Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cooking Ubud

We started early Tuesday morning with all the girls booked into the Casa Luna morning market tour and cooking school.

The traditional Ubud early morning food market is not for the faint hearted, but for those of us who'd experienced markets in India last year it all seemed pretty quiet and spick and span.  We took the opportunity to pick up some beautiful quality vanilla pods (so cheap compared to home) and some spices under the careful watch of our market tour guide.

We learnt a bit about mangosteens - how to tell when they're ripe and how that lovely daisy shape on its base represents how many segments will be in the fruit. We also learnt I paid an inflated tourist price for the lot I purchased on my first day in Ubud this week.

Tourists are never allowed to work too hard in Ubud so we were provided with cooling hibiscus tea, some snacks and a chance to relax back at the gorgeous Honeymoon Guesthouse before our class got underway.

Mie goreng, tempe curry, fish curry, roasted white eggplant, fern coconut salad and pandan coconut crepes were on the menu today - all involving a lot of CHOPPING!

There were fifteen people in our group - from all over the world: Switzerland, America, Macau and even a few from Canberra, Australia. It was all part of the fun to get to talk to and eat with an interesting new bunch of people.

No wonder Balinese food tastes so good when there is all this fresh flavoursome goodness going into it - a balance of salty, sweet, sour and spicy as we were constantly reminded.

And all the while this old school rice steamer was bubbling away......

We got to make an old favourite of mine: Urab Pakis (fern coconut salad) don't even have to use "fern" - any delicate greenery will do.  Must make it soon by myself before I forget the little details - although preparing the coconut will be a bit of a challenge at home!

And the cooking feast is completed!

Everything tasted delicious but a surprise favourite of mine today was the tempe curry.  Our class lasted over five hours (hard work with a lot of standing!). The menfolk managed to spend a quiet morning in Ubud very happily and were very pleased to find themselves an excellent wood fired pizza place quite close to the Honeymoon Guesthouse so they could enjoy their own feast while we were enjoying ours.  

It was our turn to host G & Ts on the terrace on Tuesday night - another beautiful evening in great company, with a light meal at Tutmak's afterwards. It's great fun wandering the relatively quiet streets of Ubud in the evening as so many of the cafes have live bands playing - doing covers of all the great songs from the 60s - 80s; love Ubud.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ubud Batubalan Sanur

It hasn't taken us long to adjust to G & Ts on the balcony each night in Ubud as the sun sets. Fiona and James hosted drinks on Sunday night at their hotel (Sri Bungalows). I felt quite nostalgic watching the ducks being herded from the rice paddies as we enjoyed our lovely end to the day; something I always loved about our stays at Sri Bungalows in the past.

The new villas and pool area at Sri Bungalows looks very flash - and very inviting!

We ended another lovely day with a meal at Cafe Wayan - one of the best so far we all agreed.

While the rest of the mob took off on their own adventure on Monday to Candi Dasa Rob and I had made arrangements to meet up with an old friend for lunch in Sanur. But before we left Ubud with Pak Edy I happened to see this view of the burning off of the rice husks in the paddy behind Three Monkeys, another step in the process of hand harvesting the rice.

It was so good to see John again, after a four year break, so happily settled in a beautiful villa in Batubulan (the old stone carver's village).

.....and he still loves his garden and exotic orchids. I admired this very rare black centred orchid from Papua.

We talked non stop catching up on all the Bali/Indonesian news and managed to solve most of the challenges in the process (in our minds anyway).  John is a mine of information and potential contacts so we find time with him presents lots of new travel ideas and opportunities.

It was a gorgeous clear day for a beach lunch in Sanur.

We ate at a rustic beach cafe, seafood of course, freshly caught that day.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Eating Ubud

We were joined by the rest of the mob in Ubud on Saturday afternoon. The good times started almost immediately with a few rounds of G&Ts on our balcony at Cendana and then dinner out at Casa Luna. Ubud continues to be packed with people and traffic but just to prove that nothing has really changed as we approached Casa Luna, as if on cue, we were greeted by a long and loud procession of exquisitely dressed and festooned locals on their way to some ceremony.  

The Casa Luna is a very gentle and stylish introduction to eating out in Ubud - but the most amazing sight of the night was Maddie ordering, eating and enjoying her first gado gado (yummy she said!)

I played tour guide on Sunday, leading my group around the long block bound by Jl Dewi Sitra and Jl Hanoman and Monkey Forest Road, noting great massage spots, cafes, temples, rice paddy views dance sites, restaurants and shopping opportunities along the way. Of course we stopped at the Sacred Monkey Forest too.  Despite the horror stories about rabid feral monkeys, the few family groups we observed at the entry to the forest were very cute and engaging.  Maybe there will be a visit to the forest later in the week then?

The Three Monkeys Cafe is just like we remembered it - and great WiFi too much to the relief of all the young ones.

Leaving us to consider lunch.....which had to be at The Indus of course.

The Indus was pretty crowded so we were relegated to the lower level. Janet's husband was there directing operations. It was obvious there are lots of preparations underway for the Readers and Writers festival due to open on the 1st - including a fresh lick of paint (happening while we were there) to all the lndus walls.  Rob was the one who announced the man directing things was Janet's husband - which I disagreed with (in front of everyone) (as if he'd be there WORKING I said!).  Rob got a lot of mileage out my wrong call when the facts became known (!!!).

After another wonderful meal it was back to the centre of the village and a quick look at the lotus garden........

......and a chance for the girls (and James) to try the foot spa with hundreds of man eating fish sucking dead skin cells off their lower limbs. I've never seen this in Ubud before but I guess if the gimmick works well in Nusa Dua why not in Ubud too?  They swear it left their skin smoother and softer anyway.

Only an hour to wait to G&T time again..this time we're invited to James and Fiona's villa at Sri Bungalows. I'm looking forward to seeing the hotel again, an old favourite of ours.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Return to Ubud

It's been four years since we've been to our favourite part of Bali.  It seems like a lot has changed. There's a new airport at Denpasar (but it stills takes forever to get visas and get through migration - but at least now it's in airconditioned comfort) and a new toll road out of the airport that gets traffic moving before it hits the logjam at the turnoff to Sanur.  There are a lot more cars on the road and everyone riding bikes has to wear a helmet these days (although not the children riding passenger I note).

Ubud was crazy busy when we arrived around 4.00pm yesterday; big shiny Kejangs clogging the roads and the tiny walkways up and down Monkey Forest Road filled with tourists.  But the Cendana Resort hasn't changed a bit in the 8 years since we last stayed there.  There are no new villas, nothing has been upgraded, all the staff are the same. Nobody remembers us (of course) although the greeting is very friendly all the same.

It's the end of the dry season in Bali - rice harvest time.  This is the view from the Cendana gardens, just to remind us of what Ubud village life is like for the poorer people who harvest the rice by hand (mainly women).

....while we can relax in the peaceful Cendana gardens and admire the "rice paddy views".

Cafe Wayan is exactly the same as the last time we visited (thank goodness). We were really hungry by 6.00pm last night; 8.00pm by our body clocks and we'd only eaten one other meal during the long day's travel from Sydney.

Cafe Wayan's Nasi Campur is just as wonderful as we'd remembered it (and perfect with a Bintang beer).

This morning started perfectly with a swim for both of us (Rob's first swim since his surgery 8 weeks ago) and a long breakfast "with our rice paddy views".  Walking around the village after reassured me that so much of what we love about Ubud has stayed the same: the local peoples' intensity around preparing for ceremonies, quite oblivious to the traffic around them and the gawking of tourists.......

The iconic Ubud markets have been cleaned up and sorted in the past four years, but the fresh food area is just a colourful and (somewhat) alarming as it has ever been. It was crowded with cooking school groups this morning when we visited.

Which meant it was now time for a cold drink and Bali Kopi at our favourite Lotus Cafe in Jalan Raya Ubud (and there is now a Starbucks (tastefully hidden inside a beautiful old traditional Balinese building) right next door to the Lotus Cafe - yikes!).

But the Lotus Cafe is just as beautiful and old school Ubud as ever.

..and the narrow walkways down Monkey Forest Road are just as death defying even though the little boutiques fronting them are looking much more upscale these days.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A date with Abi

This girl is hard for me to photograph - always on the move and usually too busy to pause and look my way, especially when she's doing something much more fun..

Ah..gotcha this time Abi my girl......

 Of course, Peppa Pig can always raise a smile...

As can a plate of after lunch goodies........dates from Turkey were on the menu of Abi's favourite food groups.......

 Jody said..only two...but I saw her have LOTS more than that..which could prove to be a bit diabolical, later on!