You might imagine that life wouldn’t be fast-paced for an expat family living on the South East Asian island of Bali. Mum of two and clothes designer Saffron Pugh-Blaby works on her range of girlswear inspired by Bali’s vibrant life. Husband Simon is a head chef, and besides school their daughters learn piano, dance, creative writing and swimming. Do they ever find time to check out Bali and what it has to offer? After 10 years living on the island, Saffron knows a thing or two about where to go and what to do…
What do you do?
I work alongside an amazing group of people to ethically produce Coco and Ginger, a range of clothes for girls, named after my two daughters.
How did you end up living in Bali?
Simon and I were living on Australia’s Sunshine Coast and he was headhunted for a job at Alila Manggis, a beachside resort hotel in East Bali. Our eldest daughter, Coco, was two years old at the time.
What is your neighbourhood like?
We live in the middle of some terraced rice paddies in an area of Bali called Umalas. The view around our house is the verdant green of growing rice and the sound we mostly here is the wind. It’s very peaceful and we’re only a 15-minute drive into town (Seminyak).
We moved to Umalas three years ago from our beachside home near a well known Italian restaurant called La Lucciola, in an area of Bali called Petitenget. Our home was beside one of the biggest and most important temples in Bali. Living so close to a temple for six years was fascinating. We learned so much about the Balinese Hindu religion during this time.
What do you and your family do on a regular day out?
If we are feeling adventurous we might head over to the Bukit (an area at the southern end of Bali) and take an inclinator down to one of the white sand beaches like Uluwatu (pictured below). These beaches are protected by reefs and the water and sand is clean and inviting.
If we are feeling lazy and have all been busy we like to switch off. These days start with a trip into town and lunch at our fave Balinese food joint Warung Murah. We then pick up some groceries and some movies, then it’s home to hang out! We have a wonderful woman who has become a friend over the years and some days she comes over to give Coco and Ginger a massage and mani-pedi. Some weeks are so busy that the days when we have nothing planned become very precious. The day concludes with us all in the kitchen making dinner and eating together. We all usually hit the sack pretty early!
Describe a typical day for you in Bali…
I walk the girls to school through the rice paddies then meet my trainer for a workout (have only just discovered the gym again after a long break). I come home and send emails then pop into the studio to look at new designs and meet with our amazing team, sort out production issues and shop for new material. I pick up my girls from school at 3pm and then take them to their respective classes. For Ginger this is dance and swimming, and for Coco it’s piano, creative writing and squad team. Then it’s home to make dinner and do homework, bath, stories, bed. I am very lucky as I have the wonderful Illuh to do the housework, so I return to a lovely clean house, which I am really grateful for!
Being a local, what are some must see places people should visit when they come to Bali?
Gosh, so much! The busy southern part of the island is wonderful for shopping and eating out, but we do love getting into the car and getting away. Simon was busy at work during the last school holidays, so I went on a girls road trip with Coco (below, right) and Ginger (below, left). We drove up to Bedugul (below, right) in the mountains and stayed in a cabin with a fire and we toasted marshmallows.
The next day we went to the botanical gardens and tree tops (kids can walk around on the tops of trees). After a picnic we ventured down the mountain through some wonderful villages to East Bali and Alila Manggis and arrived just as afternoon tea was being served. They make a tea with lemongrass, fresh ginger, palm sugar and lime juice and it’s sensational. The following morning we ventured to Pasir Putih, a white sand beach. That part of the coast is so pretty with balmy breezes and coconut groves. You round a corner and come face to face with the colour and beauty of an unfolding ceremony. Those times are so special and restoring.
If you’re down south I love a restaurant called Petitenget, where Simon is head chef, and Biku for afternoon tea, Mama San and Sarong (both wonderful Asian), Warung Murah, Corner Store, Cafe Bali, Beetle Nut and La Lucciola for Italian. Bali also has some amazing shopping. I recommend wandering down Jalan Oberoi/Laksmana (pictured below) as well as Jalan Petitenget. We will open our first stand alone shop later in the year, but you can currently buy Coco and Ginger at Corner Store on Jalan Laksmana, Dandelion on Jalan Raya in Seminyak, as well as Carga on Jalan Petitenget.
What is a traditional recipe that is loved in Bali?
Hard question as we love both Balinese and Indonesian food. The girls love satay and the red rice that the Balinese have begun to produce again. One of my favourites is sambal matah (pictured below), which is a fresh mix of raw shallot, chilli, shrimp paste, lemongrass, garlic and coconut oil. It’s wonderful with seafood, especially tuna. Simon loves a good curry or rendang (Javanese dish). If my girls were more adventurous we would eat these dishes every night. A friend of ours, Nenagh, is a sensational cook and from time to time she prepares a series of dishes for visiting friends. We make extra to share in the studio the next day and it always tastes better the day after.
Tell us about a life-changing event for you…
The major changes in my life have been geographic. Moving to Sydney when I was 17 from country Queensland to go to Sydney University. Having children with my husband and then moving to Bali. In general I think change is always difficult to make but, in the end, when I look back all the best outcomes have developed from the changes that I resisted at first. I know there is a lesson there.
What is front-page news in Bali at the moment?
Over development, the rubbish problem, the traffic problem, all those issues that evolve when cultures meet – especially first and developing worlds. We try to help where we can and make decisions that don’t add to the problems, but it’s very complex and multi-sided.
What have Indonesian politicians been arguing about lately?
Corruption. There is change in the air and everyday people are fed up with inequality.
What makes Bali feel like home?
I first visited Bali in 1978 with my family and I remember the exciting mix of scents. It’s still these scents that pull me back to Bali – incense, cooking spice mixes, corn on the grill, limes and cempaka blossoms in the Hindu offerings. Now that we are settled here it’s our friends and animals that make it home. Lastly, the sound of Balinese gamelan music does something to me, a mix of excitement and warmth.