As mentioned in this other article from one of my earlier trips to Bali, I have always been fascinated by the Balinese culture because:
- It’s interesting to see a Hindu island in the middle of a Muslim country with the world’s biggest Muslim population!
- It’s a unique culture that you can’t find outside of Bali (unlike the Indian or Chinese culture, for example, that is widespread all over the world).
- It is closely related to my own (Malay) culture, before we started abandoning it in favor of another — all in the name of religion.
How to Book
What to Expect
This experience takes place in the capital city, Denpasar. You will meet your photographer and stylists at Ayuning Bali Busana boutique, which is easily reachable by Gojek/Grab/Grab Bike. The boutique caters to both locals and foreigners, providing costume rental, makeup, and hairstyling services.
During off-peak seasons, they’re only available by appointment, so make sure you have a booking before turning up. I arrived more than an hour early for my 2 p.m. appointment, so I had to wander around first because they were not yet open.
The Photo Shoot
Once the photographer and stylists were happy with the finished look, I slipped on my flip-flops and off we went to the Bali Relics Museum just across the road. Built in the early 1930s, the museum provided the perfect backdrop for our shoot. In fact, during our visit, there were three other groups who were also doing photo shoots.
My photographer is Mega Gumelar, a photography student from Jakarta. But don’t let her young age or the fact that she is a student fool you — Mega is a total pro with more than 5 years of experience in the field, from global photography campaigns, branded content, to portrait and fashion photography. She also has some modeling experience under her belt. So, don’t worry if you feel like you’re not photogenic enough or don’t know what to do with your hands — she will guide you through it.
Moving around in the traditional outfit was no easy feat — I had to walk and stand and sit like a lady. But I was glad that at least I had my flip-flops with me. It would have looked awkward to wear the kebaya with my usual pair of hiking boots.
During the session, Mega took the time to explain a little about Balinese culture and history. According to her, the kind of outfit I was wearing was called ‘Adat Lengkap’ –often worn for special ceremonies and events.
Apparently, Balinese people would also wear this type of attire (minus the jewelry and elaborate hairdo) every Thursday to go to work and to school. This is not a very strange concept for me because in my own country, people are also encouraged to wear traditional costumes every Friday, but goodness, how do the women survive in these stiff corsets all day long?!
I was relieved when Mega announced that she had got all the shots she needed. After that, we walked back to the boutique and enjoyed a delightful glass of ‘cendol’ along the way.
The edited photos were e-mailed to me on the same day. If the photo shoot was great, the end result was even better! I liked that the color of my kebaya fit in seamlessly with the backdrop. In addition, Mega did an excellent job with the tones and overall mood of the photos. My skin didn’t appear as white as I had initially feared. And I think I totally look like a Balinese in these photos:
If you’re used to Indonesian prices, this experience is a bit on the pricey side. But I can assure you that it’s all worth it.
You’ll be given top-notch service by the makeup artist and hairstylist at the boutique. And most importantly, you’re paying for the expertise of Mega the photographer who not only takes stunning shots from all the right angles, but also helps you with poses, and edits the photo afterwards. In short, she does everything in her power to ensure that you take home only the best souvenirs to cherish for a lifetime.
Despite my lack of confidence in front of the camera, Mega made me feel comfortable throughout the session. We met as strangers and parted as friends. I wouldn’t hesitate to book her again for another shoot.