You've probably seen Indah Kalalo on Instagram, TV and YouTube... But you'll also spot her in Bali's poorest communities donating food parcels to those in need...
Words by Rebecca Foreman
Indah Kalalo is a household name in Indonesia, and rightly so. Her extensive career in entertainment spans from modelling, acting, YouTubing and even singing. Just one stalk on her buzzing Instagram page and you can see she’s a lady that gets things done. If she’s not out at sea promoting the wonders of Bali and supporting local tourism, you’ll find her set against yet another stunning backdrop modelling the latest in her luxury resort wear label, Je Suit Flirt.
But dig a little deeper and you’ll also find a passionate philanthropist who refuses to sit idle when the people of Bali need her most.
So, we arranged to meet Indah at her sprawling villa in Kerobokan. It’s a gorgeous tropical morning, right after the school drop-off (Indah and her Australian husband Justin Werner have three gorgeous children, Ayanna Rose, 9, Byron, 7, and Tigerlily, 6), and it’s easy to feel like I’m talking to an old friend. I find myself hoping a fraction of her relentlessly positive attitude will rub off on me as we talk about her eclectic year spent in Bali lockdown. So without further adieu, let me introduce you to the infallible, Indah Kalalo…
Hello Indah Kalalo! So great to meet you in the flesh. Let’s start with the basics, what is your day job?
Well, I’ve worked as a fashion model since I was 16 years-old, but have done all sorts of wonderful jobs in entertainment. I’ve acted in many movies over the years (last year I played a supporting role in Bali’s first-ever horror movie, Kajeng Kliwon), numerous TV shows like Mamaku Hits and Fit, Food & Fashion, and I have a clothing label Je Suis Flirt with my design partner, Fabiola Aisha. But I have also worked as an ambassador for a number of brands over the years. Put it this way, I don’t have an office because I’m always on the move!
Bali in lockdown, talk us through it?
We are only looking at the positive sides. There are so many new things to explore in Bali, and we feel so blessed to be ‘stuck’ here if you could say that. We are doing everything we can to support local tourism. I always hashtag #supportlocaltourism because we are out there exploring everywhere. You name it, we’re going there – Amed, Bedugul, Menjangan, Pemuteran, Kintamani, Uluwatu, the Nusa Islands, the Gilis, Sumba, Rote, the list goes on and on…
Tell me about your family’s Covid experience?
We all got Covid last September, the whole family. So we were all at home for nearly three weeks, but I’m glad we got it and we are all fine. I only lost my sense of smell and taste – there was no coughing, nothing, and the kids and hubby were all fine. We as a family kept a positive mental state throughout which I think is really one of the most important things to have right now. Sometimes we can be panicked and stressed about our predictions on things that don’t even happen. I lost my oldest sister last year (not to Covid). She had other health issues, but experiencing her paranoia regarding Covid and her loss of positivity, I saw firsthand how the state of mind can have an enormous influence on your health. I try to keep healthy, positive, and grateful for my blessings every day.
You’re always advertising Bali on your Instagram page and Youtube channel. Tell us about that.
Well it’s tough times and no-one is filming, so I’m not going to sit at home and wait for someone to ask me to film something. I’m going to do it myself! Luckily a friend from high school just started a company called Bali Fixer and asked me to do a pilot project with them. So, me and a couple of friends just filmed Life in Paradise, which currently in the editing stage. It’s a short doco about what it’s really like living here in Bali.
You and the family are now the faces behind promoting Klungkung. Cool job, tell us how that happened?
It happened because the Governor of Klungkung saw my Insta posts from when I visited Lembongan and Ceningan with my kids and husband. As we are currently making the most out of what is right under our noses in Bali and taking our boat out for a spin most weekends, I guess he just saw all the likes and comments I was getting and decided that I would be a good ambassador for the area. So now I work with the Ministry of Tourism and Creative of Indonesia to promote ‘Wonderful Indonesia’. They filmed us promoting the areas owned by Klungkung and the islands of Lembongan, Ceningan and Nusa Penida doing all the wonderful things we love doing there. This is especially important now – we need to promote local tourism more than ever.
What does a typical weekend look like for you?
Well, actually I’ve just started scuba diving. I took my Open Water certification and then Advanced Open Water over a long weekend in Amed. I even did a night dive at Tulamben wreck, which was amazing! I’m so into it now. Last weekend at Nusa Penida I saw six or seven Manta Rays from just six feet underwater. Incredible. My kids were snorkelling on top so even they got to see them too. We went to the mangroves and Crystal Bay in Penida, also amazing. I saw 30 dolphins, can you believe that? There’s so much amazing coral there and so many different fish. I even saw an octopus!
Tell us about the charity you started during Covid?
Well, it all started a year ago at the start of Covid when my neighbour saw our local police giving away food from their truck to all the GoJek drivers not getting much work. So we thought, why don’t we do that to help out too? Since then, we’ve been driving the Nasi Bungkus Tetangga Bali (NBT) campaign from April 2020 – basically food for people that need it. In the beginning, we cooked ourselves as a collective up to around 1000 food packages per day, and we were able to do this up to three times a week at the start of the pandemic. We have worked beside many businesses and people throughout the year, and I think by now we have delivered well over 70,000 food parcels. But now we are not getting as many donations, they’re slowing down as people go on with their lives. We can only do it once a week now, but at least we’re doing something for the people of Bali, and something is better than nothing.
What have you learned from this experience?
Well for a start, how to quickly wrap food parcels and cater for large amounts! I’ve seen and experienced so much. In places like Serangan Harbour, opposite a row of five-star hotels, there are huge groups of people living on a landfill basically, sleeping on top of pieces of cardboard, in tents, maybe five families sharing a makeshift kitchen and toilet. These people have lost their jobs from the hotels, so they’re living in these terrible conditions, a bit like a refugee camp. It’s a nightmare. I’ve met and spoken to a lady who gave birth in one of these toilets. If it were not for this pandemic, I would probably not have seen this camp with my own eyes. We cannot deliver food every day, but there is always a charity from Indonesia and of course Australia (Project Nasi and Crisis Kitchen), feeding these people, which is amazing and inspiring to see. I would never have thought a year on we’d still be continuing with the charity. It’s a lot – it’s incredibly emotional, and very draining, but as soon as you get those texts from someone asking whether there are any food packages coming today, you just dig in and make it happen. If I can’t do it myself due to travel or work then I organise staff or my nanny to cook and hand out food. I find a way to help because more and more often we’re seeing people begging on the street.
What has inspired you most about working with the charity?
I see the Balinese asking for help and this is inspiring to me because they don’t do that. The Balinese people are very proud, they have their rice paddies, they own the land, they fish the seas, but now nobody is buying. If you go to the Jimbaran fish markets, which I do every week by myself to shop, it’s empty. There’s nobody there, because nobody buys. I see people asking for help and I see more and more people helping, giving, wanting to do whatever they can to help others and this really is the most inspiring thing to see.
Indah Kalalo, your positive energy is inspiring. Where can I get some?
Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when my energy has been low and I’ve felt very drained and out of touch, especially through Covid. But a friend put me in touch with a Balinese priest and I make an appointment to see her monthly for spiritual cleansing. She decides what the best days are because, in Bali, there are auspicious days to do these types of things on the Balinese calendar. And after the cleansing I feel so purified and so light, I’m so aware and conscious of what I want to do and how I can do it. I always go with an open heart and I cleanse away the negative energies with the holy water. Believe it or not, I believe in the power of positive energy.
Tell us, why do you choose to live in Bali?
There’s such strong energy here, it’s an extremely spiritual place. Bali chooses you! I find, some people really want to live here but when they come they get sick or they have incredibly bad luck here, while others come here and everything just seems to flow and go right for them. They can start businesses, or whatever, but Bali decides whether she accepts you or not. That’s what I feel anyway and I feel Bali has accepted me, so I do whatever I can to give back to Bali.
INDAH KALALO’S TOP FAMILY TIPS IN BALI
What are your go-to’s for a family feast?
Alma Tapas Bar, One Eyed Jack, Ink at Tamora Gallery, Hahaha Thai, Indigo, and Sensorium for lunch and brunch (although better suited to older kids). The owner of Sensorium, Will Salim, is an amazing chef. He has Indonesian-Chinese roots but lived in Australia for some time working in great restaurants, so you get so much fusion in his food. I love it. During this pandemic, we decided to try everything we possibly can. Eat everywhere. All over Bali.
You are a family that loves the sea, what is your favourite beach?
There’s a perfect little beach cove we love in Ceningan and we go every other weekend because we love it so much. In fact, we are building a home there and a beach club so others can enjoy it too! It’s going to be called Suku Beach, and we launch this year hopefully. The beach is white sand with rock pools, the most gorgeous sunset, and the waves are perfect for surfers.
Where do you go for the perfect family weekend staycation?
All over Bali, but if we’ve had enough of the beach, we love escaping the heat for a weekend up at Handara Golf Resort in Bedugul. It’s great for golfing in the cooler climate and the kids love playing on the big outdoor treehouse there before going strawberry picking. There’s even free putt-putt golf! We also love Anapuri Villas for a staycation with a group of friends because you can hire a one-bedroom villa or a villa with six bedrooms. It’s very well set up for the kids. We also like Hotel Komune where they have a trampoline and skate park, pool, and beach – the list goes on.
So, Indah – do the Kalalo’s prefer a hotel or villa?!
Depends where… both! But I do love the Mandala Houses, Villa Seascape in Lembongan and Uluwatu Surf Villas. Sentimentally, we love Bayuh Sabbha Villa because we got married there ten years ago! On the hotel side we like the KLYF Club in Ceningan, and when my kids were younger we used to go to Movenpick in Jimbaran because of the great kids club and the really little mini Waterbom-type area they had. Alila hotels are also great and having worked with them before, I’ve had the opportunity to visit pretty much all of them. Mimpi Tulamben is one of our faves in the north of Bali and Six Senses in Uluwatu – my kids absolutely love it there.
What is your favourite water activity with the kids?
Snorkelling and diving, we have so many great spots in Bali. Tulamben, Menjangan, Amed, Lembongan, Ceningen, Penida. I am new to diving but I love it – me and my husband have done quite a bit with Bali Scuba Masters who certified us. What has been great also is they’ve taken us places where we can dive while our kids snorkel close by, so everyone can see something special. Plus, they give great prices and they are hot on Covid cleanliness (for example, they give new mouthpieces for every regulator). But we also love places like Waterbom for a great day out on the slides. And surfing! The kids love surfing.
Favourite kids activities?
Favourite place a plane ride away?
Mmm, so many places, but we love Rote Island and hanging at the late Linda Garland’s Mama Linda’s Rote. The place is so incredibly beautiful, with great snorkelling, of course!
Thanks so much, Indah Kalalo, and we’ll see on the island again soon!
Words by Rebecca Foreman
Currently living the island life in Bali with her family, Rebecca fills her days with travelling, writing and reviewing, often with the kids in tow. Follow her bountiful island adventures on her Instagram page.