Finding Traditional Bali in Kuta & Denpasar (Part 2)
Finding Traditional Bali in Kuta & Denpasar (Part 2)
WRITER: Elwin Chan PHOTOS BY: Alvin Toh
Finding Traditional Bali in Kuta & Denpasar (Part 2) 03. October 2019, by Elwin Chan, Photos by Alvin Toh
Lively Kuta isn’t just about the sun, sea, and sand. Who knew that there is a wealth of tradition here? All you have to do is to know where to look.

Let us show you some of the best traditional crafts, food and culture that Kuta and the often overlooked capital, Denpasar, have to offer.

Traditional Dance and Puppetry

Even in modern Kuta, visitors can still get a glimpse of traditional Balinese arts. Pak Mangku, Kuta’s remaining traditional master, or what locals call an Undagi—someone who has mastered all 10 abilities including dance, puppetry, music, painting, writing, and even presiding over religious rituals—welcomes visitors to his home to learn about Balinese art forms. During the visit, he will share how he makes beautiful puppets and masks, demonstrate the intricacies of Balinese dance, and explain the stories behind the performances. His home, too, is a wonderful place to get an insight into Balinese architecture. It is a little urban eden, shared with cute little puppies, colourful birds, and ornamental fishes, all set within a lush garden.

Pak Mangku
Jalan Kubu Anyar Gang 5000, No 2 Kuta, Bali
Tel +62 812 3632082

Visitors to Pak Mangku’s home can learn about the stories and intricacies of different Balinese art forms.
Pak Mangku’s face reflected in the shadow of one of his handmade puppets. He is the only traditional master left in Kuta today.
Visitors to Pak Mangku’s home can learn about the stories and intricacies of different Balinese art forms.

Crafts and Souvenirs

Located in a multi-storey indoor market in the centre of Denpasar, Dewangga Art Shop is a hidden gem. The space is lined with shelves after shelves of traditional crafts and souvenirs from all over Indonesia. The dazzling array includes hand-painted masks and wooden serving plates from Java; beautiful ceremonial boxes, baskets and bags from Bali; and table mats from Lombok. Most of all, prices are very reasonable and the shop gets its stock from home industries to support local families. The rest of the indoor market sells clothes, spices and food, and is a great place to explore.

Dewangga Art Shop
Jl. Gajah Mada, Pasar Kumbasari, Lantai III Block C, No. 2 Denpasar, Bali
Tel +62 361 423413, 430656

Dewangga Art Shop is a treasure trove of traditional arts and crafts from all over Indonesia.
Shoppers can find beautiful ceremonial boxes, baskets and bags woven from grass.

Jewellery Making

Long before tourism took over, gold and silversmithing was a kee trade in Kuta. In fact, the area where Hard Rock Hotel
Bali is located, Banjar Pande Mas, literally means the village of gold craftsmen. Today, this traditional art form is all but gone. At his home in Kuta, 67-year-old Nyoman Seja is one of the oldest craftsmen still actively making gold and silver jewellery in the area (these days, most of the craftsmen are based in the Celuk area in Ubud). Visitors to Pak Nyoman Seja’s home studio can watch how the master makes jewellery from scratch, commission custom-made pieces, and even learn to make something that is one-of-a-kind all by hand.

Nyoman Seja
Jl. Banjar Anyar, No. 97 X Kuta, Bali
Tel +62 812 3623027

67 year old metalsmith Nyoman Seja has been hand-making jewelry in Kuta since 1968.
Metal is melted before being hammered and shaped into rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings.
Everything in Pak Nyoman Seja’s workshop is made by hand and tools, not machines.
A product of exquisite craftsmanship and a labour of love.

Poppies Restaurant

For a piece of “heaven in the heart of Kuta” (as the establishment promises), the evergreen Poppies Restaurant is a must-go destination. Beautifully landscaped, with lush hanging gardens, vines and even a fountain, Kuta’s oldest restaurant offers a relaxed, laid-back charm. It’s as if time here has stopped. The rustic ambience is matched by a comforting and lovingly prepared menu that offers creamy fish chowder, signature beef curry, and the gastronomical rijsttafel—a feast of over 10 dishes including sate (skewered meats), lamb stew, curried fish, fried prawns, grilled chicken, braised beef, and fragrant fried rice. Bon appetit, or as they say here, selamat makan!

Poppies Restaurant
Poppies Lane 1 / 19, Jalan Legian, Kuta, Bali
Tel +62 361 751059

Feast on the rijsttafel, Poppies Restaurant’s signature dish.
The lush surroundings of Kuta’s oldest restaurant make for a calming
respite from the hustle and bustle of the beach town.

Warung Manado 88

Manado is a city in North Sulawesi and boasts a cuisine that is known for its spicy flavours and use of pork and exotic meats. To sample some authentic Manado-style cooking in Bali, head to Warung Manado 88, the oldest Manado restaurant on the island. The restaurant, run by Ibu Helda, has a somewhat beguiling interior, with walls lined with flags from different countries. Graduation portraits of Ibu Helda’s children take up the rest of the space on the walls. The focus here, however, is on the food. Must-try’s include the babi rica (spicy pork), ikan woku (fish in gravy), sayur pangi (finely shredded leaf sautéed with pork), and the very flavourful Manado porridge.

Warung Manado 88
Jl. Raya Sesetan No. 88/102 Denpasar, Bali
Tel +62 361 8422779

The walls of Warung Manado 88 are lined with flags and currencies from around the world.
Manado cuisine is known for its spicy notes.

Bhineka Djaja Coffee Shop

Established in 1935, Bhineka Djaja is one of Bali’s oldest coffee shops in Denpasar. It is located along a lively road that is lined with character-filled shops selling traditional batik textiles and sarongs. The coffee shop itself has a delightful old-world charm. Its walls are adorned with coffee paintings, and the air is perfumed with the aroma of freshly ground coffee. Today, the shop is run by third generation Wirawan Tjahjadi, whom himself is quite a colourful character, especially when he’s sharing about his latest inventions—coffee lotion, coffee soap, and coffee vinegar. For a truly authentic experience, have a cup of the nutty and chocolatey Bali coffee, made from Robusta beans grown in the nutrient-rich soil of Mount Batur.

Bhineka Djaja Coffee Shop
Jl. Gajah Mada 80, Denpasar, Bali
Tel +62 361 224016

Bhineka Djaja, Bali’s oldest coffee shop, is run by third generation Wirawan Tjahjadi.
The atmospheric coffee shop is located along an equally characterful road in the heart of Denpasar.
Today, the shop serves local-style coffee, as well as Italian-style espresso and even affogato with homemade pistachio ice cream.
A large coffee painting, made with a mixture of coffee powder and acrylic paint, adorns the wall of Bhineka Djaja, one of Bali's oldest coffee shops located in Denpasar.