The Frugal Balinist

* Ride in style!

Since airfares are triple what they were a year ago, buses are now an attractive option. More accurately described as “luxury coaches,” buses traveling west out of Bali have toilets, comfortable reclining airline-style seats and include snacks and meals. Every passenger is given a blanket and pillow. These coaches take the toll roads on Java, so fares have gone up from, for example, Rp250,000 from Bali to C. Java before the toll roads to now around Rp300,000. High volume music videos play non-stop, so sit as far away from the monitors as possible if you don’t like noise. Passengers’ phones take turns charging from multiple power outlets on or near the driver. The bus stops about half-way at a buffet restaurant for meals, water, ice tea or hot tea. *The fanciest buses from Bali to Yogya (Rp350,000), Bandung and Jakarta are operated by Pahala Kencana. Cheaper buses to all around Java are run by Gunung Harta, Sedyamulya, Safari Darma Raya and Restu Mulya; approximate fare: Denpasar-Yogya Rp270,000, Denpasar-Malang Rp200,000, Denpasar-Surabaya Rp180,000. *If you stand on Jl. Bypass west of Denpasar’s Ubung Terminal in a place where it’s easy for a bus to stop, you are often able to bargain the official fare down considerably. (However, if the bus is inspected by a company employee, they might make you hide in the toilet.) *Trains are also more competitive now, about the same cost as buses because bus fares have risen because of toll road surcharges.


* Shoe Sense

There was a time when Indonesian shoes were popular in Europe and S.E. Asia until the Vietnamese took over the market. Only China, India, Vietnam and Brazil are bigger footwear exporters than Indonesia, although Indonesia accounts for only 4.4% (US$4.85 billion in 2015) of global market share. *Dutch colonizers brought with them a love of durable leather footwear that resulted in an Asian boot industry centered in the West Java capital of Bandung. *For strong, tailor-made, Goodyear-welted boots (without paying European prices), check out well-known shoe/boot companies like Sagara, Jalan Sriwijaya, Winson, Txture, Junkard and Santalum make luxury foot ware that are quite popular in Japan and the U.S. among shoes enthusiasts. *Indonesian boots are interesting due to the construction, shapes and styles. The skill required to make a sturdy boot by hand takes at least five years to learn and the process of making a boot takes 2-3 days. *Indonesians consider the Caterpillar the ultimate high-quality boot. *The most popular Santalum boot is the Service boot, very similar to the Viberg service boot. *Bandung Collection shops, found in every sizeable city in Bali, sells high quality shoe ware at local prices.


* Multipurpose cleaning tool

The sapu lidi is a broom made from middle dried ribs/veins (lidi) of either coconut or areca palm fronds (sapu) tied together to form a hard broom. Different lengths and thicknesses of this traditional Indonesian and S.E. Asian “coconut” broom are used for specific purposes. You can take the spines from a larger broom apart and then tie them together again in desired sizes/thicknesses to serve a number of unique uses. Different types of sapu lidi are usually not interchangeable. If a certain sapu lidi is used to sweep the floor, it’s not used for the bed and vice versa. Younger, more flexible ones are used to clean mattresses, carpets, foam, kapok-stuffed pillows and to craft dinner plates (ingke in Balinese); older bound spines are used more for outside cleaning; younger ones are used to swat and brush your bed (tebah kasur in Indonesian; ngibas in Balinese) to remove dust and other debris to the floor. A sapu lidi can also be used as an insect swatter, for example to chase away mosquitoes before lowering the kelambu mosquito net. Smaller, thinly bound ones can reach into corners and under furniture. Short stubby strong ones are used for cleaning clogged grimy drains and gutters. Long flexible ones are used for sweeping dirt or paved yards, terraces, walkways and parking areas – a morning ritual that takes place across the whole archipelago. Attached to a long pole, a coconut broom is also used to clean ceilings of dust, spider webs, ant and hornet nests (as well as evil spirits). The strength of the tightly bound sapu lidi is also a symbol of national unity.


* Unsung heroes

Wardah cosmetic products are cheaper but just as good (and safe) as more expensive brands like Caring Colours by Martha Tilaar. *Teh Botol Less Sugar is not as sweet and is more refreshing than Teh Botol sweetened tea, sold everywhere, which is no longer bottled in glass but in plastic which imparts an unnatural flavour. Teh Kotak, on the other hand, is packaged in paper, thus has a more natural taste and is also more eco-friendly. The Pucuk is yet another more pleasant alternative. *Bango brand kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) is preferred by many over the ABC brand. This less chemicalized sauce is used to cook many iconic dishes like semur (Indonesian beef stew with potatoes and tofu), nasi goreng (fried rice) and mie goreng (fried noodles). It also serves as an indispensable condiment for the classic rice dish telur orak arik (scrambled eggs). *High-quality Sedap products are gaining in popularity among Indonesians because they are cheap and tasty. *Indonesian brands with foreign names are underrated because some people don’t know they’re made in Indonesia. This goes for the famous Rockport shoe line and the Hoka-Hoka Bento Japanese restaurant chain that is actually an Indonesian franchise. The clothing company, Executive, is also Indonesian, as is the “cool” cafe Excelso.


Please send your budget ideas, bargain deals and money saving tips to

Copyright © 2020 Bill Dalton

You can read all past articles of

The Frugal Balinist at