Meet Peter Steenbergen. The man behind Made’s Warung who drove to Bali from Amsterdam in 1973 in a minivan and fell in love.
Peter, you’ve been in Bali a long time haven’t you?
Yes, very long. Since 1973 and that Bali doesn’t exist anymore. It’s gone. You can’t turn the clock back, but Bali from the 70s, the reason why myself and a lot of other people came here just doesn’t exist anymore. We came here for adventure and to experience a new craziness.
Would you say you were a bit of a hippy?
Well, I don’t really like that word. It has a connotation. I guess I was a hippy but not in that way. People think that hippies smoke pot, don’t take showers, have no money and no jobs, but I always had some money. I was more like a traveller.
So what brought you to Bali in 1973?
I was young and rebellious. I drove a Hanomag minibus from Amsterdam to Indonesia and got to see all the countries in between. My friend that I came here with was born in Bukit Tinggi, Sumatra and he was my good friend and wanted to go back to Indonesia so I said I’d go with him. We then prepared a car and drove all the way here!
That’s crazy. In 1973 what were the rules like for passports, visas, etc. How did you do it?
Well, you had to have a passport of course but your car had to have a passport also. It was called a carnet de passage, which was a passport that your automobile club in your own country gave you, but at the same time you had to post a bond for your car of double the value of the car otherwise they were afraid that you’d take the car and sell it in those countries. With that they gave you a passport for your car that they’d stamp at the border.
Do you remember what route you took?
I remember everything. It’s something you never forget. I feel sorry for the younger generation because you can’t do this now as you’d probably get killed. I went from Europe into Turkey, to Iraq, then Iran and Afghanistan, all those countries I wouldn’t like to visit right now because it’s not safe. Then we went on to Pakistan, India and then boarded a boat to Malaysia, Penang, then crossed over to Sumatra and from there across Java to Bali.
How long did it take from when you left Holland to when you arrived in Bali?
About four months and all I knew about Bali was that it was one of the islands in Indonesia because we learned it in school in Holland. I found it funny because when we came off the boat in Medan and drove through the harbour complex, driving on the wrong side of the road, all of a sudden a policeman says, “Stop!” to me. There was no traffic at all so I had to stop and the first word that I hear in Indonesia from this policeman is “Rijbewijs” which means “license” in Dutch! I looked at him and started laughing, thinking, “Where am I?” I’m halfway round the world and I’ve just entered Indonesia and the first word I hear someone speak is Dutch! In the end he didn’t fine us, he was nice and found it funny, too.
So when you reached Bali, what did you do?
I went to Kuta beach, got a little room in a little losman, which still exists to this day actually. I had to eat, but there weren’t many places to eat. Then I discovered this place called Made’s Warung in Kuta. I was sitting there with my little bite of black rice pudding and gado-gado and there was this very pretty girl with very long hair. I thought, “Holy moly. Wow!” and that was it!
So that’s how you met Made. How did it go from there?
Well, I used to eat at her warung and we used to flirt, as we were young and handsome in those days. Then I had to court her. Back then it was a no go for a foreigner like me to have anything to do with a Balinese lady like Made. It’s not like it is now! She fought the whole establishment. I had to court her family more than her actually. I had to be nice to everybody just to get close to her. If I wanted to have a little ‘us’ time, we had to close the warung, rent a little bus, take the whole family to Kintamani, make sure that we left after sunset from Kintamani so that we could sit at the back of the minibus in the dark! It was so romantic really and it was like this for one year before we got married.
And how did you ask Made to marry you?
I didn’t have the guts to ask her father for her hand in marriage, so I stole her! I kidnapped her, which is something you can do in Balinese tradition if you aren’t sure if her parents would accept you or not. I asked her to run away with me and she agreed. There’s a limited amount of stories like this.
That’s for sure! So how was life after you got married?
Well Made’s Warung had been going since around 1969 so it had already been around for a while before I showed up. I was however, one of the first in Bali to get supplies from Jakarta. So then we opened this one in Seminyak in 1996. After we got married the little warung became a little bit bigger and so on, then we had two children, and now we have three grandchildren!
And how has Made’s Warung developed over the years?
Made’s is an institution still, even with all the modern stuff going on. We try to keep a little bit of an Indonesian feel because Bali is now so minimalistic where in most places you could be anywhere in the world. I’m glad here we can keep a little bit of Bali going even though the old Bali is not here anymore.
I heard you used to have a backgammon club back in the day?
Yes, a long time ago. People from all over would come and play in little tournaments, which were really fun but very serious. Unfortunately these don’t go anymore, but I still play on my iPhone!
How would you describe Bali in the 70s?
Well that Bali has disappeared, it just doesn’t exist anymore and that’s how I describe it. And it won’t come back, but then again neither will my hair! It was all more relaxed in those days. Now everyone is into business and trying to make more money. In those days we weren’t really chasing anything, we were just happy. Now you need to have a big house and this and that. In those days I was happy in my little bungalow.
What’s one of the memories from Made’s Warung that really sticks out in your mind?
I remember why we started to use credit cards. There was a gentleman named Mick Jagger who came to Made’s Warung one night and he wanted to pay with a credit card, but of course we still didn’t receive credit cards in those days, so we had to go back to him and say, “Sorry Sir, your credit ain’t good here! We need cash!” He started laughing!
Who else famous has been here?
We’ve had so many it’s hard to remember! There is one funny story though. I was at home one night and my wife called me and said, “Do you know who’s here? Malcolm X is here!” and I said, “What?! Malcolm X? He’s dead!” So I ran out and came here and it turned out to be Denzel Washington who plays Malcolm X in the movie, which we had just seen the night before! He was all by himself, no entourage, and I had a long talk with him two nights in a row and that was so great. Eric Clapton’s been here, David Bowie, and many, many others!
I have to say Peter, when I hear your name I always think Peter and Made. How does it feel to be married to such a strong woman figure?
Well my name is Peter Made. I’ve lost my identity! My last name is Made’s Warung as that’s how people describe me I know, but I’m OK with that!
Thanks Peter. To get in touch, come to Made’s Warung Seminyak!
And now we meet Peter’s wife, Made who owns Made’s Warung…
Made is the heart of Made’s Warung. She has always brought a warmth, a spirit of welcome that makes Made’s the place where people feel comfortable and know that the great cuisine and service are accompanied by a feeling of community and well being. One can always recognize Made because after decades, she still looks the same.
How do you stay so young and fabulous?
I am a simple Balinese woman. I don’t let the little things bother me. What can you do but live each day and look at the good? I love music, dancing and my family. I pray and live each day with love.
How and when did you meet Peter?
I was born in the Warung. I worked there every day after school, and later all day with my mother and my sister. I met Peter in 1973 and he would come every day. I was very malu (shy) but he would throw peanuts at me and make me laugh. In those days Bali was very traditional. I had my hair very long and was always in a sarong. In those days there were a lot of arranged marriages and if you break the rules you must go out! My parents always watched me because I was the first daughter. We waited so long, I couldn’t sleep. There were just a few bules, mostly from Hawaii and California, with their long hair and surfboards. Peter was Dutch and you know the Dutch colonized us before so this did not help.
Finally he came and took me. We went to the Hyatt Hotel but I wasn’t happy there. My cousin got us a losmen near Bemo corner. I couldn’t speak to my husband because I didn’t speak English or Indonesian, I only spoke Balinese. After a month my mother came and said we need you back at the Warung. So Peter came to stay at the Warung in the family compound, where there was no privacy. Peter was gone a lot because in those days visas were not so easy and you had to go to Jakarta and out of country a lot. Eventually Peter moved me to a small house so we have our privacy. Now we’ve been together 38 years and I still love him.
How did the Warung evolve?
My sister, my cousin and myself worked very hard, until 3 am. Then it was known as Bemo Corner, Made’s Warung. Then Peter started to bring things like a jaffle maker and a small stove and we started to have bistro food with the Balinese food and juices. Peter started to build the Warung in levels – he is good at designing spaces.
I know you love to Tango – tell us about this passion you have.
I started Tango seven years ago – it’s my new Jamu! I love Latin music and I travel now just to do dancing – I have been to Argentina four times, such good and charming people! At first I didn’t understand this kind of dancing, people dancing so close, but it is an art, like Balinese dancing. Before I only wore sandals, so this dance style introduced me to high heels which were strange to me. I had a great teacher for years and now we always have flamenco and Tango at Made’s Seminyak.
What do you feel about all the rapid growth in Bali now?
I would like to go back to the simple ways; life is too complicated now. Before we just enjoyed the little blessings and it was an easy life. People forget the important things. Balinese believe there are Gods in everything; the water, the wood, all of nature. I hope people don’t forget this.
Made’s interview by Karen Davis.