We’ve been in Bali for a couple of days and already we have fallen in love with it! What a captivating place…
1. THE DESIGN OF THE LIMASAN HOME
The very first thing that Gav and I were impressed with was the design of the traditional home we are staying in. For a start, they’re aesthetically pleasing with the teak wood, the high roof and the open-plan living areas that are open to the garden. The layout allows for a lovely through-breeze.
The bedrooms are separate from this area and can be closed-off completely. On reflection, this kind of layout can only be used in tropical countries where the weather is warm year-round. Perfect for here then!
2. THE WELL-TIMED TOOT
So far, we have been on two longish drives. The first was the taxi from the airport and the second, was today’s taxi to the submarine experience. We arrived in Bali at just after midnight on Friday night so our taxi ride from the airport to our accommodation was relatively quiet and direct and there wasn’t much traffic.
This morning was a different story! We were running late and our driver zipped and zooted from side to side through the traffic to get us to our destination on time. The drive back made me realise that this was perhaps his preferred driving style as opposed to a time-imposed driving style. Interestingly, it’s not at all aggressive and everyone seems to the use the “well-timed toot” to communicate.
I’ve noticed it means:
- Toot: I’m coming past; move over just a little (for cars, scooters, bicycles or pedestrians)
- Toot: I’m coming past, notice me and don’t turn just yet
- Toot, toot: thanks!
- Toot: I’m rounding the corner, make way!
- Toot: the light has turned, move on!
- Toot, toot: hello!
It feels as if everyone is looking out for everyone else and this is a good thing as not everyone wears a helmet and it’s not unusual to see a family of four on one scooter. We’ve also seen someone with about six or seven large, glass bottles of colourful liquid on the back of his scooter. I’d like to find out what they are – a local tea / drink perhaps.
3. THE LUSH, TROPICAL VEGETATION
The surrounding vegetation is amazing! I’ve never seen anything quite like it. There are tropical trees and vines and flowers and colours everywhere. There are frangipani trees – the usual ones with the yellow and white flowers and then others that are a bright pink – a colour that doesn’t look like it could occur in nature. There are flowers that are far, far larger than flowers I’ve seen elsewhere too.
It’s the kind of place where nature could easily take over – and very quickly. It’s strangely reassuring when so much of nature seems spoilt. Yes, it’s loud and noisy and messy too, but there is a more pervasive feel of green.
4. THE FRUIT
We were hoping to have lovely fruit in Bali and there is indeed lovely, tropical fruit and loads more variety than anticipated. There are several different mangoes for example which is a treat! Today I tried “snake fruit”. It has a skin that looks like a snake skin… Fortunately, it is a whole lot less frightening than its name. It tastes like a pineapple to me, if a little milder.
At first I thought that there were two varieties of coconuts – the hard husk one that I was familiar with and a softer-shelled green one, but I have since learnt that the green-shelled one is the immature coconut.
Yesterday we asked for coconut water and it came in the softer-shelled, green coconut. The fresh coconut water was delicious – more so than the water you can buy in western countries. And, there is a lot of water in a coconut. What a delicious find! The water in the coconut matures to become the flesh in the hard-husk coconuts I was familiar with.
All this made me realise that despite using coconut products recently, I don’t know much about them or how they are produced. If you’ve not sussed it out yourself, here is a quick breakdown:
COMMON WESTERN PRODUCTS:
- Coconut water comes from the immature coconut. It is the suspension for the endosperm of the coconut during its initial development.
- Coconut vinegar is fermented coconut water.
- Coconut meal comes from the mature coconut. The flesh is dried to form the dried meat (copra) which is processed to create meal.
- Coconut milk is made from passing hot water through grated coconut copra. This extracts the oil and aromatic compounds.
- Coconut cream is formed by refrigerating coconut milk and allowing the cream to rise to the top and separate from the milk.
- Coconut oil is also created from the milk. A controlled heating process is used to remove the oil fraction.
Then, there are many, many other uses – some that make complete sense and others that are fascinating!
MORE TREATS DERIVED FROM THE COCONUT TREE:
The sap of the tree is collected and drunk fresh morning and evening in some countries. When fermented the sap becomes palm wine. This in turn can be distilled to a “coconut vodka”. Alternatively, the sap can be reduced and boiled to create a sweet syrup or reduced further to yield coconut sugar. I’ve used this in France and have wondered where exactly it came from!
HOUSEHOLD ITEMS DERIVED FROM THE COCONUT TREE:
The fibre from the husk of the coconut is called coir and is used to create household items such as ropes, mats, brushes, brooms and sacks. The husk and shells can also be used for fuel and are a source of charcoal.
The leaves provide material for baskets and for roofing thatch. They can be woven into mats, cooking skewers, and kindling arrows, as well.
Coconut shells are also used as bowls, as the bodies of musical instruments such as drums, and even buttons which are carved from dried shell. Coconut buttons are often used for Hawaiian aloha shirts.
HOMES DERIVED FROM THE COCONUT TREE:
Dried coconut leaves can be burned to ash, which can be harvested for lime to render homes.
The trunks of the trees are used for building small bridges and huts; they are preferred for their straightness, strength, and salt resistance. In Kerala, coconut trunks are used to construct homes. The wood is increasingly being used as an ecologically sound substitute for endangered hardwoods.
HEALTH AND BEAUTY PRODUCTS
Again, the applications are diverse. The roots are used as a dye, a mouthwash and a medicine for diarrhoea. A frayed piece of root can also be used as a toothbrush.
The oil is used to create moisturizers and body butters and the shell may also be ground down to exfoliate dead skin.
COCONUT PALMS AND OIL PALMS
Finally, a question that popped up for me – and I should have looked into this before – what is the difference between coconut oil and palm oil and do they come from the same tree?
So, if you’re wondering too, the answer is that there are two different trees: the coconut palm which produces coconuts and the oil palm which produces a smaller fruit from which palm oil is made.
Next week we’re attending the Green School and there is a day dedicated to coconut so I’m sure we’ll learn more!
COCONUTS – THE TREE OF LIFE!
In Sanskrit, the word for coconut can be translated as “the tree which provides all the necessities of life”. In the Malay language, it is “the tree of a thousand uses” and in the Philippines, the coconut is commonly called the “tree of life”. And after putting together this long list, it really is no wonder that it holds such a prestigious place in the local culture and language.
6. PRACTICAL HOME DETAILS LIKE THE PLUG SWITCHES
This one simply needs a photo. The plugs points used here are European standard plugs and look at this clever plug hub. I think we should make them in the EU!
7. FRESHLY WASHED, IRONED AND FOLDED CLOTHING
This is such a lovely thing! It cannot be understated!
8. VANILLA MILKSHAKES
The boys say that the local vanilla milkshakes are the ultimate milkshakes!
9. POD CHOCOLATE
I still love chocolate. And we have found a wonderful chocolate here! It’s awesome that the ingredients are all local and the combinations of flavours are inspired. Take a look at Pod Bali here: www.podbali.com
10. LOCAL NAMING CONVENTIONS
In general, Balinese people name their children depending on the order they are born and names are the same for male and female except for the prefix. The first-born child is called Wayan, the second is Made, the third Nyoman and the fourth Ketut. If there is a fifth, you start again at Wayan! There are variations on this, but that is the general rule. Talk about simplifying choosing a name for your child!
11. THE SIGNS MAKE ME LAUGH
I like the signs that are about – they often hold little philosophical messages. How’s this for a sign in our accommodation. “Please respect the local way of life and keep a positive attitude! You are after all a guest in someone else’s country and house! Most importantly, you are on vacation, relax and have fun!”
And I think these sunbathers must have completely missed this sign about not sunbathing in front of the temple at one of the local beaches… The incongruence of it all…