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A Peak into Bali Culture

Recently I (Haley/womenswear designer) took a month-long trip over to Southeast Asia, culminating with a week in Bali, Indonesia.  The main purpose was to make some corrections to products I had designed that were in production and bring some samples back to the states, but included was a chance for me to get a look at the Balinese life and landscape. The time I spent there went a little like this...
I flew into Denpasar from expensive ol' Singapore and headed straight west to a bungalow in Canggu. Bali taxi drivers haven't seemed to catch onto the idea of gps' or maps. And in this case, you'd think they'd be well-versed where most streets are. But no. I have this side of me that needs to be extremely efficient when it comes to taking the quickest way to get to places, so there I am pulling out my trendy iphone's gps (which works without data or gps - jackpot!) and telling him that we still have about 15 miles to go. Anyway, the bungalow was a 5 minute walk to the beach and I was loving it. Here's a last minute view of sunset that I caught over a rice paddy the first night:
The next morning I was so excited that I woke up for sunrise. Duh, it's Bali, don't they do that in all the movies, watch the sun rise on the beach with the sand between toes and hair blowing in the wind? I had good intentions to be really serene about this, but really didn't want to get out of bed at the crack of dawn. I did anyway. And did one of those half awake jogs to the beach, standing there with my camera, ready to catch the most stunning photo of my life.
I wish someone would have told me the sun rises on the other side of the island. I mean I didn't ask anyone but someone could have read my mind and told me. Plus it was cloudy. Being a pretty positive person, I tried to act like this is exactly what I wanted and snapped away, and then just walked away laughing and hopped in my bungalow's pool. I must say, the "sunrise" wasn't a total loss:
Canggu was a cool little surf town. Everyone drives motorbikes and I was probably the only one riding a plain ol bicycle around (as if I could look any more "un-local"). However, I quickly became more than content when I realized how great the cafes were just in this little one-street downtown alone. Seriously, I'm like a really intense coffee-connoisseur-must-find-the-best-coffee-in-this-country person. So, I mean, if anyone ever wants to take me to a trendy cafe, my answer to you is "yes, I can make it." Here's a pic of my favorite cafe. I put TripAdvisor down for a hot sec, and parked my bike at the cafe with the most people. Was. Not. Disappointed. FYI, 25 (25,000 rupiah) is about 2 bucks. I'm telling you, NOW is the time to go to Bali, the dollar is the strongest its been in a while.
PS. also below is a photo from a coffee farm I went to in Northern Bali, where a woman was roasting batches of coffee beans over a wood fire then grinding it with a mortar & pestle. Rock on!
So fast-forward to sunset, which I was sure was going to be at LEAST better than my sunrise debacle. I stood on the same beach and waited for some of God's glory to shine upon me, and did it ever. (I took a lot of photos like an obnoxious person but this is my fave)
Sorry if you're only reading this to get to the "AION" part and you could care less about how many cappuccinos I had downed today. Well here you go.
My buddy Gustu, also known as our Manufacturing Coordinator on the ground in Bali, managed through no-gps directions to pick me up from my bungalow, although appeared quite exasperated at the obscure location I was found in. Oops! I've been talking to him each week by e-mail for a while, so it's always great to actually meet a virtual person (what a weird day and age we live in). We drove straight into Denpasar to where our knitwear crew was working on our current designs. This is Pak (our main knitwear ninja) and his wife who are just so lovely. 
We got straight to biz as I tried on a few styles, excited to see that the CAD files I sent over were translated into just what I was looking for. To be more realistic, I was ecstatic, seeing the tangible product of something you drew on paper and then sent across the ocean is a really exciting thing. So yeah, it was #cool.
FYI, that sweater was SO hot that day, if you couldn't already tell by my sweaty face. 
Pak and his wife both don't speak English, but why should they, they're in Bali, I should be speaking Balinese duh. Luckily Gustu was a fab translator and besides that, a lot of smiles were exchanged. I really wanted to get a picture with Pak's wife and I both wearing the beanies she was making, and after much persuasion, I got her to join in. She was a great sport about it, even though she repeatedly told Gustu to tell me she "looks terrible in beanies!"
Fashion design sidenote... Hoi An is a beach city in Vietnam, with an old market feel downtown that is basically just made up of tailoring shop after tailoring shop. You can walk into any of these shops and show them a photo of any type of garment with any modifications/color/fabric you prefer and they will have it made within a day for quite a deal. Just to try out the process, I got this black linen shirt I'm wearing made there. I went into a suggested shop I saw on a blog post, showed the ladies a photo from a magazine as they made a rough sketch and I made corrections to seam lines, chose my fabric from their shelves of bulk, and told them I'd return at noon the next day to check it out. Next day I rode my bike from the beach past the shop, they had it sitting on the table, I tried it on and was on my merry way $22 later. Best deal ever? Well not if you're comparing with Forever21 trying to sell you 50 cent shirts that last 2 seconds. But I was totally into the process and think the deals really come when you get a custom gown or tux, which could definitely be made at a fraction of the price. FYI -->
Okay, back to Bali Bali and a few last photos of some new "powpow" designs, our new design for a better detachable pom pom, and thread on thread on thread.
So after getting thoroughly in the crafting mood, I decided it was time to move on upwards and stay in Ubud, the yoga/crafty capital of Bali. Also, known for its' Monkey Forest. As made now more popular by making an appearance on The Bachelor last week. I don't watch that. Really I don't, like I would really pick that over The Voice; it was just on during commercials. The guy is so awkward though, right? If you do watch I believe we could agree on that. No social skills. And I saw no Balinese wearing that "authentic" outfit he had on during the rose ceremony. Is he even a farmer? I grew up on a farm and he seems clueless of reality. Us farmers can at least rap a tune (another episode I watched during Voice commercials). Let's all just forget about him during this...monkey selfie!
Ubud also has boatloads of temples and a lot of yogi cafes. I love mega-healthy food as much as the next person, but you know those moments you want a nice, juicy hamburger and you find a bottle of fermented probiotic coconut water + raw "nachos" (wait, those aren't nachos) sitting in front of you (when did I ever think this was a good idea).  Honestly, I felt a bit like I entered a Yogatastic universe where if I didn't eat macrobiotic dried leaves during lunch and do warrior 1 pose before entering the bathroom, I may have be shunned to live in the Monkey Forest at any moment. Ubud was great though. Haha, really, it was. It was super crafty and I think you could probably get anything you wanted created there. If I had more time, I would've definitely got more into the artsy scene, and probably bought a pair of baggy yoga pants and dreaded my hair. Unfortunately, this trip wasn't long enough for that. 
Ubud is in the middle of Bali, about an hours drive from the northern Volcanos and surrounded by awesome rice paddy terraces that are absolutely stunning. 
It's also home to really talented motorbike drivers. This is how I come home from the grocery store usually, too.
OH! I was in the middle of Bali during the Super Bowl too. Not that I particularly cared, the Browns currently don't have that word in their vocabulary, and I wanted both teams to lose so I already knew this was a lose-lose situation for me. Poor me. But I was in Bali and got to drink iced coffee during the game so it almost became a win, until the owner yelled at me for not purchasing his drinks - sorry that I'm not particularly cravinggg your Bintang beer at 7:30 am buddy.  Regardless, the girl I was traveling with is an ultra-Patriots fan, which meant she got her win, and I decided to forget about this guy and make him happy by getting a couple of the huge size Bintangs for us. Victory for all!
 
 My last couple of days were spent on the southernmost bubble of Bali, not quite getting down to Uluwatu and the mega surf spots in that area, but spent time in Jimbaran because it was conveniently placed near the ocean and airport. Gosh, I'm so efficient aren't I. The beach I went to was a short bike ride (yup, still rockin the bicycle) from my guesthouse, through a totally Balinese neighborhood, and between the Four Seasons and some other fancy shmancy mega resort. And it was absolutely beautiful. Aqua warm waters, beautiful sandy beach, and fun little food shacks. 
The best part was, at night about 10 restaurants line the beach with dining tables and you can eat the fresh catch of the day. The secret is that instead of ordering off of the menu, you can go to the back of the restaurant and choose your fish from the ice (clear eyed fish of course). I went back there and immediately laid eyes on a 4 pound, clear eyed Barracuda with the sharpest little teeth ever. The guy told me it would be wayyy too much food for 1 person but I was dead set on this lil fish, plus didn't want to take the fun of picking your own fish away from my friend. She came over and upon realizing I had already made a rash 4 lb. decision, assured me that she was totally into Mr. Barry as well, and we ordered him up grilled to perfection. Favorite meal of the trip, on the beach, with a bottle of wine during sunset? Yup!
Bali is a pretty magical place, and definitely a great destination to check out, especially if you're into insane craftsmanship, amazing scenery, and kind people. I feel privileged to work with the artisans there that make my ideas into a reality. Until next time...

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