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As mentioned in this other article from one of my earlier trips to Bali, I have always been fascinated by the Balinese culture because:

  1. It’s interesting to see a Hindu island in the middle of a Muslim country with the world’s biggest Muslim population!
  2. 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).
  3. It is closely related to my own (Malay) culture, before we started abandoning it in favor of another — all in the name of religion.
So, it is always a pleasure to immerse myself in the local culture every time I visit this Indonesian island. In my most recent trip, I found an Airbnb experience that allows you to have a professional photo shoot in traditional Balinese costume (with full makeup, hairdo, and accessories!)
Image may contain: Raja Ummi Nadrah, standing, plant, tree and outdoor

How to Book

Booking can be done on Airbnb app/website or by using the form below. If you don’t have an account yet, you can register through this link here to get a special discount on your first booking.

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.

Ayuning bali busana
Credit: Ayuning Bali Busana

The Makeover

At about half past one, the stylists arrived and warmly welcomed me in. First, I had to choose my outfit from the array of kebaya tops they had on display. It was a hard decision to make because there were so many beautiful ones with different designs, colors, and materials.
After a while of not being able to make up my mind, Sagung, the head stylist helped me choose one that best complemented my skin tone. We went with bright orange. I thought I was more of a white-lace kind of girl, but in the end I was happy with the choice she made.
Image may contain: 1 person, outdoorThe kebaya was paired with a green batik skirt called ‘kamben’ and a sash around my waist. Inside the kebaya, I had to wear a skin-colored lace-up-back corset. It was my first time wearing a bustier/corset, and it made me stand (and sit) a little straighter. No more slouching!
Then, they started to give me a makeover — with one person doing my hair and the other doing my makeup. By this time, the photographer had arrived and advised the duo on what color would look best on camera. If the makeup wasn’t on point, then a lot of editing would need to be done post-shoot.
Personally, I thought it looked a little too white-washed. I would have preferred a foundation shade that was closer to my natural tan, but I decided to leave it to the experts.
As the final touch, they put on me a set of traditional Balinese accessories, which included earrings, bangles, rings, a brooch, and decorative hairpins.
This activity is suitable for both men and women. For men, the outfit consists of a batik shirt, a kamben with an overlay called the ‘saput’, a sash, and a headgear called the ‘udeng’.

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.

With Mega Gumelar
With my photographer

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.

Balinese traditional costume photoshootMoving 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.

With Mega Gumelar at Ayuning Bali Busana
When the photographer is prettier than the 'model'
With Sagung at Ayuning Bali Busana
With Sagung, the stylist at Ayuning Bali Busana

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:

The Verdict

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.

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