The things we bring back while traveling are a significant part of the experience as they – along with the photos and the stories – remain with us once we’ve returned home.
Thoughtfully-selected over the course of our recent trip to Bali, the following eight items are souvenirs we treasure and want to share with you as part of our new “What’s in the bag?” travel feature to shed a different insight about the places we visit. In a way too, they summarize some of the key highlights of our trip and things we discovered along the way.
1. Hand-Made Doll supporting Bali Street Kids Project (or YKPA) – We noticed these beautiful dolls from afar before reading the tags – but once we did, we fell in love with them even more! A beautiful fundraising initiative to support seriously disadvantaged street children and offer them a safe home free from abuse. The dolls come in two sizes and each one has its own unique design. The one pictured here is Cinta Doll and is the larger version. We got three of these for each of John’s nieces. They’re not that easy to find but can recommend two places we came across during our trip that sell them: Gusto in Seminyak (a yummy gelato cafe favored by locals and offering unique flavors you won’t be able to try elsewhere) and Ganesha Bookstore in Ubud (slightly more expensive there).
2. Ginseng Coffee from Jambe Asri – We got to taste this during one of the infamous plantation tours in Bali where you get to try various locally-produced coffee and tea blends. And yes, we tried the Kopi Luwak which was.. um, interesting and served more to satisfy our curiosity than anything else. (On a side note: John took an intensive “Home Barrista” coffee workshop at Seniman in Ubud for anyone interested in finding out more about the local coffee culture. Blogpost on that coming soon!)
3. Hot’n Chilled Seaweed Tea Eye Compress – Bali is a hub for many different types of characters and what’s remarkable is how well it tries to cater to each of their lifestyles. From the digital nomads and beach blonde surfers to the Eat Pray Love hopefuls and new age philosophers, there is something for everyone. You’ll notice this variety throughout the island. Ubud, is a yogis paradise, offering a multitude of locales, products and services for that particular lifestyle including vegan food, raw bars and organic delis like Bali Buda and Paradiso. I don’t particularly follow that lifestyle although I do practice yoga and adhere to some of the philosophies. Selecting this product was purely for the sake of experimenting and couldn’t quite bring myself to try out the other natural remedies offered. I did get a chance to try this once I got back to Lebanon and loved the way it felt on my eyes. It promises to reduce dark under-eye circles resulting from late nights working in front of a computer, but it may take more than that in my case or a few more tries. We’ll see!
4. Bintang Beer Bottle Opener – Bintang or Bali Hai, Bali Hai or Bintang? We’re constantly on a mission to try out the local brews available when traveling and one can’t help but compare. Bintang is undoubtedly the favorite and best-selling among the two although Bali Hai is also quite a suitable competitor with its more subtle flavor. John preferred Bintang while I was more neutral the few times the menu offered both varieties. Towards the end of my trip, I was actually more in favor of Bali Cider. Tamara Danielle makes the limited edition beer bottle openers pictured here, among other beautiful home decor items available at her two stores in Ubud. Within the touristic parts of Bali, you’ll be swarmed with branded Bintang beer cozies and t-shirts, but we preferred these as they would actually serve a long-term purpose in our home (and were less tacky).
5. Reusable Glass Straws – John and I grabbed two of these reusable straws (with their own hand-stitched cases and a special brush to clean them with) by Imagine Bali who take a zero-waste approach with all their product materials to address the growing environmental concern on the island. The straws themselves serve an additional benefit towards reducing exposure to toxins such as bisphenol-A (BPA) used in plastic straws, utensils and bags. So, two birds, one stone. We have yet to try them out but will be a very practical utensil (?) to have on our next travel adventure.
6. Recycled Street Sign Bag by Makassi – I have a thing for street signage, so when we came across these recycled bags at a boutique in Seminyak (shopping heaven, btw), I was immediately sold. These kitschy bags are by French designers but produced locally. They come in several colors and sizes, but I opted for the green one as it more accurately resembles the street signs across Bali. Grabbed one for my fashion-savvy little sister too. Worth checking out also is another funky line of eco-friendly bags we came across called Smateria (available at Street 278 in Ubud) by Australian designers this time.
7. Cookbook by Janet De Neefe – Elizabeth Gilbert has nothing on the story of Janet De Neefe who fell in love with a Balinese man during a visit to the island and moved there within a blink of an eye, starting a whole new life for herself and launching successful businesses and community initiatives in the process, including the world-renowned Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. She’s a well-known personality on the island and in Australia (her native country) but we got to know more about her while there. We signed up for a cooking class at Casa Luna before arriving to Bali and it turned out to be one of the restaurants she runs (we’ll be sharing more about the cooking class itself soon too). Needless to say, we really enjoyed the class that came with a market tour and grabbed a copy of the cookbook to try out some of the Balinese recipes at home. What I particularly loved about this cookbook was all the interesting photography in it, making it more than just a cookbook with recipes but also a glimpse into the street life and local culture at the same time. We could only find the book at Casa Luna but by luck that day, Janet was there having a coffee and we were able to get her to autograph it for us. We also had a small chat and found out she’s hoping to visit Lebanon in the future – we’re positive she’ll fall in love with our local cuisine!
8. Bali: Life is an Offering (DVD) – We haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, but anything Baraka-like (as the cover promises) is certainly worth-watching and we’re hoping it captures the essence of the island. One of the highlights of our time in Ubud was watching the magical dances performed daily at the temples. We got to watch two of them while there: The Kecak and Fire Dance Trena Jenggala (at Padang Tegal) and The Chandra Wati Ladies Orchestra and Troupe (at Lotus Pond – highly recommended!). The DVD also features an array of remarkable people on the island, ranging from musicians to social entrepreneurs reshaping Bali’s future. Promising indeed!
For anyone reading this who has been to Bali, what souvenirs did you bring back home? Share with us what was in your bag in the comments section below please!