Category Archives: Articles about Murni

Interview with Ubud’s Leading Lady

Interview with Ubud’s Leading LadyInterview with Ubud’s Leading Lady

Published 27 November 2017

Interview with Ubud’s Leading Lady
Murni in the garden of Murni’s Houses.

Interview with Ubud’s Leading Lady:  Murni is a unique and fast moving Balinese lady who knows how to get things done. She has a contagious smile and a genuine passion for life. FRV had a chat recently while staying at Murni’s Houses in her home town of Ubud.

FRV: They call you the ‘Ibu of Ubud’ … What does ‘Ibu of Ubud’ mean?

Murni: It actually means ‘Mother of Ubud’. There are in fact many Ibus of Ubud and I’m just one of them.

If you had all the money and time in the world, what would you be doing right now?

I’d probably be doing the same things that I’m doing now.

What is that?

I try to create beautiful spaces filled with beautiful objects. After moving from Sanur in 1974 where I had four shops on the beach, I set up Ubud’s first real restaurant just beside the bridge in Campuhan. That was 43 years ago and I’m still running it! I’ve filled it with Asian tribal art pieces I’ve collected over the years, especially in the Lounge Bar, where people often have a drink before dinner or liqueurs afterwards.

Have you always been a collector?

It’s very difficult to be just a collector as the pieces are increasingly rare and expensive, so inevitably you end up being a dealer as well. You try and get better and better examples and sell the others. It’s been very helpful having a tribal art and textiles shop as part of the restaurant.

Why did you build your boutique hotel ‘Murni’s Houses’?

That was in the early 1980s because there was so little guest accommodation available. There was hardly any giving a good degree of comfort and convenience. I was very lucky to get the land, which is only five minutes walk from the centre of Ubud, but set back above the road, so it’s a bit like being in the countryside but still in the middle of Ubud. I like it so much I live there myself. The guests are from all over the world and invariably really interesting and we often have breakfast together. It’s a great way to start the day. Murni’s Warung and the Shop are only a few minutes walk so it suits me fine.

And the spa?

Tamarind Spa happened by chance on the suggestion from a friend. I had a spare building and turned it into spa rooms and employed the very best therapists I could find. I tested them all myself. My plan was to have a massage every day, and now I can’t get in because it’s so busy!

Is that the Tamarind Spa that won the UK Luxury Travel Guide Awards 2017 Contemporary Spa of the Year INDONESIA?

That was an incredible surprise, and of course, we’re all delighted, especially the therapists. They’ve done very well.

I hear you’ve written or co-written books on Balinese culture. Any tips on … Writing books?

Yes, something incomprehensible is what I recommend. The thing about comprehensible books is they are too difficult! Leave that to other people.

You have a website, a Facebook site, a Twitter account, a blog and you’re on Instagram … tell me about your experience with social networking and what advice you would give.

Concentrate on the widgets.

You seem to have a lot on your plate already and we haven’t even talked about Balinese culture. Do you have any current projects?

Well, yes. I seem to have got into long-stay accommodation. There are more and more people staying longer and longer in the Ubud area. I think many of them are digital nomads as they always ask about the internet. I’ve finished two Villas for long-term rentals in Katik Lantang, South Penestanan, where I was born, just 10 minutes away, and right now I’m finishing a large building at Murni’s Houses which will have rooms with and without kitchens, a gallery and a pool – and maybe, if I can squeeze it in, a shop!

As we haven’t talked about Balinese culture, and I know that you are steeped in it, would you like to write a regular column for the magazine on Balinese life and culture?

I’d be delighted and for you I’ll make it comprehensible.

Thank you. Well, Murni. You’ve had an incredible life so far. I’d like to ask you one final question. How would you like to be remembered?

I’m too short at five foot four. I’d like to be remembered as five foot eleven!

Murni is a well-known and much loved personality on the Bali scene and a pioneer of Balinese tourism. During her extraordinary life Murni has lived in Sanur and Ubud and has travelled widely. Everything you could want to know is on her web site.

Interview with Ubud’s Leading Lady

Murni is an international treasure

Murni is an international treasure Murni is an international treasure

Mary Letterii, San Francisco
6 December 2000

“What a wonderful surprise to meet such a dear old friend on the web! Ni Wayan Murni is an international treasure! Murni’s kindness, warmth, gracious hospitality and genuine caring for her community, family, guests and friends around the world have endeared her to all of us who have had the great pleasure of knowing her.”

Murni is an international treasure

 

Bali Gods Crying

Bali Gods Crying

cover-bali-gods-cryingBali Gods Crying

Richard Mann
Gateway Books International, 2013

The novel is based on true events in which unscrupulous criminals are threatening Bali’s Hindu religion and civilization. The heroine lives in Ubud.

“Maybe something romantic will happen to you,” said Oz wickedly.

Celine was silent, looking around her.

They had a late lunch at Murni’s Warung next to an old Dutch suspension bridge across the two rivers of Rsi Markandya in a comfortable lounge decorated like a Balinese antique gallery and overlooking the gorge she had seen from the suspension bridge.

“Even your lunch venue has a special meaning,” smiled Oscar. “Murni’s was almost the very first tourist restaurant in Ubud. Sometimes Murni is here and loves to tell visitors about Bali’s culture.” On their way out of the restaurant the French language caught Celine’s eye from a selection of promotional materials on a low side table.

Un Momento Oz,” she called pointing at the table. “I want to see what they have in French.” .

Celine remembered her way to Murni’s so she went there for a breakfast of eggs, fruit and coffee, much more than her normally frugal, diet conscious fare in France … Outside Murni’s she walked down a slight hill along an asphalt lane romantically overhung with long tendrils of trailing creepers, past the temple housing the statue of Maharesi Markandya that Oz had told her about, turned right and was almost immediately in the rice fields.”

Bali Gods Crying

Murni and Murni’s Warung in Literature

Murni and Murni’s Warung in Literature

cover-golton-islandGolton Island
Douglas Gellatly
Smashwords, 2013

The novel is the second of an ebook trilogy following the lives of two gay guys called Richard and Max, who live on Golton Island, Australia.

 

“Being much nearer to the equator than their own Golton Island, the sun set at about six o’clock and nighttime descended quickly. Max and Richard asked at the reception desk where they could go out for dinner, and were directed to Murni’s Warung, just over the river on the main road.

The restaurant is also set on the side of the same ravine and, in daylight, some tables have a view down to the flowing river below. That night, Richard and Max enjoyed an entree of Lumpia, a deep-fried spring roll served with peanut dipping sauce, followed by Cap Cay, a vegetable stir-fry with everything thrown in together, and then Black Rice Pudding. Bintang beer accompanied their meal. Having made an easy start that day in order to catch their flight, Max and Richard then walked along the dimly lit road and hotel pathways back to their room and slept soundly cuddled up to each other.

Back in the hotel, they rested and swam in the pool during the afternoon, then that night decided to go back to Murni’s Warung for dinner. As they were concluding their meal, Murni herself came to join them at their table, having introduced herself first. In her friendly way Murni chatted animatedly about her restaurant and her life, a smile often crossing her broad, dark face, her eyes twinkling.

“What were things like in Ubud when you were a child?” Richard asked.

Murni smiled and said, “Oh, very basic. We had no electricity, no running water, the roads were dirt tracks. No-one had any money and we had to make do with whatever came along.”

“What did you do for food?” Max asked.

“We ate whatever we could catch or collect. As a bare-footed child, I would catch capung dragon flies, with a sticky substance on the end of a long bamboo pole, and we would cook and eat them. Or I would catch eels in the rice paddies, or shrimps in the river, which we would also cook. And there was always fruit like pisang, bananas, or durians or coconuts.”

“And now you’ve got this restaurant,” Richard observed.

“Yes, and I hope that you have enjoyed coming here,” Murni said. “What else have you gentlemen being doing while you have been staying in Ubud?”

They told her of the various things they had done, including the cooking class, and Murni said, “Thank you for contributing to the economy of this town. We all need as much help as we can get.”

Murni and Murni’s Warung in Literature

Ubud is a Mood

Ubud is a Mood

cover-ubud-mood

James Murdoch, Sayan, Bali
Ubud is a Mood, 2004

“Murni’s Warung is justly famous. It was the first warung to cater for the tourist trade, and since then has maintained its standards and trade. Murni has an uncanny eye for beautiful and rare objects and she has established her own signature shop at the top of the hill from the Campuhan bridge (where her warung is located). The shop is a museum in itself, each object with a history and a provenance. Her textiles are first rate, as are the old Javanese gold ornaments, now rare indeed. Murni loves to travel, and has friends all over the world. Ask for her, but she may well be up the Nile, in Brazil, or at the opera in London.”

Ubud is a Mood

Murni, The Ibu of Ubud

Murni, the Ibu of Ubud

The Jakarta Post, 11 January 2001
Rob Goodfellow

 

UBUD, Bali (JP): I was having dinner with an international businesswoman based in Singapore. I asked if she knew Murni’s Warung in Bali. Without blinking she said, “Know Murni? Of course I know Murni! Everyone knows Murni. She is a legend. Travelers to Bali call her the Ibu (mother) of Ubud”. In October this year I traveled to Ubud to meet this living legend.

Murni was born just after World War II in the village of Penestanan-Ubud. Her life reflects the history of Ubud itself. Her family has always been closely involved with international travelers. Her mother cooked for Walter Spies, the German aristocrat painter, who lived during the 1930s in a thatched cottage overlooking rice terraces in the neighboring village of Campuan.

At this time, (much like today), anyone who was anyone visited Ubud and they all at some time ate Murni’s mother’s food: Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward, Barbara Hutton, the Woolworths’ heiress, Colin McPhee, the ethno-musicologist and his anthropologist wife, Jane Belo, Vicki Baum, the novelist, Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson the pioneering anthropologists.

Some say Miguel Covarrubias, the Mexican painter and ethnologist, was so inspired by the food in Ubud that he decided to write the still widely read and influential book Island of Bali, published in 1937.

Colin McPhee likewise decided to stay and live in Ubud where he studied Balinese gamelan music. He wrote a marvelous book, A House in Bali, which has just been re-printed in paperback. Murni’s great aunt looked after him too. She is still alive and well and living in Ubud.

In the 1950s it was in Murni’s village of Penestanan that Arie Smit, a Dutch painter founded a school of art called “The Young Artists of Penestanan”, which has profoundly influenced the development of the avante garde art for which the area is now known. Again, Murni’s family was involved.

During the 1960s Ubud was not the bustling tourist center it is today. Murni would get up at 4 a.m. every morning and cycle downhill to Sanur on the south coast of Bali and sell her textiles to visiting cruise ship passengers.

If it was a bad day she had to put her goods back on her head, and cycle home up the hill to Ubud. However, before long she had four shops and counted the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger as one of her regular clients. He is still a customer of Ibu Murni shops today…and he’s still getting satisfaction.

By the mid-1970s Murni had returned to Ubud where she created the first real restaurant in the area – Murni’s Warung. Ever since it has been one of the places to go in Bali. Today Murni’s Warung employs over 60 staff and continues to serve patrons from all over the world. It has been called the most romantic restaurant in Ubud. You can hear the sound of rushing water in the narrow jungle gorge that has formed from the convergence of the River Wos and its tributary. Here locals and visitors, writers, artists and dancers, all enjoy the atmosphere, the exotic cuisine, and, most importantly, each other’s company.

Murni’s shops, Kunang-Kunang I and II and the Warung Shop are all in Ubud’s main street. They have been imitated but never surpassed for quality, authenticity and value. Her international clients think of Murni so highly that they call to check if she’s in Bali before they book their flights. It is little wonder that many of her friends are important people from the United States. The New York Times has in fact named Murni’s Houses as one of the best small hotels in the World.

Murni’s latest venture is the creation of Villa Kunang-Kunang. This is about 15 minutes outside Ubud, on the road up to the landmark Mount Batur. Kunang-Kunang means “firefly” in the Indonesian language. Here Ibu Murni has built two fabulous villas, which are said to have the best views in Bali. The Villas look out over the ancient rice fields and are set in 3 hectares of beautifully landscaped tropical gardens.

Hidden away is a curved swimming pool, which merges into breathtaking views of the emerald-green rice terraces. There are fishponds, water lily ponds, lotus ponds, and the sounds of running water everywhere.

In addition, there are 33 Buddha statues lovingly placed around the gardens. The Villas are furnished with a mix of contemporary and antique Balinese and Indonesian furniture in Murni’s inimitable style. There is even a book specially written for her guests on Balinese life and culture.

There are walks along the rice terraces and, if Ibu Murni has time, she takes her friends and guests along trails where tourists never go, explaining the tropical trees, flowers and plants. Along the way she stops to introduce her guests to local people they would never otherwise get an opportunity to meet.

What continues to inspire Ibu Murni is her strong faith in the importance of maintaining Balinese culture, as living and unique. This is combined with her genuine desire to extend friendship and hospitality to others and to show visitors to the Island a special piece of the real Bali.

Murni, the Ibu of Ubud

Ni Wayan Murni

Ni Wayan Murni

Andrew Charles
Editor, Hello Bali, April 2005

 

Ibu Murni is a well-known character in Ubud as owner of Murni’s Warung, Murni’s Villas and many other enterprises but it wasn’t always like this.

Murni

Back in the 1950s, life was hard. Murni’s parents split up and at the age of 6 or 7 years she was sent to live with an authoritarian aunt in Denpasar. She made her get up every morning at 2 am to prepare and sell food.

After she had sold everything, she was then allowed to go to school. Murni went back to Ubud when she finished elementary school, and lived with her mother in Ubud market. Life was still very hard; helping her mother eke out a living.

On the three days each week that the market was open, she carried a load of salt from Ubud to Penestanan and on the other days sold warm beer and sarungs to tourists and locals. When the market closed at 5 pm, she had to walk to Padang Tegal to help her mother’s sister pound rice.

Tourism increased after the opening of the international airport and, from1965 to 1974, she lived in Sanur where she opened several shops on the beach.

Her major break occurred in 1974 when she bought some land in Ubud and opened Murni’s Warung. Initially, she sold only clothes and paintings but after marrying her American husband, things started to improve when she realised that by selling Western food, she could attract more business.

Being married to a foreigner caused a lot of problems and for some time, the only member of her family who would speak to her was her father, but she persevered with the business.

From a very small enterprise with no electricity or refrigeration, Ibu Murni has moved on to become one of Ubud’s most successful entrepreneurs but it hasn’t changed her. She has never forgotten her origins and she is one of the kindest people I know.

A visit to Murni’s Warung is a delightful experience as the food is
excellent and inexpensive and you will also experience the stunning views over the river from any of the four levels on which the restaurant is built.

Many people in this country have achieved success after starting from humble beginnings but they have mostly become arrogant and egocentric. Murni is one of the rare exceptions and I feel proud to consider her as a friend.

Ni Wayan Murni

Ni Wayan Murni: Ubud’s First Restaurateur

Siapa…?
Al Hickey

Bali Advertiser

May 2005

 

Ni Wayan Murni: Ubud’s First Restaurateur. Ni Wayan Murni is a pioneer of tourism in Bali. She is the owner of Murni’s Warung, the Kunang-Kunang shops, Murni’s Villas and Murni’s Houses. Murni opened Ubud’s first restaurant in 1974 and it remains first in the hearts of many residents today. Murni is also an avid collector of antiques and beautiful objects, and many of the finest works of craftsmanship turn up at Murni’s shops in Ubud.

What is your background?

I come from a long line of hard-working Balinese ladies. I think I must be a reincarnation of one of them. I was born in the small village of Penestanan, just after the war. My mother was from Penestanan and my father was from Campuan, the neighbouring village. I lived in Penestanan until I was 5 years old and then we moved to Campuan. My restaurant and shops are in Campuan, so I haven’t really come very far!

What was your early childhood like?

Very hard, like it was for all Balinese in the Fifties and Sixties. Until I was 4 years old, my mother used to carry me on her hip as she went from house to house offering salt, dried fish and things like that. She wasn’t selling; she was bartering. In those days she used to offer her goods in return for rice. I think I learnt to bargain watching her at that young age. My parents split up when I was 7 and I went to live with my aunt in Denpasar. When I was 12, I returned to my mother in Ubud.

What was the first enterprise you started?

I made my first money when I was living with my auntie. I had to get up at 2 am to make cakes for morning coffee. Then I had to go to the houses of the Balinese and Chinese families in Denpasar and sell the cakes. The money went to my aunt, but if I sold all the cakes, she gave me 5 rupiah. I had to save 2 rupiah for my school books, which left me 3 rupiah for lollipops.

As I said, when I was 12, I went back to Ubud and lived with my mother. She was then a very successful business woman. I worked with her in the market for 2 or 3 years and started my first business in 1961, cycling down to Sanur to sell batik to the tourists. That started my love of textiles and beautiful things.

How did you discover which products or services appealed specifically to the tourist market?

I watched their eyes. If they opened their eyes wide, they liked the goods and I had a buyer. It was then just a matter of price. I always give very fair prices, so my customers come back. I still have customers from those days. I also discovered that quality is more important than anything. People remember quality. As regards to the restaurant, I think I just knew instinctively that cleanliness, friendly service and good lavatories are really important.

How many businesses do you own right now?

Far too many. I should be retired by now. Apart from the restaurant and shops, there’s Murni’s Villas and Murni’s Houses. We’ve also got into the wedding business. Weddings and honeymoons in Murni’s Villas are very popular. I really enjoy those. My web site, www.murnis.com, is also thriving. It’s probably the largest Bali web site and growing all the time.

Of all your different enterprises, which gives you the most satisfaction?

Hard to say. I like different aspects of all of them. I love meeting old and new friends in the restaurant. I enjoy the shops, showing people my collections and exchanging ideas about textiles and antiques. I also get a lot of pleasure travelling, not just abroad, but also in this country.

Which business is the most difficult to run?

Easy! The restaurant, but it’s a lot of fun.

What difficulties (or strokes of good luck) did you encounter in the early days starting Murni’s Warung?

It’s pretty difficult running a restaurant with no electricity or refrigeration. I did that for 6 years. It’s also difficult getting up at 4 in the morning to go down to Denpasar to get supplies and back in time to serve breakfast. Thank God those days are over.

I had many strokes of luck. I met really nice people in the restaurant who taught me fabulous recipes and we had great laughs trying them out. Many are still on the menu. Every day I meet interesting people from all over the world who teach me a lot about antiques and handicrafts.

What makes Murni’s Warung different from other similar restaurants in Ubud?

I built the first restaurant in Ubud, so I was able to choose the best spot. The location and atmosphere are very special. It sits on a gorge overlooking the Campuan river, which you can hear rushing below. It’s a sacred river. I don’t think any restaurant is quite so romantic. I also keep everything traditionally Balinese – from the food and décor to the costumes of the waiters and waitresses.

How do you relieve stress?

I play the gamelan really hard!

What is the most valuable antique object you own?

Myself!

What would you like to be doing now?

Having dinner with Walter Spies in Mrs Balbir’s Indian restaurant in Bangkok.

Note: Murni’s web site: www.murnis.com, is one of Bali’s leading online resource centres. She plays the gamelan in a ladies gamelan group in Ubud.

Ni Wayan Murni: Ubud’s First Restaurateur

The Interview: An Ubud Original

The Interview: An Ubud Original

hello bali logoThe Interview: An Ubud Original

Suanda

Hello Bali, April 2006

 

The Interview: An Ubud Original. Comprised of 4 levels and situated on a lush ravine overlooking the sacred Campuan River in Ubud, Murni’s Warung is an institution that has been serving the best in traditional Balinese cuisine for over 3 decades. Besides its food, décor, and locale, the Warung is also well known for its proprietor, Ni Wayan Murni, an Ubud local whose congeniality is known to all who have walked through the hand-carved doors of her restaurant over the years.

From the time she sold a sarong to Mick Jagger in 60’s Sanur to her current involvement with the Royal Pitamaha Gamelan in which she is a member, Ibu Murni’s life is a fascinating one. She took time out from her busy Warung duties to speak to Hello Bali about the good old days.

Ubud Origins

Murni, 1974

I am an Ubud original. I was born in Penestanan, about 5 minutes walk from Murni’s Warung and was raised in Campuan. My grandparents are from about 100 meters from Murni’s Warung and I’ve lived here all my life. Ubud at the time was, of course, very different, very rural. There was no expansion bridge across the river, all the roads were made of dirt, and there was no electricity.

Dutch suspension bridge, 1977

Most Balinese from this area at the time, including my family, were very, very poor and didn’t have much to eat. Around 1952 or 53, when I was 6, I remember going to the river to collect rocks to sell on the road. We used to have to carry water in terra cotta pots from the big spring just below where my grandmother lived because there was no plumbing then.

Most of my family worked from this river, gathering whatever they could from rocks to sand and selling it on the road. Or they would work in the rice paddies where they would work during the harvest season that was only every 6 months and not like today where there are sometimes 3 harvests a year.

I would also go to the rice paddies to help my family: my grandparents, my father, to harvest the rice and afterwards we would sometimes catch rice paddy eels or snails to eat. All this work would keep us busy for about 2 months at a time. At other times I would go to the old Ubud market with my mother to sell different types of leaves, vegetables, rice, or anything else that was used or eaten every day.

The Warung

Murni’s Warung, 1978

In 1974, I started Murni’s Warung and it was one of the very first restaurants in Ubud. There was no running water or electricity. We used oil lamps for light and cooking kerosene for the burners. There were still very, very few tourists in Ubud at the time and they usually stayed at the Campuan Hotel, which was one of the first hotels in Ubud.

View from Murni’s Warung, 2006

At the time, I wasn’t really planning on opening a restaurant. My husband and I used to go to a warung near the center of Ubud where they cooked food with kerosene burners. That’s when I decided to open a warung in this area because it took so long to walk to central Ubud to get some food and was very inconvenient. So then I started to sell some very Balinese dishes at our warung. We only had one bamboo table and two chairs at the time, but people started to come and within one month I had expanded to 4 tables!

Murni’s Warung, 1984

There were many interesting things that passed in front of the warung that made it quite an attraction. People going to the rice paddies, ducks that crossed at 5 a.m. every morning and then cross again in the afternoon on their way back home, cows, pigs, people going to or returning from the market carrying produce on their heads. The tourists would come to my warung and just sit in front and watch the procession of happenings. It was like dinner and a show! We also had our regular customers who lived in the area and tourists, who if they stayed for only one week, would come to the warung once a day.

Lounge Bar, Murni’s Warung, 2006

At that time, I only knew about Indonesian and Balinese food. I would go shopping at the market every day because there was no refrigeration except for an icebox and I would do all the cooking myself, as well. Every month we would have more and more tourists coming and started to have more tables and chairs for the warung. In the 80’s we had our first big expansion during this good time when many tourists were coming after the new bridge was built and buses started arriving.

Traditional Smoked Duck in Murni’s Warung, 2006

Most of the food we serve is very traditional Balinese cuisine. Smoked duck and smoked chicken, for example. I also created a dish called “Murni’s Fish” which is sautéed tengiri served with vegetables and a special sauce that won an award in a Nusa Dua school in the 80’s. This is still popular and is always on the menu. I also cook a few Western dishes whose family recipes were given to me by friends. We serve Indonesian and Balinese desserts as well, such as Black Rice Pudding that we make fresh from scratch every day.

Murni’s Warung, 2006

I also have a shop here that I was running over 30 years ago, even before the warung, where we sell jewelry and antique and new textiles. And I have started a small beautiful villa called Villa Kunang-Kunang (Fireflies) that is in Ponggang, Ubud, about 12 km north of Campuan.

Tradition and Changes

Even until today, I would say that our cultural life in Ubud is still very strong and everyone here, including myself, is very involved with the community. But after the year 2000, I would say that Ubud really changed in terms of development. There were more buildings, more shops, more restaurants, more hotels, the roads are very busy and there is much more traffic here. I think that during the past few years, it has gotten out of control and I am hoping that we stop and really think about it so we don’t overbuild. It is not easy and I hope that the local government will maintain the traditional ways of building in Ubud.

Mortar and Pestle used in Murni’s Warung

That is why I keep Murni’s Warung like it was in the old days. This is a difficult task these days, but I try to preserve these traditional methods with the workers and the way we cook here. For example, instead of using a blender or food processor, we use a mortar and pestle to prepare ingredients. This takes more time, but I prefer using this traditional Balinese way of cooking because I believe the food tastes better this way.

Murni’s Warung Sign

It is also the reason we use more people to work here. I think it’s very important to give people jobs. Two of the staff have been working with the restaurant since we opened for business! At the time they were about 9 years old and now they have grandchildren. They are like family. And a few of the original regular guests that I’ve known for 35 or 40 years still come here even though some are in their 80’s.

Murni’s Warung, Level 3, 2006

Within the family and the community of Ubud, we really try to retain the traditional ways of living. Like my grandchildren, for example, I try and show them how we care and how we are involved in what we do in the community. A member of the Ubud royal family passed away recently and all the members of this community really helped each other for the ceremony. We are very much tied together here and spend more than 30% of our time doing things for the people of Ubud, supporting each other and trying to make all the generations understand and stay strong. For the 32 years that Murni’s Warung has been open, we have always had strong ties here.

The Interview: An Ubud Original

Ni Wayan Murni: Balinese entrepreneur and traveler

Ni Wayan Murni: Balinese entrepreneur and traveler
hello bali logo



Ni Wayan Murni: Balinese entrepreneur and traveler
Andrew Charles
Jakarta Post
21 July 2006

 

Ni Wayan Murni is a revered character in Ubud as owner of Murni’s Warung, Murni’s Villas and many other enterprises, but it wasn’t always like this.

Back in the 1950s, life was hard. Murni’s parents split up and, at the age of six or seven, she was sent to live with an authoritarian aunt in Denpasar who made her get up every morning at 2 a.m. to prepare and sell food to the neighbors.

Difficult though it was for a very young girl, the hard work, discipline and selling skills were an important part of her education and set her in good stead for the future.

Murni’s mother was an excellent businesswoman, but strict. “She was the only person to sell soft drinks in the market”, Murni reminisced. “I remember one of the king of Ubud’s servants used to cross the road to my mother’s shop to buy drinks for the king’s friends.”

On the days the market was closed, Murni carried a load of salt from Ubud to Penestanan, a few kilometers away. She explained how her mother worked: “My mother insisted that I should not waste the journey back from Penestanan, so when I sold the salt, I had to find something to buy with the money and then I had to sell that when I got back to Ubud.”

Even at that young age she was interested in textiles and sold batik. She said, “When I heard that there were tourists in town, I used to go to where they were and display my batik; I even sold a piece to president Sukarno, who often visited Ubud.”

Tourism increased after the opening of the international airport and, from 1965 to 1974, Murni lived in Sanur where she opened several shops.

These were just outside the Tanjung Sari Hotel, where many people stayed, including Mick Jagger. It was at this point that Murni started becoming interested in antiques.

Her major break occurred in 1974 when, with the small amount of money she had been able to save, she bought some land in Ubud on the edge of a cliff overlooking trees and a river, where she opened Murni’s Warung. “I was so lucky to get this property,” she said. “It’s the best piece of land in Ubud.”

Initially, she sold only clothes and paintings but things started to improve when she realized that by selling Western food, she could attract more business, and was the first to do so in Ubud.

In 1978, electricity arrived so Murni was able to purchase a refrigerator and serve cold beers — a landmark occasion!

Diners at the restaurant used to give her their favorite recipes and they often spent hours practicing together. Murni had to modify the recipes as the ingredients available were hardly ever the same as in her friends’ countries; even when they were, the recipes came out differently.

For example, she couldn’t get pecans anywhere so she changed the pecan pie recipe to cashews; it’s still on the menu.

From a very small enterprise, Murni has moved on to become one of Ubud’s most successful entrepreneurs and the restaurant is one of the most famous on the island.

Murni has incredible stamina and energy. As well as running the restaurant, which was catering to an increasing number of visitors, she opened two more shops and bought for all of them.

It was hard to keep up with the business. She was the first woman driver in Ubud and drove all over the island in search of stock. She said, “I’d buy as many textiles, antiques and good-quality handicrafts as I could and they’d be sold the next day. Every day was like that in the 1980s. It was incredible.”

A visit to Murni’s is a delightful experience. The food is excellent and inexpensive with a wide range of dishes, Western to Asian, and a number of real Balinese dishes not found elsewhere.

As Murni’s Warung and Murni’s shops flourished, she decided to get into the accommodation business. The first venture was Murni’s Houses: residential accommodation for visitors in the center of the town.

As if all this were not enough, Murni got the travel bug. It is very rare for a Balinese to want to travel — and a Balinese woman at that. Undeterred, she took off and traveled all over Europe, Egypt, Tanzania and Turkey.

She still loves traveling and is frequently abroad, searching out rare treasures and testing new recipes for her restaurant.

These trips opened her eyes to luxury. About 12 years ago she acquired a stunning piece of land some 20 minutes drive north of Ubud and built Murni’s Villas.

Many people in this country have achieved success after starting from humble beginnings and then become arrogant and egocentric.

Murni is one of the rare exceptions. She has five children and nine grandchildren and is happy with what she has achieved, but shows no signs of wanting to retire.

She is a traditionalist but also a modernist. She has embraced the digital age and runs one of the best websites in Bali. With her commitment and energy, there is little doubt that she will be in the forefront of Ubud society for many years to come.

Ni Wayan Murni: Balinese entrepreneur and traveler