What to Wear to a Balinese Wedding

Adrian Fernand – Australia’s seriously stylish agony uncle and creator of idobelieveicamewithahat.com – answers your questions on life, the universe and everything. This week, Adrian has advice for a UK reader on what to wear to a tropical wedding.

Dear Agony Uncle,

I’ve been invited to a friend’s wedding in Bali and it’s very important to me that I look good and make a great impression on the other guests. The invitation says dress is ‘warm cocktail climate’, so no suit jackets, but not living in a warm climate, I’m not clear what this does include. Can you advise me of what I should be wearing and where I should be getting it?

Tyler, London

Dear Tyler,

A Balinese wedding is perhaps one of the only occasions where wearing white isn’t only practical, but it is the type of situation where you wouldn’t risk upstaging the bride. Of course, a tropical climate is also fraught with the perils associated with poor water sanitation – Bali belly.

Let me take you on a journey back to my halcyon days of being a PR tart, flying across international waters to coordinate photo shoots of luxury resorts. Envious? Don’t be – it was sleeves-up, sweaty-crack, arduous work that could crush even the most resilient of publicists. With a limited budget – read: none – and a fistful of business cards, it was my duty to create a mock wedding in a tropical hideaway, pushing my way through the throngs bedecked with Bali braids and contraband Chanel. No wardrobe, no models, no clue; I managed to assemble a motley crew of ‘present-day attractive’ folk and source a borrowed wardrobe from Bali’s continental Seminyak district. Mid-shoot after a prepared lunch, one of our ‘models’ forgot the cardinal rule to not eat the fruit nor drink the water for fear of days of discomfort. Needless to say, the cream linen trousers he sported remained pristine for half an hour before he had to be stretchered out and the trousers peeled off. After witnessing what I saw, I’m reticent to raise children.

Remember that in the tropics comfort is key. An open-necked button-down shirt, pressed trousers are acceptable , but don’t be afraid to wear a splash of colour in the form of a silk handkerchief or a neck tie. Oh, and that splash of colour? I think you know there’s one you should avoid…

Image reproduced from puriwedding.com

Gili Meno – Paradise Found

Located off the coast of Bali, Lombok and the Gili Islands are an entirely different experience. Lombok is renowned for its trekking and diving and to access the Gilis, you drive across the island, taking in breathtaking views, lush forests and scores of monkeys. It’s tempting to stay, but I chose to continue on towards my destination, the Gili Islands.  Gili Air and Gili T. cater to the backpacker crowds, hordes of young tourists descend for cheap arak cocktails and cheap, but spectacular, diving. Save yourself the exhausting ten-hour bus-ferry-bus-boat journey and stay in Kuta if this is what you are after.

Sunrise on Gili Meno

Gili Meno, however, is different. Two kilometers in length, and a kilometer across, it’s a tiny haven of peace and tranquility. There are no roads on the island, just sandy paths for the picturesque horse and carts decorated with brightly coloured tassels and bells. Its quiet sandy beaches look out over crystal clear waters. There are virtually no waves and you can easily spend days floating in the water, staring at the mountains of Bali and Lombok in the distance. Even if you forgo the fishing, snorkeling and diving trips on offer, its possible to see fish teeming around your feet. Or visit the Turtle Conservation Sanctuary of Gili Meno. Here, the impossibly tiny turtles born on the island grow in small pools, waiting until they are big enough to released into the oceans. It’s refreshingly un-touristy, just a small sign asking you not to feed or touch the turtles, and a display explaining the organization’s work. It’s wonderful to see these amazing creatures so close. Explore the coconut groves or the salt lake, where locals harvest salt in the dry season. Bring a good supply of books, sunscreen and a flashlight. Wake up early and enjoy the sunrise and slowly make your way across the island to enjoy the sunset over the mountains

Known as the “Honeymoon Island,” Gili Meno is dotted with intimate reed huts, concealing net-swathed beds and an abundance of seashells. There’s a youth hostel aimed at party-weary backpackers set in a lush green hideaway (worrying when the island is experiencing such a dangerous drought).  Being neither recently wed nor eighteen, I opt to stay in the bird sanctuary. Like much of the island, it’s either closed for restoration or falling into disrepair. It’s very large and surreal, and supposedly the alligator is missing. But it’s pink, quiet, reasonably priced and has a remarkably well-stocked book exchange. The abandoned resorts and collapsing huts make for stunning photographs, and heighten the feeling that you truly are ‘away from it all.’

The seafront restaurants offer an abundance of fresh fish, sublime fruit juices and the usual variety of western and Balinese dishes. Most interesting is the local Sasak cuisine, reliant on fish, coconut and chili. It is delicious and unusual, and sometimes tear-jerkingly spicy. Persuading yourself to try something other than the fresh fruit juices is a challenge, but it’s worth trying the arak once. It’s best to have some water on hand as the homebrewed rice liquor tastes as strong as it smells. There’s no cash point on the island and the exchange rate is not in your favour, so bring a good supply of cash so you can sample everything, and be prepared to spend more than in most South East Asian countries.

Sending out regular calls to prayer, the bright blue mosque dominates the centre of the island. The Sasak inhabitants of the Gilis are Muslim and it’s important to be modestly dressed when in the villages. Many Westerners ignore the fact that they are causing offence and it’s a source of some tension. Turning a blind eye to bikinis on the beach has become an economic necessity, but respect the local inhabitants and save your swimsuit for the sea.

Gili Meno is a beautiful place to relax and feel the worries of day-to-day life drift away. It’s easy to see why so many couples choose to spend their honeymoons here. It is a place of no worries, love and turtles. What more can you want?

Image reproduced from Verity Danbold

Top 5 Restaurants in Bali

In her bestselling 2006 book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert found love in Bali. I wasn’t that lucky but I did discover great food! Everyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a real foodie – a vacation for me isn’t complete if I haven’t sampled local delicacies and the best of what the destination has to offer. My recent trip to Bali was no exception.

With so many great restaurants and bars to choose from, it’s difficult to only pick five favourites. But after much deliberation, below are my top five restaurants in Bali which I hope will whet your appetite and inspire you to go to the island soon and experience them for yourself. May to September is the best time to visit this tropical paradise.

My Top 5 Restaurants in Bali

Ketupat
Bali has many excellent international restaurants (some of which are listed below) but a trip to Indonesia would not be complete without sampling the local cuisine. Thankfully the beautiful surroundings of Ketupat means that one does not have to slum it in a local warung to eat authentic Indonesian food. The restaurant gets its name from the little woven parcels made from palm leaves used to cook rice. The famous dishes of Sate Lilit and Nasi Goreng are here on the menu but I recommended trying the Nasi Campur – a small selection of tasty little dishes which are beautifully presented and gives one the chance to try a variety of authentic Indonesian delicacies without getting lost in the extensive menu of Ketupat. Address: Jalan Dewi Sri, Kuta, Bali.

Queen’s Tandoor
This popular Indian restaurant in Seminyak is part of the largest and longest established Indian restaurant chains in Indonesia. You know that the food must be special because of the large number of coach parties of Indian tourists that visit the restaurant every week. The large air-conditioned restaurant is very comfortable and the staff are friendly and will always ask you how spicy you want your food if you don’t appear to be a curry aficionado. My favourite dishes here are Chicken Tandoori, Dhal Sag Chicken and Rogan Josh. As well as the traditional dessert Kulfi, Queen’s Tandoor also offer a decadent chocolate dessert if you can save some room for it. The Sizzling Brownie is presented on a hot plate, drenched in bubbling chocolate sauce and served with vanilla ice cream. Definitely worth the calories! Address: Jalan Raya Seminyak , Kuta, Bali.

Mozzarella
Located on the busy Jalan Padma, Mozzarella is an Italian restaurant that has a reputation for serving the best steaks in town and is famous for its two-for-one cocktail deals which makes an evening here nicely lubricated. The staff are forever smiling and friendly and will treat you like a regular even on your first visit. I was referred to as “Mr Alan” by the waitress during the course of the meal – which was very sweet. This hospitality, on top of the great food, will keep you coming back for more. For starters, try the Smoked Mahi Mahi – an interesting twist on a classic starter of traditional Smoked Salmon. My favourite main course here is the Beef Fillet Rossini – succulent, tender and very reasonably priced. Address: Jalan Padma, Legian, Bali.

Sarong
A trip to Bali is not complete without at least one dinner reservation at Sarong. The décor is sumptuous and luxurious with chandeliers, candles, billowing gold curtains and Chippendale furniture all under a high roofed pavilion. The menu is an eclectic mix of South Asian inspired cuisine with dishes originating from Thailand, India, Vietnam, China and of course Indonesia. With such a diverse choice, it’s difficult to recommend one dish in particular but the Rogan Josh is a favourite of mine. The bar serves interesting and inspired cocktails such as the Jeruk Martini - citron vodka mixed with lemongrass syrup, dry vermouth & lemon juice. When it comes to dessert, the lushious Vietnamese coconut crème caramel is to die for! Address: Jalan Petitenget, Kerobokan, Bali.

Métis
Métis is without question one of the smartest dining destinations in Bali and a purely sensory experience. A fabulous dinner is guaranteed as you sit on the terrace of a beautiful pavilion overlooking verdant rice paddies. The romantic setting is made more so by candlelight and sophisticated colonial inspired furniture from Scandinavia. The food is mostly French and Mediterranean in influence and the restaurant boasts a special foie gras menu – unusual for Bali. Métis excels in the delivery of the highest quality food which is gorgeously presented and tastes divine. The service from the waiting staff is exceptional and faultless. If the Chateaubriand is on the menu then I’m a happy man. Otherwise, I am more than satisfied with the meltingly tender Beef Tenderloin. Dessert has to be one of their deliciously light and fluffy soufflés – for which Métis is famous for. They’re always worth the 25 minute wait! Address: Jalan Petitenget, Kerobokan, Bali.

From top to bottom: images reproduced from sricaitanyadas.multiply.com, ricewisdom.org, queenstandoor.com, thejarkatapost.com, thewanderingpalate.com and travel-logic.se