Rural Ubud Bali Indonesia

We went on a beautiful 4 hour walk in the hills of Ubud (Ah-bood) just off the main street where rice fields and artists’ shacks dotted the landscape. We loved the swaying fields, huts where the farmers lived, numerous scarecrows that resembled farmers working, and palm trees set against the mountains. We met a number of fascinating people: several talented artists working in their small studios, a generous organic farmer, and a shy spice grower. We saw lovely holistic spas and retreats along the path and situated deeper in the fields and forests. I’m afraid we’re not good at actually getting any spa treatments. We even had one free massage from our hotel spa which we didn’t take the time to do! (see photos below the text).

The hike started up a large hill that opened to rice fields and became a very skinny, meandering path with some locals on motorbikes who were coming to and from town. And, as usual, it was hot, very hot.  There was a variety of structures along the way. Simple tents and shacks, one room art studios, and lovely two story retreats.

We had a lovely but also slightly disconcerting interaction with the organic farmer. He came over to chat with us in limited English and showed us the farm’s many fruits and vegetables that they grow for their restaurant downtown. He pulled a turmeric and ginger plant out of the ground to show me since I told him I enjoy cooking. He also gave us fresh peapods out of the ground to eat.  I ate mine while he showed me around. Afterward, Gene and I continued our walk and she said “I’m glad I remembered we’re not supposed to eat anything grown in water here so I tossed mine.”  “Crap, I ate mine,” says I.  Ok, if I’m going to get ill eating a tainted peapod at least this walk was worth it; fortunately I was fine. We’ve had several friends get ill in their travels in Asia and in Bali specifically.  So far, only Singapore seems to have safe drinking water that I am aware of, for travelers anyway.

The walking paths were so minimal that we took a wrong turn and ended up on a path by some small houses on the way back to town. we came to a lovely stream and small waterfall a few feet off the path where a handsome young man about 17 was standing bathing nude. He watched us pass and didn’t seem to mind the old white ladies walking by.

You may notice in some photos, and the feature photo above, small offerings to Hindu deities.  Twice each day, Hindus in Bali (mostly women I believe) create baskets of flowers, fruits and other significant symbols and place them at entrances wherever they are, work or home. Bali is one of the thousands of islands in Indonesia; I’ve read anywhere from 13,000 to 17,000 plus islands, but 8 of the islands have large populations. It’s one of the few inhabited islands that is predominantly Hindu (85%), the other islands have became predominantly Muslim, and Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.

 

Bangkok Thailand: May’s Cooking Class

One of the many highlights for me on this trip to Thailand was our cool cooking class in Bangkok. Deb and I learned how to make nine Thai dishes and we hope this experience has a lasting impact on our cooking! I’m happy to learn a great way to cut and not mangle mangos, and discovered a cool tool that makes thin ribbons from vegetables. I am using these tips in Singapore with the many exotic fruits available year round.

Finding May Kaidee’s cooking school was its own adventure.  Our Thai host, Patcharin, Deb’s niece, made a valiant effort to make this place easy for us to find because there are so many small cooking schools in Bangkok.  She flagged a cab and went with us to the school which we weren’t expecting her to do. After the cab dropped us off at the school, we found out that we were at the wrong one. Fortunately, the owner was familiar with May’s school and gave us directions to it about 10 blocks away.  We did pretty well walking until we were about two blocks away. The major streets crossed with alleys that were packed with businesses and we weren’t sure where to go. After asking a couple of people, we found the school on an alley and never did see a street sign.  We were only 10 minutes late.  I always say that getting lost or taking detours are the best way to learn your way around. We certainly saw parts of Bangkok we wouldn’t have seen without this experience (so don’t fret Patcharin).

Click on the photos to scroll through.

 

A Culture of Food

Singapore is a very expensive country for most things. I am finding that food and other things in the downtown and tourist areas are at least double, but it also depends on what you want and where you go to find it. Singapore is known for its marvelous food. The variety of foods you’ll find include: Singaporian, Maylay (Malaysian), Indian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Korean, Chinese, Sri Lankan, Thai, and lesser amounts of Indonesian although it is really close (we will just go to Indonesia I guess) and more. This is also home to China Town and Little India.

For prepared meals, you can experience fine dining at elegant restaurants of many different cuisines (I hate to guess the cost), to wonderful, traditionally prepared meals, Asian mostly, at Hawkers Centers with 20-50 food vendors (some are open air with roofs, others are indoor, less slick versions of our mall food courts). But Hawker Centers tend to be in shopping centers or neighborhood based. For American franchises, there are KFC, McDonalds, and I think Subway, but I haven’t more than a couple of each. However, Singapore has too many Starbucks here.

For raw ingredients, Singapore has wonderful Fresh Markets, similar to our Farmers’ Markets, they also have roofs, open 7 days a week, and often until midnight. One booth sold beer by the bottle (better than the bars that charge $10+ for a beer). They are a great way to get authentic ingredients. Also, there are large grocery stores in neighborhoods that are pretty reasonable, outside of the tourist areas. Nearly if not all malls have big grocery stores in the basements.

Fresh Market at Red Hill neighborhood
Fresh Market at Red Hill neighborhood
Prawn Laksa (curry) with Tofu
Prawn Laksa (curry) with Tofu

 

Great Indian meal in Food Court (will make two meals)
Great Indian meal in Food Court (made two meals)

 

Popular food vendor
A Hawker vendor