So what is the view that the “average guy” sees in this maelstrom of building and economic boom going on in Bali these days? The first in a series of ‘short takes’ done in cooperation with Jakarta Post’s Bali Buzz, where it appeared initially.

text and photos by Rio Helmi

On my early morning photo excursions in the countryside around central Bali there are a number of favourite warung (snack and coffee stalls) – marked on my mental map. Some are great for a savory bubur (spicy rice porridge), others for a variety of sweeter fare. It’s not just the quality of the food that earns a star on my routes; the owner’s personality is a big part of it.

One such place is Pak Sudana’s funky little hole in the wall at the Pujung market. And there’s an added bonus: it’s nearly always open no matter how early in the morning. Pak Sudana and his wife are up at 4 am on most days prepping their scrumptious fried bananas, clay-baked lak-lak, and on market days black rice puddings. The fritters are done in aluminum pans filled with boiling oil, don’t ask what kind; it’s definitely not slow food. And they make real, honest to goodness kick-ass Bali coffee, grinds and all – no espressop here. On market days they get up at 2 am. That’s every third day.


This couple has worked for every little thing they have got. Pak Sudana is a bit of a man of the world, straining out sly, homespun wisdom along with the bubbling oil he drains off the golden banana fritters.

In between customers buying plastic bags of hot sweets (out of politeness I don’t discuss the effect of plastic on hot food, you need a Green School mom for that job), we chat about the old days, about the changes in Balinese attitudes over the last 4 decades, about the younger generation.

Although he deplores the fact that so much ricefield has been sold to foreigners, he himself is trying to sell a 15are plot up near Taro. I try as delicately as possible to suggest it seems a little contradictory. He shrugs snd says: “But what do I have to give my son for a good start in life?” I suggest maybe his son could work as hard as he does. He smiles wrily: “Things are different now. Money is has become a dewa –everyone deifies it.” The conversation turns to what people do with their money when they sell land. “Ah usually they get a flash car and stuff, then run out of cash. Gayanya kota, otaknya desa (city style, village brain).” he snorts.

The reality is that the cost of living for a basic standard of comfort has gone up exponentially since the Eat Pray Love fueled land grab around Ubud. Yet for around Rp 5000.- you could eat yourself silly here and have coffee to boot. At this rate, I can’t figure the maths out that would see Pak Sudana and his wife retiring anytime soon.

“So maybe things will get better now that we have a new president? Did you watch the PDIP congress on tv? What do you think of Ibu Megawati” I venture, slyly hoping to draw him out. “Oh, I have no time for that. But I’ll watch Sule (a popular Indonesian comedian) anytime, he also talks ‘east-west’ (kangin-kauh, a Balinese expression for senseless talk) but at least it’s funny.”.

I find I have no comeback for this. Slurping the rest of my coffee according to local etiquette, I think to myself maybe I should watch Sule too. Now if only Pak Sudana had wifi in his warung….