Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bali - What we ate & drank

I'm not a big breakfast person. But whenever I'm on vacation, I crave for a huge breakfast in the morning, preferably with eggs. The hotel where we stayed in Seminyak (I'll talk about it in a later post) does a beautiful breakfast.

You check off what you want the night before & the next morning, you are greeted with a beautiful tray of breakfast goodies - fried eggs, bacon, spinach, grilled tomatoes, pancakes, fresh fruits, croissant & a pot of Balinese coffee - all delivered to your room. That's what a vacation is all about.

Ku De Ta in Seminyak has the best day beds in all of Bali. You don't have to pay for them, just need to order food & drinks from the restaurant. We love their octopus salad (not shown in the picture) & their sushi rolls. Stick to their snack menu. I've been there for dinner & was not impressed. Of course, make sure to stay for sunset.

More scenes from Ku De Ta

Alcoholic drinks are expensive in Bali so my advice would be to buy a couple of bottles at the duty free shop at the airport to fix your own cocktails or stick to fresh fruit juices.
We saw this on a postcard & decided we had to go check it out. The Rock Bar at The Ayana Hotel (formerly the Ritz Carlton) at Jimbaran Bay.

We had a hard time finding this place cos we forgot to bring along the post card & we didn't realise that it was located in a hotel. Even worse, I didn't realise it was in a hotel that I had stayed in before (my excuse - it was a long time ago & they have since changed name & management & they most certainly didn't have the Rock Bar then).

But I was glad we made the effort. The setting is dramatic to say the least. We made it in time to catch the sunset & we lingered way beyond that. The bar is set on top of the rocks at the base of the cliff where Ayana is located. Access is via a cable car built against the cliff. Cocktails were US$9 & considering the location, not over the top expensive. Definitely worth a stop.

But we went to Jimbaran Bay for the food. As tempted as we were to stay at the Rock Bar, proper food beckoned (cerviches & tofu crackers don't count). So we headed to one of the many beachfront seafood restaurants.

Nothing, absolutely nothing beats eating fresh seafood, straight off the grill with the sound of the waves (ignore the Mariachi band that is making the rounds) & a cool breeze blowing.

No matter where I am, I like to check out the local markets for fruits & snacks

The snakeskin fruit looks more intriguing than it tastes

Our driver Komang brought us to a restaurant along the road that specialises in Babi Guling, Bali's most famous dish. It's suckling pig Balinese style. The pig is rubbed & stuffed with local spices & then roasted over an open fire. Of course the best part is the crispy skin (not unlike siew yoke) but the meal is also served with soup, stewed pork (see picture below), pork satay, deep fried innards (my favorite) & blood sausage.

When our server came by with a lighted candle, I thought it rather odd given that it was lunch time & most certainly not for the mood. Turned out it was to keep the flies away. LOL. Our meal for the 4 of us, including beer was a grand total of US$9.

We were told that there was a really famous Babi Guling restaurant in Ubud but when we passed by, people (tourists & locals alike) were eating by the kerbside or standing with a plate on hand. Call it age, no matter how good the food, I wasn't prepared to eat that way so I couldn't tell you if it was any better.

Blend of Balinese spices

Sweets sold at a road side stall

Lotus Cafe @ Ubud

Rijsttafel @ Lotus

Knowing that there is a one star Michelin restaurant in Ubud, it goes without saying that we wanted to check out Mozaic. We made reservations even before arriving in Bali, bought a bottle of champagne from duty free, found a babysitter, hey we even booked a hotel in Ubud for the night. You could say, we were well prepared & looking forward to going to Mozaic.

But you are not going to read about the restaurant cos we never made it there. The night before said event, The Girl developed a stomach flu & we cancelled our reservation. Ah well, best laid plans often can go wrong.

As it turned out, our best meal was our last dinner in Bali, at Kafe Warisan - a French restaurant. A restaurant apparently really popular with Singaporeans cos we didn't encounter any in the one week we were in Bali but there were several tables of my fellow countrymen.

I'm sorry there aren't more pictures of food but we ate outdoors so there wasn't enough lighting. For starter, X had a millefeuille of alaskan crab with soft shell crab tempura. He chose another item from the starter menu for his main course artichoke ravioli with grilled scallop and prawn & lemon butter sauce. I had a starter of frog legs (as seen above) & seafood linguini with mustard dressing.

Everything was good. The service competent & attentive. My only complaint is that the portions were huge which is not usual for French food. Which according to another friend is the reason he loves Kafe Warisan.

Bali - In search of a beach

Are you a beach person or a pool person ?

I used to be a pool person but have since migrated over to the beach camp. I used to be afraid of swimming in the sea. I talked about it here. Actually I still do, when I swim in the ocean, I swim parallel to the shore, if you know what I mean. I have a healthy respect for the deep & the undercurrents.

Before I would only hang out by the pool but having spent time in the Caribbean & Mediterreanean changed all that. I've learnt to appreciate swimming in the sea & enjoying a fabulous beach.

Needless to say, we are very particular about the beaches we go to. In Bali, we hunted high & low for a good beach. Here are our findings.

Seminyak, though clean was way too rough for swimming. The Girl & her father had a blast chasing the waves but I wouldn't even venture beyond waist deep water.

The Girl & her father's footprints

Go to Seminyak for the sunset.
Ditto for Kuta.

Next day we headed over to Nusa Dua in search of a better beach. All those top end hotels won't be there unless the beach was worth going. Wrong. The water was calmer & more suitable for swimming but the water wasn't clear nor was the sand fine. The search continues.

Next stop Sanur. It looked promising but again, even though the water was calm & clear, it was full of seaweed & not very pleasant for swimming. Sanur has a footpath along the shore - I know cos we walked all 9km of it trying to find a good spot to settle down.

I love the feel of Sanur. More laid back & the vendors are there too, asking you if you want to make trips to the island, do water sports etc but it doesn't feel as much of a circus as it does in Kuta. The best part of the beach is near the Grand Hyatt but unless you are guests of the hotel, there are no amenities close by.

I love these fishing boats that are in abundance in Sanur.

In conclusion & also as advised by the well travelled Lotus, when in Bali with young children, one would be better off booking a hotel with a good pool.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Beautiful Bali

I first went to Bali some 20 years ago. Then it was a magical place. Over the years, I've been back often, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. Even though I'm not a religious person, I've always been attracted to spiritual places.

Some how along the way, it has lost some of it's magic, at least for me. Maybe because it has become so commercial. Maybe because it has become so crowded that I can barely walk on the sidewalk without being pushed out onto the streets, which then puts me in danger of being run over by a speeding scooter. Maybe I'm just a little jaded.

Even so, it's still a beautiful place & here's what I still love about Bali.

The spectacular sunsets.
This one was taken in Seminyak from Ku De Ta

This one take from the Ayana Hotel @ Jimbaran

The Taman Ayun Temple in Menwi. A royal temple with beautiful grounds.

I never seem to get tired of seeing the many temples in Bali. The family temples, the village temples, the big ones, the small ones - they are all beautiful. You can't walk more than 10 meters before you encounter one.

Pura Bratan - a scenic temple along the shores of the Lake Bratan in Bedegul

I've not been to Tanah Lot in over 10 years & since then, the road leading to the entrance is now filled with street vendors. One has to jostle for a spot to take a photo of Tanah Lot & that can't be good.

A lone fisherman

One of many beautiful doors & their guardians that you seem to find everywhere in Bali

Sadly, many rice fields have now made way for hotels & restaurants so unless you are prepared to drive out further, it's hard to come across terraced rice fields.

Terraced rice fields just outside of Ubud

Amazing what the women can carry on their heads as they go about doing their business

There's beauty in the most unlikely of places

Workers restoring the Museum Puri Lukisan

A lotus in a pond in Ubud

We were invited by our driver Komang to visit a cremation at his village & even though it is a joyous occasion for the Balinese & as much as I would have wanted to witness the ceremony, we didn't think it would be appropriate for The Girl.

Coming next - the rest of the Bali chronicles - where we stayed, what we ate & what I'd recommend for kids,