There’s no better way to discover a place than through it’s stomach. From what locals eat everyday at home to special occasion culinary delights, food is the heart and soul of travel. But it isn’t easy to come across these authentic local experiences, too often you encounter foods and tastes designed for tourists, no bad thing of course, but that robs you from sampling the simple delights of finding about what life is really like, what do people do, eat, think, work when nobody is watching. So on our recent trip to Bali, it was at the very top of my list to find exactly such a experience and Withlocals was my ticket to ride.
In the midst of the rice paddy fields, only a short ride from Ubud town centre lies the charming home of Ayu and her family and we’re here for some Mud Rice or Nasi Lumpur in their bamboo home. We’re greeted warmly, given a traditional sarong to wear and with cold water with limes in bamboo cups to freshen us up in the hot day, given a tour of their home.
It’s hard to describe, it’s a cool shaded oasis set against a backdrop of endless rice paddy fields. There’s no mistaking Ayu’s passion for making sure that everything in their home is organic and natural, they use organic materials, everything you see is natural and cleverly built into the area. They use plant-based materials, there are no pesticides or chemicals used in the neighbouring rice fields and everything is as green as can be.
Her son and a friend put on a little musical show while we’re waiting and we use the time to chat to Ayu and her family while they put the finishing touches to our lunch. Oh and we have a little go at it ourselves!
But we’re here for lunch and what a slap up feast it is! Lumpur means Mud in Nasi means Rice so I’m expecting some kind of rice in mud, but it seems that the Lumpur refers actually to chicken that is cooked encased in bamboo and cooked under hot mud in a sort of chicken curry. Accompanying that is rice mixed with sweetcorn, sambal, mixed greens salad, dessicated coconut, tofu, boiled eggs and a sort of soy version of tofu, all to be topped off with the most delicious peanuty chicken curry. We only have a small bite of each but it’s such a large spread that there isn’t a lot of room for second helpings, but when the food is this good, you find a way.
We learn all about the Mepantigan games, a traditional Martial art once famous in the area, also known as Mud wrestling! There’s a whole big mud pit and had we been so inclined we could have had a little play in the mud (Great for the skin they say) and rinsed off in their outdoor bamboo showers! Not being dressed to roll around in mud, we decline, although there was a moment of temptation!
Instead we sit around and relax and chat, Ayu even makes her own drink, a natural combination of betel leaf, turmeric and ginger which has mixed opinions in the group, it’s quite bitter and a strange sort of taste, but I found it very refreshing and since I liked it so much, Ayu very generously gave me a bottle to take home with me! Wrapped up in a lot of layers, it arrived home safe and sound through endless flights and airports.
Withlocals doesn’t just offer up Foodie experiences, although naturally that’s the one I gravitated towards – they’d take away my food blogger status otherwise, but just in Bali alone you can do activities like Night water rafting, making your own silver jewelry with craftspeople in the local area, go on private tours and explore hidden away areas, known only to those in the know. They operate all over Asia so all you need to do is put in your destination and find the tour that most inspires you!
Our time in Ubud was a real treat for all the senses, in amongst the rice fields, walks, temples, Luwak poop coffee, Monkeys and the endless green of the rice fields, we found a very special gem of an experience.
Disclosure: I was a guest of WithLocals but this experience was of my choosing, they’ve got so much you can pick from, so get looking!