Thursday, 6 June 2013

June 2012 - Bali Day 9 - The Gurgles.......

Bali Day 9 - The Gurgles.......

Our last real full day in Bali dawned hot and sunny, and "windy" for poor Litsa. She still has got a bit of a squirelly belly from whatever demon spawn food she had last night.

We asked the lovely staff here for poached eggs this morning, and some toast, something nice and plain, but for the first time on the trip, the eggs dissapointed us, being quite hard and rubbery. Andrew, missing his opportunity to eat his Milo Cereal already had the look on his face of a man planning a second breakfast on the streets of Seminyak.

Because of Litsas stomach, which had started gurgling again after she had eaten, we decided to hang out in the Villa for a while.

The Villa we have been staying in all week is Villa Kupu Kupu which is part of the Villa Bugis group. Location for us on our first trip here was very important. This is in a primo spot just off JL Laksmana. Its a lovely 2 bedroom villa with a pool, and is part of a row of about 6 villas. We got to have a look inside Villa BIMA, which is right down the end, around another 100m away from ours. That one is stunning, with an upstairs master, and 2 poolside rooms making 3 bedrooms in total. It has a much more kid friendly pool too, with bench seating in the edge of the pool where you could easily sit drinking Bintangs all day. Kupu Kupu I would say is the oldest of the row of Villas. Its quite stunning, but the signs of age do show. The ladder for the edge of the pool has obviously broken off and hasnt been replaced, making the first steep very deep, hence the needs for our pool toys. The aircon in our bedroom, doesnt quite keep up with the other one, and there is an ant problem in the kitchen at times. Little things like the wood needing revarnishing, and a couple of the pool light surrounds having dead bulbs could easily be rectified, but so far havent. There is also a slight plumbing smell in our bathroom. Not sure why, but it is noticeable. We'd definetly stay with the Bugis group again, but would probably opt for one of the newer villas, and just bring a 3rd couple along. Actually the way its shaping up, we have have to get 2 villas side by side. There is good interest from other friends for a return trip. I would also be more confident in trying other locations now we know how to get around, and where everything is. Its been a great trip to get the lay of the land.

Back to our day........

I headed off to Warung Laundry on Laksmana to drop off a bunch of dirty laundry for pickup around 5pm. Total for a huge bag was AUS$6.20. Much cheaper than any other Asian country I have visited.

Litsa felt well enough to go have another spa treatment a but later in the morning. I sat around the pool and read for a while and had a couple of beers to settle my own stomach (well thats my excuse, and I am sticking too it). Kathrine went back to bed for a while, and Andrew hung around the villa as well.

As lunchtime approached, I set off to get Litsa and then we hopped in a cab to got back to TACO BEACH GRILL. I am not usually one to revisit places to eat on a first trip to a new destination. I am always keen to get out and try new places. I'd been dissapointed that I hadnt really had a chance to try what I wanted on the last visit. It had been too busy, and they had run out of too many ingredients. When we walked in, Bob greeted us again, and sat us at a table at the front. He then mentioned he was working on a new Margarita recipe, taking into account the flavour of the very small local limes. He asked if i'd like to try one ? OF COURSE !! i've always been a fan of a good tequila and lime based cocktail, so whilst he took off home to get the goodies to make it, we ordered. We asked for the guacamole again, even though the first night, the serving had been very small (it was still quite cheap). This time, it came in a much bigger bowl. When Bob came back, I questioned why there had been a difference, he looked very puzzled, and said, thats the size we always serve here, what did you get last time ? I showed him one of the small bowls that hold the delicious salsas he makes. Hmmmmm there definetly had been a mistake on the last visit. He then mentioned the night we came in was the 2nd busiest day/night that they had since the place opened. Looking around and listening to the conversations with other patrons, you could tell that EVERYONE was a repeat customer. Word is out people, this place is HOT right now, I would get there quickly before he has to move to a bigger place ! While we were there, he had seating and tables delivered for at least another 8 people.

My beef burrito was a triumph. The handmade tortillas are great, and the filling of shredded beef, beans, rice, avocado, sour cream and a smattering of hot sauce was a great combo. The plate had a side of more rice and more refried beans topped with melted Mozarella. More than enough for lunch. Litsa had the Texas BBQ Burrito, which had the same elements, but the beef was drizzled with an amazingly smokey BBQ sauce of Bobs own recipe. I can imagine it lathered over pork ribs too ! She was loving every minute, even though her stomach was still not 100%

I had the deep fried apple taquito to finish. Another dish they had run out of previously, its Bobs unique homage to the Macdonalds apple pie...... but simply 2000% BETTER. A great way to end the meal.

All up inc the $4 Margarita, a Bintang, bottle of water, it came to just on AUS$25. You also have to remember that during the meal, there are between 5-7 salsa plates assembled on the table as well. I think this is outstanding value for the quality of the food.

Andrew had requested I pick him up another T-shirt from the shop beside Taco Beach Grill, so once that was done, Litsa and I cabbed it back to the villa for an afternoons Nanna Nap.

Andrew and Kathrine had chosen Ku De Ta as their lunch spot. They snared a daybed down on the beach side and ordered a couple of stunning cocktails to start their afternoon. Lunch for them was a Lamb based pizza, which after seeing the photos, made me drool. Nice thin crisp base lathered in toppings that were flavourful and in good quantity. It was an AUS$20 pizza, but as Kathrine said, at $10 a head for a filling lunch of that quality, she was very happy based on the location and ambience of the venue. She also suggested we have our next Bali Sunday Session there instead of Potato Head. For the record.... they too don't sell jugs of fruit punch for $6.90, but they do have slightly cheaper prices than PH.

None of us stirred from our beds till close to 5.30pm. We all showered and spruced up and started having a pre dinner wine around the lovely fish pond. I had booked Chandi, a local fancy eatery for a 7.30pm sitting. They had been quite insistent we be there on time, as an 8pm booking couldnt be accomodated. I figured they would be full tonight as there seems to be a lot more Aussies looking fresh off the planes around the area, and all of the villas in our section are also full.

We arrived and were seated inside near the bar. Chandi is a stunning venue. Someone has spent megabucks on the place. The decore is very modern Bali, with an amazingly lit mural behind the bar. A courtyard with a large water feature is beatifully lit, and the whole ambience, though maybe not as good as the beachside places like La Lucciola etc, makes you feel very much at home. The service, as we have come to expect was simply brilliant. The staff were knowledgable, attentive, without being over the top. Their menu is extensive, and there is something for everybody on it. Its very cosmpolitan, and even the most finicky eater will find something to suit.

We chose the appetiser tasting platter for 2, and 4 extra mixed signature sate sticks to share between the 4 of us. The tasting platter held around 10 tasty morsels which was more than enough for the 4 of us to get a mouthful of each. I can't remember all of the dishes on there, but they were all great. A standout was the spiced watermelon soup shot we all got as well. I simply loved that, so refreshing, and yet, the heat was great as well. We had 2 types of beef Sate, a Lamb sate and an Octopus. These came on a long platter with lashings of tasty peanut sauce. These were much bigger than what we had been used to so far, and were all simply delicious.

Starters finished, and all of us with a slightly full belly, the mains were brought out a short time later. Litsa opted for a medium rare Harvery tenderloin of beef served on a hot rock. This came with a side of mashed potato laced with parsely, and also some wilted spinach. The meat was sensational. Around 200GM it was not a big serve, but after a Bintang and the entrees, she struggled to finish it. Her cost was AUS$21 and it was as good as any $40 steak we had eaten at home in places that were not as nice. Kathrine had the crispy pork belly. This came in a bowl sitting in a delicious broth. At only $9.50 a serving, she said that it couldnt be beaten for flavour and value. Andrew had a large serving of the beef sate, and he was also impressed with the food and value. I chose a medium rare rib fillet. at AUS$24, I have to say, I expected more. It came out Blue, very rare, and I did have to send it back for a quick flash on the grill. We've been used to buying some great Wagyu eye fillet at superbutcher back home for around $6 a steak. I think the ones we cook ourselves are actually better, and has less fatty gristle on them. I struggled to finish the meat as I was already quite full. A mental note was made to forgo starters next time. My steak was seasoned nicely, but didnt quite hit the mark, and was around what I would have expected to pay at home. Shame as it will be my last big meal here. I would definetly go back to Chandi, but simply choose something else. You also might want to note that Chandi did not allow smoking inside then restaurant, and they had an area of chairs setup on the balcony close to the road for smokers. This I found a nice touch, as basically all of the restaurants so far allow smoking at the tables.

We picked up a DVD from the shop across the road, and retired to the Villa to finish the wine collection off and relax in front of the TV. This is the first time we have really put it on whilst we have been here. I really havent missed it at all. I fell asleep in front of the movie and when Litsa prodded me, I headed to bed.

I am writing this on our last morning. Transportation is organised for 8.30pm tonight for our 10.50pm flight via Darwin. The 3 hour layover at 3am is something we all have been dreading. Its no good getting pessimistic yet, we still have a whole day to go. More spa treatments planned, some last minute makeup and clothes shopping at Carrefour and Bali Brasco, and a last sit around the lovely pool.............That will be our day.

This will probably be the last update for this trip. I do intend on trying to get some of the photos up somewhere when I can, so keep your eyes out here as I will link them for all to see.

I really appreciate the feedback I have been getting on the blog, and am happy to answer all or any questions you may have about our adventures. I hope I ve given you a little insight on the joys of Bali, and why we are now gagging to get back here.

Cheers Wayne

June 2012 - Bali Trip day 8 - Bali Belly or Not ?

Bali Trip day 8 - Bali Belly or Not ?

Hungover - UGH

The hilarity of the night before in Kuta, doesnt look so funny this morning. And its hot too. This is probably the warmest morning all week. The rum punches at Potato Head on Sunday, even though a lot more costly, don't leave you feeling like you had gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. Luckily, "common" our breakfast maker extraordinaire, wandered in around 8.30 and cooked us all omelets. A few glasses of juice, some more water, and I was at least feeling semi-human again.

Predicting that we would all be a bit under the weather, we hadnt made any plans for the morning. The only real goal was to get to Tanah lot at sunset and maybe have dinner there as well.

Litsa and I had seen a new shopping place near Carrefour out on Jalan Sunset, the only 3 lane road we have seen on the island. A French lady in the checkout at Carrefour had suggested we could get some shoes there for Litsa. We hopped into a Bluebird for the AUS$2.25 taxi ride over there. Its a bit out of the way, but I felt it was worth the trip.

Bali Brasco, as the place is known is quite new. Its very close to Carrefour, and could easily be combined in the same shopping trip. Its a double story mini department store that stocks a little bit of everything really. They carry "branded" items at very very reasonable prices. Some examples of my purchases were...Two Ben Sherman Polo shirts for AUS$11 each, and Armani -shirt for $8, a couple of pairs of shorts for around another AUS$10 each. I am not sure if this stuff is genuine, but it sure is much better quality than you will find in the streets and at Ketuts etc. There was also a great range for guys. I would gladly go back next year and shop. Shopping for the women was OK too. Litsa only bought one item, and she said the range was not varied enough for her, but there looked to be a ton of stuff for other women.

Remember the name. Bali Brasco !

Litsa and I got talking to a cab driver, out the front of Bali Brasco, and he offered to give us a ride back to Seminyak. He used to be a Bluebird Taxi driver, and now drives one of the "local Taksi's" as he calls them. The ones that have a Bluebird on the roof, but are not actually REAL Bluebirds. I asked him why he didnt drive for them anymore. He explained (in very good English) that the drivers of a Bluebird, only get 30% commision of the metered fare, and they have to pay their own fuel costs on top as well. Most of our Bluebird trips, averaged between $1 and $2 and we have paid around 50c more to the non official drivers. He explained that the Bluebird taxis make good money for the taxi owner, and good money for the company, but the drivers get basically nothing. They rely on tips from the tourists to survive. Now...I have read numerous trip reports on TA, and advice on how to save money for cabs.... when I said to this driver " Aussies don't tip well do they ?" he said "Yes, thats correct". I think we all seem to focus on just how cheap Bali is, and lose sight of the bigger picture. Being a penny pinching miser, trying to save 50c here and there, is it such a sensible way to holiday ? If you really need to save 50c probably twice a day on 2 taxi trips over a week (Thats $7), should you really be going on holidays at all ? The next time I am in a Bluebird, and the driver gives me that great Balinese smile, and doesnt kill me in the process of getting me to my destination, he is getting a tip !

Now, where was I ?

Oh yes. Litsa and I made it back to the Villa in the cab, and YES, he did get a tip from us.

Kathrine had gone to go get some pedicure stuff done at Nirvana Spa again, and Andrew was at the Villa hanging around. They had planned to got to Ku De Ta for a look and some lunch. We headed off to Wah Wah Burger instead.

Wah Wah was another place suggested to me by Changa, my mate, who is in Bali 2-3 times a year. Changa likes 2 things about food, MEAT and if the meat has MORE MEAT in it. He had mentioned that he had lunch at Wah Wah the previous week, and all I heard was " Beef Short Ribs"........... I too am a tad carniverous.

Its pretty easy to find. Head down JL Laksmana (eat Street) past Seminyak Square, where the road becomes Oberoi (I think), past Ku De Ta, follow it right for another 200m, and Wah Wah's is on the right. A big yellow sign saying WWW is easy to spot. The decore is modern Bali. The owner, Wah, apparently is responsible for a lot of the art on the walls. Its trendy, but cool at the same time. The menu is all about meat. Their signature dish is all burgers. They have a sampling plate, that I am told is terrific. You rarely see Seared Foi Gras on a menu, but this one has it. I chose the short rib with BBQ sauce, and Litsa had the Lamb racks. We also ordered a side of Truffled rustic mashed potato, and a rocket and parmesan salad. Litsa loved the lamb, but the fat hadnt been trimmed properly, and that put her off a little bit. My short rib looked like it had been slow baked. It was a delicious hunk of meat, not a huge piece, but enough for me for lunch. I think a large man, looking for satisfaction would find the servings a litte small. We have found that anywhere serving quality food, also has smaller rations....... Its the same at home I guess. We also ordered a glass of Sauv Blanc each, as they seemed to have a bit of a bargain NZ wine at AUS$7.50 a glass. Anyone who has been here, will realise thats quite cheap. The wine was served in those oversize 'goblets' that seem to be the in thing in AUS. The actual amount of wine in the glass looked ridiculously small, and was really, only 3 mouthfulls. This was dissapointing :(

Total including wine was AUS$60 for the 2 of us. Without wine, it would have been AUS$45 and seen to be much better value for the quality of the food we ate. Alchohol clouds your judgement in more ways than one here.

Litsa and I then thought we'd go have a look at Ku De Ta whilst it was so close. Walking past the ever present security checkpoint (Thanks guys... for keeping us all safe) we walk up the steps into the building. First impressions are :- its not as big a Potato Head. Its quite cosy actually. I couldnt see a pool either. There were beachside daybeds and recliners etc, but I didnt see a pool. Kathrine and Andrew hadnt arrived as yet, and we'd hoped to meet them for a drink. A quick look at the menu, which didnt really impress us that much, and we were in a cab again for the 50c + TIP trip back to Villa.

There is a transport office of sorts in our laneway, and as the Villa wanted AUS$45 for the Tanah Lot trip, I tought I'd go ask these guys, who said PAGI each morning, how much they wanted. I explained that we'd love a car with 2 rows of rear seats, so Kathrine, with her dodgy knee could stretch out a bit. A fee of AUS$30 was negotiated (Bargain).

We went and had a Nanna Nap for a couple of hours and Alex, our new driver, came and got us at 4.00pm on the dot. He had a shiny new looking Toyota 4WD and I was impressed. We piled in for the afternoons journey along the coast to the famous Tanah Lot.

The journey was awesome. Comfortable car, pumping aircon, and so much to see. This was a great way to see the countryside in luxury. We got to see many more rice fields and terraces today than the trip to Ubud. I am blown away that there are so few roads, and that each and every one is barely 2 lanes wide. The volume of traffic they carry is enormous. Its pretty easy to see how gridlock can occur. On our way there, a truck had blown a tyre at an intersection. It took a good 20 mins for us to get through, and scooters were being diverted up the footpath. How anything gets done here, I do not know !

Tanah Lot is a row of cliffs that holds a few large and small temples. The Balinese actually fear the sea (most fishing etc is done by Javanese people). The temples are significant in that they keep the bad sea gods IN the sea. The area is gorgeous. Dark brechiated volcanic rock, with dark sand beaches and a 5 star 18 hole golf course thrown in for good measure. We arrived and parked in the "Melasti Seafood Restaurant" car park at the northen end of Tanah Lot. A table was booked for sunset, and off we walked back down the coastal track to the temples. It very hard to express how I felt whilst there. Litsa is very very spiritual, so I knew I couldnt get in her way here. She cried at the edge of the Grand Canyon when we were there in 2010, so I had no idea how she was going to react here. The higher temples, on the headland afford a better opportunity to get down with your inner Hindu. The large temple, seperated from the mainland by a small causeway, was just too busy to get any vibe from. Underneath the large rock temple, three "Sharmans" were handing out blessings by letting people drink from a holy spring, get blessed, then stick rice to their foreheads and frangipani flowers in their ears. I got some pretty good photos. We headed back to the restaurant for our 6pm booking. Our table was not on the cliff edge, but we could see the sunset easily from where they put us. A bride and groom, who we had seen earlier having photos taken at the cliffs had a table setup in one corner, and a group of musicians were serenading them.

Its a little bit of a tourist trap, and the food was probably never going to be world class, but the chance to eat freshly cooked seafood in such a setting couldnt be missed. I headed inside and chose 2 good sized crabs, one to grill and one to do in Chilli, a smallish 600gm squid to grill, and 6 large king prawns to grill and serve in Garlic butter. That was the choice for Litsa and myself. Andrew orders a whole fish, and some prawns all to be done on the grill as well. We had the customary couple of pre dinner Bintangs and took in the ambience. There were lots of tiny bats fluttering around ready to eat the mosquitos, which, were out in force once the sun actually set. A couple of small cats were also mooching around the tables looking for scraps. I had to shoo one away, as it was really noisy, and way too cute, and I know that feeding them does them more bad than good in the long run.

The food was really nice. My Chilli crab was a standout for me. I actually wrecked a pair of shorts when I dropped one of the tightly packed claws onto my lap dripping with the chilli sauce. WHOOOPS... Thats going to need some napisan.

Total bill for Litsa and I was AUS$100. Not bad for 2 crabs in that I suppose. I have had worse 'seafood' dinners in worse locations that cost a lot more. And I am guessing we paid less than some of the joints at Jimbaran I have been reading about.

The trip back was quiet, we were all a bit pensive, and the traffic was bad as usual. It took almost an hour to travel around 40km. Kathrine did make the call to get some wine on the way home. We ended up stopping at a wine shop called Wine house just up the road from Mama San heading towards Tanah Lot. They had a special on a Margaret River Sauv Blanc at AUS$24 a bottle. Kathrine and I have both been missing our wine, so on a whim, we got 5 bottles between us.

At home, we cracked the first one, and even put ice cubes in it to chill it down faster. Then Kathrine decided she wanted McDonalds. We were all actually a little peckish at this point, except for Litsa (and you'll understand why in a minute), so we logged on and ordered Home Delivery... YUP... they deliver 24/7 here. The order was placed on my Laptop and I clicked PLACE ORDER and then... BAM... I am back at the websites home page...No confirmation of order, no asking for payment details etc etc.. Hmmmmmm did that order actually go through ? A heated discussion ensued, with Kathrine on the phone at one point talking to Wayan/Ketut/Ronald McDonald in Bali HQ and trying to spell " VILLA KUPU KUPU" out like 5 times, with the chap writing a K instead of a V each time she said Villa. To save time, Andrew went and asked one of the lovely staff here Ketut, if he could come in and talk on the phone. Well, they were having just as many problems understanding what the hell we were trying to achieve through him as kathrine. All we wanted to know was.... had the order gone through ? As Ketut is re-reading our order out for the 3rd time, a little bloke on a scooter with a heat box on the back turns up at the villa gate..........BAM........Your Maccas is here. Now, I don't know what kind of a business model they run on, but taking annonymous orders for FOOD on the internet, not confirming an order, and NOT asking for payment first ? Thats a ballsy system to run. But HEY ?? we got our Maccas......

And for the record, it was CRAP (and cold) UGH !

Poor Litsa, who had only ordered a cheeseburger was having some horrendous gurgling noises going on in her Belly. It had been 4 hours since dinner, and she was not feeling well at all. Massive stomach cramps, and well, you can guess the rest. Luckily we were at the Villa and close to a good bathroom. It wasnt like a massive dose of food poisoning she has had before (In Aus), but it certainly wasnt pleasant for her. Before we headed for bed, she had more cramping, and whilst lying there trying to fell off to sleep, I could still hear her belly rumbling even with ear plugs in. She didnt have to get up in the night, but as soon as she ate breakfest this morning, she had the same symptoms. I am thinking we might hang here for a while and see how she goes. Is THIS the Bali Belly you hear about ? We've been pretty good using hand sanitiser, avoiding the tap water so far. She thinks one of the prawns may have done her in ? who knows ?

One thing I have avoided discussing so far on this trip is the Dogs. There are dogs everywhere. Some are in good health, and some look mangy, malnourished and are in survival mode. I can see why so many Aussies donate to the funds setup to go collect dogs etc. The beaches have them running wildly up and down, they walk along the sides of the main roads, missing getting hit by inches. I saw 3 dogs almost squashed on the way to Tanah Lot. Opposite our villa, there are some local homes, and the 2 puppies mentioned in an earlier update wander from house to house. I witnessed something that would have had the guy jailed back in AUS a couple of days ago, and its probably one thing I don't want to carry with me as a memory of this trip. I wont go into detail, but the cruelty shown, made me mad and very upset. As a traveller, you see many things you have to put down to differences in culture, but I fail to see how something like this can happen in a culture as peaceful as the one in Bali ? I hope it was a one off.

On that sombre note, will log off for the day. We have one full day here to go, and it looks like that might be a quiet one, and then tomorrow, we head home, but not till late. I am sure there will be enough experiences to warrant another update or two :)

Thanks for reading.

June 2012 - Day 7 - Wiggle wiggle wiggle yeah.....

Day 7 - Wiggle wiggle wiggle yeah.....

I have to be up front, and let you know, this blogs being written with a bit of a headache. In the interests of cross cultural exchange of information, we wandered into Balis more seedy side last night. The aftermath is a massive hangover, dehydration, and a bunch of stories I may not be able to elaborate on.

The day started with a bit of a rain squall, and quite overcast. It is still quite warm though. After breakfast (sausages, bacon etc) we sat around for a while, catching up on news, and me writing the blog.

Plans were to head back down to Garlic Lane in Legian and go back to KETUTS and also try and find "Miss Debbies" for some more girl clothes. Hopping in a cab, we have become pretty good at negotiating the prices for the non Bluebird metered cabs, paying only on average 50c more a trip than we would using a meter. My suggestion to any Bali virgins, is to get into a Bluebird cab your first trip, work out the distance and fare, and then use this as a guage for future trips after you have looked at a map. We have had some stupid stupid initial first prices from cabbies here. The best yet, was a AUS$15 quote for a $1.50 distance. They really do try it on with tourists. Our taxi driver this morning, thinking he was onto a good thing if he pleased us, decided to try and knock Mark Webber off pole position at the next Formula one Grand prix. It was the fastest trip from Seminyak to Legian yet. His complete lack of respect for the centre line was impressive, and I am sure a few scooter riders are now wondering how they are not splattered on his windscreen.

Hopping out at the corner of JL Padma and Garlic lane, we wandered South towards Ketuts. I had been told that Miss Debbies was pretty much opposite the lane going down towards Ketuts. I still couldnt find it, as all the shops look pretty much 'Same Same but different". I asked a guy if he knew where it was, and he pointed up... We were next door LOL. Miss Debbies is a much smaller shop (or so you think). A variety of clothes, and sundry bits adorn the walls. They also had sunglasses, which Ketuts didnt have. Litsas looked around, picked up a few items, which were similar prices to Ketuts, then the owner, told us that he had much more "out the back". OK, lets go have a look. You then get led down the lane opposite Ketuts for about 100m and walk into an amazing area that looks a bit like a temple. WOW... everything is laid out in massive piles, arranged by type, size etc, and there are rooms EVERYWHERE. It was so much easier shopping here than in Ketuts. The maze of rooms held a treasure trove of goodies. The prices were all fixed, cheap and the variety was excellent. We bought a few homewares, some more sarongs and ladies clothes, and waited for Andrew to get a couple of pieces of art taken off the frames for easy transport. I would happily suggest to anyone who thinks they must go to ketuts, to go to Miss Debbies instead. Way less claustrophobic, easier to find stuff, more or less the same prices. I am pretty sure the Ketuts fans will be up in arms, but that wasnt just my opinion.

We then hopped into another Bluebird for the $1.70 fare back to Kuta Plaza for a revisit of Baggus Watches. Litsa hadnt had a big enough Tiffanys fix the first day we went, and wanted to have a much longer look in case she missed out on another bargain. We walked out with another AUS$70 worth of stuff (insert big sigh here).

The REAL Miss Debbies... heaps Bigger than Ketuts

We couldnt avoid Kuta beach anymore. We simply had to go have a look. To say you get swamped by hawkers would be an understatement. We had read the day before, that the Govt was very happy that the quarterly quota for tourists was actually above budget, but everyone we speak too, asks where the tourists are ? This being the case, ANY tourist seems to get jumped on with an offer of a Chair, hair braiding, foot massage, Bintang (tempting at this point) a bottle of water, a kite, a funny looking thing with an elephant motif etc etc etc. We lasted all of 10 seconds before retreating back to the footpath and behind a large brick wall. This kind of activity was a complete opposite to what we had seen at Seminyak beach a few days previously. This was the Bali you are warned about. We legged it up the beach road past all the resorts and restaurants and decided to stop and have lunch at the Tequila Club attached to the Samudera resort. For the foodies out there, waiting eagerly for one of my trademark food blogs, log off now. Today won't be of any interest to you. Serious food will be lacking in this report (as you will see).

Lunch was burgers, fries and a side salad. Yeah yeah... we could had McDonalds you say, BUT.. these burgers were great. Juicy pieces of meat, with just the right amount of fat, covered in lovely garnish on a Brioche bun. I really enjoyed mine, as did Litsa and Kathrine. Andrew had chicken sate, which he said was "OK". Bintangs were AUS$2.50 here, and we had a couple each to quench the thirst.

After lunch, the call was to go home and rest up for an afternoon session of beers on the beach.

I had a bit of a Nanna Nap until 4.00pm, and we left the villa just on 5.00pm. We caught a cab with the destination the beach end of "Double 6" (JL Arjuna). There was some kind of ceremony going on, and we ended up having to walk the length of double 6. Not a good start to the afternoon. We ended up on some bean bags at "La Plancha" for the sunset, had a couple of drinks, but moved South to "Crystal Palace" as the toilet facilities were much better for the ladies. This whole beanbag on the beach thing really needs to catch on in Australia. Its such a good way to relax and wind down after a hard days negotiating with Taxi drivers.

About now, most sensible people would be interested in dinner right ? Well, we did order a mixed sate plate to share. But that was IT ! "Eatings cheating" I heard someone say. "there is a steak in every Bintang" was another call made earlier. Its best for the non drinkers amongst you out there to start shaking your head now. The rest of the evening kinda went like this.........

La Plancha

Stay at crystal palace for their $4.50 cocktail special till 7pm. Then overstay and pay $7 for another hour. Bintangs were $2.50 (not bad considering the location and toilet facilities)

Head South of Double 6 looking for more venues to drink at. Stop... look at menu.. have a Bintang (between $2.50 and $2.75), ask if they have free wifi, get Kathrine to "check us in" on facebook so we will have a record of where we went for the night. This part was repeated a couple of times before we ran out of beachfront places to drink.

Heading back to the Double 6 corner we tried to find a cab. I must warn ANYONE who goes to this area to have your wits about you. Bluebird cabs are apparently not allowed to pickup down that end. Some other Taxi mob own the rights to it. You hardly see any cabs there, only private cars. We asked about getting a cab into Kuta and were quoted $15 YEP... FIFTEEN DOLLARS, and they guy was serious and wouldnt budge. Laughing in his face, I walked off and asked another guy.............$10... WHAT THE ??? Just then a Bluebird cab was dropping off a couple heading to dinner. We piled into it, but the driver had a horrified look on his face. He told us that he didnt want to get into a fight with the other drivers there, and we really should get out. He managed eventually to talk the other guys into letting us go with him, and we took off to Kuta.

We got out near the memorial again, and ended up in an empty night club called M-Bar-Go.

We are all mid to late 40's people, but litsa and I particularly, do love dance music. We spend a weekend here and there partying in Fortitude Valley in Brisbane with some good mates of a similar age, who enjoy similar music. Until this point of the trip, we really hadnt heard any dancey stuff, so we were enjoying the chance to here some tunes immensely. Anyone who does go clubbing in Aus will understand, that when we were begged to come in, handed 2 for 1 drink cards till midnight (making a bourbon and coke only $2.50 - FULL STRENGTH) and we were in shorts, t-shirts and THONGS, will have a good laugh no doubt. RSA and Nazi Door staff do not exist here. For the next hour or so, we drank our heads off, and marvelled at our footwear and where we were. The door lady, the gorgeous woman, kept coming over and handing us complimentary shots, and more 2 for 1 drink cards. Gotta love Bali. At one point, I was just wandering out of the loos when I heard "Levels" by Avicii start up.... I raced back to the dancefloor, and it was empty all except for Litsa who was squealing like a small child with happiness... Its currently her favourite tune. We both danced like nobody else was watching and then realised the mix was actually Levels AND Gotye's song "somebody that I used to know" - Litsas SECOND favourite song! It simply couldnt get any better. I am sure we made the rest of the 20's something crowd laugh at our antics as we cartwheeled back and forth across the floor. Have I mentioned that we were also dancing in THONGS yet ?? LOL

After about drink number 8, we decided to move on and have a look at another club. We entered "Sky Garden" next to the memorial, Kutas biggest Super Club. As we climbed the steps, we were hit by a wall of smoke. It was like being in the smoking room of a very busy Chinese ariport. 3 of us smoke, Andrew does not, but even I was choking. We turned around, used the toilets and bailed quick smart. Its not a place I will be rushing back too.

Visiting these bigger clubs, has for us all been a bit of a concern. These are the sorts of places that were attacked all those years ago by the bombers. I have to say that security at all of these venues is pretty tight. Everybody gets bag searched, wanded for metal objects, and I even got a pat down. I wouldnt be too worried if you do decide to head out into Kuta these days.

We dropped back into M-Bar-Go for one more round, as it was just before midnight, then hopped into a cab home. The drive back to Seminyak took no time at all. There was no traffic, and the roads were eerily quite. As I said before, Bali is not very busy yet.

Once home, we sent Andrew off in search of food. He managed to find sandwiches at the Champagne Bar around the corner, and came home with 3 large, quality sandwiches for us to share. Litsa and I decided to sit outside around the pool, have a swim, and then the 2 of us, like to 2 kids, sat on the daybed listening to music till 2am. That last hour, with just the 2 of us chatting, laughing and flicking through old playlists was one of the best moments of the trip.

For the people who are yet to visit Bali, here is a short list of words we have found useful.

TIDAK - means NO - as in....... TIDAK TIDAK TIDAK I do not want to buy another T-shirt

MAHAL - means EXPENSIVE - as in ...... Your T-shirt prices are too MAHAL

BAGGUS - means GOOD- as in ..... Your T-shirts are very BAGGUS

TEREMA KASI - means THANK YOU... you can also use the Balinese version SUKSUMO

SELEMAT PAGI - means GOOD MORNING... nice to say to the villa staff when they come and cook you breakfast.

Today will be a little quieter methinks. We are nursing hangovers. The plan is to go to Tanah Lot this afternoon for the sunset.

June 2012 - Day 6 - My belly gets distended

Day 6 - My belly gets distended

Its the half way point in our trip. We've been quite active considering this was meant to be a trip about de-stressing, and relaxing. So today, its all about food and flopping about.

I had planned a couple of things in secret the previous days, as a surprise and a thank you to everyone for putting up with me. Doing all this research for a trip makes you antsy when you get here and realise you will only manage to do 20% of what you have planned. Bali is not going to let you stick to an itinerary my good friend, she will side track you, and take you off on a tangent. I get a little frustrated when I find this out, and I think its time to pay back our good friends and my long suffering spouse for their patience.

We all managed to sleep in to between 6.30am and 7.00am. Considering our villa is 100m off a main road, the rural noises are now just background to us all. You really have to focus a little more to hear the roosters, chickens and cows in the front yard. Maybe we are 'acclimatising' ?

Andrew was up first. He generally always has a bowl of cereal before we have breakfast. When he went to pour himself a bowl of milo cereal he noticed a couple of ants, then noticed the whole box was full of ants. Bali ants LOVE Milo for everyones info. To this point, we really had not understood why the staff had put any kind of opened food in the fridge, even the sugar ? Now we know. Tupperware doesnt seem to be a standard issue kitchen implement in the villas.

I woke up to a myriad of messages on facebook and even text messages from friends asking why I hadnt posted my Blog already ? What the ? I am supposed to be on holidays people! OK, so I get up and hop straight onto the computer ready to write whilst the info is sort of fresh in my mind. You may have noticed I got some names of places wrong yesterday (for those who have been here before) and I put that down to writing whilst still asleep.

Breakky made again in house. This time we went the Nasi Goreng option again. Still impressed that I am liking rice for breakfast occasionally.

Our morning plans had flip flopped back and forth, but now the cloud cover had burnt off a bit and the sun was out, we all just sat around the pool. I still had to help blow up the final lilo though, a job I had casually avoided for 2 days. Now, if like me, you like a cigarette, are closing on middle age, eat too much, the effect of exhaling large amounts of air at a rapid rate, can be quite euphoric. Best do this sitting down is my suggestion, as I got a massive case of the headspins. Litsa now had a bed to float on. The thing is kind of cantilevered in middle, so when she lies on it, her backside falls falls into the crack. the 3 of us watching her trying to adjust to a comfortable position we afforded our first good laugh of the day. Andrew was also spending more time rolling out of his donut than in it as well. Ahhhhh the serenity.

I am not much for sitting around. Ask the wife. In fact they had all taken bets on how long "Mr fiddgety bum" would be able to just "sit". I cracked a new record of 15mins. I did manage to read my book for a while, hop in and out of the pool, get beers etc etc.

We sat around until around noon, then by 12.30 we were off for the first installment of our day of indulgence.

I had booked "Sardine" at Kerokaban. This was a place that no one I knew had been too. It had superb writeups on TA, but other food blogs from around the world also mentioned it in hushed tones. The location, away from the main food area of Seminyak, can be tricky to find. I managed to find a taxi driver who thought he knew where it was, so thats a start. Upon arrival, you are shown through a stone gateway and into an undercover Bali hut. Its huge of course to accomodate probably 80-90 guests at a sitting. The decore is gorgeous, with a lot of rice paddy type themes and of course " Sardines". The rear of the property is all rice paddy. There wasnt any growing when we were there, and they were basically duck filled ponds, but many surrounding properties had been seeded, so we got the general idea. When the rice is ripe and yellow, this place would be stunning. The menu is "modern fusion" there were representations from around the world, from Japanese to French, all bought together for a Bali holiday palate. I won't keep going on and on about how delicious the food is, because I will bore even myself. La Luciolla was great, this was better in my own opinion. We each had 3 courses (for lunch). Litsa and I both had the scallops on the half shell, flash grilled and then covered in an asian dressing, these were cooked to perfection. Andrew had the duck terrine, a generous portion indeed, and very flavoursome. Kathrine had the prawn cocktail. Not just any ordinary prawn cocktail either. Full of plump prawns on crisp lettuce, the dressing was out of this world. The girls had a cocktail each, and Andrew and I had Bintangs (They were $4 here). Mains included Mahi Mahi (Andrew), Seafood salad (Litsa), confit duck leg (Kathrine) and I had a whole fish grilled "Jimbaran style" with sambal. All of the mains impressed. I don't eat a lot of fish, but the way they butterflied mine and charcoal grilled it, was simply the best way you can ever order it. At this point, we were all smiling, happy and ready to look at the dessert menu. To be honest, we were all full, and could have probably stopped eating, but when the entree and mains are this good, you are always going to wonder whats for pudding, right ? Litsa ordered a ginger creme brulee. Whilst perfect in its execution, a nice crisp top shell, and luscious custard underneath, we all agreed the ginger overpowered. Andrew, simply ordered some of their home made vanilla icecream and a shot of espresso to design his own Affigato (he likes a caffiene hit). Kathrine had the most amazing chocolate fondant, with the gooiest centre imaginable. It was not overly rich, and I managed to get the final mouthfuls, as she was full by now. My apple tarte tartin was simply one of the best 'puddings' I have ever eaten. A crisp shortbread base was layered with stewed marinated apples all caramalised into a 'cake' of immeasurable delight. The vanilla icecream included with it was also brilliant. Do you think I like good food or what?

Total including drinks........3 courses ...... this amazing setting...........just on AUS$40 each. Are you kidding me ? This lunch would easily top $300 at home. Sure, there are cheaper places to eat in Bali, and next time, my hunt for those will continue, but this time, I believe I ate at one of the best, before it got really famous and becomes just another place to eat on the tourist trail.

Heading back to Chez Bintang, I had planned for us all to get massages at Nirvana Spa up the road from us. When we did get back, everyone just went into an absolute food coma. We all headed to bed for a siesta. It was around 5.30 that Litsa and I got up to go. Kathrine was still dozing, so the 2 of us went alone. They caught up with us about 30 mins later. Litsa and I booked into Nirvana Spa for a 60 min body massage each AUS$8 (after 10% discount). This great Aussie run spa is actually above the Nirvana restaurant on Eat Street (opposite Ultimo). I havent had a massage since the ones on the beach in Phuket. I really enjoyed those, lying looking at the ocean and strong hands just the right amount of pressure. This one at Nirvana for me, was dissapointing. It was more an oil rub than anything. Sure it was relaxing, side by side with spouse whilst she had one too, but didnt satisfy me. Litsa loved hers, and Andrew also liked his. Kathrine had a foot massage and half back one, and she too enjoyed that. I must be hard to please, or I just got a trainee therapist ?

With the time overlap, we got seperated, and as I was all oily, I wanted to get back and shower. Kathrine went back to "the kitchen" and risked another Long Island Ice tea. This time she said it was great and they even used garnish. She didnt even have to have it topped up with COKE (ahhhh fooled ya) this time to make it palatable.

OK, all non foodies, log off now, this is going to go back down that old track again...........

I did mention around day 2 or 3 that I rate a country on their ability to produce good Tex Mex, even Asian ones. Thailand for instance, is up there, Hong Kong is a fail, China needs to pickup its game and Vietnam is still on my to-do list. Why am I so obsessed with Tacos ? because I still rate the street food I got in Guadalajara a few years back as some of the best anywhere in the world. I get a glassy eyed stare going when I remember the stall vendors handing me soft tacos filled with all sorts of cuts of meat, lightly garnished, and ever so tasty. I am a simple man with simple tastes.

I had read, that somewhere in the backstreets of Seminyak, lay a small 'cantina' of sorts run by an American expat called 'Bob'. Taco beach grill is busy, very busy. In fact, after a small mixup in the booking, we still didnt get to sit down till 9pm. Bob setup hoping to sell 30-40 burritos a day. He sells that in 2 hours some nights. In fact, we could only order one of the burritos, as they had run out of their 3rd run for the day of home made tortillas. Upon arrival and Bintang in hand (AUS$2.50) we are offered a small plate of pickled whole jalapenos, and some californian pickled carrots and veges. I love the chilis, and grab a whole green goodie to chew on whilst the Binnie keeps the heat toned down. We ordered a few plates of mixed tacos in the home made corn soft shells. Beef, duck, Babi Guling (spiced pork) and a chicken burrito with refried beans. A small plate of guacamole also came out, but it was very small, but very tasty. Every plate also holds 2-3 home made salsas. Bob said they make 9 fresh daily. Every one was tasty and unique. My favourite was the spicy chipotle that had heat but bags of flavour. The home made corn chips leave your Doritos looking like plastic bags flash fried in beef lard. do you think I like this place enough yet ?

We ate our fill, drank more Bintangs, chatted to Bob about business and life as an expat in Bali and wobbled home. Total for 4 of us inc drinks was just on AUS$14 each. best bang for buck non Bali food we have had so far.

Once we got back to the Villa, food coma struck again. I have never eaten so much good food in one day - EVER. Sleep was going to come easily tonight.

Before closing down for the day, I do want to mention an aspect of Bali that annoys and yet amuses me as well. I have a fond love, whilst in a foreign country, of just getting to a main road, and walking.... walking in one direction..and keeping going till I can walk no more. A taxi ride home and I am satisfied. On that walk, you see so much, you smell so much, you get to know the people who work on the streets and get a feel for what your holiday will end up like. Its so invigorating. Bali doesnt really afford me the opportunity to do that ! I am forever looking down at the pavement, or lack thereof, and trying not to break an ankle. Potholes in pavments lead to the centre of the earth here. So on that note, before I drift off to bed, to the gorgeous Aussie family PUSHING A STROLLER on the footpath in Seminyak yesterday, I offer you a medal of bravery. Good luck with THAT !


June 2012 - Bali day 5 - Litsa goes BANANAS !

Bali day 5 - Litsa goes BANANAS !

Welcome back everyone.

Its Tuesday - UBUD DAY ! yay

Woken early again, but by 2 dogs going at each other and one of them losing a limb to its opponent (well thats what it sounded like anyways). Look, the earplugs are only so effective, and this dogfight was a good one. The yelping and howling had the added effect of waking the roosters up, and then they got in on the act. 5am is looking more and more lovely each day.

Lots of people have been asking about the weather in June. We have had gorgeous days. Once the sun rises, its hot, but not overly, and then by lunch a beautiful breeze picks up to make the day even more comfortable. Only once or twice have I felt uncomfortable. This is definetly the best time of year to come for the weather. Its been warm enough to jump into the pool each night too, to sober, whoops, I mean freshen up before bed. In saying all the above, today..............It's raining !

Its just a passing shower, I know, as I am able to check the weather radar online. It did prove one thing though, that Sarongs from KETUTS should be washed by themselves first, as they run badly. The one sitting on the sun lounge has proved that.......WHOOPS

As its Tuesday, and the day that most of the weekends money for work appears into the account, Litsa and I are tag teaming the Laptop and Ipad paying wages, bills and doing emails for the shops and businesses back home. We are becoming quite a team at this, me in charge of the technology, and she is in charge of the money. Thats all well and good until I need some of course. The scary thing is though, I just don't see me holidaying anywhere where I couldnt get a good standard of Net access now. In fact it was one of the pre-requisites for the choice of the Villa we are in. The 15-20 mins of work though, is compensated for by the ability to have a couple of bucks to fling around Bali and have a good time, so musnt grumble :)

"Common", our extremely smiley and well mannered staff wanders in around 7.30 am as we need to be fed and ready by 8.30 for our trip to Ubud. This morning, we are back to bacon, eggs, sausage and baked beans with toast. It really is so nice to be able to get up from the laptop and perch in front of a lovely cooked breakky. One of my pet peeves is buffets at resorts and the temptation to gorge "because its there". A sensible ONE plate of food is enough.

"Nioyman", our driver for today turns up bright and early. He is a friend of a guy called 'Wayan' that my mate Changa uses all the time when in Bali. All communications with Wayan have been great, and he is very chatty, conversing well in English. Nioymans english is a little less fluent, and from the start was probably going to make the day a little more diffucult than it should have been.

We head off, and the first thing you notice on any drive around Bali is the traffic. Its total and utter chaos. The roads are too narrow for the volume of traffic, and there are simply no road rules to abide by. Its every man, woman, and child for themselves. Apparently there is a 12.8% a year increase in car ownership and yet only a 2.5% increase in traffic infrastructure (thanks Google). You can see a city thats approaching gridlock. Every intersection was mayhem. We only got through one as Nioyman had a button that sounded a siren like a Police car. Scooter riders scattered and we powered on through. One nil to Nioyman !

Waving at the walls of Kerokaban jail to Schappelle, we then headed towards Denpasar City itself. Its a very impressive place. It kind of reminds me of Bangkok before they became the 'Asian Tiger' economy and then collapsed again. The architecture is amazing. The Balinese style carried through to massive Govt Buildings is impressive.

As we started to head uphill, I kind of knew what day we were in for. I personally, when on a tour, HATE being 'herded'. It seems the standard 'tourist' thing to do on any day trip to Ubud is..... See how Batik is made, see how Silver Jewelry is made, see how artists paint paintings............ and then on the way out of each location make a purchase. These purchases also mean a commision to the driver. Each of the 3 locations we visited, were not factories of any kind, they were basically retail showrooms, with a couple of people employed at the door to either, stitch, hammer or throw oil on canvas. Sure, some of the work was impressive, and I did buy litsa a lovely ring at the silver place, but, I am not a huge fan. I would much prefer to work out my own itinerary, give it to a driver, and get on with it. My own itinerary would have by-passed all the 'artisans' and simply got me to Ubud ASAP. I also have to remember, I am travelling with other people who have yet to experience this 'herding phenomenon' so I sit back and keep quiet (sort of). As I said at the start, the inability to express myself clearly due to the language barrier was never going to see the day go exactly as I hoped (this time)

On the way "up the hill" you see the villages that specialise in rock carvings (rock village) and then wood carvings (wood village) and then kites (kite village) etc etc. This grouping of industry and outlet is pretty common around Asia, but foreign in all but the sales of cars in Australia. Once you've seen one stone Buddah on the side of the road, you really have seen them all.

First thing we notice about Ubud is how narrow the roads are, and how windy and hilly compared to the coastal zone we are staying in. I love all the rainforest canopy, and we then get into a discussion as to whether this is more 'calming' than the mayhem of Kuta etc.. one look around, and you can see it isnt, well not in central Ubud anyways.

Monkey Forest is our first stop. a bit of a highlight for me, I do so love monkeys. Their cute little animated faces, their expressions, and their ability to frighten small children. Litsa bought a few bananas, so immediately I turned the video camera on. The monkey forest was the place that we had been given the most opinions about from mates. Don't do this.. don't do that, and make sure you don't even think about doing THAT ! Well, we manged to totally ingore EVERYTHING we were told, and buying bananas was the first. Now, I personally don't think an expression like 'Pack Raped' should ever be used in a travel blog, but I can't think of any other way to describe the monkeys attitude to the banana that Litsa was now holding close to her body. You just know that the one big ugly monkey near the gate, is only that big for one reason. He will not take NO for an answer when it comes to a banana. Litsa was lapping this up with squeels of delight, seriously, she was LOVING it. Her comments were that they were very light (even the big ones) and didnt have claws, and were pretty good at finding bananas. We even bought MORE bananas as we went in, so I could get even more shots and footage. They all looked very healthy, and they certainly look well fed. I didnt really see any outrageously bad behaviour either, except the one that pee'd on an Aussie who was holding his banana too high (serves him right).

Now, when it comes to trying to steal a Monkey from the Monkey forest, you will need 3 things. 1. Bananas, and lots of them 2.) a large backpack, preferably with LATCHES not with zippers as they have clever little hands that can unzip them and 3.) A driver you have bribed to look the other way when you climb back into the car with a bag thats wriggling

I had NONE of the above........Dammit !

I really do love Monkeys, but I cannot fathom sharing a cell in Kerokaban without good toilets. Getting my own monkey will have to wait till next trip :) Whatever anyone tells you, or advises you ignore the advice and just have fun at the forest. Its truly a gorgeous place and an absolute highlight for me on the trip so far.

Arriving at Ubud town centre, we parked at the bottom of a one way street and headed up to the markets. What can you say about the markets ? Hmmmm, they were cheap ? Yes indeed. We scored 2 table runners for around $6 each and of a few other gifts, that I cannot mention here as it will spoil the surprise for the recipients. You really do have to work harder here than anywhere else I have shopped in Asia. Walking away seems to work the best, and you have to be happy to do it. To the people who managed to get Tiger Balm for AUS$1, good luck to you, best I could get was $1.50 and I walked off. The markets are very hot, and the breeze was lost in cloisters of sarongs and dresses and material hanging from the walls. We wandered for a bit, but got a bit claustraphobic so headed onto the main street.

I saw the famous IPU OTAH (I think thats the name) where the Babi Guling comes from, and we went and took a photo. I kind of knew in my heart, that I wasnt going to get to try this on my first trip. My dodgy stomach, combined with that much fatty pork, cannot see me more than 5 mins away from some good bathrooms. A 1.5 hour trip back in a car, was never going to work. Its one of those boxes I will tick when I actually stay in Ubud, and can run back to my room. And on that note, all my good friends reading this, so far, touch wood, everything has been very very good in the stomach region, except for maybe a little extra breezes from the Bintangs.

The girls and Andrew wanted to get foot massages, so we wandered past the worlds most expensive fish spa (150,000 Rupiah for 30 mins.... OUCH) and found a nice little spa on the edge of a gorge down a few steps. They all booked in for $6 foot massages and I wandered off for a gander further down the road. I am not a fan of getting my feet rubbed, the ticklishness mentioned in an earlier update is even worse around the foot area. A foot massage in Thailand had to be cut short, as I nearly took one therapists head off with an errant giggle and reflex kick. I managed to find a legit bank, with a legit ATM out the front and took some money out. Major score for the day was then going into the bank and changing some 100K notes down to 20K notes. Anyone who has travelled here will know what I mean when I say that 20K notes are like gold. Taxi drivers NEVER seem to have change when you hand them a 50K. I keep my 20K stash hidden to flick at them as say NER NER when they say they don't have the change for a small fare.....Its like a small win every now and then. I kept walking down the road and stopped for a look at Paon Restaurant. Its now on my list of must do's for the 2013 trip. If we could have organised it better, we'd have had lunch there, and NOT where we ended up. Once again, communication skills need to be improved. There are so many cool looking eateries in town, I will be back.

We summoned our driver to come get us in front of Starbucks (nice building BTW) and headed off the rice fields for lunch. The destination " Joni Resto" was not far from ubud central. When we turned into the carpark, I had that feeling I was being 'herded' again. Car after car, with driver standing by, ushering their prey into the open mouth of the food court inside. But WOW... nice outlook. We managed to get a table on the edge of the rice paddy, and with the cool breeze blowing over the stalks and the water, it was actually the coolest I have been since arriving. The menu is standard 'tourist' fare, lots of Indo dishes and a comprehensive list of western fare, all dumbed down for the average punter. Andrew and I chose the crispy duck (house specialty), litsa had a seafood goreng, and Kathrine a Chicken curry. Ducks were fried a bit too much and the skin had no seasoning like I expected. There were juicy bits, but you worked hard to find them. The sambals were nice, but once again the meals were nothing to make us sit up and say ' We have arrived at last'. The girls were like MEH on theirs, nice for but no cigar. We called for the bill 3 times before Andrew finally got up, headed to the cashier and watched as 5 people stood around with calculators arguing with each other. For such a busy place (and it was PACKED) they sure need a better system of getting the money into their till. So the verdict was "pretty view" but ordinary food, and that "feel like an absolute tourist" sensation at the end as you are ushered back into your car. Bintangs here were AUS$2.50

It was just after 2pm by now, and knowing that the 40km trip back home was going to take at least an hour and a half, we were pretty much over it. Please take us home driver, was the call, OH and by the way, can we please stop somewhere and get a case of Bintang ?

The trip back was a little more varied as Nioyman went a different way. You find yourself with lots to look at and discuss. Never boring in the car the first time in Bali. I can imagine the 3rd or 4th trip would be a bit onerous up to Ubud, but next time I will go there first, so it will be dark and I can sleep.

We stopped at a supermarket to get the beer, and Litsa ran into a shop next door that was selling the most delicious donuts at 6 for AUS$3. These were iced to perfection and filled with banana cream and Lychee etc. So cheap and yet so tasty. Nioyman pretended to drive off without Litsa, and I thought she seriously thought he was going to leave her behind. DUDE.. she has the donuts.. GO BACK FOR HER !

Back at the Villa, we said our goodbyes for the day and cracked open a beer and relaxed. Nanna Naps all round seemed to be the plan, as we had dinner reservations at 8.00pm at La Luciolla down on the beach. Kathrine managed to get something in here eye briefly and had an eye patch on that made her look like Pirate Pete. I, of course, cannot sleep when there is daylight burning, so I read, sat by the pool, read some more, and planned our day for tomorrow.

La Lucciola had been an intended dinner spot all week. Numerous tripadvisor comments in the positive and Changa calling it "lush" were enough to convince us that TONIGHT we were going to get our GastroGasm ORNNNNNNN. We were NOT dissapointed. The actual restaurant, set back from the beach by aroound 50m and accessible via a carpark, is an architectural masterpiece. Sitting at the bar, we had a cocktail each (around AUS$10 a piece) and then were ushered to our 2nd floor table. I can imagine the view during the day is incredible. The beach lights lit up enough surf to remind us where we were, and the sounds of crashing breakers really added to the setting. Wine was ordered (A cheeky Sauv Blanc from Kiwiland) at AUS$65 a bottle (ouch.. and more ouch), but hell... ITS DATE NIGHT ! and Kathrine and I are both 'binnied out' for the day. The food was excellent. Andrews Gnochi, was the best he has ever eaten. Kathrine tried the red emporer fillets and was super impressed. Litsa had Capelini, a very thing angel hair pasta smothered in her favourite seafood... crab, and she was just about drooling. I had the seafood stew, which was filled with big chunks of fish, lobster and prawns in a Saffron filled broth. Mine was stunning once I added a little bit of salt to the dish. Kathrine and I both thought the wine was lovely, and as it was well over 4 times the price we'd pay at home, it was going to be twice as strong ! We then ordered 2 dessert tasting platters to share. These were a masterpiece. I loved everything except the chocolate torte, that was way too bitter for me. Using 85% chocolate instead of 72% was a bit of a FAIL (Those were Kathrines exact words). Don't you just love how masterchef has turned us all into food heroes ?? *burp*

La Lucciolla

The bill was AUS$120 a couple. Agreed thats high end for Bali. If you took off the wine and cocktails, the meal was only AUS$10 more each than any meal we have had so far on the trip. But it was 20 times better, set in a location thats world world WORLD class. The staff were amongst some of the best trained I have ever seen. For the record, Bintangs were draught and AUS4.00 :)

We got a taxi back to Seminyak Square so we coould amble back to the Villa, hoping to find somewhere for a late night drink. We walked past everything that was open, except a place called "Zazzabar" (I think) which had a band singing covers of Lady Gaga etc. We couldnt find a seat, and as the covers were not 128BPM and electronica, we walked out. We then sat down at a roadside table a couple of doors down from our 'Gang' at "The Kitchen". Andrew ordered a 'Bali hai' Beer - only because it was cheaper than Bintang, and was dissapointed. Being a lager instead of a Pilsner means something apparently. Litsa had a bourbon and coke, and Kathrine and I went all out for the AUS$6.90 (There is that number again) Long Island Ice Teas. These actually WERE $6..90, but what they werent was consumable drinks. I was sure this was the stuff they put in scooters, or used to unblock the drains here. *CHOKE*. I even had to ask them to top mine off with more cock to make it past my lips. They were so strong. Value for money YES, tasy.......NOPE !

Back at Chez Bintang (The Villa) - We all jumped into the pool for that late night sobering swin. I lounged on the daybed for a while with a citronella candle burning close by, and contemplated the secret plans hatched for tomorrow................

Stay tuned.

June 2012 Day 4 - Andrew gets annoyed....

Day 4 - Andrew gets annoyed....

After our humungous effort at Potato Head the previous afternoon, sleep amazingly came quite easily last night. I now have earplugs AND an eye mask, one to keep the Rooster noises away and the second device to keep the light out as well. A combination of good re-hydrating after the drink, and the effect of the drink itself saw myself and the spouse asleep till close to 6am today.

We were up early, me, updating the shenanigans at the Worlds most expensive Beach Club, and SWMBO checking facebook and the bank to see if we had overdrawn our account attempting to spend the equivalent of a small countries GDP on Fruit Punch. GOOD NEWS she says, we still have $$$ to spend. Rubbing my hands gleefully, like some madman planning to invade Bali we all decided that today, we would head off in search of "Ketuts" fixed price shop in Legian. Basically every JBR I read on Trip Advisor written by an Aussie mentions this shop and the bargains to be had. They also mention how hard it is to find. Whilst the lovely Villa staff are preparing our breakfast of bacon, Sausage, eggs and our hastily purchased baked beans (cant miss my good ole full monty breakky now), I log on trying to find the most sensible directions to this amazing treasure trove of bargains.

Andrew and I checked the map, checked the directions and penned it in ink. We were set to go.


Girls were ready just after 9, so off we go to get a cab. This time we managed to haggle a non official cab down to $3 Aussie. Well.... it looked further on the map than it actually was. To be honest, I cant be bothered penny pinching for 50c here and 50c there, even though I know it will make it more expensive for anyone else following in our trail. The Aussie Dollars too good not to share some of it around, and these people are so bloody lovely !!

We get out at the corner of Padma and Legian, heading to the beach looking for the road left. We notice that at this end of town, there are less classy shops and more ' same same' shops as we have labelled them, selling T-shirts with rude logos, or knock off Billabong stuff etc. This is now reminding us of Phuket and the amount of trashy crap we purchased there.

Turning left, my inked in instructions mentioned the 2nd gang on the right........ Ummm... NOPE thats not right. Keep going ... keep going.... OK time to ask someone. NOPE.. she doesnt know, but she did just offer me a massage with a happy ending ! The wifes 50m behind me at the time, so I have to say NO of course :)

OK, this is now starting to get ridiculous. No ones offering any information on the location of KETUTS until we get to a gang running right across the street. A lovely balinese chap, looking at me in my floral boardshorts, Hollister T-Shirt, carrying a backpack looking like a total tourist takes pity on me, and says........ "Ketuts ?" I say yes, with a smile, and he points directly opposite down the Alley. Between you and I, if this woman is so famous and sells so much stuff, she really needs a bloody big Neon sign with her name on it !

Down we go, and on the way, 2 guys bail my wife up for sunnies. She promises to come back (bad idea). We find Ketuts, and the numerous stalls she owns broken down into categories of clothes, homewares, stuff and more stuff. Its not really what I am looking for, but of course, I end up with Board shorts, t-shirts, a Bintang singlet ( was like $2.. come ON!!!) and numerous other stuff. Litsa gets a handful of Sarongs, small bags, and some summery dresses and I look like a packhorse accompanying Sherpas up Everest carrying all this swag. You ask Ketut a price, and thats what you pay. Her prices were the cheapest I have seen anywhere in Bali so far for the stuff we bought. $2.50 for a really nice pair of Undies for instance, and Denim shorts were like $10. Litsa was all smiles at her $2.50 Sarongs.

Andrew and Kathrine are getting their stuff organised, so I head 2 doors up to look at wallets and long sleeved T-shirts. I am bargaining for a couple of items, trying to get to my magic figure, and Andrew walks in asking to borrow 200,000 rupiah. I think to myself, Holy cow, he is spending up big next door. He'd been hassled by the store next door to ketuts to get some leather belts and some cheapo sunnies for Kathrine. Finishing up my transaction, and all of us meeting up on the pavement, he looks at me, and says " I think I just got stitched up". OK.. so why ? well........ he'd Paid 1.2 Million Rupiah for 2 belts and a pair of sunnies.The guys mentioned AUSSIE $ one minute then Rupiah the next, and 2 of them worked him over....... Thats over AUS$120 Eeeeeek. So, realising his error, he heads back in for a 'refund'. Now, A & K havent travelled a lot through Asia, and at this point I have turned to Litsa and said.... " He has got BUCKLEYS chance". To be fair, Kathrine used the best tactic known to man - SHAME. She sat in the guys chair and said to his face. " I will not move out of this chair and let you sell to another tourist until we come to an agreement". The sales guy said he had already given the money to his boss, yadda yadda. Andrew, who towers above most of these Balinese, the starts arking up, letting them know he is now officially pissed off. Litsa is suggesting I go in and try and sort it out, but 2 taller, whiter more annoyed men is probably going to inflame the situation and I am a much better lover than a fighter. In the end, to get them out of the shop, which remember is right next door to Ketuts, they offer a partial refund. I am blown away, and they come out of the deal with a big chunk of money back in their pocket, and a lesson learnt. The funniest part is, one of the guys runs out to Litsa and then offers her some sunnies at the same inflated price that Kathrines just paid. Bwahahahahahah. Time to go !

So A & K just paid what I call " Education Tax" bali style. I've been all over Asia, but the scams people run here with money changing, quoting Aussie then Rupiah etc is just mind blowing. This is one place I'd never feel safe after a few beers and then trying to buy stuff. It pays to keep your wits about you.

We head back towards Legian road and stop at Moo Moo's for a coffee, Bintang and a bit of a wind down after the excitement. For the record, this now holds the unnoficial record for the cheapest place to buy a Binnie... at AUS$1.70. We also have a look at the menu, and can see why its popular with Aussies. Good looking steaks at cheaper prices than home. We may get back here one day for a feed.

We then hop into a cab, hoping to head for the Bali Bombing Memorial. Its something we had all wanted to do from day one, especially Kathrine who knew one of the victims. Once again, we'd made a bit of a blunder with directions and ended up at Kuta Square instead of Kuta Plaza. Hopping out, I spot a ' Bagus Watch" shop. Once again Tripadvisor had given me great info about this small chain of watch shops and the quality inside. So a small detour was taken that saw 4 new watches and some Tiffany bangles. Up until now, I assumed Tag watches were selling for THOUSANDS........... who knew hey ? :)

The Memorial

We headed back towards Legian Road and saw the sign for "Poppies Restaurant". Many friends had mentioned this place, and also TA had it rated quite well. We meandered through the laneways and landed in a lovely courtyard full of greenery and a lovely pond. The famous " pina colada" was ordered. Served in a hand carved coconut shell, only those who have had one can understand the glee with which we drank it. They are AUS$9.50, but strong as hell, and worth it just for the looks on everyones faces as they arrive. We ordered a mixed bag of lunch style food, including Seafood Ala King (Litsa), more Sate for myself and Katherine along with salads. Andrew had a fish cooked in Pandan leaves, and for something novel, I also ordered Guacomole. I figured the true test of any Asian country is how good their Tex Mex Cuisine can stand up ! Personally, my Pork Sate, though delivered in a novel manner over charcoal, was a tad dry and tough. Kathrines chicken, was lovely though, as was her salad. Litsa absolutely loved her seafood (even if it was a bit rich and creamy for lunch). Andrews fish was nice, but a bit heavy on the lemongrass. For the record, the Guacamole... was OK :) The bill was close to AUS$100 for the 4 of us, inc another Bintag each. Not cheap, and I guess, after what I had heard, I was expecting more ? I am quite critical about food.

Next stop.. The Memorial.

We walked back up Legian towards Sky Bar (Where A DJ from Brissie call ed TYDI has played a few times) etc, and had the best laugh at this little Balinese chap riding his scooter up the wrong way on the footpath. But that wasnt all. he had a T-Shirt on that said " Go to Bunnings, buy a bag of cement, and harden the F up !" Now any Aussie will know what Bunnings is and have a chuckle no doubt. As soon as he saw me laughing, he stopped his bike and offered to sell me one ! Always an angle with these buggers I tell you ! LOL

The memorial was very moving for all of us. Even I had a tear in my eye looking at all the names. so many different countries represented, and 38 Balinese killed as well. How anyone could inflict something so horrific on these people as a legacy, just defies all reason. Even the guys who follow us up the road and wont take no for an answer, all have that cheeky smile that is so lacking around Asia. The memorial serves as a true testament on the fact that they love having us come visit, and that our mates, who died, will never be forgotten.

I had posted a couple of days ago on trip Advisor about finding pool floaties and lilos. Our Villa pool, whilst stunning in its design, has one big problem. A 7 foot deep shallow end. The first step in is almost deep enough to drown Litsa (she is quite short). So to enjoy one of the best aspects of our relaxing Villa, the hunt was on for something to stop my wife from potentially drowning after too many Binnies. After the advice from the forum, we grabbed a cab to Carrefour out on Sunset. What an amazing place. Imagine a Kmart in Australia on Steroids with high roofs etc, throw in a fantastic fresh produce section, and of course POOL TOYS. Now, I am not a penny pincher, as yesterdays stupidity has attested, but we all gulped at the price of AUS$22 each for a lilo. The decison was made, I would forgo any aspect of floating in the pool aided by plastic devices, Litsa and Katherine, the ones who potentially had the highest risk of drowning, due to their shoddy ability to handle spirits, would each get the "Rolls Royce" of Lilo's and Andrew, who has spent considerable more time than me in said pool, would get, what I could only describe, as a large "donut" to float on. Of course after the floaties were found, the girls, out of the corner of their eye discovered the 'Makeup' section. Oh dear.......... *yawn*. By now, I'm full of food, tired from the early start and a tad cranky (allegedly). So after following the girls around marvelling at makeup remover " 50% cheaper than home", I was ready to bail and get my backside INTO the pool and relax.

On the way out of Carrefour, you have to go past a bunch of smaller shops. Now Litsa has been hassling me that she needs a decent pair of comfy thongs for the past 3 days. As yet, we have not really been able to find any. A lovely french lady at the Carrefour checkout told her about " Bali Brasco" a new outlet up the road, but of course, we have plans and cannot go their today. So as she walks past one of the little shops, she spies some shoes she is keen to try. By this stage, all I want to do is just get in a cab and get back to my "relaxation" (beer and pool). She yells at me to give her what I think is too much for the thongs, and we have a little bit of a tiff.... in public... in front of our mates. In hindsight, its because we are tired and need to to relax (and have a beer by the pool) but she doesnt see it this way. Anyways.. she gets her bloody thongs (begrudgingly mind you) and the taxi ride home is frosty in more ways than one. A simple " I am sorry" from me would fix this instantly, I know that, but I am a mean bugger and want to make her sweat on it. She does have a point though, the $5 I think she has overpaid, will be covered by her not drinking 2 Bintangs at dinner..... SIGH... if it were so easy.

Back at the Villa, the toys are blown up (not by me... I'm relaxing, by the pool, having a beer) by the ever gallant Andrew and things are starting to look up. I even apologise to the spouse, as I know that 7 more days of this will just be a total killer for her. LOL I was even completely genuine about being sorry. She also managed to find the $2 Bintang singlet I thought I had lost so that helped a lot in plucking up the courage.

The other 3 decided to go get massages somewhere in Seminyak. I stayed behind, compling blog info and doing the very small amount of work needed to keep the wheels of commerce going at home and the ability to keep spending here in Bali. A & K and L ended up at Nirvana Spa (with its restaurant downstairs). They didnt book, but were still able to get in. Andrew had a 1 hour massage and manicure. He said he wouldnt bother with the manicure again, but the massage was very relaxing (though he is a little sore this morning). Kathrine had a facial and a hair treament. Their cost totalled 350,000 rupiah (around AUS$35). Litsa had a massage and a manicure with nail polish. Andrew reckons at one point he could hear her snoring (God Bless her). I get a text message saying that they are waiting for me in "Divine Wonderland" a restaurant next door to the spa. I pull on some clothes hurridly (Sitting around in my Jocks has become quite a habit lately) and head up the gang the 100m to go eat.

Divine Wonderland was reccomeded by a good mate of mine Changa. He did mention that they usually end up there quite late for Tapas and drinks, so I am thinking his judgement may have been clouded by the strong drinks beforehand at better restaurants! We ordered every Tapas on the menu, and then supplemented it with a dish of stuffed calamari on a tomato concasse. The tapas were OK, my favourite being the Albondigas meatballs. The rest were quite heavy on the emphasis of salt (probably to help increase their sales of Bintangs) and not very varied. The Calamari dissapointed. The base was tasty, but the actual seafood was very rubbery, and at one point, Litsa ejected a piece back onto her plate for fear of removing a filling. Total bill inc a cocktail and a couple of Binnies each was around AUS$50.

Divine Wonderland

Andrew and I then headed off in search of banana pancakes for dessert, and the girls wandered back to the Villa. We found a local type Warun nestled between Chandi and Cafe Bali that had the pancakes on the menu for grand total of AUS$3.20 for 4 inc takeaway containers. DONE... bring that on kind sir ! Well, when we got them home, we found them undercooked. BUGGER !! You know when you get that taste in your mouth ? and you simply have to satisfy it with the absolute best produced item ? well we were dissapointed again ! To be fair, we have not tried any of the 'Must Do's' that I have on my list, and I am quite sure that soon, I will be having that foodgasm that I have been hanging out for. No doubt, many of the menus I have perused walking around have me ready and chomping at the bit, but as this is our first time here, we always seem to get waylaid from a plan, and end up eating whatever is at hand. The foods not bad, its just not 'THERE' in what I have been expecting. No fear people, when I am impressed, you will all know :)

We all decided that an early night was in order, as we have a big day travelling to UBUD tomorrow. I am still wondering if my backpack is big enough to stuff a monkey into, and if the thing will stay quiet enough to get my through Customs back home ? I do so love Monkeys !!

Stay tuned :)

p.s Litsas bruise from Sunday at Potato Head has now turned a gorgeous purple colour. Matches one of the Sarongs nicely.