Alli and I like to spend time meeting and staying with locals in their homes whenever we can. For us, trading a bit of privacy and a few comforts is well worth the reward of having the opportunity to get to know and learn about a family, their culture, and how they live. It also gives us the opportunity to share our own stories of life back home, how we do things, and to help out in our own ways. During our second trip to Bali, we had the privilege of staying with a local tour guide, Wayan (or as he likes to be called, Remy) and his family who live in the village of Tampaksiring (about 15 km NE of Ubud).
From the moment Remy welcomed us into his home we felt like we were part of the family. We spent hours each day chatting with his brother (Made), father (Ketut), Wife (Nyoman) and other family members and their neighbors. We visited all the nearby temples (Tirta Empul, Gunung Kawi, and Mengening) learning about the history and significance of each and enjoyed walking around the village greeting the locals in Balinese saying Selamat Pagi/Siang/Malam (good morning, good afternoon, good evening) Apa Kabar? (how are you?) with smiles on our faces.
Tampaksiring is a friendly village and we felt incredibly lucky to be its guests for a few days. All the children in the village were excited to see our foreign faces when we passed by. We had a blast watching them practice traditional Balinese Dance (check out the video up top for some footage of this!), coloring with them on the coloring books we brought with us, watching them run around and play tag, and sharing in a game of badminton or, our personal favorite, “keep the balloon in the air”.
One of the great things about Remy’s home is the way he has set it up for his Airbnb guests. The rooms are very comfortable and are located upstairs tucked privately above the family’s Warung which is run by Ketut’s wife who (coincidently) is also named Ketut. (In Balinese tradition names are given to children based on their birth order and men and women often have the same names. Wayan in the firstborn, Made the second, Nyoman the third, and Ketut the fourth). There are only nine traditional Balinese names, so you will inevitably meet many locals who all have the same name.
The guest space has a lovely patio area overlooking the quiet street below and the volcano – Mount Agung – in the distance, perfect for relaxing and enjoying a cup of tea. It’s nice to have a view over the village rooftops and a place to escape to as it can be a bit tiring to communicate in slightly broken English, Bahasa, and Balinese all day. That said, you’re right in the family compound and can wander downstairs whenever you like to find someone to chat with or to play with the kids. At some point, someone (including the neighbors) will inevitably come up to chat with you on the terrace. Everyone is very friendly and are just curious to learn about you.
One evening Remy invited us over to one of the neighboring homes to prepare a traditional Balinese feast with 30 of his friends. When we arrived, we sat down next to a few of the men and offered to help them unhusk a mountain of garlic and shallots that they were all working on while chatting, laughing, and smoking together. TJ was offered a sharp knife and went to work (Alli was a pro and just used her hands) smiling at the men as they made jokes with one another that neither of us could understand.
Very few spoke much English so we spent the evening answering simple questions, asking Remy and the few people who did speak English a hundred questions, and smiling until our faces were sore. After hours of preparation, the feast was ready to serve and we all sat around the yard eating the delicious food prepared with love by 30 pairs of hands.
The next evening, we were invited out again, this time to sit in on a Gamelan orchestra practice with 25 women from the community. We sat in a small room side by side with the women and listened as they practiced traditional Balinese tunes, gossiped with one another, and laughed hysterically whenever they messed up and the leader would get frustrated (in a playful way) and make them start over again. The melodic and powerfully loud sounds of the drums, gongs, and marimba-like instruments that were being played put us into a trance.
TJ tapped away on the ground and moved to the rhythm as Alli swayed back and forth and chuckled with the old woman beside her who kept tapping her on the shoulder and doubling over laughing whenever the group messed up the song. We didn’t understand much of these conversations. However, just like the night before we picked up subtle hints and body language, understood when they were talking about music and when they were just talking about life, and noticed who the jokesters were that were sending the entire room into a fit of laughter so hard they had to catch their breath to compose themselves before starting the next song.
Aside from these two amazing evenings, we enjoyed our nights at the family home too. We shared 30-year-old Arak (a Balinese alcohol made from coconut) with Ketut amidst conversations of his past and our futures, sat and watched men play cards in the common area of the home (a nightly ritual), laughed while watching the kids play video games, and chatted with Remy and Made about anything and everything that crossed our minds. We spent many hours just sitting and talking with these two and quickly became good friends.
Throughout our stay, we had an awesome time exploring the island and hired Remy as our private tour guide one day where he took us to rice fields, viewpoints, and an amazing waterfall out in the country.
On the way, we stopped and visited with Remy’s cousin, Nyoman (do you remember what child he is in the traditional order based on his name 🙂 ?), who after an hour of conversation food, and drink, joined us on our adventure for the day. Remy’s friendliness knows no bounds which was displayed again on our last day when he invited two “Aussie Grandmas” (as they dubbed themselves) who we met at the waterfall to come back to his cousin’s home in Bangli for a bite to eat before helping them find their way to a gas station and giving them directions back to Kuta.
If you are visiting Bali and looking for a similar experience or an awesome guide, then Wayan Remy is your man! He is a wonderfully kind-hearted, friendly, and funny person who we are happy to now call our friend. Reach out to him on Facebook or give him a call at his Whatsapp number to book him as your guide (he knows all of the best spots in Bali!).
You can also book a room in Remy’s home on Airbnb here 🙂 Each room is listed separately, so just search for the others or message Remy directly. He has both double and single rooms; four rooms in total (perfect for those traveling with a large group!). Be sure to tell him that Alli and TJ sent you!