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View from dinner. 

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Aloha Bali

Photographs by @tammynators – story adapted from http://www.tammynators.com/search/label/alila%20uluwatu%20villas

I visited Bali this summer around late July. Bali was never my ultimate destination because I hate tanning and water sports activities. So, I flew there with very minimum expectation….. anyway, I was in for a huge surprise! Bali changed so much since the last time I was there nine or ten years ago.

The weather was perfect, a little rain and was not as hot as I thought it would be, delicious Indonesian food + perfect beach view. Overall, I truly enjoyed my stay and I can’t wait to go back there again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Uluwatu Temple, I especially wanted to go there so I can see some monkeys :D   All of them are highly aggressive. While I was taking pictures, a foreign young lady came by and told me nicely to keep a close watch of my camera/belongings because their camera snatched by one of the monkeys.

 

At Camel Safaris, Nikko Hotel.

For my next trip to Bali, I plan to go to the Bali Safari so I can do the elephant back ride…. Till next time!

Alila Manggis, Surprisingly Different, indeed…

Many hotels try to brand themselves through clever play on words or logos.  Few in fact manage to capture the spirit of the place in a way that is memorable for their guests.  I found “surprisingly different”, the hotel’s motto,  to be a particularly fitting description of my experience at the AlilaManggis.

My first meal leads me to taste for the first time ever, banana stem.  Surprisingly different indeed, is the use of this non-traditional ingredient in the “duck and banana stem soup”.  A decidedly fibrous ingredient – not sure we can call it either a fruit or a vegetable, this “shoot” for lack of a better word imparts an unexpected taste.  The kitchen is kind enough to show me the ingredient in its pre-cooked form and it is a beautiful, assymetrical slice of art deco.  I would gladly use it as a piece of jewelry.

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Continuing with the “surprisingly different” food, on day two of my stay, I opt for Chef Santika’s Balinese breakfast compilation.  Oh what a mistake it was not to have chosen this on day one!  Chef Santika’s Balinese breakfast is an exploratory culinary journey that is totally surprising.  The UrabSela, a succulent taste of steamed cassava and sweet potatoes with palm sugar is completely outside my frame of culinary reference.  The NasiBubur, a traditional rice porridge with rending sapi, fresh spinach salad and red bean infusion is the best thing I have tasted since landing in Bali. Once again, it is not just that the food is delicious, but that the chef really seeks to wink at the hotel’s motto of “surprisingly different”.

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Balinese cuisine is not well known around the world and that is a great shame as Bali has much to offer.  Due to this position of relative obscurity on the global culinary scene, AlilaManggis has an opportunity (an obligation?) to spread the reputation of this extraordinary and surprising cuisine,  AlilaManggis, through Chef Santika, rises to the challenge as it offers a glimpse into this surprisingly different culinary universe.

Beyond the kitchen of the restaurant, a “surprisingly different” cooking class continues on the theme of introducing Balinese cuisine.   The experience of the cooking class offered by AlilaManggis deserves a blog entry of its own.   Suffice to say that the extraordinary setting of the organic farm, between mountain and sea, and the breadth of the culinary introduction by Chef Santika are not only memorable, they are surprisingly different, indeed.

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The motto continues to surface, in the most unexpected way.  Not because people repeat it, but because the experience warrants it:

- As the hotel organizes customized visits to local destinations that suit my particular interests during my stay in East Bali, I am driven by a car whose driver hands me a cold towel and iced water – nice and surprising touch;

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- When I return from my day’s activities, I head straight to the pool.  There, I am greeted at tea time by a young man who urges me to experience a different kind of tea.  It is tea made of grated ginger, thinly sliced lemon grass and fresh cinnamon, as well as some honey.  As I am fighting a slight cold, the ginger is welcome medicine.

 

 

 

 

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- In line with the notion of health, I find out that Alila offers twice a week yoga and Tai Chi classes “al fresco”.  Surprisingly different, yet again.

As I leave AlilaManggis, I will remember three things: the extra-ordinary cuisine, the attention and friendliness of the staff, and the “surprisingly different” overall experience.

Artisanal salt making: a disappearing trade

While the clientele of AlilaManggis is global, the hotel’s reach and impact in the community is local. To help connect its clientele to Balinese island life, one can arrange a visit to local salt makers.

Salt makers in the Manggis region have the reputation for making some of the best salt in Bali, perhaps in Indonesia.  The artisanal process is a relatively simple one, though the economics of salt making and hard work point to a probable decline in the trade.

Nyoman Warta is a fourth generation salt maker who learned the trade from his father, who in turn learned from his father.  They know for sure that the craft goes back four generations, though they suspect ancestors may have been salt makers even before that.

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Nyoman married twenty years ago WayanSueca, who also hails from a salt making family.  Interestingly, when asked about their two sons’ interest in the trade, they quickly admit that neither son is intending to continue the family tradition, nor are they particularly eager to force them into the trade as it is hard work for little pay.

The rhythm of the salt making work follows strictly the vagaries of the sun.  A rainless day lends itself to salt making.  On average, they can make 7 Kg of salt per day, which they sell to a “collector”, who buys from other single family producers and then sells the salt in bulk to market.  The price of their high quality salt has gone up over the past 10 years, to 30,000 rupiah per kilo ($2.60/kg), but it is still insufficient to keep the family adequately fed.

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The process is simple enough: they collect water from the sea and by day’s end, they rake the “salt” to be poured into a large filtering palm tree receptacle.  The key to making high quality salt is in the repeated filtering process which is enabled by the availability of volcanic sand as filtering material.  As new water is poured into the filter, a highly concentrated salt water is collected into a number of antique looking smaller carved palm tree hulls.

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When asked about where these come from, I get a blank stare.  These carved coconut tree hulls, which look like small stone bathtubs have been a family “asset” as far as they can remember.  The final step consists in pouring the high salt concentrate into sixty very shallow, 2 meter long troughs.  Finally, as the water evaporates in the sun, the salt crystals, shining like small diamonds, are ready to be bagged and sold.

I learn from Nyoman and his wife Wayan that they must supplement their family income with other trades.  This enterprising couple has over time developed several synergistic activities:  one sister cuts and processes palm leaves into a highly resistant, beautiful white paper thin material.  This rigid “paper” is sold in batches to buyers who use them to make shoes and others who make albums for the tourist trade.  Another activity is to collect dark grey pebbles which local builders use as decorative accents.  Yet another product consists in processing the local pandanus leaf into thin strips of weaveable material, once dry.  These are eventually woven into beautiful and robust sleeping mats, and sold to buyers who come by on an irregular basis

The couple lives with one son in their very humble beach side bamboo hut.  Asked whether working with salt tends to bring about illness, they laugh and say, through my interpreter “on the contrary, salt is good for you.  We are very healthy”.

AlilaManggis recognizes the fragility of this trade and does its part to elevate visibility for salt making.  How do the hotel do this?  Firstly, it named its world class restaurant Sea Salt.  Every table has a generous helping of organic sea salt from this area.   The center-piece decoration piece in the main dining room is a large palm tree hull, like the ones that are used by the salt makers.  All these efforts contribute to raising visibility for the trade.

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The hotel also tries to stimulate demand for sea salt in the form of gifts, by offering it in a vacuum-packed package in its Alila Lifestyle shop.  The vagaries of international travel complicate a bit the promotion of this sea salt as an export item, yet the hotel continues to experiment with packaging solutions to make this feasible.

It is hard to reconcile the drive toward development and growth all around them and the sustainability of this traditional trade.  It is easy to conclude that with one more generation, salt making at the household level will become a thing of the past.  For now, I marvel at the robustness of this family and their dedication to making the best salt on the island, a salt they are proud of and which their entire life revolves around.

Alila Manggis Cooking Class: Culinary Adventure and Vegetarian’s Paradise

Our first two Balinese meals at Alila Manggis’s SeaSalt restaurant were so delicious that I am very excited to have the opportunity to take a cooking lesson from the East Balinese Executive Chef Santika in the Organic gardens which supply the hotel’s restaurant kitchen. On arrival at the vegetable gardens, which are set in amongst […]

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