Category Archives: travelling around

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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Filed under animalia, Ingredients of Note, Life in Bali, travelling around

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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Filed under Cooking and Recipes, Ingredient, Singapore, the restaurant scene, travelling around

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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Filed under Singapore, travelling around