23 Aug Nyuh Kuning – this is what you came to Bali for!
Some people might say that Bali has jumped the shark. Whether it’s the crazy party scene of Kuta, the mega resorts of Nusa Dua, or tourist packed streets of Ubud, it can be a challenge to find what feels like an authentic Balinese experience. The truth is that the real Bali- the spiritual and tranquil Bali- is in fact, out there, you just need to get off the beaten path a bit. Cue in, the mesmerizing splendour of Nyuh Kuning. It’s a tiny village south of Ubud (right next to the monkey forest) with massive character. Shrouded in rich heritage and surrounded by serene rice paddies is a proud tight-knit community. If you are looking for peace and tranquillity then this is definitely the place for you. We spent a few days in this gem of a place and here we share seven of the reasons why you should go, but please don’t tell everyone.
By Lee Deuben
1. A Village of Artisans
The stone carvings adorning the doorways of each house in the village reflect a little something about the owners
Two blocks wide and two blocks long, you can walk the entire village in twenty minutes, but worry not, there is plenty to see, eat and do. After your requisite visit to the monkey forest, a stroll through Nyuh Kuning is a must. For starters, wander around and notice the hilarious stone carvings adorning the doorways of each traditional Balinese house. It’s is a village of artists (wood and stone carvers) and an initiative to add some character to the place a few years back, involved each family commissioning a stone carving that reflects a little something about themselves. They are stylised works of art and some are downright hysterical. Boy, would we like to meet some of the people behind those walls!
Pay the woodcarvers at Ketut Swana a visit if you want a custom wood sculpture
And it turns out you can. Visit Karja the woodcarver in his studio (around the corner from WAMM). You get a glimpse inside a traditional Balinese housing compound and can pick up a one of a kind souvenir on the way. Just tap on the door and they will be happy to give you a tour. Ketut Swana is another local wood workshop. Head up the street toward the soccer field, hook a left down the Nyuh Gadang alley until you hit the river, take a right past a handful of homes, and go all the way to the back where you will find a small building with a corrugated roof. Here you find several locals working away with their hands and feet, on special orders they receive from customers throughout the world. It is not so much of store, as it is a workshop, but they will happily make you a custom wood sculpture if you give them a few days’ time.
Want to learn more about the woodcarving history of the village? The small Pendet Museum is worth a visit. Here you find some wonderful examples of the their ‘style’ wooden animal carvings, often with a good dose of humour. While the village’s penchant for animal carvings has morphed over time, the museum has some real gems from this bygone era. To this day, the Pendet’s are known as the artisan family of the village: three generations of painters and sculptors. There’s even a famous cartoonist in the family named, Gun Gun.
If you are looking for peace, tranquillity and a deeply spiritual experience then Nyuh Kuning is definitely the place for you.
Museum Pendet . Jl. Nyuh Bojog No. 6 . Open daily 9am -5pm
Karja Woodcarving Workshop . Jl. Nyuh Bulan No.21 . Open daily 8am -3pm
2. Om Shanti, Shanti Om
Daily sunrise yoga at Tamam Hati for a guaranteed good start of the day
Start your morning with a yoga session at Taman Hati, where local yogi Ketut will get your chakras flowing. Taman Hati is not your average yoga studio. Ketut Bandiastra Cahyu established the ashram in 2002 and developed his own signature style combining Kundalini, Iyengar, Ashtanga and Hatha yoga. His teaching philosophy is best described as ‘free spirited’. Taman Hati is translated as ‘Garden of the Heart’ and the beautiful open-air ashram in an exotic garden behind Ketut’s family home provides for a rejuvenating yoga experience. We shared spiritual moments, dynamic body strengthening, but also plenty of laughter. His repeated mantra of happiness ‘happy belly, happy mind, happy body’ throughout the class leaves you smiling and well, happy.
Taman Hati . Jl. Nyuh Gading No.7 . +62 361 974 058 . daily sunrise yoga 6am -7.15am
IDR 100.000 for 1 class drop-in
3. Because Laughter is the Best Medicine
Lose yourself in an hour-long session of unabashed laughing with a group of two hundred locals
One of the more bizarre things to experience in Bali is a good old fashion session of laughing yoga. Yep, you heard that right, and we couldn’t recommend it more. Laughing yoga is an hour-long session where you have the opportunity to completely lose yourself over some unabashed laughing. It’s based on the belief that voluntary laughter provides the same physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter. The local gurus guided us through different laughing and breathing techniques, like laughing with your mouth closed, or by faking a handshake with your fellow yogis. Also thrown in is some hilarious aerobic dancing. It was modern Balinese spiritualist, Kadek Suambara (and Ketut’s brother) who established this ashram in 1995. It is popular among the locals and his Bali Happy Movement, which has a loyal following from throughout the region. An experience, you won’t soon forget or regret.
Laughing yoga is an experience you won’t soon forget or regret.
Ambar Ashram . Jl. Nyuh Bojog No. 5 . +62 812 3627 3888 . lauging yoga sessions Tues & Fri 5pm -6pm . admission free but donation appreciated
4. Village of Visionaries
As part of the village’s greening initiative, 5,000 frangipani trees now line the beautiful streets in all of their splendour
While steeped in culture and tradition, the people of Nyuh Kuning are progressive and forward thinking. The village is well known for its commitment to the environment and the preservation of its unique identity. Every morning, the village elders who are part of the ‘smile crew’ clean the streets. Children bring brooms to school to sweep before class begins and there is a weekly competition to see which student can collect the most garbage. Hotels have a ban on plastic and promote recycling and composting, and there are strict parking regulations. You will even need to pay a fee to drive through the village as a way to control the amount of traffic. As part of the village’s greening initiative, the town has planted 5,000 frangipani trees lining the beautiful streets in their splendour. When you’re there, you may run into the village women collecting the fallen flowers to make essential oils. The village is also home to the Bumi Sehat birthing clinic, the pride and joy. Founded in 1995 by Robin Linn, the non-profit clinic offers free prenatal care, birthing services and medical aid to local women. Nice to know: in 2011, Linn won the CNN hero of the year for her miraculous achievements!
This Balinese village is well known for its commitment to the environment and the preservation of its unique identity.
Meet the eco-warriors who keep the village clean
Nyuh Kuning is also home to the Bumi Sehat birthing clinic which is the pride and joy of the village
Bumi Sehat Foundation . Jl. Nyuh Bojog . +62 361 970 002
5. Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Stop by Warung Coconut where the charming local owners will serenade you with their guitars as you watch people stroll by
The village may be small but it has a bountiful mix of café’s and restaurants that add to the village’s healthy and eco-friendly vibe. If you want some Balinese cuisine, visit Ibu Dayu at Warung Rama. She is the sweetest woman to walk this earth and serves up a delicious Nasi Campur. It’s so good, it was even awarded the second best Nasi Campur in Ubud. If healthy is what you are looking for, there are plenty of options. WAMM, Sage, and Swasti eco cottages all serve up local, fresh and eco-friendly food. For a more international flair, Tulsi serves up some delicious ayurvedic Indian cuisine in a cosy setting. Or head to the serene garden at Kagemusha for some of Ibu Umi’s home-style Japanese food.
For simple authentic Balinese cuisine try Ibu Dayu’s Nasi Campur at her little Warung Rama
If it’s a refreshment you are after, we recommend a visit to the open-air Bali Bohemia where you can watch the monkeys frolicking over a refreshing libation. They also host a super fun open-mic night which caters to a welcoming and lively expat crowd. Fancy a fresh coconut? Stop by Warung Coconut where the charming local owners will serenade you with their guitars as you watch people stroll by. But if it’s a caffeine jolt you are after, then be sure to visit the newly opened Kopi Paste or Old Friends coffee shop. At Old Friends, friendly barista Made will take you through the whole farm-to-cup experience. Here the coffee beans come directly from his family’s plantation in Kintamani, which are then sorted, roasted and cupped in this chic little cafe.
Have a refreshing libation at the open-air Bali Bohemia bar while watching the monkeys frolicking
Adi Pendet opened a new coffee shop Kopi Paste combining his passion for herbal medicines and coffee
Vegan-friendly food at Sage near the village gate
We love the local, fresh and eco-friendly fare at WAMM
Bali Bohemia . Jl. Nyuh Bojog . +62 813 3888 4756
Old Friends Coffee Shop . Jl. Nyuh Bojog No.5 . +62 813 5328 0267
Warung Coconut . Jl. Nyuh Bojog No.5. +62 813 3834 3110
Warung Rama . Jl. Nyuh Gading No. 3
Kagemusha . Jl. Raya Nyuh Kuning . +62 361 973 134
Sage Restaurant . Jl. Nyuh Bulan No.1 . +62 361 976 528
Kopi Paste . Jl. Raya Singakerta . +62 819-1675-6375
WAMM . Jl. Nyuh Bulan No. 24 . +62 812 3990 8129
6. Shop for a Good Cause
Above the clouds is right next to Money Forest and sells men’s clothing made of gorgeous cotton, linens, and natural dyes
If you fancy a little shopping, don’t miss Above the Clouds. This tiny boutique next to the monkey forest has a great collection of men’s clothing made of gorgeous cotton, linens, and natural dyes. Owners Charlotte and Flo’s wanted to create a conscious fashion label and it took them a lot of time to ensure the production process was good for people and planet. Charlotte makes gorgeous jewellery too with her Sugati line. If Indonesian textile is more your jam, then don’t miss a trip to Tradisi, a lovely little workshop that sells hand woven and hand-drawn batik fabric from the islands throughout Indonesia. Their products include batik and styles of hand-weaving, with natural dyes, and beautiful colour combinations. This is guilt-free shopping at its best, all profits are used to support local community projects.
Tradisi is a lovely little workshop that sells hand woven and hand-drawan batik fabric from the islands throughout Indonesia
Above the Clouds . Jl. Nyuh Bojog No.11 . +62 812 3898 5545
Tradisi Fabrics and Cushions . Jl. Nyuh Bojog No. 4 . +62 821 4742 5359
7. Attend a temple ceremony
The temple offerings made by women, take an enormous amount of time, skill and money
Chime in the Gamelan music. Just imagine the smell of the frangipani trees lining the quiet streets. See the women donning traditional Balinese clothing carrying their spiritual offerings so elegantly. How about the kids decked out in the lion-like barong costume beating their drums, marching your way? A temple ceremony is one of the most awe-inspiring things we have seen. This is not just culture with a capital C, but also very much part of local life. If you want to experience the real Bali, we recommend you come when it’s a Balinese ceremony day – such as Galungan or Kuningan – or during a full moon. Check the Balinese calendar to find a good date. If you are not visiting during a larger ceremony day, there will always be at least some sort of smaller temple ceremony going on. For example, the rice field temples Pura Ulun Carik hold temple rituals with the rice cultivation stages. The Pura Puseh, the big temple in the middle of the village dedicated to god Wisnu, the half-god avatar who moves between the heaven of the Gods and the Earth of humans – regularly hosts a variety of village ceremonies. If you happen to stumble upon a ceremony, just ask any local the meaning. They’ll be happy to tell you.
Temple ceremonies are not a culture with a capital C, but very much part of local life
We were lucky to witness a temple ceremony at Taman Siri, a small complex of four temples that is the centre of all community celebrations. This is the true spiritual heart of the village. The priests even had the temple repositioned in a more accurate spiritual direction, and since then the health of the village people suddenly improved!
Just make sure to dress appropriately if you are attending a temple ceremony. Wear a sarong and sash. Both men and women are required to cover their legs below the knee by using a sarong.
Just make sure to be dressed appropriately if you are attending a temple ceremony out of respect to the Balinese culture
Amazing array of offerings at Warung Nati temple near the village gate
The priests repositioned the temple in a more accurate spiritual direction. Since then the health of the village people suddenly improved.
Pura Dugul . Jl. Nyuh Bojog . (take the alley behind Museum Pendet)
Pura Puseh . Jl. Nyuh Bojog . (next to the big Banyan Tree)
Taman Sari . Jl. Raya Nyuh Kuning
Warung Nati is only open at temple ceremonies
So no, Nyuh Kuning isn’t known for its raging party scene or its sandy beaches but we think it’s the true hidden gem of Bali.
Where to stay? Our favourites are:
Swasti Eco Cottages . a slice of eco-paradise: café, spa, yoga, & rooms . Jl. Nyuh Bojog No. 2-4 . +62 361 974 079
Bali Bohemia . funky restaurant and boutique hotel with moderately priced rooms . Jl. Nyuh Bojog . +62 813 3888 4756
Chili Cottages . no-frills Bali lifestyle . Jl. Nyuh Bojog . +62 361 978 629
Villa Beji Indah. glam it up and splurge on simple elegance . Jl. Nyuh Bulan. +62 361 974168
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Lee Ann Deuben loves to cook and she loves to travel. Good thing her life has turned into that of a global nomad, having lived in Oslo, Lyon, Jakarta and now Beirut. She also is a very accomplished city planner who is passionate about building sustainable and inclusive communities.