Tag Archives: Articles about Murni

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


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.


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

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?


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


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

Meeting Ni Wayan Murni

Meeting Ni Wayan Murni

Meeting Ni Wayan Murni

John Braine
The Times, Lombok, July – August 2007


Meeting Ni Wayan Murni. I arrived early for my meeting with Ni Wayan Murni. Ni Wayan Murni tells us four things. ‘Ni’ that she is female, ‘Wayan’ that she is the first-born, ‘Murni’ that she has been given the name ‘pure’ and ‘Ni Wayan Murni’ that she is Balinese. (She is known as Murni to her friends.) That is quite a lot of information in a name. My name is John Braine, which doesn’t tell you anything. Sex: male. Status: single. Occupation: photo-journalist. Home: San Francisco.

It was in the Slanted Door in San Francisco that I almost met Murni. The Slanted Door is a great Asian restaurant frequented by lovers of beauty in all its forms, dealers and collectors, and foodies. I had been invited by friends for lunch and arrived late. Murni had just left. Another missed opportunity. I knew that Murni had had a very successful exhibition at the Arts of Pacific Asia Show at Fort Mason the previous month and was keen to meet her.

It was the first time that a real Balinese collector had exhibited at the show and it caused quite a stir. She’s been collecting all kinds of Asian arts for at least thirty years, many of which are no longer made, and are very rare. She brought textiles from all over the archipelago and interesting tribal jewelry and objects, which she has collected personally over the years on her travels around the region.

I was really annoyed to have let an opportunity like this slip through my fingers, but fate intervened when my cell phone rang a month later. ‘Can you go to Bali to photograph the ten day Galungan celebrations? Your ticket’s ready. You should base yourself in Ubud. We recommend you stay at Murni’s Villas.’

So it was with great anticipation that I went down the small flight of steps to the Lounge Bar of Murni’s restaurant in Ubud, in the cultural heart of Bali, to meet this famous lady. She was surrounded by beautiful muted textiles, red, reddish-brown, dark blue and black violet, explaining to a couple of Belgian tourists that these were the most spectacular textiles ever produced in Bali and arguably the whole of Southeast Asia. They were rare geringsing textiles from the small village of Tenganan in east Bali, which contained sacred energy.

The Belgian ladies got two each and left to have a look at Murni’s shop where other treasures from Bali and elsewhere tempted them. I was now able to chat to Murni alone over a couple of cocktails and take photographs of her in her landmark restaurant. She explained her pioneering career starting the first real restaurant in Ubud over thirty years ago, still a favourite, where she created dishes unheard of in Ubud and which nobody knew how to spell, all the while collecting Balinese and Asian antiques, which no-one was interested in, opening the first proper gallery of antiques and tribal art in the village, and then getting into the tourist accommodation business culminating in the spectacular Murni’s Villas and her latest venture of exhibiting abroad.

They say that if you want something done you should ask a busy person. If all that was not enough, she has acted as a consultant to a new 500-page book on Bali called Secrets of Bali by Jonathan Copeland and another book is on the stocks. Does she relax? Well, yes. She walks an hour every day, plays badminton three times a week, swims in a jaw-dropping, beautiful pool at Murni’s Villas and gives her two dogs, a dalmation called Toby and a golden labrador called Darling, a run for their money. And I haven’t even begun to mention the massive cultural obligations and duties of just being Balinese.

As I was finishing my second Pina Colada a runner from Sumbawa arrived fresh from the boat with local treasures for her perusal. I get the impression that this is a daily occurrence. Murni explains that she has to spend some time with him before he goes off to see other dealers. She likes to get the pick of the crop. She told me where the best shots were to be had for my photo assignment of the Galungan celebrations and we made arrangement to meet in the Slanted Door in February 2008. As she gracefully moved on to her next meeting I promised not be late and thanked her for giving me an insight into her life in Bali.

I can certainly recommend Murni’s Warung in Ubud for great food and great Pina Colodas in the Lounge Bar. You never know, you may be really lucky and meet Murni. Her shop, Murni’s Warung Shop, is a treasure trove and Murni’s Villas is the place to stay.

Meeting Ni Wayan Murni

John Braine, Photo Journalist

San Francisco


Warna-Warni Pengalaman Hidup Ni Wayan Murni

Rani R. Moediarta, Pesona, November 2007


Warna-Warni Pengalaman Hidup Ni Wayan Murni. Siapa pun yang berkunjung ke Ubud, Bali, tentu pernah melewati Murni’s Warung. Warung ini menempati lahan dengan lanskap alam khas Ubud – pas di lekukan sungai Campuhan bersisian dengan tebing yang di bawahnya mengalir sungai dengan -derasnya. Alam asli Ubud yang terpelihara ini menjadi bagian dari eksterior Murni’s Warung.

Sambil duduk menikmati hidangan di teras terbuka yang menghadap tebing, para tamu bisa menikmati udara sejuk pegunungan, dihibur suara aliran air. Berbagai koleksi barang seni dan antik melengkapi interior warung yang dibangun bertingkattingkat di bibir tebing ini. Paduan antara keasrian alam dan tradisi rumahan selalu menggugah keinginan orang untuk singgah dan mungkin kembali lagi. Pemiliknya, Ni Wayan Murni, berpenampilan sederhana,
bersuara lembut, bertutur kata halus, namun terasa tegas dan berwibawa.

Saat ditemui oleh PESONA, Murni sedang sibuk mempersiapkan keberangkatannya ke San Francisco guna mengikuti Arts of Pacific Asia Show, pameran internasional yang diikuti oleh para kolektor tingkat dunia.


Sosok Murni memang lekat de-ngan Ubud. Boleh dibilang, perkembangan Ubud tak lepas dari usaha Murni dan kawan-kawannya. Dari ingatan yang di-sampaikannya, terkesan berbagai kenangan masa lalunya berkaitan dengan kondisi Ubud separuh abad yang lalu.

Perpisahan kedua orang tuanya membuat Murni menumpang hidup pada seorang bibinya yang tinggal di Denpasar. Ia mengenang masa itu sebagai masa yang amat berat. Ia baru berusia 6 tahun tapi harus bangun pukul 2 dini hari untuk membuat penganan yang dijajakannya pagi harinya sebelum ke sekolah. Pada usia 12 tahun, barulah ia bergabung dengan ibu kandungnya. Namun, kehidupan tidak bertambah ringan.

Di Ubud, ia tinggal bersama keluarga besar – lebih dari 20 orang. Selain nenek dan ibunya, di rumah itu ada paman, bibi, dan para sepupu. Sebagaimana rakyat kebanyakan, mereka selalu makan seada-nya dan setiap orang diberi tugas untuk mencari tambahan penghasilan. Maka sejak kecil, Murni sudah biasa menjunjung batu atau mengangkut pasir untuk dijual. “Semua orang melakukannya di zaman susah itu,” katanya.

Sungai Campuhan waktu itu adalah sumber penghidupan warga Ubud. Selain batu apung untuk dibuat paras (dekorasi bangunan) dan pasir, sungai itu juga memberikan pangan ikan dan udang. “Ikan ditangkap dengan bubu. Sedangkan udang, dapat ditangkap dengan tangan,” kenang Murni. Namun ‘makanan mewah’ seperti belut, ikan, udang, atau tiram dari sungai itu tidak pernah mereka nikmati. Perolehan itu harus disetorkan kepada sang Nenek.

“Dengan masih bertelanjang dada dan hanya mengenakan sarung yang sobek-sobek, Nenek membawa tangkapan kami untuk dipersembahkan di Puri Ubud. Pulangnya, Nenek mendapat sekitar 2-3 kilogram beras. Itulah jatah kami untuk sebulan. Ya, beras itu cukup untuk 20 orang dalam sebulan, karena yang ditanak setiap harinya hanya segenggam, dicampur dengan nangka muda atau jantung pisang yang dicincang halus. Bila ada ubi untuk mencampur beras, wah itu makanan -mewah!” Murni mengenang.

Hanya pada hari raya Galungan mereka bisa menikmati daging babi atau ayam. “Satu ekor ayam bisa untuk lauk kami 20 orang, selama tiga hari!” Kehidupan berat itulah yang dirasakannya memperkaya hidupnya.


Tempat strategis itu awalnya hanya dipinjamkan dan disewakan kepadanya. Pelan-pelan, dengan menyisihkan penghasilan warung, Murni akhirnya bisa membelinya. Sejak membuka warung pertama kali di tahun 1974, Murni tidak sekadar menjamu para tamu, tapi juga menjalin persahabatan dengan mereka. Sebagian dari tamu datang dari mancanegara dan menjadi teman serta pelanggan tetap warungnya. Beberapa bahkan bekerja sama dengannya.

Pada tahun 1992 Murni merenovasi warungnya besar-besaran, tapi ia tetap mempertahankan cirinya sebagai warung rumahan dengan nuansa tradisio-nal. Dia tak ingin merombaknya menjadi restoran bernuansa modern.

Dari warung ini Murni memiliki jaringan teman-teman yang tersebar di Amerika dan Eropa. Mereka itu pula yang mendorongnya untuk melakukan perjalanan ke mancanegara. Sejak tahun ‘70-an Murni telah menjelajahi Amerika, Eropa Barat dan Timur, juga Afrika. “Saya hanya tamatan SD. Namun perjalanan ke luar negeri banyak memberi saya pendidikan. Sekolah saya adalah kegiatan perjalanan itu. Saya belajar dari soal disiplin, bergaul, bersosialisasi, dan menghargai pusaka leluhur. Pandangan hidup saya terbentuk dari perjalanan yang telah 30 tahun saya lakukan,“ kisahnya.

Murni dengan rendah hati menceritakan bahwa awalnya ia tidak tahu apa-apa tentang benda seni dan pusaka. Teman-temannyalah sumber pengetahuannya. “Misalnya soal barang-barang pusaka -kita, saya justru belajar dari orang Jerman dan Belanda yang banyak mengoleksi barang-barang leluhur kita. Saya termangu ketika mereka bercerita tentang keindahan kain dari Singaraja misalnya, yang sebelumnya sebagai orang Bali saya sendiri tidak terlalu peduli.”

Kini koleksi benda antik Murni tak terhitung banyaknya sehingga ketika ditanya koleksi apa yang paling bermakna buatnya ia hanya menggeleng. “Terlalu banyak! Yang lebih penting bagi saya adalah memberikan kepedulian dengan memberikan apresiasi.”

Untuk memuaskan kesenangannya pada benda-benda seni dan pusaka, Murni rajin mengunjungi pameran di mana-mana. “Boleh dibilang setiap tahun saya pergi untuk keperluan itu. Saya hanya datang untuk melihat-lihat. Bila ada yang saya suka dan mampu saya beli, ya saya beli.”

Selain itu, Murni juga seorang pendobrak. Sebagai remaja putri yang dituntut berbakti kepada orangtua, Murni tak bisa menolak ketika ia dijodoh-kan dengan seorang lelaki yang masih terhitung saudara, pada usia 16 tahun. Namun perkawinan yang memberinya empat anak – tiga putra dan satu putri itu tidak berjalan mulus. Ia mengenangnya sebagai pengalaman pahit. Karena, meski sudah bekerja keras menghidupi ke-tiga anak dan menjadi istri yang berbakti, toh ia merasa tidak diperlakukan dengan baik. Ia pun mengambil keputusan yang langka pada zamannya: meninggalkan suami dan berjuang mencari penghidupan sendiri.

Ia kembali mendobrak nilai lama dengan menjalin kasih dengan seorang kulit putih, Patrick Moore Scanland, salah seorang pelanggan warungnya, yang kemudian menjadi suaminya sampai sekarang. Pada zaman itu, menikah dengan orang luar Bali, terlebih seorang asing, masih dianggap melanggar adat dan secara sosial dipandang rendah. Tapi Murni menempuh risiko itu dan lebih menuruti kata hatinya. Mereka menikah di Singapura tahun 1975. Dari perkawinan kedua ini ia mendapatkan anak kelima, seorang putri.


“Entah apa yang membuat saya dan kawan-kawan berani mencoba,” kenang Murni tentang awal ide memperkenalkan barang seni Ubud keluar Ubud. Waktu itu Ubud belum terlalu dikenal dunia luar. Di Bali pun belum ada bandara internasional. Sesekali hanya ada kapal laut dari luar negeri bersandar di pelabuhan Padang Bai dan Benoa. Namun, kampung Murni, Penestanan, merupakan kediaman para seniman lukis terbaik di Bali, sejak dulu dan kini. Dengan mengayuh sepeda, -Murni dan beberapa kawan perempuannya nekat menemui para tamu dari luar negeri untuk menjajakan hasil seni dari Ubud.

“Di boncengan belakang, kami membawa patung, kain bali, dan lukisan-lukisan. Yang mendorong saya adalah tekad. Saya selalu menguatkan hati: saya harus berhasil! Mungkin pendorongnya tak lain adalah kehidupan waktu kecil dan sebagai anak tunggal, saya ingin berbakti kepada keluarga yang hidup susah.”

Ketika Ubud mulai dikenal dan turis mulai berdatangan, Murni banting setir dengan membuka warung. Pelan-pelan ia mulai melihat kebutuhan pasar: makanan bagi turis asing. Itulah awal berdi-rinya Murni’s Warung. Jembatan di depan warungnya menjadi saksi bagaimana dia dulu, dalam keadaan hamil besar, pukul 4 pagi menunggu bemo, satu-satunya kendaraan untuk berbelanja keperluan warung ke Denpasar – bahkan ia harus berganti kendaraan tiga kali. Pukul 8 pagi, ia kembali ke Ubud dengan menenteng belanjaan. Begitu setiap hari. Dan, karena saat itu belum ada listrik maupun air PAM, air untuk keperluannya memasak dan mencuci pun harus diangkut dari sungai.

Sejak kecil Murni memang terbiasa membuat penganan dan menjajakannya. Tetapi tahu apa Murni soal makanan yang disukai orang asing? “Modal saya adalah tidak malu bertanya dan senang belajar. Pelanggan yang mengajari saya memasak makanan yang mereka suka.“

Murni juga membuka dua toko cenderamata, bersebelahan dengan warungnya. Bisnisnya yang lain adalah properti. Namun menurutnya belum berkembang seperti yang diinginkannya karena wisata di Bali secara umum belum pulih. Warung dan tokonya hingga kini masih dikelola langsung olehnya.

Menjalankan tradisi sebagai wanita Bali memang diakuinya berat, karena wanita Bali dituntut untuk mengerjakan banyak hal. Mulai dari melayani keluarga, membereskan rumah, dan mengikuti ritual keagamaan yang menuntut ba-nyak waktu dan tenaga. Dan bagi Murni sewaktu muda, harus ditambah dengan banting tulang mencari nafkah. “Mungkin, bila saya hanya fokus mengelola warung, -saya bisa bosan atau lelah karena yang namanya pekerjaan, selalu ada stres. Nah, dalam hal ini, kegiatan seremoni dan tradisi menyeimbangkannya. Makin lama saya makin menikmati menjadi orang Bali dan menghayati tuntutan adat Bali.”

Bagaimanapun, ia sering merasa hidup di dua dunia. “Di satu sisi, saya menjalani dan menikmati semua se-remoni adat dan sosialisasi di komunitas saya sebagai orang Bali. Untuk itu saya harus berperan sebagai perempuan, ibu, dan nenek yang orang Bali. Di sisi lain saya bekerja mengelola warung dan menikmati pertemanan dan pergaulan internasional. Saya mesti memberi waktu
bagi teman-teman baru, seperti kolektor, tamu, wartawan, dan bepergian ke luar negeri.”

Kini, pada usia senja ditemani suaminya, hidupnya terbilang mapan. Usaha warungnya berkembang. Ia pun kerap melanglang buana. Teman dan rela-sinya tersebar di seluruh dunia. Ia juga memiliki peluang menyalurkan hobinya mengoleksi benda seni dan pusaka. Murni juga masih sempat menyalurkan bakat seninya dengan bermain gamelan. Anak-anaknya sudah mapan dan memberinya 10 cucu. Masih adakah yang ingin dilakukannya?

“Saya masih ingin terus bisa traveling!” jawabnya spontan. Dan matanya menerawang oleh hasrat yang tampaknya belum akan padam dalam waktu dekat.

Warna-Warni Pengalaman Hidup Ni Wayan Murni