Indonesia’s Wahah

Traveling journalist and photographer Sandra Tinari has spent many years pursuing a life abroad, and on the road less traveled. Now, Bali has become a second home, and in her latest editorial she shares an inside glimpse of a beautiful, but changing Balinese way of life…

The beautiful island of Bali is a second home to many surfers and it truly is an oasis – or wahah in Indonesian. The island’s stunning lush tropical landscape is matched only by the hospitality of its people and the delicious local foods.

Travelling the island’s roads on a scooter in thongs (that’s flip flops to non-Aussies!), with a surfboard under one arm and another slung into the bike’s surf racks is an unmissable experience, terrifying but exhilarating. Inhale the tropical island smell, negotiate speeding bemos and honk back at pimped out Suzuki 125s. Pit stops are ancient rice padi villages, craft towns in Ubud’s jungle clad mountains and coastal hideaways, where you can feast on home cooked Balinese meals in warungs.

Buying charred corn-on-the-cob from food carts is heavenly, just as is sipping on freshly churned banana-papaya drinks to quench your thirst after dodging the island’s moto traffic jams, that’s when you’re not drinking Bintangs…

Back when I first experienced Bali, many surf breaks were still considered relatively remote and required a trek across sodden paths or through coastal caves to reach the waves. After a long day in the water surfing it was bliss to buy fresh tropical fruits from local sellers. The natural sugars helped to satisfy the hunger pains before we would head out to a dinner of fresh seafood at the fish market or for a gigantic chicken and seafood kebab at a local restaurant.

Bali has changed hugely in the years since, recently after surfing with a local he told me over a bowl of steaming Bakso from a beach food cart (clear hot soup of meatballs, tofu, cabbage, noodles, celery and spicy chili sauce) how surprised he is by how much the Kuta skyline has been transformed in the past 20 years, with the arrival of international coffee houses, burger joints and chicken fast food restaurants. He worries other beaches will go the same way and that visitors won’t get to truly experience Indonesia, authentic local foods and real Balinese hospitality. He urged me to venture further, to Java, to Sumatra, anywhere. He just wanted me to see all of his country, its different cultures and places how Bali ‘used to be’. And, like Bali, the variety of foods on offer in other regions were not to missed, he said.


Like the people, Indonesian food is passionate and full of life. Nasi goring, spicy beef rendang and satay chicken are among my top five favourite meals to cook and eat. Once, on a penniless month-long stay in Bali – the last stop on an around-the-world surf trip – I survived on boiled rice and satay sauce for dinner for weeks. It was a delicious, if not an entirely a balanced meal.

Each time I step off the plane at Denpasar Airport, as I hear the beeping bemos and smell the tropical sensations that sum up Bali I smile, just as I would if I had arrived home. Bali is my second home, a spiritual, intoxicating place. Once I’ve negotiated the intimidating customs zone I can never decide what to do first – to go for a paddle at a world-class surf break or stop for a cold Bintang and chicken satay before I even reach the hotel. It’s a hard life!

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