Tourism friend or foe? On finding the gardener of Eden in Bali…


So where is my next tropical paradise leading me to?

Ubud, Bali

Ubud, Bali

Bali? No! Oh no! It has tourist trap written all over it. Avoid, avoid, avoid!

In my travels I search for authenticity, sustainability, quality not quantity, local not global. I try to tell myself I’m not part of the weapon of mass destruction that tourism usually is.

Tourism in Bali is a classical example of how it destroys the people, the nature, the fun. Kuta, Seminyak… build, build, build. Not an inch left of free land. A classic example of destruction was Candidasa in East Bali. In the 1970s a couple of people discovered it’s a beautiful volcanic beach. Quick, quick, quick get in first, get in fast. Like mushrooms one resort after the other popped up until no land was left untouched. The locals got resettled on a hill in the back land. But not only that, they used the coral to make the cement. Ah well local resources right? What an irony! Beautiful coral, stolen from the ocean, crushed in the cement mill. No pollution from transportation. No need to get out your snorkel gear, just stare at the walls of your bedroom. The locals crushed, most of them are fishermen, they took away their own business but it was their only way of surviving… Tourism not an innocent friend…

Villa Campuhan

Villa Campuhan, Jasri, East Bali

Somehow we managed to find a part of Bali that was still mostly untouched. We stayed at a beautiful resort that supports sustainability and the locals, Villa Campuhan in Jasri.

But most of all we had the dinner of our life time. It was so good I’m almost afraid to write about it, to share it. I would rather keep it a secret. But it’s simply to good not to share. We found it through my new favourite website The Traveling Spoon – “Travel off the Eaten Path”

It starts of in the garden of one of the smaller resorts North of Ubud, difficult to find. There we find Dewa the gardener of the hotel but to us the gardener of Eden! He climbs up a tree comes back down with a nut, peels it and lets us smell the aromas. Guess what it is… Fresh nutmeg!

A spice so rare and exotic for us, we spent fortunes on and only read about it when Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas…


Discovering spices in the bush... nutmeg and cinnamon

Discovering spices in the bush… nutmeg and cinnamon

Next tree, chip, chip, chip a piece of bark. Smell it… cinnamon!

Vanilla, cloves, ginger, pepper, turmeric, chilli, cacao… you name it, it’s there. But the most shocking thing is that these are not planted there, this is not the fruits of his hard labour as a gardener. It’s the tomatoes, the leek, the salads, the parsley, the rosemary that he meticulously looks after. The exotic ones… oh, they are just weeds. Most of them are not even native plants. The Dutch brought them over because Bali is a volcanic island with very fertile soil. They wanted to cultivate them and then sell them for a lot of money back home. But now the Dutch are long gone, the Balinese are not after money so they just let them be and they grow as weeds in their back garden, next to the banana trees, the palm trees and the bamboo.

We get to the end of the garden, we think we have seen it all but that is only the beginning. Dewa takes us on a magical journey through jungle and rice fields, through villages and cemeteries, through history and present, through nature and men, through good and bad, through tradition and innovation.

IMG_0039A born storyteller and teacher, Dewa walks us to his house and explains us everything you want to know when you are a true tourist and want to experience true local culture. He tells us about Hinduism. He is realistic and can refute the Western views of their culture. “We might seem lazy to you because we don’t set ourselves goals or deadlines. But for us every day could be our last, so we live every day to the fullest. We do what we need to do but we don’t get focused on the future or deadlines. We live here and now and that’s what matters.”

IMG_0037When our walk to his home ends and we think we have seen it all, it is only just the beginning. We literally feel like we step into a fairytale story when we step through the majestic gates of his house. It’s a beautiful traditional Balinese home divided up into different living spaces. A Balinese house consists of three elements: 60% garden, 30% living area, 10% temple (Finally we realize why the whole island of Bali looks like one giant temple) After more indulgence into Balinese family traditions, it’s time to do some work.

Dewa_travelling_spoonIn his beautiful open air kitchen surrounded by lush garden and stunning orchids we get down to business. We receive a little notebook to write down the seven dishes we are going to prepare tonight. Balinese food is very much health conscious. Dewa says we don’t eat because it tastes good but because it is good for you. So apparently the traveling spoon came to visit them and gave them two pointers to make their food actually taste delicious as well: add 1 piece of leek and 1 red pepper. I don’t know if these are the key ingredients, but simply put this is the best meal we have had in our holiday and beyond. This is beyond five star dining. This is pure simple healthy absolutely delicious ten star dining straight from the garden of Eden!

Already I have written way to much so I can’t go ahead and write down the details of every single dish. I give you my favourite dish, Tempe Manis, it’s like eating a sort of candy I think, can’t get enough of it.


Our homemade Nasi Campur (rijsttafel) with Tempe Manis in upper right corner

Tempe Manis –fermented soy beans in a sweet sauce

¼ leek

1 tomato

4 pieces of garlic

4 shallots

2 red peppers

1 hot chilli

2 blocks of tempe


Cut all the ingredients into battons/julienne.

Deep fry the tempe in coconut oil until crisp and put aside.

Get a wok hot with some coconut oil. Fry shallots, garlic, leek and chillies. Add one teaspoon of salt. Add tomatoes and tempe fry for a couple of minutes and add one tablespoon of palm sugar. Season to taste. Yum!!!




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