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...


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