June 9, 2012

Bali Staycation Part I: Exploring Indonesia

The kind people behind Tea Collection children's clothes offered to send Savannah outfits from their summer Bali Kuta Beach collection to help inspire an Indonesian staycation for us here in NYC. My only prior knowledge of Bali, an Indonesian island, was from the book Eat, Pray, Love so before even receiving the clothes, I began researching activities we could do here in Manhattan that would help us feel like we were in a vibrant, tropical wonderland while dressed the part.

Eating at an ethnic restaurant is the easiest way to experience a new culture in NYC so I tried my hardest to find something else to do with Savannah. I searched for Indonesian cultural events, checking the consulate website and Google. I also consulted Wikipedia to learn more about the Indonesian way of life, religion, etc. When all was said and done, we went to an Indonesian restaurant for the primary portion of our staycation, but I'm so happy to have learned about this culture and would love to share some ideas with you for creating your own Indonesian staycation whether you are in NYC or elsewhere.

Itinerary for an Indonesian Staycation in NYC:

  • Gamelan Dharma Swara - The Music and Dance of Bali in New York City. 
    • They performed in NYC on May 20th so we just missed them, but I signed up for their mailing list to learn about future NYC events. Consult their website for June events in New Jersey.
    • They have 7 minute song medley available. Click here to listen - It is certainly unique--atonal, percussive, flighty, hard to describe! As soon as I played the song for Savvy she pulled out her cymbals and whistle to play along. This could be Savannah's theme song for sure as she flitters about walking on her tiptoes, chatterboxing up a storm, smiling.
  • Indonesian Restaurants in Manhattan: Only 2! 
    • Sanur in Chinatown, which offers an Indonesian and Malaysian menu. We ended up going here for a lingering ladies lunch which I'll write about in an upcoming post.
    • Bali Nusa Indah in Hell's Kitchen. I want to try this place as well but I chose Sanur because available photos made it seem more casual. A photo of Bali Nusa Indah showed tables set with white tablecloths. I chose the grittier option so I could worry less about Savvy's behavior.
  • Indonesian Food Bazaar, Queens
    • According to a thread on Chowhound, the next elusive outdoor bazaar should be taking place on Sunday, June 17, 2012, where you can sample freshly prepared Indonesian foods cooked up in the parking lot of a Mosque in Astoria. It doesn't seem like formal event details are posted anywhere, so check this thread if you're interested in going on a fun food adventure. "Get there early," is the advice that keeps cropping up - food is often sold out by 1pm.
    • There are also Indonesian restaurants in Elmhurst, Queens, that inspire lots of debate on foodie websites. Good luck deciding which one to try!  

How to Create a Bali Staycation Anywhere:
  • The Tea Collection blog was a great resource, where I learned for the first time how batik patterns were created on clothing -- hot wax is painted onto fabric, creating intricate designs exposed when the fabric is dyed a different color. They even offer a simple tutorial about how to create your own batik using gel glue and acrylic paint on a white t-shirt.
  • Shadow Puppets are popular in Indonesia. I vividly recall making shadow puppets in elementary school with posterboard, plastic straws, and pins. So fun! When Tea collection sends your package, they include an activity book pertaining to their current collection theme. The Bali book includes a DIY tiger shadow puppet.
  • Be mindful of your rituals. 
    • When researching Indonesian culture, I learned that, while diverse (Indonesia includes 17,000 islands scattered across 3,000 miles!!), a resounding theme of ritualistic behavior at puberty, marriage, birth and death is an Indonesian universal. 
    • This concept made me look at our daily rituals in a mindful way - the act of Savvy and I saying goodbye to Rob with a kiss before he leaves for work, taking Savannah to Starbucks and getting her a treat, going to the playground and always using the swings first, always having the same bedtime routine for Savvy, etc. While these events are a minor part of our days, they are helping build the foundation of Savannah's early family memories.
And of course, there are plenty of people out there who have actually been to Bali or other parts of Indonesia. Sadly, I'm not one of them! But I've come across some great stories and photos: 

Do you have any experience with Indonesia or Bali in particular? What would you suggest we do to simulate the culture's vibe here at home? Or should we just cancel our appointments, max out our credit cards and pack our bags for a month in Bali?

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. Tea Collection provided items for review purposes only. All opinions are my own.)

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