Sunday, July 24, 2005

A Last Look

These are some of my favourite images from the trip that did not fit into the narratives.

by HM

Day #7 - Going Home

With our flight at 1 p.m., there was not much we could do in the morning. I met Wayan at the reception, as I was settling our bill (1550000 Rp/S$310 for 4 nights’ accommodation). He volunteered to drive us to the airport.

As HM settled the last of the packing, I went out to Kakiang Bakery to get us some snacks for the wait at the airport: two corn buns and a lovely chewy brown loaf with walnuts and raisins. I had a last look around…

Room No. 11, our favourite for the view

A last look at the padi fields

View of Tegal Sari, from the rear

Then it was time to leave. The drive to the airport was mostly uneventful, except that Wayan got a call from his colleagues to say that we had left some item of clothing behind in our room. It would apparently go into the Lost and Found box, so that we could claim it the next time we were there. Even without that, we knew we were planning on returning.

Going through airport procedures was also painless this time round. Unlike the last time, we had put aside sufficient money in rupiah to pay the airport tax and have some left over for coffee. The airport was also considerably improved in terms of the number and variety of duty-free shops. Nevertheless, we found little to buy, being put off by the high prices. In the end we found a shop where the incense was only two times the price in Ubud, so we bought some just in case we had forgotten gifts for anyone back home.

As we drank our last cup of Bali kopi at one of the small cafes, we wondered whether the flight would go as planned. On my previous trip home, on a Garuda flight, some technical problem had been detected 15 minutes after take-off. The plane had to turn back to Denpasar where we had to wait three hours for a replacement plane to fly us out. Perhaps some similar problem would crop up and we’d have to stay an extra day in Bali! But it was wishful thinking. The flight took off as planned. Our Bali trip was over.

Small consolation - Lamb rendang

Flying home from Bali on SQ - Grilled fish

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Aside #2 - Did you know that...?

1. Balinese society is still very traditional, despite the influx of tourists and the onslaught of foreign influence. Although Ubud has so many hotels and homestays, up until recently, the people of Ubud refused to work in the hotels. According to Wayan, that is why he is the only local boy working in Tegal Sari. Everyone hails from somewhere else in Bali, including Nyoman who comes from Lovina! Even now, the staff members on night duty are all men. It is not considered respectable in Balinese society for women to work at night.

2. The Balinese have a very feminine concept of what a woman should look like. At least that is what I surmise from my observations of Balinese women and my experience with the Balinese. Almost all the Balinese women we saw were curvaceous, moved gracefully and had flowing long hair. Secondly, while HM has long hair and wears skirts and blouses, I am quite “butch”, both in appearance (short hair, always dressed in shorts and t-shirts) and manner (low voice, swaggering walk). I must not fit the Balinese mental model of womanhood because we were asked several times whether we were on honeymoon!

3. Japanese tourists love Bali. Momoko has been there 10 times. They love Ubud even more. In Sanur, we were asked if we were Singaporean. In Ubud, everyone greeted us with “konichiwa”. At Tegal Sari, staff members all seem to speak some Japanese, not surprisingly so, since the majority of their customers are from Japan. Little wonder though, since the Balinese and the Japanese cultures both have great reverence for beauty and aesthetics. The Japanese must love the Balinese resorts.

Day 6 - Rush, rush, hurry, hurry

Our last day in Ubud was characterized by a desperate rush to accomplish as much as we could. There were still gifts to buy, restaurants to check out, massages to be enjoyed…

0730 h Had breakfast on the porch of Room No.15.

0830 h HM and I decided to split up so that we could get more things done. I stayed and packed up so that we could move to Room No. 8 in the afternoon. HM went for yoga at Balispirit Yoga Studios.

Balispirit Yoga Studio on Jalan Hanoman

1030 h Brunch at Batan Waru. We finally made it back there and the food was once again delicious.

Tum ayam

Urap pakis

Together with a cardamom lassi and a sweet lassi, the meal cost us a very reasonable 90090 Rp (S$18)

1200 h HM went for a Balinese massage with lulur and mandi, at Nur Salon. The therapist was more professional and experienced than those at Pertinen, she said, and it cost less than 200000 Rp (S$40).

Entrance to Nur Salon

Meanwhile, I continued looking for gifts and other things that we had been tasked to buy.

First, I found the Ticket to the Moon shop along Jalan Raya Ubud which sells hammocks made of parachute material. The list price said US$50 for a single and US$60 for a double, but the salesgirl quoted me 150000 Rp (S$30) and 200000 Rp (S$40) respectively, so I ended up buying three hammocks for a friend who had requested for them.

Then, I spotted some bikinis on sale. Made for tanning rather than swimming, the bikinis had fun prints on them and were only 40000 Rp (S$8) each, so into the shopping bag went one of those for a friend who fancies herself a beach babe.

After that, I got sidetracked by the bookshops. I ended up buying a copy of Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago, for only 75000 Rp (S$15), at Periplus which was having a big sale. I also bought a map of Ubud from Ganesha’s (30000 Rp/S$6), as a souvenir for myself.

1330 h The hunt resumed, with HM leading the way down Jalan Dewi Sita. From Hari Ini, we emerged with two pairs of silver earrings and one toe ring (256000 Rp/S$51). And from Kou, we bought some lovely scented organic soap, some minty green, some vanilla, some orange, for 33000 Rp (S$6.60). Phew, it was time for lunch.

1430 h We retreated to Casa Luna.

The view from Casa Luna

The Casa Luna dining area

Our menu:

• Vietnamese beef salad with lemongrass dressing
• Grilled Tenggiri* Tostada with eggplant paste on a tortilla
• Coconut ice cream
• Black rice ice cream
• Tea flores
• Comfort tea with nutmeg and ginger milk
• Bali kopi

*Tenggiri (Spanish Mackeral)

Who would have thought that grilled fish with eggplant paste on a tortilla would taste so good? The bill came up to 154100 Rp (S$31).

1600 h Time to head back to Tegal Sari with our spoils, but this time we couldn’t get through to Tegal Sari’s phone line. For once, the transport guys got the job and they were only too happy to oblige. The “fare” came up to only 10000 Rp (S$2).

Our new room, Room No. 8, was perfect after a long hard (!) day shopping.

The tub in Room No. 8

Another cosy sofa area, this time in Room No. 8

The sitting area in the porch

To the left of No.8

Looking ahead from No. 8

Of the three rooms, this had the most resort-like bathroom. The shower was paved with polished stones! A soak in the bathtub really hit the spot.

1800 h “Disaster” struck. My stomach felt all bloated; indigestion had set in. Not on our last night in Ubud, I agonized. We had yet to try Warung Enak, Mozaic, Murni’s, and so many other restaurants. But enough was enough - I didn’t think I could stomach another spicy/rich meal.

It was HM who suggested eating Japanese. Momoko, our walking companion from the day before who was holidaying in Bali for the tenth time, had in fact recommended the Ryoshi chain of restaurants. We hadn’t of course come to Bali for its Japanese cuisine, but then again, with the large number of Japanese tourists evident in Bali, especially in Ubud, the Japanese restaurants had to be good.

1930 h Dinner at Ryoshi, preceded by a small bout of shopping desperation. We bought some Bali coffee at a supermarket for a friend whom we hadn’t managed to get anything for up to that point and in any case we hadn’t a clue what to get.

Ryoshi turned out to be a good choice, and not just for an invalid! It was almost empty the night we were there, which was a pity because the ingredients were fresh, the cooking competent and the bill for two was only 174000 Rp (S$34).

Ryoshi in Ubud

Inside the restaurant

Chawan mushi

Zaru soba (cold soba)

Agadeshi tofu

Fresh strawberries (from Bedegul) with honey

2100 h Our ride from Tegal Sari arrived to pick us up. It was Made who had first driven us from Sanur to Ubud. We chatted on the short ride back to Tegal Sari. It was a bittersweet moment, for our time in Ubud was coming to an end. It was time for us to pack and go home.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Day 5 - Big Day Out

We were up early again. For one thing, we had signed up for a walk with the Tegal Sari staff. For another, this was to be our last morning in Room No. 11. By the time we got back from our walk, we’d be in our new room, Room No. 15, a garden view room. Not only did we have to pack before leaving for the walk, we had to make the most of our lovely padi fields.

But first things first – breakfast on our porch!

Nasi goreng Tegal Sari

Sliced Tropical Fruit Salad

Bali kopi, dregs and all - love or hate it

"Poultry" in motion

Such peace and tranquility

At about 9.30 a.m., we met up with Wayan, our walking guide for the morning, and Momoko, our Japanese counterpart. Wayan, a local boy from amongst the Tegal Sari staff, was going to take us to Keliki Village to visit a local home and for an art lesson(!), followed by a walk through the surrounding countryside, after which lunch would be served.

It turned out to be an eye-opening look at life in a traditional family compound. According to Wayan, he too had grown up in an environment much like that. It was clear that life was pretty simple, and that people made do with far less than what we Singaporeans were used to.

Inside the kitchen

Still cooking with a wood fire


The family well

The ceremonial area

The family temple

The Dolit family rooster

There, we visited with Dolit and his family. Dolit and his family are rice farmers by vocation, but like many of their neighbours, they produce art work in the so-called Keliki style for sale to tourists, so as to supplement their income. Dolit’s father had been a revered artist and, to this day, the family runs art classes for children from the neighbourhood. We were going to attend one of these classes.

The "art gallery"

Cottage industry in evidence

Dolit's family hard at work

Dolit's family

Young artists in the making

The artist of our newly acquired artwork, Dolit's brother

Art lesson in progress

First you draw the figures

Now you shade with ink

Wayan, our guide, giving it a shot

Two hours and one Bali kopi each later, we finally left Dolit’s home, armed with a whimsical picture of frogs taking part in a Balinese procession which we had bought for 200000 Rp (S$40). This we put away in Wayan’s Kijang, which two other Tegal Sari staff members had come to collect. They were going to pick us up from the next village, at the end of our walk.

The walk itself started innocuously enough. I didn't think a tourist-oriented walk was going to be difficult since it would have to cater to tourists of all shapes and sizes. At first it was indeed smooth-going and not a bit too hot. Accompanied by Dolit, we weaved our way through rice fields and fruit plantations.

Balinese rice drying in the sun

Balinese cattle

Sweet potato

In the rice fields

Planting rice is never fun

Shrine marking the boundary between the fields of two families

Bebek yet to be betutu

Ever-versatile Dolit preparing drinks for us

Young jackfruit or nangka

Soon to be lunch

So far so good. The only inkling thus far that this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park was this one moment where we had to tread gingerly on a mud wall between two water-logged padi fields. Unlike the previous mud walls we had traipsed along, this one was mushy and seemed to be in danger of falling apart under our weight. But, other than muddy toes, we survived that bit.

Then the fairly relaxed stroll, leisurely enough for me to take lots of photos, turned into a downhill scramble. We were no longer amongst the padi fields or plantations. We were amidst jungle vegetation. It was steep enough to require us to crouch and put our hands on the ground occasionally to steady ourselves. Each “step” was barely big enough to accommodate the whole foot. To make matters worse, the ground was covered with leaves and other organic matter that made the going slippery.

Wayan and Dolit of course were most unconcerned about the terrain themselves, barely breaking into sweat as they strode downhill. HM and Momoko seemed to be managing fine, as they scrambled from foothold to foothold. I seemed to be the only one struggling, as my Tevas sandals slipped ever so slightly every now and then, sufficiently so to make me real nervous about sliding all the way down and making a fool of myself. Fortunately, Dolit, the kind soul, noticed me falling behind and held my hand till we got to the bottom. ‘Twas most embarrassing!

Needless to say, the next thing we had to do was to climb all the way up to the next ridge. Again, the footholds were small and the incline was steep. It was a good thing the climb up was relatively short. Otherwise Dolit may have had to shove me up from below!

Finally, the tough part was over. Being the most unfit of the lot, I was a little dizzy from the exertion, but the final walk along the waterways and then through another small village allowed me to catch my breath. By the time we stopped at a rest point to await our transport back to Ubud, I was feeling well enough to partake of some light snacks with the others.

Friendly neighbourhood snack shop

Then, back it was, to Tegal Sari. We had indeed earned our lunch of babi guling from Ibu Oka, and so we tucked in with relish.

Ibu Oka Babi Guling - before

Babi Guling - tada!

Does that look yummy or what?

The babi guling was absolutely delicious. Not advisable for the fainthearted or the weak in stomach, it was a totally scrumptious blend of roast pork with this incredible crackling, spicy vegetables, rich blood sausage and some mystery bits and pieces. Someone should set up a babi guling stall in Singapore. I’m sure they will make a fortune selling this.

With Wayan and Dolit pointing out sights and explaining the local customs and practices, the entire experience which included lunch was really worth the price of 125000 Rp (S$25) per head.

After lunch, we retreated to our new room, Room No. 15. Alas, there would be no view of the padi fields to be had. But, No. 15 had its own charm. For one thing, the bathroom was bigger and nicer than Room No. 11’s. For another, it had a sofa area which was really lovely to lounge around in, perfect for couch potatoes. It also had its own garden which was quite pretty.

Room No. 15

The sofa area

The bathroom

The view from the porch of Room No. 15

But we didn’t spend much time in the room. Once we had freshened up, we decided to go visit the Pertinen Spa, owned and run by Tegal Sari’s management. I had a ½ hour scalp massage while HM had the 1 hour Balinese massage. The masseuses were very eager to please and we paid only 121500 Rp (S$24) for both massages. It was a fitting end to the day and apt preparation for the next thing on our schedule.

We hitched a ride from the Tegal Sari boys who were giving a couple a ride to the palace to watch the Ramayana Ballet. According to the husband, there was also going to be a kecak dance at a nearby village that night. But our agenda was quite different – we were going to have dinner at Lamak.

But first, as always, a little light shopping was a must. In the shops around Lamak, we managed to find incense holders made of granite (35000 Rp/S$7 each) and packets of sandalwood and chempaka incense (5000 Rp/S$1 each).

Lamak was a display of culinary excellence and design flair.

We sat in the upstairs dining area

Nice lampshades

What pretty placemats

Phillipe Starck inspired?

Carrot and ginger fizz

Balinese bouillabaise with turmeric and lemon grass broth, and BBQ seafood

Citrus marinated prawns with palm hearts and avocado slices

Curried yoghurt medallions of butterfish with lentil cakes

Fettucine with crabmeat and eggplant sauce

Ginger and orange brulee

Ginger and lemongrass ice cream

The airconditioned lounge with the groovy tiles

One last look at Lamak

Together with drinks (Equil Sparkling Water and peppermint tea), the bill came up to only 331455 Rp (S$66). For a similar experience in Singapore, we would have to pay at least S$50 to S$70 per head.

While I would whole-heartedly recommend Lamak to one and all, I must confess I was a little disappointed myself. To be fair to the restaurant, I had heard a lot about it and perhaps that was the problem. Was it an excellent dinner? You bet. Was it THE quintessential Balinese eating experience I thought it might be? I’m afraid not. I can’t put a finger on why not, except to say that it was too much Bali Chic/Australian fusion, and not enough Bali for me. For that, my choice, from the limited number of restaurants I had been too thus far, would have to be Indus or even Batan Waru. I still had a whole list of restaurants to check out and we had only one full day left...