Bali courses are the ideal way for anyone to learn more about the beautiful Balinese culture, whether its a form of art or by learning how to prepare one of the delicious Balinese dishes.
These courses a practically offered everywhere on the island. You can find signs posted in hotels, restaurants and public meeting areas. Every Balinese man or woman is good in at least one form of art, so there are enough people from whom you can learn.
But the best place to find a large variety of Bali courses is in Ubud. The Museum Puri Lukisan (+62 361-971159/975136) on Jalan Raya for example offers batik courses for 1-2 days or a 2 day shadow puppet making course.
For other courses, just drop by at the museum and they can tell you when is the best time to participate in one.
Another place in Ubud where you can learn more on batik making is with one of Ubud's famous artists, I Nyoman Suradnya on Jalan Gautama (+62 361-975415). Here you can even follow 5 days courses where you'll learn from the basic to the more advanced techniques.
ARMA museum is also a wonderful option to follow courses. They offer a wide variety of workshops ranging from dance, painting, woodcarving to offering making.
However they also have very unique workshops which go into depth about the impacts of modernity in Bali, Balinese astrology, history and Balinese Architecture. So definitely more workshops here besides the arts and crafts.
More details on these workshops can be found on the ARMA website or you can go to the museum and ask what the possibilities are.
Pondok Pekak Library and Learning Center (+62 361 976194), in the center of Ubud also offers a wide variety of Bali courses such as wood carving, painting, woodcarving, dancing, playing the gamelan, mask making, offering making, fruitcarving etc.
When my girlfriend and I were in Ubud we had a great time participating in the following three Bali courses:
Besides it being really great fun and an enriching experience when you visit Bali, imagine how surprised and impressed your family and friends will be at home when you have created a flower out of a watermelon, made your own Balinese mask or when you've prepared mouthwatering Bali food.
My girlfriend always wanted to try out this course since eating tropical fruit is one of her favorite past times. So no wonder that she was very eager to learn how to carve it beautifully before eating it all.
She did her fruit carving course in the Pondok Pekak Library & Learning Centre in Ubud. Mr. Wayan was there with his professional carving tools to assist her through the process.
The main object of this course was a watermelon and the final goal was to make a nice flower out of it. It might seem impossible when looking at the round watermelon lying on the table in front of you...
But thanks to Mr. Wayan's patience and his final adjustments (which he by the way did secretly every time my girlfriend cutted more than necessary), the final result was remarkable.
Along the way Mr Wayan would also give some practical tips and tricks
fruit and vegetables, so this is definitely one of the Bali courses that you can continue doing at home.
The fruit carving course is Rp. 150.000 for 1,5 hour of carving away.
Instead of admiring all the wood carved statues at the souvenir and work shops I decided to try it out myself in one of the Bali Courses. I was able to follow a 2,5 hours wood carving course at the Pondok Pekak Library & Learning Centre in Ubud.
When I arrived my teacher was already there instructing his little son on which tools he had to use for carving. I joined him, cross legged on a matt covered with all kinds of tools, wood and woodchips.
I knew that this was not going to be easy...
My teacher had made an example of a wooden Toke (lizard) made out of soft blank wood. He gave me the basic instructions on which tool I could use and always corrected me along the way.
Besides my hands I even had to use my feet to stablize the wood while I was carving. It was really hard work but I liked the fact that slowly I was seeing a result.
I must warn you, you must be a bit flexible to join this course. I, at least had a hard time sitting crossed legged for hours while bending towards my feet where the wood was settled. But the back pains were worth it ;-)
And of course, after the course you can take your own piece of art back home with you.
Wood carving is just one of the many Bali courses at this learning center and is Rp. 200.000 for two hours.
After eating all the mouthwatering Balinese dishes I thought it was about time I learned more about them and to discover how they are prepared.
Many hotels and villas offer private Bali courses on cooking, where the chef personally explains how a specific dish is prepared. But restaurants also offer you the opportunity to get to know every type of spice used in the Balinese kitchen.
So enough options to choose from...
When I was in Ubud I grabbed my chance to follow a Bali cooking class given by Janet de Neefe or one of her staff members at the Honeymoon Guesthouse on Jalan Bisma.
Janet de Neefe is the proud owner of this guesthouse, but she also owns the popular Casa Luna restaurant, Indus restaurant in Tjampuhan and she's the director of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival.
She arrived in Bali in 1974, married a local from Ubud and through his family and her love of Balinese food created the Bali cooking class.
Almost every day of the week you can follow a cooking class.
Monday at the guesthouse with Janet De Neefe from 09.30 am to 1pm; spiced fish in banana leaves (ikan pepes), fragrant tuna curry, spinach in tomato-chilli sambal, carrot and cucumber salad, black rice pudding.
Tuesday (vegetarian day) with Janet De Neefe. Here you will pay a visit to the Ubud market to get some understanding about the ingredients used in the dishes. This course is from 8.00 am to 1pm; mie goreng, roasted white eggplant, tempe curry, fern salad, green coconut crepes.
Wednesday with the Casa Luna team from 9.30 am to 1pm; Balinese chicken satay, beans in coconut milk, lawar, corn fritters, gado-gado, yellow fragrant rice.
Thursday with the Casa Luna team from 08.00 am to 1 pm. First you'll visit the market and then follow the cooking class; Balinese chicken curry, coconut bean salad, tofu fritters, stir fried eggplant, grilled anchovy sambal, sago pudding.
Friday with the Casa Luna team from 9.30 am to 12 noon; Nasi goreng, chicken satay, peanut sauce, krupuk, fruits in coconut milk.
Sunday with the the Casa Luna team from 05.30 pm am to 09.00 pm; Smoked duck feast, coconut ice-cream, rice wine, recipe booklet.
All the above courses cost Rp 250.000 except for the Sunday course which is Rp 350.000.
Since I'm a big Ikan Pepes fan I went for the Monday class and got the chance to meet Janet De Neefe herself. The class filled up quickly and every participant could help himself to freshly home-made hibiscus tea.
Janet De Neefe explained passionately about her life on Bali and the meaning of food to the Balinese. Just like everything else on Bali food is intertwined with religion and society.
I have to say, I learned some fascinating things about the herbs and spices available on Bali.
When it's your first time to Bali this cooking class is the perfect place to get yourself updated quickly about various Balinese dishes and the importance of them in daily life.
Note that this is a class and not a course where you prepare the food yourself. The only thing you can try out is grinding red chillies, which is harder to do than it looks.
The best part of course is eating all those delicious dishes that Janet De Neefe has been talking about. Ahhh... I couldn't wait to get my hands on the Ikan Pepes and luckily it was as good as I hoped it would be.