Remembrance of Things Past: Two Strokes For Different Folks at the Man Shed

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Man Shed, Sanur

It’s amazing what you find when you’re not really looking

Sanur is like a Mediterranean holiday resort. The water is certainly cleaner and more inviting than the tourist strips of the west coast, with a calming offshore breakwater. Walkways stretch far along the wide sandy beach, past tree-shaded cafes, resorts and day clubs clustered with sun lounges for rent. The ocean breezes can be feisty at times but they thankfully temper the heat of the cloudless skies.

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The main tourist street, Jl Danau Tamblingan, is relatively mild, the area’s through traffic concentrated on the near by-pass road. There’s cars and minibuses, which occasionally tangle in what passes for a traffic jam in those parts, but quite a few tourists prefer bicycles, a mode of transport who just don’t see in many other parts of Bali. Try that in Kuta or Seminyak and you’d never play the violin again.

Just on the other side of the by-pass is a sprawling, run-down industrial space that has been reborn as the retro heaven called the Man Shed. Café, bar, pool hall, informal museum and boutique, this amazing hanger-like space is packed with cars and motorbikes, old-timey everyday examples of the internal (and infernal) combustion engine and kitschy musings on such, including bar tables fashioned from old scooters.

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I came across the Man Shed purely by accident as it was close to a friend’s villa where I stayed for a few weeks. I couldn’t quite believe what I found but took to it immediately. The motorcycles were generally of the kind favoured by the locals (or, in Australia, by postmen) and, amongst the cars, a couple of Holdens. New stock seemed to be added continually although where they were found, and how, I couldn’t even hazard a guess.

In this category, I’d place the black 1951 Plymouth, a little battered but a prime example of Detroit steel that I found the mechanics working on one day. It was taking some effort and appeared to be riding far too low to be venturing out anytime soon but I was assured that it would soon be duelling with the SUVs and millions of motor scooters driven really badly. It’ll hold its own, I’m sure.

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One Sunday, the local Vespa club held a giant rally at Man Shed. The forecourt was packed with the bright and shiny and obviously highly-prized Italian scooters, pretty evenly divided between new and Audrey Hepburn-Roman Holiday old. As part of their celebrations, there was a massed Vespa drive-by along the Sanur tourist strip. On their return, the peaceful Sunday afternoon was shattered by what sounded like a squadron of avenging lawnmowers.

Over many visits, I tried much of the menu and it’s a real bonus for visitors. Nasi Goreng is just Rp20,000 ($AU1.84) while a hamburger is Rp50,000 ($AU4.59). A small bottle of Bintang beer costs Rp20,000.

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The Man Shed is one of those places you won’t quite believe, like an automotive mirage of dubious taste, but you’ll enjoy it immensely. It’s a putt-putt down memory lane, a cabinet of curiosities that delights and rewards. And, on an island that has its fair share of the unusual, it stands alone.

Man Shed
Jl Turtanadi II No 9, Sanur
Tel: 0878 6252 2136

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© words and photos David Latta 2014

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Salty Salutations: Music Makes For A Great Night Out In Seminyak

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Salty Seagull’s AKA Salty’s Bib, Rib and Crab Shack, Seminyak.

Seminyak is not the real Bali, I’m told by so many people. Usually in a most dismissive tone. That’s a “duh” moment, if I’ve ever heard one.

OK, so the rice paddies and vegetable fields, verdant terraces and rainforest are long gone, replaced by traffic, boutiques, bars and restaurants. So, too, are the paddy rats, pythons and cobras, which is just fine by me.

If I wanted wildlife of the sort that makes my skin crawl, or ulcerate or worse, I’d be calling Canggu or Umalas home. But I want to live in Seminyak and, at the moment, I am.

Since my arrival, I’ve moved around southern Bali to better assess where I wish to hang my many hats. I started in Legian although, in actuality, it was Kuta; to state the bleeding obvious, as I’m not 19, steroid-crazed and heavily tattooed, it’s not the area for me.

BBQ Pork Ribs at Salty's
BBQ Pork Ribs at Salty’s

I then moved north to Seminyak and spent a few weeks at various points of the ‘Yak compass. Following a stretch in Sanur which was awfully nice if a little too sleepy for my tastes, I had the opportunity to return to Seminyak and this is where I feel I belong.

This I pretty much knew way ahead of time, well before I left Australia, but I needed to experience it afresh and in depth before committing.

In Sydney, I was an inner city boy. It was the proximity to all the social amenities, from caffeine to gym, artisanal bread-makers to live music venues, that gave me at least a passing illusion of being connected. Living in Seminyak is pretty much the same except it’s far cheaper and considerably warmer. Living deep in the gangs or alleyways of Seminyak, I get the best of two very different worlds – as the sun sets and thoughts drift to dinner, I can decide on just about any cuisine and it’s usually within walking distance.

But no matter how fierce the traffic and nightlife becomes, my villa is whisper quiet, a canopy of stars twinkle overhead, I can sit under a frangipani tree or lounge in the shallow end of the swimming pool, and I count the very many ways my good fortune has played out.

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If, however, I do want a little more stimulus, there are any number of fine bars, many with great live music.

One of my favourites is variously known as Salty Seagull’s (as it appears on its Facebook site) or Salty’s Bib, Rib and Crab Shack (as per its own menu) in Jl Petitenget, just south of Potato Head and the W Hotel. Regardless of the name, I discovered it early on, when it was still quite new. The theme is Caribbean beach shack and, as the name suggests, it specialises in mud crabs (of the chilli, salt and pepper, and plain boiled kind) and ribs (pork in either BBQ or chilli and soy), along with a small selection of other items including hamburgers and fish and chips.

There’s seating in a variety of semi-indoor bar areas or outdoors at retro picnic tables, a number of specialty nights such as half-price ribs on Monday, half price crabs on Wednesdays and a local rockabilly band on Thursdays, the staff are friendly and quite proactive on the service front, but – for me, at least – the real attraction is the music.

Salty’s is owned by Australian restaurateur, Adrian Reed, who already scored such a hit with his nearby Motel Mexicola. Adrian is obviously a man of impeccable and highly-evolved musical tastes; Mexicola is worthy of its own mention in this blog (as it will eventually be) but the music there is as stand-out as its soft tacos with an emphasis on quirky vintage Mexican pop.

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At Salty’s, there’s an undercurrent of reggae, to shore up its Caribbean credentials, along with some wondrously obscure cuts, some of which even left me baffled. Early on, when I was there a couple of times a week, I’d while the night away with a most satisfying game of “name that tune”.

To give some small example of what to expect, here’s what I caught at just one session: Led Zeppelin, the Wayne Fontana version of Love Potion #9, Bob Seger’s Beautiful Loser, Ian Dury, a version of Free Bird I’m not familiar with, Talking Heads’ Sugar On My Tongue, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Got To Get Ourselves Back To The Garden, The Proclaimers, The Rolling Stones’ Carol, The Hollies’ Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress, early Dionne Warwick, Elvis Costello’s The Angels Want To Wear My Red Shoes, The Five Man Electrical Band, Wilson Pickett’s Something You Got, and Peter Tosh’s Johnny B. Goode.

Now that I’m back in Seminyak, I’m eager to see if the music still holds up. Join me one night and find out.

Salty Seagull’s (AKA Salty’s Bib, Rib and Crab Shack).
Jl Petitenget 999, Seminyak
Tel: (0361) 8497 588

 

© words and photos David Latta 2014