Fabulous Falafels and Brilliant Buses
Just down the road from Sanur are the tourist hot spots of Kuta, Legion and Seminyak. We discovered that a friend from home was on holiday in Seminyak and so decided to visit for the day to catch up whilst also getting to explore the other coast…
We wanted to use the new ‘Trans Sarbigita’ bus where you can travel any length of the bus route for a fixed fee of 3,500 IDR (roughly 20p) and began the search for information to help us on our way. We quickly discovered that no one really knew anything about this elusive bus and how you might catch it and so with adventure in our hearts we set off in the general direction of the bus stop.
After about 15 minutes of walking in the intensely hot Balinese sun, we saw our bus hurtling along the dual carriage way about to go past us. As we are nowhere near the bus stop, we waved desperately as from the little information we have found, we think there isn’t another bus for an hour, and miraculously the bus slows down and stops for us. Being British this amazes us, as at home you can be running for the bus, reach the bus stop and wave frantically as the driver makes eye contact with you and then heartlessly drives off leaving you to soak up the unfairness of it all until the next bus comes.
We board the bus which is empty apart from a lady on her way to bug tourists with her collection of knives, fans and sarongs and 3 children looking like they too are off on an adventure. There is also a lovely bus conductor lady and a driver who seem bemused with us and our attempts to communicate where we want to go. I instantly love this bus, not just because it stopped and hardly has any passengers on it, but because it has much needed air conditioning and a Balinese spirit offering to ward off bad spirits which is filling the bus with sweet smelling incense.
We have no idea where we are going, the other passengers openly giggle about us but we know we have a feeling that we are in safe and friendly hands and needless to say, they drop us off where we need to go and try to give us instructions for getting home. The knife selling Balinese woman also gets off at our stop and walks ahead of us, turning to look back at us to make sure we are going in the right direction and safely guides us all the way to the beach. She never stops to ask us if we want to buy a knife/fan/sarong and my faith in people here continues to be restored.
Kuta, Legion and Seminyak have long since expanded into one huge sprawl of beach bars, pubs, restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels. Mainly aimed at the Aussie market, we see signs promising “ice cold beer and good tucker mate, fair dinkum” painted above bars and restaurants. Everyone thinks we are Austrailian and adds ‘mate’ (in an Aussie accent) to the end of their request to get us to look in their shop. We walk for about 5km and are bombarded by this huge tourist playground, inter dispersed with women and children begging to add to the awfulness of this place.
I don’t think we saw much in the way of Balinese culture or life although strangely enough we did come across this one man selling ‘Tahu Tipat’ and had our first experience of Indonesian street food.
One side of his cart is a small deep fat fryer where he frys off cubes off tofu, there are banana leaf packages containing steamed rice hanging above and a big pan of hot peanut sauce on the other side of the cart. After frying the tofu, he takes scissors and chops it up, he opens a banana leaf and also chops up the steamed rice (which has been steamed into a solid cake), rummages around and finds bean sprouts to add, ladles on peanut sauce, add a dash of kecap manis (sweet, almost syrupy soy sauce) and then chops up a fresh green chilli to go over the top. I ask him to leave out the prawn crackers (which seem to get randomly thrown on top of lots of food here) and off we go.
It amazing what a bit of tasty food can do for the soul and the rest of our walk up to Seminyak takes a more philosophical flavour where we discuss our own part in how places get to become overrun with tourists.
All this talking and walking make us hungry and so we look for somewhere serving vegan food. Our first few places turn up nothing inspiring; vegetarian restaurants that serve meat, overpriced Greek places, plenty of places selling a roast dinner (meat and in this heat?!) and then we look up and see an oasis. An organic vegetarian cafe. Set amongst the chaos, ‘Zula’ is serving tasty, healthy plant based food and it’s mainly vegan (apart from honey and egg used in some desserts).
They have Indonesian dishes on the menu but we opted to share falafel and a salad which were both so good that we were still talking about it weeks later. This salad is now the salad that all others are compared to with its tempe croutons, tahini dressing and abundance of leaves, veg and sprouts.
And the falafels were surely a gift from the goddesses, sandwiched in between a giant dollop of hummus, crunchy salad and some killer fresh chilli sauce that really should have come with a warning. It may be that these falafels were the best I have ever tasted or it may be that they were just good and the first falafels I have tasted in about 3 months (which is a long time to go between falafels in my book) but either way they made me realise that even in places where there seems to be no hope of finding some peace, a hidden gem can be found.
We hang out drinking green juices, perusing the shelves of supplements, snacks and lovely organic vegan soaps and enjoying being in the company of people who get animal-free living.
Zula in Seminyak is a must visit if you’re in the area…
But even better than stumbling across this oasis, when we meet our friend who we haven’t seen in around 6 years, she happily announces over sparkly chilled pink champagne that she’s found a great place for dinner that serves vegan food and we head off back to Zula for dinner for a perfect evening of good food and even better company.