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Bali Hammocks

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Handmade Hammock

Nothing says tropical holiday quite like a hand-woven hammock which evokes thoughts of bleached white beaches, dream-filled siestas, sea-breeze cocktails and star-gazing nights.  

There’s something magical about being suspended in mid-air; the hammock’s gentle swaying calms your thoughts, settles your heartbeat, and lulls you into reverie or slumber. That’s true whether you’re beachside in Koh Samui or nested in a goose down comforter someplace cold, daydreaming about a good hammock swing.

And yet, unlike Central and South America, Asia has no hammock-making tradition. That is set to change now, thanks to the persistence of Daniel Elber, whose non-profit Future for Children has been changing the lives of the poorest communities in the drought-prone mountain slopes of eastern Bali. 

BALI HAMMOCKS  

Daniel was looking for new ways to provide a sustainable livelihood for the women of Muntigunung, whose sole source of income was begging in Bali’s more prosperous tourist areas. Could their basket-weaving skills be re-imagined for making hammocks, he wondered?

That’s how one master hammock-maker Walter Cruz from El Salvador —the ‘Land of the Hammocks’ (and considered to produce the best in the world) spent three months in the remote village of Kulkul, teaching his ancestral craft to 35 mountain women. And while they had no common language — he spoke Spanish and they a Balinese dialect — what they now share is an uncommon ability to craft absolutely stunning hammocks.

Muntigunung now makes a range of high-end hand-woven hammocks that are arguably the best in Asia. Top of the range is the Agung, which has twin spreaders of elaborately carved camphor-wood, is embellished with crocheted lace, and can incorporate customised lettering (such as a house or person’s name) — statement-making perfection for upmarket rental villas or private residences.

Lighter and less expensive is the chongos-tassle-decorated Muntigunung, which is as stylish but, without the spreaders, will even go into your hand luggage. If you prefer a more upright seating position to lying supine, the chair hammock will appeal — it looks as good in a living room as by the pool.

There are also custom hammocks and chair hammocks, and anyone with a tiny tot in the family will find the baby hammock irresistible. These incredibly comfortable artisan hammocks are so much more than an alternative seating choice or lifestyle accessory. Each is an individual work of art,

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The Muntigunung Trek – a walk on the wild side of Bali

in Recreation by

If you’ve visited Bali before, you might have taken a day trip to Kintamani to take in the stunning views across Lake Batur towards the mountains. And the experience will have stopped there. But beyond the lake and the steep mountains is a side of Bali so far off the tourism trail that few have had the chance to visit — unless they have joined the exclusive and award-winning Muntigunung Trek. Seduced by the promise of breath-taking vistas and heart-warming encounters in the once-forgotten villages of Muntigunung, we eagerly signed up and set our alarm clock for the pre-dawn start.

After driving northwards for two hours in the company of Pica, our principle guide, we stopped on the crest of the caldera to marvel at the sun rising behind the mountains beyond the lake — an early Instagram-worthy moment. “That’s where you will be trekking”, he pointed. The drive itself was part of the experience; we drove past amazing rice terraces and rural vistas, then dropped down into the caldera weaving across lava fields from Gunung Batur’s 1968 eruption and along the lake to Songan.

Ready for jaw-dropping vistas?

Time to lace up your boots, lavish on the sunscreen, have selfie-stick at the ready, select a sturdy bamboo walking stick, and  then take to the trail with Pica and the local guides as they lead their way up the steep mountainside. The views are spectacular — at one stage the trail follows the top of a ridge and the expanse of ocean shimmers towards the horizon on one side while, down a vertiginous drop far below, Lake Batur sparkles towards Kintamani perched on the far rim of the caldera.

It is unimaginable to think that this mountain trail was once the only route the women and children of the Munti villages could take to secure water for their families – a perilous five-hour round trip every day. It was also the start of their journey to go begging with their children in Ubud and on Bali’s main beach resort streets — then their only source of income.

EH Muntigunung logo

Making a difference, step by step

But that’s one of the joys of completing the trek; with every step, you’re making a positive contribution to the livelihood and wellbeing of the island’s poorest, most neglected communities. For the trek is just one of the extraordinary initiatives that have transformed their lives,

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Ring of Fire: An Indonesian Odyssey

in Destinations/Tips by

See Bali Island in the 1970s’

Travel back in time and catch a glimpse of daily life on the island of Bali in the 1970s. Ring of Fire: An Indonesian Odyssey is a must-see material for anyone who loves Bali and Indonesia. I for one got hooked from the very first minute I started watching this series of five documentaries. It was back in 1972 when the English brothers Lorne and Lawrence Blair set off from Great Britain to the Indonesian Archipelago to explore mystical lands and indigenous tribes, not knowing if they would ever return. Their journey led them from the deep jungle of Kalimantan to pirate territory in Sulawesi, to primitive tribes in New Guinea and Sumba, to giant lizards on Komodo Island and finally to the sacred island of Bali with all of its temples, shrines, Gods, demons and mysticism. I found it inspiring and intriguing to watch these two brothers going off-the-grid like true explorers without any modern-day luxuries such as Google Maps, Google Translate or whatsoever. They went on a crazy insane adventure and they were lucky to survive…

How it all began

Following in the footsteps of naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, Lorne and Lawrence Blair initially traveled to the Spice Islands of Indonesia to capture footage of the legendary Greater Bird of Paradise. The things they discovered on the way were more compelling than they ever could’ve imagined. Before they knew it, a decade had passed, exploring places, islands and indigenous tribes off the map.
When they started out, Lorne was an ethnographic filmmaker who had been working for BBC and Lawrence had just earned his Ph.D. writing a doctoral thesis on psycho-anthropology. The brothers left their familiar civilization behind on a Phinisi boat with Bugis Pirates on the island of Sulawesi and they jumped into a world unknown to them.

A decade of exploring lands unknown

The brothers Blair made nine expeditions between 1972 and 1985. In total, Lorne shot over 80 hours of video footage on a 16mm film. The footage is authentic, raw, intimate, wild, utterly cool and interesting. You get a real glimpse into the cultures, traditions and rituals of indigenous Indonesian tribes. Lorne and Lawrence may have been the last true ‘explorers’ like we had them in the old days, long before the digital age kicked in.

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