Sipping on silence in Sibetan Village

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Published: December 5th 2023

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basket weaver's housebasket weaver's housebasket weaver’s house

A smart man is usually humble… ~ Indonesian Proverb

HE SAID…
Today we were travelling to the tranquil village of Sibetan.

Locations
> Sidemen is a small mountain village in eastern Bali.
> Sibetan (our destination) is a remote rural village in eastern Bali.

Transport
We travelled from Sidemen to Sibetan by minibus, then explored Sibetan by foot.

We left Sidemen in the mid-afternoon and headed a short distance (about 12 kilometres) east to Sibetan. We drove along narrow mountain roads with forest on either side. We drove through tiny villages where dwellings had been built right to the very edge of the road. We crawled around sharp corners, and we shared the road with cars, trucks and motorbikes. We stopped at a supermarket and picked up some Bokashi balm for Ren.

We suddenly slowed and turned into the narrowest of roads. In an instant, we disappeared into lush green foliage. We were very remote now! After climbing and descending in the shadow of the forest, we eventually emerged into an opening. We were no longer covered by the wooded canopy, and we could make out fragments of sky. The minibus stopped outside a large open-sided community hall where our homestay hosts were waiting for

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us. This was very, very rural and remote. It was fantastic. We were greeted with a glass of snakeskin fruit juice, which was thick and tasty for me, but not at all tasty for Ren.

Accommodation
We were introduced to our host, Ibu Dwita, who led us back to our homestay. She was so friendly and welcoming. When we arrived, she guided us to a newly built Balinese bungalow beside her own house – and we couldn’t believe how comfortable it was. Fresh fruit was waiting on a small table on the terrace; a carved wooden door led into a large room with a double bed; an electric fan was working overtime to cool the room for our arrival; a narrow door led to a basic but functional bathroom – this was by far the most comfortable homestay accommodation we have ever experienced in all our travels.

Cuisine
…Dinner (Bukit Pemukuran, Sibetan)…
We left our homestay in the late afternoon and walked to the community hall, where we jumped into a minibus and headed to Bukit Pemukuran, an impressive lookout point where we could see the eastern coast of Bali, as well as the distant outline of Lombok

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across the Bali Sea haze. We didn’t realise we were so close to the ocean. Ships were anchored offshore. We were in the mountains, and we were surrounded by forest.

This is where we were dining. A long table had been set up in a covered open-sided hut, and large bowls of rice, chicken satay, beef satay, stir fried beans and fried tempeh sat temptingly on a table nearby. A tasty vegetable soup was also available, which we spooned into small wooden bowls. A sambal rounded out the meal, all of which had been prepared by our hosts and transported to this idyllic location. The food was good, but the location and atmosphere where the real heroes.

We sat and enjoyed our community-cooked meal while the sun set over the mountains in the west, and the Bali Sea stretched to the horizon in the east.

…Breakfast (Our Homestay, Sibetan)…
We had a three-hour walking tour of the village and its surrounds at 9am, but my attention was far more focused on the breakfast I was anticipating at our incredible homestay. If it was anything like the welcoming drinks and snacks we enjoyed on our arrival the afternoon

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before, it was going to be amazing.

Our breakfast arrived on a tray carried by Ibu Dwita, and it was perfect. Fresh white bread, a hard-boiled egg, soft sweet potato (three different types), green tea, strong Balinese coffee and a plate of sweet pastries (which were all very similar to the Sri Lankan pastries Ren remembered from her childhood).

As we sat on our terrace with our breakfast neatly arranged on a small wooden table, Ibu Dwita made offerings throughout her garden. She had a large tray of about 50 small offering baskets, which she placed in the branches of trees, on the ground in front of the many house shrines, outside the house…

The most difficult part of this experience, however, was when Pak Dwita (our host’s husband) apologised for the simple breakfast they had shared with us. “I’m sorry”, he said, with his arms slightly apart and palms facing out. We couldn’t believe it, because the breakfast was far from simple. He also apologised for his simple family kitchen. “It’s no good”, he said, shaking his head. Ren had looked inside the kitchen earlier in the morning, and it was spotless.

…Lunch (Homestay Garden,

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Sideman)…
During our walking tour of the village, we stopped for lunch in the tranquil shaded garden of another homestay. We settled on a wooden bench beside a small gazebo-type structure and received a small bamboo plate with rice, a type of bean salad (with finely shredded coconut and fresh green ferns) and a small wooden bowl filled with a chicken and turmeric curry (to which we added the rice in small amounts). It was delicious.

Highlights
…Our homestay experience…
We dropped our bags and wandered around the homestay garden, which was populated with bonsai trees, a large shrine, roosters in bamboo cages, and birds (canaries and doves) in hanging cages. Pak Dwita noticed us wandering in his yard and came out to greet us. His English was a little better than his wife’s, and he enthusiastically showed us around the homestay.

He showed us his roosters, his birds, his trees, his farm (which comprised hectares of various trees behind the property) and the family temple – which occupied a large footprint in the front garden. Ibu Dwita, who was standing behind him, asked if we would like coffee. We nodded, and soon a wooden tray with tea,

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coffee, dodol, snakeskin fruit, rice crackers and a stringy sweet biscuit arrived. It was so nice. We sat and enjoyed their hospitality, then wandered around the garden a little more.

Ibu Dwita was making offering baskets for the following day’s market, so we watched on with interest (given our experience making these baskets in Ubud a few days earlier). When I asked if I could photograph one of the baskets, Ibu Dwita thought I wanted to make an offering to the statue of Ganesha in her front garden. So she made a colourful offering, added incense and handed it to me, then led me to Ganesha, where I placed the offering. She and her husband were so thrilled, as was I.

We wandered a little more, then settled again on our terrace. Pak Dwita appeared with two cups of hot sweetened citrus juice – I thought lemon, but Ren thought mandarin. It was so refreshing. We confirmed it was mandarin the following morning, because Pak Dwita made us the same drink and showed us the mandarins.

After our incredible outdoor dining experience at Bukit Pemukuran (which I touch on in my cuisine section above), we headed back

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to the community hall in a minibus, then walked to our homestay with the help of a torch (as it was now very dark). To our amazement, Ibu Dwita was waiting for us in the front garden with a huge smile and a warm heart. This truly was an authentic Balinese experience. We retired to our bungalow, caught up on our travel notes and slumped into our comfortable bed. It had been an amazing day of travel.

At about 1am, Pak Dwita returned home on his motorbike. He had been to the village temple to discuss a family issue. The concept of night and day in Bali is very different to our own. Temple performances begin at 9pm and finish as 3am. Life is not silent and quiet in the early morning hours.

We woke early (around 5am) the next morning to the cooing of doves, hooting of pigeons, crowing of roosters and barking of dogs. It was still dark, but light was starting to appear in the eastern sky, which we could only just make out through the tree cover. The temperature was mild – one of the rare occasions since we had arrived in Indonesia. There

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was no humidity in the air, and for a few hours it felt like a spring morning in Tasmania (our home state in Australia).

While motorbikes passed slowly on the road just outside the house, neighbouring dogs continued to bark without reason, doves cooed, pigeons hooted, roosters crowed… and all the while, there was an incessant soft drone. It formed a backdrop to the tranquil morning peace. It was the cacophony of sound created by whistles attached to the legs of homing pigeons flying in formation overhead.

This had been a remarkable experience. We had expected the homestay encounter to be slightly awkward, but it was nothing of the sort.

…Exploring the village of Sideman…
After our incredible homestay breakfast (which I touch on in my cuisine section above), we walked to the community hall, which was the meeting point for our three-hour walking tour of the village and its surrounds. After a quick greeting from the village leader, we headed off. The walk was initially through a narrow path that had a low tree cover, giving the sensation of walking through a tunnel.

We entered a snakeskin fruit plantation where the village farmers had several

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crops, including white mango, chillies and jackfruit. Our friendly guide described the growing and grafting techniques used in the village, and the amount of work that goes into a crop (for so little return). We passed basic huts with small families and barking dogs. Pigs and chickens roamed freely; lizards slithered under fallen tree branches; cicadas drummed their message from their camouflaged spots in the canopy. It was a very rural experience.

The moss-covered path became quite steep, so we cautiously descended with the help of bamboo walking poles and a bamboo railing. We eventually emerged onto a steep narrow road which took us back to the community hall. We visited the village temple, which is only used for one ceremony each year. The temple was very old and atmospheric, and it was a tranquil place to rest in the shade after our steep climb from the village crops.

We visited a small dwelling, hidden just off the road, where a family was weaving bamboo baskets. The process was time consuming and skilled, and the baskets were excellent. However, the family lived in very harsh conditions, and this was difficult to witness as a visiting tourist.

We

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quietly left the basket weaver’s house with heavy hearts and walked a short distance to one of the homestay gardens for lunch (which I describe in the cuisine section above). While our lunch experience was superb, it was our next visit that trumped all else – the local distiller’s house!

We sampled four different types of arak in the friendly distiller’s garden. I have a vague memory of being told ‘arak’ is an umbrella term given to wine and spirits in Bali, but I’m not sure this is entirely true. Anyway, back to the tasting:
> arak wine – a cloudy wine made from fermented snakeskin fruit (12% alcohol). This wasn’t great, but it was nice enough to sample.
> arak spirit – a clear spirit made from distilled snakeskin fruit (40% alcohol). This was fabulous, and I seriously wanted to buy a bottle, but it wasn’t available in a hip flask.
> arak liqueur – a golden spirit made from distilled snakeskin fruit mixed with coconut arak, cloves and cinnamon (18% alcohol). This was also fabulous, because it tasted like Christmas cake.
> arak liqueur – a thick black spirit made from distilled snakeskin fruit mixed with coconut

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arak and Balinese coffee. This was seriously good – a bit like Kahlua; a bit like an espresso martini.

We bought a hip flask of the golden arak liqueur. I wouldn’t be able to take it back to Australia, so I knew I had to finish it here in Bali. The trials and tribulations of travel. We grabbed a selfie with the friendly distiller and his wife, then wandered back to our homestay.

We quickly showered and organised our packs, as our time in Sibetan had come to an end. When we emerged from our bungalow, an astonishing platter was waiting for us on the terrace. Hot mandarin juice, Balinese coffee, corn cobs and sweet pastries (including dodol). We couldn’t believe it. Ibu and Pak Dwita’s hospitality went beyond anything we’ve ever experienced. It was by far the best homestay we have experienced on our travels to-date.

We bid farewell to the extraordinarily friendly Ibu Dwita in the early afternoon, donned our packs and walked to the community hall where our minibus was waiting. We clambered aboard and set off for Mount Batur, a volcano in Bali’s central mountains. We left Sibetan with happiness in our hearts.

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The village had been so welcoming and inclusive of us.

Lowlights
None.

SHE SAID…
After our half day of activities in Sidemen and some downtime at Villa Uma Agung (our hotel), we finally left for Sibetan (pronounced Si-ba-tan). This was an even smaller village about 30 minutes away, where we would be experiencing a homestay with local salak (snakeskin fruit) farming families. The beautiful scenery on the drive left no doubt that we were indeed heading into a very remote area.

I had mixed emotions as we approached the village. We love homestays for showing us parts of a country’s culture we’d never see otherwise. And it’s as immersive as you can get without actually living in a country for an extended period. However, being invited to stay in someone’s house is a very intimate thing, and there’s always a bit of trepidation about the set up and the people.

We arrived in Sibetan at 4pm and our minibus pulled up in front of the village Community Hall in the small main street. We were offered a welcome drink of snakeskin fruit juice and greeted by one of the council leaders. We sat around

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a few tables while Susi (our group leader) talked to the organisers of the homestay program.

I felt slightly awkward as there was a group of locals (who I assumed where our homestay hosts) watching our every move and conversing in animated tones. It wasn’t mean in any way, but it did make us feel a bit too scrutinised. Plus, I wasn’t a fan of the lukewarm snakeskin fruit juice, but felt compelled to drink it while being the focus of so many gazes! In keeping with the fact that Andrew has loved all the welcome drinks… I quietly swapped glasses with him when everyone was distracted. ????

The village homestay committee had matched group members with families registered on the homestay program, and our names were read out from a sheet. They had divided the group into three people per household (a couple and a single traveller), but two of the houses only had one guest room, so Eva and we were the only ones who weren’t sharing with anyone else. This was okay for us, but understandably, poor Eva wasn’t so happy with the arrangement. As our names were called, our hosts came forward one by

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one and led us to their homes. With an agreement to meet back at the community hall for dinner, we all walked off in different directions.

Our hosts Pak (Mr) and Ibu (Mrs) Dwita were so very welcoming of us into their compound. We were shown our room, which in true Balinese style was a separate building. It was a newly built traditional Balinese building that was raised off the ground, and had an ornately carved wooden door and carved beams. A traditional tiled roofline completed the external look. Inside, it was a very large but simple room with a comfortable double bed, a standing fan, a small table with a guest book and a torch, and a gallon of drinking water. But best of all… we had an ensuite! It was basic, but we had an ensuite! ????

On the terrace of our bungalow there was a small table with chairs. We also had a fruit bowl full of bananas and snakeskin fruit. Pak Dwita is a snakeskin fruit farmer, and he showed us his plantation just behind their house. We had briefly seen a snakeskin fruit tree in Java, but I hadn’t quite realised it was

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a species of palm. It was a sort of dwarf palm, and it was amazing to see how the fruit grew in a pouch on the stems of the palm (that sprouted relatively close to the ground). Pak Dwita’s English was very limited, but we all managed to communicate through basic words, mime and smiles. A lot of smiles.

Their family compound was accessed from the road through a beautiful kori (roofed entrance gate). The family house had two bedrooms, and behind this in a separate building sat a conjoined kitchen and bathroom whose roof also extended over an open-sided room with a large couch. Our bungalow sat to one side of the family rooms. The rest of the compound contained a very well-manicured lawn and garden, with beautiful plants and bonsai trees. In pride of place at the end of the lawn was the family temple, with three shrine altars that were covered with daily offerings. There were also many bird cages hung around the garden. They were full of chirping canaries, doves and other exotic looking birds I didn’t recognise. I was saddened at this sight, but it’s a very normal part of Indonesian culture to keep

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pet birds. Pak Dwita beamed as he told us he loved his birds. The Dwitas’ also had jackfruit, durian and mango trees in their large garden.

Ibu Dwita disappeared into the kitchen and reappeared with a tray laden with afternoon tea for us to enjoy on our terrace. There was green tea, Balinese coffee, snacks of slightly salty puffed rice cakes, a stringy sticky triangular shape made of red rice flour, and dodol wrapped in corn husks. It was all very delicious.

On a side note, dodol is a super sweet confection of Malay origin that I loved as a kid. It has interestingly been transported through all the Dutch colonies… and the Sri Lankans have a version of it they’ve made their own. A mixture of coconut milk, rice flour, palm sugar, nuts and spices is cooked for an eternity until the original ingredients have morphed beyond recognition into a translucent gooey jelly mass with an oily coating. It sounds horrible, but it’s quite nice – in very small doses.

We had tried snakeskin fruit in Seloliman in Java, and I hadn’t been a fan. This was my description of it back then: “The white flesh

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was slightly crunchy (similar to a raw cashew nut) and tasted sweet and sour with hints of apple. However, it had an astringent aftertaste and a smell of old socks. It really wasn’t pleasant”. I hadn’t liked the juice we’d had earlier either, so I got very nervous when Pak Dwita approached us with a handful of freshly picked snakeskin fruit from his trees. He showed us how to peel the still spiky skin (they must de-spike it for sale) and expose the firm white flesh inside. As they watched with expectant faces, we bit into the offered snakeskin fruit… and very very luckily, I didn’t have to engage in any acting! It was actually quite deliciously sweet and fresh, and I finally understood why it was such a beloved indigenous fruit.

After we’d had our fill of snacks and fruit, we decided to walk about the garden and take some photos before the light faded. Pak Dwita decided to join us, and we made small talk as he showed us his plants. In a lull in the conversation, Pak Dwita asked if we wanted to see the inside of their house. I was quite taken aback by this

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and didn’t want to intrude on their privacy, but it felt rude to say no. He led us into the two roomed building – one with a double bed for their two teenage sons, and a slightly bigger bedroom where they slept. It was very simple and we realised we had been given the biggest room in the house – the hospitality of Indonesians is very humbling. I can only hope that the sons got to use the guest bungalow when the family don’t have homestay guests.

On our walk around their house, we came upon Ibu Dwita sitting outside the kitchen. She was busy stapling coconut fronds into small flower-like shapes, which were components of her canang sari offering baskets. We gathered that she sold these at the market. We’d learnt to make the offering baskets a few days previously in Ubud, and when we showed interest in the process, she got very excited and decided to make one up for Andrew to place in front of the family’s Ganesha statue. In hindsight, I think our statement ‘we made these offering baskets’ was misinterpreted as ‘we want to make an offering. Regardless, it was a genuine and heartfelt

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sharing of their culture, and we were very moved.

While we were enjoying sitting on our terrace and enjoying the remains of our afternoon tea, Pak Dwita obviously decided we needed more sustenance and brought us cups of hot sweet mandarin juice (that he called orange juice) and small packets of peanuts. He told us that this was his favourite drink to keep his body healthy when working in the snakeskin fruit fields. Pak Dwita was nothing like my Dad in age, appearance or personality, but this was something my Dad would have done for us, and it made me warm to Pak Dwita very much.

By now it was nearly time to meet our group for dinner, and with assurances that we had a torch to get back home later, we walked to the Community Hall. A few people were already there, and in the frenzy of comparing notes on our respective host houses, it became clear that not all the houses or the hosts had met people’s expectations. We decided to tone down sharing how wonderful our hosts (and their hospitality) were because we sensed it would cause even more angst for the people who weren’t

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happy.

We had all thought dinner was at the Community Hall, but instead we had a short minibus drive to a small open building on a hilltop called Bukit Pemukuran. It was a viewpoint, and far below us was a beautiful view of the ocean and the busy comings and goings of the port that serviced Lombok. I felt rather stupid that I hadn’t realised the ocean was so close to us! The drive to Sibetan and the location of the village had made me feel like we were deep inland in rural Bali!

This was such an unexpected and beautiful viewpoint, and we shared it with a couple on their honeymoon. They were dressed in traditional outfits and were pleased to pose for photos. After a few more photos of the view that was tinged in beautiful pink dusky light, we sat down to a dinner that had been cooked by some of the villagers. Dinner consisted of a very delicious vegetable soup served in coconut shells, rice, ayam sate lilit (Balinese satay of minced chicken cooked on a stick), beef satay with a peanut sauce, green beans with coconut, fried tempeh, and a sambal. The soup

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was the stand out dish. And while everything was tasty enough, they had intentionally made all the food very bland. Even the sambal was only slightly hot.

We sat around after dinner and chatted some more about our host homes, and about travel in general. It had been a long day and we were all tired, but we ended up waiting around for a while because there was wifi in the building and a few people didn’t seem very eager to get back to their homestays. After a few attempts, we were all rounded up and driven back to the village Community Hall.

When we walked to our homestay, I felt bad that Ibu Dwita had waited up for us. She really was such a gracious and attentive host. We confirmed that breakfast at 7am was okay and said goodnight. It was such a pleasure to have a hot shower and crawl into bed. For a small village, there was a lot of late-night noise, including what seemed like a local celebration with drums and singing. I wondered if it was the family gathering at the temple that Pak Dwita mentioned he was attending that evening.

The

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bed was very comfortable and I had a wonderful night’s sleep… until the cacophony of cicadas, a barking dog, the occasional revving motorbike, the crowing cockerels, and the cooing doves right outside our window woke us at about 5am. There was also a strange and haunting otherworldly sound we couldn’t place… and it wasn’t until we discussed this later with Susi and the group that we collectively figured out what it was – the village homing pigeons have small whistles tied to their legs, and the sound of the wind through the whistles as they fly enables the owners to know where their flock is at all times.

We sat outside on our terrace and enjoyed the fresh morning air as we caught up on some travel notes. Ibu Dwita brought us a simple breakfast of fresh bread, jam, eggs, three types of sweet potatoes, and a variety of savoury and sweet snacks. Apart from jam tarts, we didn’t immediately know what the other snacks were, but like the dodol the previous evening, they were all very similar to Sri Lankan snacks. They resembled sippi (pieces of deep-fried dough glazed with sugar syrup), mung kavums (deep fried rice flour

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pastry filled with sweet mung beans), and kokis (crispy deep-fried rice flour rosettes) with onion and peanuts in the batter. I’ll have to look up their local names!

As we ate, we watched Ibu Dwita go about her morning duties. This included making offerings to all the shrines in the family temple, and to all the small spirit houses in their garden. It was very calming watching her engage in this gentle daily ritual.

As we were finishing breakfast, Pak Dwita (who had clearly only just woken up) came over to chat with us. From his demeaner I assumed he’d had a late night and I vaguely remembered that I’d heard a motorbike arrive at about 2am. He asked about the rest of our Bali trip, and when we told him we were heading to Mount Batur next, he pointed to the distant Mount Agung which could be seen through the tree tops in his garden. He shared that he’d climbed it as a young man, but probably couldn’t do it now. We found that quite funny because he was probably our age or possibly even younger! ????

That morning we had a guided walk through the

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village and the surrounding snakeskin fruit tree plantations. And just as we were getting ready to leave, Pak Dwita brought us cups of his hot sweet mandarin juice – he said it would help with the long walk we were about to go on. It was very lovely of him, but it worried me. As the risk of oversharing, I tend to slightly dehydrate myself before hikes if I don’t know what the toilet situation is going to be… and downing a whole glass of hot sweet mandarin juice hadn’t been part of my plan. Oh well.

We all met at the Community Hall at 9am to begin our guided walk. We met the main guide Medan as well as his assistants Wayan and Katut; and they handed out bamboo walking poles to help with the muddy parts of the walk. We drove through the village for a few minutes and stopped at a lane that led us into a snakeskin fruit plantation. This was the first time we’d strayed any distance from our homestay, and I hadn’t realised that the snakeskin fruit plantations surrounded the village on all sides.

Medan pointed out the different fruit tress (mostly

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jackfruit, durian and mango), and I was disappointed that the famed Bali white mango trees weren’t in fruit yet – I’ve never seen (or tasted one!) before. He showed us the baby shoots of the snakeskin fruit palm which are apparently valued for their many medicinal properties. He then described the grafting process used in the plantations, and explained the difficulty in harvesting the snakeskin fruits that grow in little hairy pouches on the side of the spikey stalks of the palm leaves.

The snakeskin fruit palm is native to Indonesia, and there are many subspecies on the different islands. It’s clearly a much-loved fruit in Indonesia, but despite having a fairly good grasp on tropical fruits, I had never seen or heard of this fruit until a few weeks previously while walking through a market in Jakarta. We were standing in a plantation of the highly sought after Bali variety, which (judging from my tasting the previous day) seemed superior to the Java version I’d tasted.

We were walking single file on a narrow path between fenced off plantations, and it was quite difficult to hear all of Medan’s explanations. The assistant guides were bringing up the

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rear with us, and even though Wayan was still training, he was a very smart and astute guy and I enjoyed talking to him as we walked. His younger brother Katut was a lot shyer, and didn’t seem to be enjoying the guiding process.

We were taken on a very wide circuit of the fruit plantations before returning to the village. We walked on overgrown rocky trails, navigated mossy stone steps where the thick forest foliage prevented the sun from reaching the ground, and ambled along sun dappled paths with an arch of snakeskin fruit palms above us. I loved the walk very much, but I was a bit disappointed that the only wildlife we’d seen had been a small skink. I suppose the spikes of the palms would discourage birds and mammals from sheltering in them… and we were told that snakes didn’t like the spikes either. But we weren’t very convinced of this theory, and kept a sharp eye for any rustling in the undergrowth.

When we stopped by the village temple, it had become extremely hot and humid and I was ready for a break. I have to admit I’d stopped listening to Medan’s explanations

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of Hinduism and the history of the temple. My level of distraction can be gauged by the fact that I have more photos of a beautiful dragonfly who kept us company in the shade, than I have of any of the temple buildings.

Our next stop was at a local home to learn about basket weaving. We thought we’d be watching a weaving demonstration, and even though there was a woman weaving in on her verandah, we wern’t introduced to her. She and her young children watched on as Wayan demonstrated the art of weaving a bamboo basket. He used an already made basket as a template by weaving around it to copy its shape. Starting at the base, he created a very basic loosely woven bamboo basket for carrying produce. I really liked Wayan, and I could see he was trying to make the process interesting; but some activities on this walk had been poorly thought through, and this was one of them.

Very thankfully, our next stop was lunch. We entered a vast garden and settled on benches around a small gazebo among snakeskin fruit palms. We had been promised a traditional meal of tipat blayag,

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which is a local celebration dish of rice wrapped and steamed in young coconut leaves. It was served with a delicious soupy yellow chicken curry served in a coconut shell, and tasty stir-fried green beans with baby ferns and shredded coconut. The unwrapped cylinder of rice was of a mashed consistency and went very well with the chicken and green beans. It was a delicious lunch, and it was made all the more enjoyable by our picnic setting in the snakeskin fruit plantation.

Very fittingly, for dessert we were served two different types of snakeskin fruit. We were able to taste the subtle difference in taste between the bigger lighter skinned type that was sweet and sour, and the smaller darker skinned variety which had a fresher and sweeter flavour. This was the one we’d tasted at our homestay, and it was definitely my preferred variety. Very fortunately, neither of the two had the old sock smell I’d encountered in Java.

We were joined by a gentleman whose plantation we were sitting in, and it turned out that he was the original architect of the village council’s eco-tourism initiative that our homestay program was part of. From our

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point of view, it felt like the whole village had harmoniously come together to make the program work. We were one of the first groups to go through this particular program, and even though it probably needed some fine tuning, they were certainly putting their best foot forward.

Our last stop of the guided walk was probably the most enjoyable – visiting the home of a winemaker and distiller. We sat in his front yard and tasted:
> a 12%% proof snakeskin fruit wine (a mellow sour wine that was ok but not great)
> a 40%% snakeskin fruit spirit (this rocket fuel definitely wasn’t a winner)
> a snakeskin fruit and coconut arak with cloves and honey (loved this one, and it smelled like Christmas cake)
> a snakeskin fruit and coconut arak with palm sugar and espresso (loved this one too, and it was like a very sweet and viscous espresso martini).

Not surprisingly, we enjoyed this tasting process very much. They had bottles for sale and given where we were, we felt we should probably buy the snakeskin fruit wine… but decided to be practical and get the one we both loved the most. We

homestay - saying goodbyehomestay - saying goodbyehomestay – saying goodbye

bought a bottle of the one flavoured with cloves and honey to enjoy on the rest of our trip. ????

What was supposed to be a quick trip back to the homestay to shower and pick up our bags, turned into an afternoon tea. We couldn’t say no when Ibu Dwita brought us tea and coffee with snacks, and Pak Dwita following her with his famous hot mandarin drink! This basically summed up our whole homestay experience with them – they had been extremely generous and hospitable hosts. By now we were running late, and they pressed us to take some of the food for the trip! We left with a very similar feeling to when we visit our Mums and they shower us with our favourite foods to take home. I clearly equate being fed with being loved. ????

We walked back to the Community Hall for the last time, said goodbye to ‘boof-head Boris’ who seemed to be the Hall’s guard dog, then piled into our minibus. This had been by far our best and most enjoyable homestay experience in all our trips!

Next we travel north to Mount Batur, Bali’s second highest active volcano.


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