After finding this class featured on TripAdvisor, I contacted Puspa by email through the Paon Bali website and was able to get two spots for one of their morning classes. We specifically wanted to join a morning class so that we could visit the markets. I have been to Ubud many times before and while I am happy nowadays to forgo the crazy atmosphere of the Art Markets in all its hot and dirty glory, seeing them early in the morning when the place is filled with happy locals going about their morning fruit, veg and fresh meat shopping was an entirely new experience! While I don't know how they go about the afternoon class, if you are happy to miss out on your sleep in (we were picked up just after 7.00am in Kuta) then choosing the morning class really is a must!
After a really good drive (by Bali standards!) up to Ubud, we arrived at the Art Markets where we were soon joined by Puspa and the rest of the group - two young Australian girls, two women from Alaska, a guy traveling solo from Manhattan, a young couple from Hong Kong and a man from France. We made for an eclectic group but everyone was chatty and open to sharing travel stories and most importantly, a love of food! While it was a bigger group than we had anticipated (and apparently they can have even larger classes during the peak seasons) the social aspect really made the day for us - so don't despair if you end up in a larger group than you expected!
Puspa is a real powerhouse woman with perfect English and a beautiful smiling face - she really goes out of her way to make your day fun and educational. The day begins with a tour of the markets, as Puspa explains what the fresh produce is used for, where it is grown and most importantly lets us try the weird and wonderful fruits! We were the only 'tourists' in the market so it was great hearing the Indonesian banter and seeing everyone go about their day to day business - a rare glimpse at real Balinese life in such a touristy area.
After the market tour, we were taken to the rice paddies of Puspa and Wayan's village where Wayan explained the incredible process of growing rice the traditional way. His insight is as entertaining as his wicked sense of humour! (Make sure you have your sunscreen on at this point though because you're standing in the sun for a fair while!)
Next, it's back down the road to Puspa and Wayan's family home where their purpose built outdoor kitchen is waiting for the sensory overload to begin! The colours and scents are just amazing as every helps to prepare and cook the food. I personally think the class should be renamed the 'Paon Bali Chatting and Woofing Class' as I seemed to do far more of that than cook! - but it is completely up to you how involved you get in the cooking. I did plenty of chopping and grinding and stirring, and then at other times I enjoyed getting to know the other group members and taking plenty of wonderful photos!
The final meal is to die for and certainly the best Indonesian food I have ever eaten in Bali (washed down of course with a lovely cold Bintang!). You're given copies of the recipes to take home too so you can (try) and recreate the magic at home, albeit without the wonderful fresh and organic ingredients they grow in their own garden!
Puspa and Wayan are just the sweetest couple and you really feel like family by the end of the day - both have so much to share about traditional life of the Balinese, and their cultural insights leave you with so much more appreciation of their way of life.
I have been to Bali many times before but never have I experienced a day trip like this before - grab your camera and your appetite and get yourself in a Paon Bali Cooking class the next time you're in Bali for an experience unlike any other!