lovina, bedugal, monkey hijinks…

So, I will be leaving Bali in a couple days, just enough time to post a couple more collections of thoughts and pictures. I have been meaning for a while to post pictures from a trip to Bedugal, Singaraja, and Lovina.

Now that I am free of work I have been able to see some other parts of Bali. Despite the proliferation of tourists this time of year, there are in fact wonders to behold. First, I drove through Bedugal (the previously discussed Farming region). Bedugal has breathtaking views of mountains and lakes shrouded in cloud cover, and great farm stands. I bought some delicious tropical strawberries and some pretty horrid Durian fruit. I thought I would give Durian another shot to be fair, but it still smells like rotten putrescence and it made me gag to try and eat it. No worries, it just makes more for the cult of people who love it. To those who haven’t had it, it is a giant spiked fruit that smells like a mixture of cantaloupe, garlic, and vomit. I love going to Bedugal because it is so pleasantly cold there, and it reminds me of home. Onwards along the road I took a wrong turn and wound up on a zig zag of a mountain edge road. I felt like my bike was tipping over the whole way. It actually just looks like a joke of a squiggle in the road atlas. On this road was an amazing waterfall that I stopped at. I made a donation to the village (standard at these kind of tourist attractions, it is all about the wealth of the community), and went to go rest by the waterfall and eat some strange vegetarian shiitake mushroom pot pie I bought in Bedugal. The walk to the waterfall is perilous with slippery moss the whole way, and I almost fell in three times. I was wondering about the elderly couple who were entering as I was leaving…..

After that little detour, I went to Lovina where I booked a room for about $10. Lovina is an infinitely more laid back, cheap, and somewhat dirty resort area on the north coast. I also booked snorkeling and dolphin watching for the next morning, beginning at 5:30 am. I don’t know how they talked me into that, but I am glad they did. Chasing dolphins around doesn’t particularly do it for me, but watching the sun come up over the mountains while on a traditional Balinese boat is pretty wonderful. And the snorkeling was truly amazing. Giant purple starfish, 5 foot long striped tropical eels, puffer fish, anemones, coral of all shapes and colors. It was almost too much to process. The food in Lovina is not worth mentioning. Actually it is worth saying that it is terrible and has a high likely hood of making you sick in a lot of places! I did love having beers and watching the sunset at the Warung Rasta. They play nothing but reggae and the owner is a tiny Balinese man with dreadlocks to the backs of his knees. Ha.

On the way back through Bedugal I stopped to hang out with the monkeys that line the road. They are Balinese macaques, and they have no shortage of hijinks. I don’t usually like monkeys and their sinister ways, but these monkeys were pretty relaxed and fun to be around. I also finally visited the monkey forest in Ubud. It is a series of temples that have always been inhabited by monkeys. It is a gorgeous little forest, but these monkeys are significantly less well behaved than the Bedugal monkeys. It is no secret why this is when you see the children tormenting them, and the idiot tourists trying to get pictures of the monkeys on their heads! You’d have to be bonkers to willingly put a monkey on your back after hanging out with them for more than 2 seconds. They also love to steal loose clothing, bags, and anything shiny. Bad monkeys. It was an illuminating moment also to see a little British kid remark in his charming accent: “look mum, they’re just like us!”

I also spent some time in the mountains checking out farms of cacao, coffee, and spices. That was really wonderful as well, unfortunately I got no pictures. Tomorrow I might post some last impressions if I have time between packing, and then it is back to my beloved Brooklyn. Enjoy. N

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Singapore, city of tastes- Part II

Singapore seems to be a great food and drink city. In all honesty we didn’t have enough time to explore it thoroughly. I didn’t chance to have much of the famous street food, as our time was limited and it is a lot to navigate between lots of allergies and finding something for a vegetarian…. But we had some great times nonetheless. Singapore is so unlike Bali in its food culture. Aside from being cosmopolitan and highly stylized, people here actually go out to eat as a fun and social activity, often late into the night. As I believe I mentioned before, the restaurants in Bali are mostly for expats, and at the local warungs eating is done mostly in quiet solitude, and seems to really be a lot more about fuel than pleasure. This breaks my heart a little bit, as it is like a personal artistic starvation here! In contrast, Singapore has four mealtimes according to our hotel concierge. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Supper- a late night meal after your night on the town is winding down. Much more my speed.

The first night we arrived we decided to just walk around the neighborhood where our hotel was. The streets were alive with people gnawing on giant crab legs, crowding tea houses and drink establishments, and slurping big bowls of broth and noodles. From my observation, the food here is a mix of everything. There are just so many influences throughout history, and a natural fusion cuisine seems to have occurred. Fish and chips appears right next to nasi goreng (Indonesian style fried rice).

That first night, we wound up at Raffles, which Colette likes to call colonialist Disney Land. It is everything you would expect from a tropical hotel that the British colonial governors and the Dutch East India Company used to stay in. Right down to the hindi doormen in white linen and red turbins, this is the authentic image of what colonial life was like for the rich colonist. We later found out that Raffles Hotel is the origin of the Singapore Sling, the original girly drink. After drinking about 8 or 9 of these over a long weekend, I concluded that it is a fruity, gross, abomination. But somehow, you just can’t stop. So anyway, if you are curious, here is the recipe, though I would probably add a lot less fruit, skip the fake cherry, and add more liquor. This cocktail was originally decided to hide the sinister flavor of Gin from the tender ladies, but I on the other hand, like to let my gin show through. Try it out….

The Original Singapore Sling:

1 1/2 Oz. Gin

1/2 Oz Cherry Brandy

1/2 Oz Cointreau

1/2 Oz Benedictine

4 Oz Fresh Squeezed Pineapple Juice

1/2 Oz. Lime Juice

1/3 Oz. Grenadine

Few Dashes Angostura Bitters

Shake with ice, strain, garnish (or don’t) with a maraschino cherry and slice of pineapple. Drink with a background of palm trees, the relics of the sweeping tide of colonialism, and roasted peanuts.

So, the next night we had reservations at Iggy’s, Miele guide’s no.2 Restaurant in Asia, also in San Pelligrino’s list of 50 best restaurants in the world. I’m not sure I would put it on that list, but it was a fantastic meal regardless, and they let us return a $125 bottle of wine just because we didn’t like it. The finest course was a potato course paired with Australian truffles, which are as good as any french ones I have tasted, shhh. The chef refused to make a meal without at least a touch of dairy, so this course also had some Epoisses cheese on it which I mostly avoided to save my tender stomach. The other highlight for me was a dish of bone cold homemade cappellini noodles with quinoa, hanohojiso flowers, tomato gelee, and something like a ponzu sauce. A dessert of pureed pumpkin, candied pumpkin seeds, pumpkin tuiles, coconut cream, and aged balsamic with a healthy dose of sea salt was also remarkably good.

The next night we went to one of Singapore’s number one vegetarian restaurants, Original Sin. The wine was excellent, I will conceed that. I had some typical pasta, which was good, but most of the dishes were cheese bombs, and the service was worse than Bali, which takes effort. There was no chef in the kitchen, unsurprisingly. The more classic Singapore style restaurants we really wanted to go to were booked up because of the National Day in Singapore, so we will have to do that next time. Most of all it was great to have wine again. It has a 200% sales tax in Bali, so a bottle of yellow tail comes to around $50. As a lover of wine, I am really missing it with my whole heart.

Other simple, but notable highlights: really yummy ginger-cinnamon-cardamom iced kopi-0 (black coffee in singapore speech), incredible dosas in little india and then pretty awesome ones again in the singapore airport- which has a better food selection than most neighborhoods in america, apero hour at the hotel- all the weird fusion snacks and singapore slings you could desire, repeatedly seeing menus featuring shark fin and birds nest…. Well, that is all until next time when I write on going to Bedugal and Lovina back in Bali. Oh, and here is a link to the plethora of floral picture from the botanical gardens in singapore: http://www.flickr.com/photos/neal-neal/ Enjoy, N

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Singapore, city of the future. Part I

Most people vacation in Bali, so I think everyone thought it a little crazy that My and Colette’s vacation was to Singapore. But…. I kind of fell in love with Singapore. I couldn’t help feeling like I wished Bali was my three day vacation and Singapore was my home. I guess I am just a city person now, and maybe a little homesick for NYC. So we went to Singapore to eat, to live a fancy hotel lifestyle, to drink fruity cocktails, and to see what lied there.

Singapore is basically the finest example of urban planning that I could ever conceive of. They have skyscrapers and skyways, but still you might randomly walk down a block that looks like it housed opium dens and chinese medicine shops 100 years ago, and in some cases, still does house those things. Everything is clean and pretty, the people are nice, and there is a stunning tropical rainforest in the middle of the city.

Walking around we saw what looked like people of all creeds, cultures, and aesthetics. We walked past a weathered muslim cemetery in the middle of the city, through a turkish and egyptian section, past chinese shops, into little india, and back again past skyscrapers and mod looking apartment highrises. There are tons of cafes and restaurants, especially late at night. I will get to what we ate and drank next time….

The botanical gardens are amazing. As I said, they are smack in the middle of urban excess. There was a rainforest full of ancient trees, a ginger varieties garden, a bonsai area, turtles and lakes, a cactus garden, carnivorous plants, and most impressive to me- the orchid gardens. I will put the orchid pictures in some other format, there are simply way too many to put into wordpress.

The other thing I found interesting about Singapore, was how young it is. We were there on their national independence holiday, which is a huge thing for a country only 45 years old. And people seem to be proud. It seems to me what it must have been like in the US half a century after our own Independence fight. And on top of that, Singapore has a thriving quality of life, not just on paper, but visible in the lifestyle.

There is a curious accent too. It seems to be an amalgamation of the Queen’s English, Malay, Chinese, Indonesian…. Well a lot of things. Which is symbolic of what happens in Singapore, cultures seamlessly melt together to create something new. It seems like the foreshadowing of our certain global future.

More on Singapore tomorrow if I can transcend my digital media apathy. N

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kites, sambals, beaches, teeth, and art.

Here in Bali, a kite is an interesting thing. Right now, the wind is strong, and the sky is full of kites. All kinds of kites. There are beautifully ornate kites, kites made out of what looks like trashbags, and last week we saw a kite that was riding on a dumptruck- so big it was hanging over the edges. Certain villages have one sizeable kite which everyone shares. Designs are passed down like recipes, and the kite flying tradition is a spiritual rite. Certain gods loved kites, and now the pious honor them by staring into the sky for long moments with intention and joy that would make Mary Poppins proud. I am sad that I missed the Kite festival in Sanur, it is apparently a sight to behold. One year there was a kite which measured over 600 ft. including the tail. It is impossible to take a picture which could transfer the feeling of seeing 50 or more kites of all manner littering the tropical sky.

Last week I decided to see if I could enjoy the benefits of living in a medical tourism country. I was not let down, when I found out that I could post, crown, and rebuild my whole mouth for only 800,000 rp ($850). My U.S. estimate was closer to $8,000. Phew, that alone could justify a trip to Bali. You could buy the ticket, eat well, stay well, and fix your teeth, and then get a few massages to round it all out. I am converted. Not to mention that my dentist was lovely. She trained in U.S., and I was instantly charmed when her first question to me was: “So, how is your health in general today?” After I got through becoming dentally a whole person again, I decided to treat myself to a cultural experience. To understand why I would want to treat myself to, it is first necessary to understand the hardship that one must go through to reach the dentist. Firstly, it is a long way through through treacherous traffic to reach the dentist, which is in Bali’s Mall, a hideous modern palace of glitz. But to get there, you need to pick your traffic lane closely, or you will surely be taken over by the corrupt cops (which I was not about to do, having had to bribe them with 300,000 rp the previous weak for a fabricated violation….). So, I stayed in the right lane, and tried to position myself on the opposite side of more vulnerable looking tourists. It is this way because Kuta, is the original Aussie-Bali tourist nightmare town. Like the jersey shore in paradise, or the OOB for those of you from Maine. So having driven this way for multiple hours, had my mouth drilled out, and being quite sun soaked and weary, I thought maybe I would check out some high art….

The Blanco museum in the middle of Ubud is a fascinating place. Blanco was a Catalonian/Phillipino who came to Bali and promptly had his wallet stolen. Penniless, he befriended the king, who later gave him the land, supposed to have mystical powers, on which now stands his museum. Though he has passed, the museum contains many wonderful paintings by him and his son. As a not so young man he married one of the most famous, teenage Balinese dancers. She became his muse, and the paintings are often nudes of her. After checking out the gothic interior of the museum and its paintings, I stepped outside to scope the toucans, parrots, and tropical larks scattered around the property (maybe drawn to the inherent mystical nature of the land?), and the giant dragon sculptures. Lost in random thought, I was interrupted by an elderly Balinese woman, who wanted to converse about how we had the same earrings, and how she too had lived in New York once in the 50s. I asked her where she lived, and she said here, this is my house, I am the widow.

I have explored the southern beaches of Bali to a certain degree, and the finest so far has been in Uluwatu at a resort called Karma. We took Colette’s sister Liz, and her friend Marcie there for a lazy day recently. For 50,000 rp (9,000 rp = $1, I will henceforth cease to quote the exchange rate…) you can take a cable car down the 100 ft cliff to the beach. It is a crystal clear coral break surrounded by shear cliffs and white sand. I still haven’t figured out what precisely is so alluring to tourists about white sand. The most beautiful beach I have seen yet was the one I accidentally stumbled onto after taking more than one wrong turn, and that had shimmering black sand and three local fisherman. Anyway, back to Karma… It is also an amazing beach. And there is a classy little restaurant on the beach that will serve you drinks in a lounge chair, or flatbreads with a sunrise beach view. Not bad. Nothing will compare to the extreme beaches of my homeland, but this one came pretty close, plus the water wasn’t the kind that will freeze extremities off your body.

I have written before about sambals, but I just wanted to include my three favorite. One of my cooks, Iluh with assistance from Chef Made, taught me the basics of making these three. So enjoy.

Sambal Kecap- Kecap Manis (meaning sweet kecap-pronounced ketchup), is a palm sugar sweetened soy sauce. for this you just slice up 3 or so really hot chilis with the seeds, two small shallots, and one clove raw garlic and just cover with kecap manis (available at asian stores, or make your own very easily). After about a half hour, this will be a ridiculously hot and delicious condiment.

Sambal Lombok (chili)- This one is a gold standard in Bali. I have omitted fish products, usually it contains shrimp paste. sometimes I smell the shrimp past wafting out of people’s houses in the mornings on my way to work, and I feel slightly nauseous. Behind the love of pig products, it is the one thing I can’t really get behind in Bali cooking… Anyhow: Sautee four or so chopped roma tomatoes, a mixture of decided really hot and pretty mild chilies, two kaffir lime leaves, 5 cloves sliced garlic, and 5 sliced shallots in neutral flavored oil until there is not much moisture left from the tomatoes and everything is well cooked. roast about 8 candle nuts until brown. puree all ingredients in a food processor, so they are slightly chunky, but the candle nuts are completely broken down.

Torch Ginger Sambal- Torch ginger is the amazingly fragrant flower of the ginger plant. It has an exotic flavor reminiscent of coriander. It is worth seeking out at an asian market to make this condiment. Finely chop about 5 medium sized torch ginger flowers, 4 stalks lemongrass-only tender lower part, two shallots, and  thai chilis. Squeeze over top the juice from 5 kaffir limes, or one regular lime if kaffir is not to be found. Leave some of the lime rind in the sambal to marinate further. Pour over about 1/4 cup salad oil, salt to taste, and let marinate for at least 5 minutes before eating. All of these are made to be eaten with Nasi (rice) first and foremost, but are awesome condiments for other asian foods- tempe, tofu, probably fish etc….. Enjoy. N.

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photos III…

more photos to check…. these are all from our opening ceremony that happened a few weeks ago. more current post soon!

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…more photos…

This was meant to be continued yesterday, but the internet was down again, a nearly daily occurrence at this point. Anyway, to begin with a shot of my favorite chicken family digging in the trash near work..

…and this cat, quite notably, is still in possession of a tale. A true rarity among cats on Bali…

And a small snapshot of the many bugs of Bali….

Some great ingredients-in order: fresh cacao/chocolate pod-before drying and roasting to become chocolate the cacao seeds have a sweet tropical fruit around the outside, super yummy. torch ginger (the very aromatic flower of ginger used for sambal and salads) and baby ball eggplants. young jackfruit, which is cooked like a potato, and edible wild ferns called paku locally. All yum..

And finally the skeleton of the beasts they are building for one of Bali’s biggest bi-yearly ceremonies. Now they are all covered in black and gold with wings and sinister faces. Amazing. But this was taken at the beginning of construction. That’s all for today. Enjoy. More tomorrow if the internet is working, I have a lot of pictures to unload! N

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photos…

I haven’t felt much like writing. I have been busy, and my mind has been otherwise occupied. Therefore, I have opted to mostly just upload some photos this time around, I hope you enjoy.

This is Chef Made, my co-chef. He is a power house of knowledge and skill. Just look at him texting and holding on to those fresh daikon and carrots. We went to visit the organic farm we will use most often for our restaurant. We got a tour of the farm, set on a mountain side in the middle of jungle. You can’t tell so much from the pictures, but all of the different plants just climbed all over each other and mixed together, creating a very Bali-like kind of beautiful chaos. More shots:

This is a volcanic lake up in Bedugal, which is the prime center of agriculture in Bali. We passed it by on our way to and from the farms we visited. Up in Bedugal is the only time I have ever felt cold in Bali. It is beautiful up there, and the road is lined with monkeys just hanging out. I didn’t manage to snap any good photos of them from the car, but I got this cool photo of the volcano shrouded in cloud cover…

And this is what real shade grown coffee looks like, hanging out in the middle of the jungle…

….and this is an organic oyster mushroom grow house…

…these orchids grow out of a tree near my house. And that will have to be all of the pics for today, as I am out of space here. To be continued tomorrow….

-N

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