Friday, May 24, 2013

Bebek Bengil (Dirty Duck)

Dirty Duck Diner
We continued on with being literal by having Bebek Bengil (Bebek meaning "duck"). It's heavily touted online and in travel guides that this is the most famous restaurant in Ubud. Even though I rarely eat duck nowadays ever since I decided that they were too cute, I decided to break the rule for once to try this so-called famous duck.
Beautiful garden
It is definitely an organized operation. They have the drivers drop the guests off with matching numbers, then the drivers park behind the restaurant, while the guests follow the waitress through a beautiful garden with loads of little huts. Each hut has a few tables, some even with Japanese-style sitting. Looking through the menu, we notice that they highlighted the half duck portion with a box so it was an obvious choice for us.
We thought it was a two person portion, given the price (100K rupiah!!!) but turned out it was a one person portion, according to the waitress who gave us a polite version of "WTF" face. After eating only noodles and rice over five days already, we decided to order potatoes and salad to go with the duck.
Tiny Bird, tiny portion
The duck was really crazy ass tiny, so were the potato and salad portions. And extremely dry and gamey tasting despite the vague taste of spice. I liked that there were three condiments, but they were not enough to overcome the feeling that we had been very disappointed and let down by the experience. A bit like the Pension Charlotte where we stayed at in Hakone, which was very heavily praised by another Singaporean lady but was actually not really that great.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A week in Bali (Day 4) - Yeh Pulu

I really think that Ubud is severely ruined by "Eat Pray Love"rs. It is supposed to be the cultural centre of Bali, but it is the most tourist-driven and over-commericalized area we encountered. Every bloody sight cost 15K rupiah to enter, even Yeh Pulu, which we had been conned by the travel guides as "water container" temple with intricate wall carvings. Well... we did see a short wall of carvings, but that's all.. and we didn't see where the supposed water container was. I almost thought that the water container was this statue somewhere along the path to the shrine, because on our way back an old lady with a coterie of little children (including the bad boy - see below) was praying in front of it.
The only thing interesting about Yeh Pulu was this really adorable puppy that sniffed and followed us everywhere. Unfortunately there was a very naughty boy who ran out and chased the poor doggie to stop him from following us, at one point, he even tried to step on the doggie's head. I wanted to scold the little boy but Bobo stopped me. And he stopped me from playing with the doggie. He said I would make the doggie's life more miserable, because the boy would only be more merciless.

Ok, according to "The Rough Guide to Bali & Lombok", the small spring after which the site is named (yeh meaning "holy spring" and pulu being "stone vessel" rises close to the statue of Ganesh and is sacred. The Balinese are so literal, aren't they, first Goa Gajah (meaning Elephant cave literally with its statue of Ganesh inside) then now Yeh Pulu.

Says here too that "carved away from a cliff face, the 25 metre long series of Yeh Pulu carvings are said to date back to the fourteenth or fifteenth century. they are thought by some historians to depict a five-part story and while the meaning of its story has been lost, it;'s still possible to make our some recurring characters and to speculate on the connections between them; local people, however, describe the cravings as showing daily activities from time past. I think I believe the local people more, but seriously, who pushes the cow (look at the first photo of the carved woman pushing at an animal rump)?

A week in Bali (Day 4) - Goa Gajah

We were supposed to cover around 5 places and check in at the new hotel on the 4th day, after the rest of the family had left for home. Only us and the bride's immediate family were left at Villa Chocolat, and it was coincidentally Election Day for Bali's new governor. So we had to wait until 1030hrs for pickup.

Only that the guy, Omar, showed up at 1112hrs. I was rather mad by that time, because of the number of places we wanted to cover and the fact that the sun sets at around 1800hrs in Bali this time of the year. In the end, we still managed to cover the places, because it was Election Day so everyone (except those in the service industry) had the day off so the roads were slightly less crowded.

The places we were going to cover were, Goa Gajah, Ye Pulu, Pura Tirtha Empul (yes, it came to my realization that we visited 3 Hindu temples in one day, Bobo said it was as bad as when we were in Germany and I made him cover churches all day), Petulu for the Kokokan (which I called the "koko crunch" after the popular breakfast cereal), and Tegalalang. The driver would also drive us to our new hotel for check in. Cost of this trip arranged with Sila was 450K rupiah (the man BS me and said that he gave the wrong time to the driver. I am not that stupid.)

On our way up to Ubud, we passed by the craft villages, each with their own specialties, but we didn't stop at any of the Ole Ole (souvenir shops). The family had gone for a Ubud tour while we went upwards into the north for the Air Panas and Bedugul area (way more fun, will cover later), and hated every second of it, because it was packed with factory visits and their very expensive shops. One of the aunties complained that they were selling eye-watering USD70 Batik sarongs.
Our Driver for the day, Omar, looking at his handphone
I initially concluded that Omar is a Muslim, because he didn't go with us into the temple area for the first two temples. Instead he stayed outside and puffed away or made phone calls. So unlike Made who actually bothered to suggest additional sights, and gave advice. He was chatty though, probably because he has a better command of English language after driving tourists around for 16 years, versus Made who only did 2 so far.
Overview of Goa Gajah from the stairs
We went to the loo before walking down the staircases to the temple area (one thing I have to comment, Bali is much more fat tourist friendly than Vietnam, I almost died walking along Sapa's slopes of hell, but Bali, despite the slopes, bothered to intersperse steps with flat paths or very gentle slopes, so you can catch your breath), where I stupidly sank my handphone into a bucket of water set aside for flushing the loo. I didn't notice because the bucket was touching the loo and it was my entire pocket that went into the bucket. I am not having much luck with loos, just one week before we left, I banged my head very badly against my office toilet's shelf. Massive bruising ensued.
Poor black fishies swimming like drunkards
As you can see from the photo above, Goa Gajah has two big pools, which like most Hindu temples in Bali were used by devotees to cleanse themselves (one for each gender). The ones in Goa Gajah only serve to contain fish, and for some reason, there wasn't enough water, so the poor big fish were swimming at tilted angles. Luckily for them, and unluckily for us, it rained heavily later in the afternoon.
Doesn't that opening look like it says "Who the fuck are you staring at?!"
The big deal about Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) is its really dark and scary eponymous cave, which contains little statues of Hindu deities. We didn't know what was inside, because like I said, Omar didn't say anything, and I forgot to refer to my printed notes. So I stood in the darkness, when I heard a tourist guide (or a more hardworking driver) introducing two Caucasian tourists the deities. So I latched myself onto them and had a free lesson. As for Bobo I lost him in the darkness, and it wasn't exactly the kind of place where you should grab random limbs. When I heard him next to me (he apparently has better night vision or I was the biggest moving object in the cave), we walked along the cave again and I told him what the guide said.

checking out the carvings and waterfalls
slippery stones
So after that, we walked around, coming upon some tourists looking at some stone relics and what looked like little waterfalls.  It looked really slippery and I was reluctant to walk down into the water, when this cute little old man who looks like a little bomoh (straight out of "Eat Pray Love") wearing little wire glasses and carrying a brush made of twigs, appeared. He convinced me to walk down this slippery rock path, and showed me first a stone carving which was ??? to me, and then back all around the entire rock and water path to see another stone relic (which was actually on the right side of the carving). He pronounced excitedly "Buddha!!"
Stone carving
Between the carving and the "Buddha!!"

I was like "本当に?!!", but I squeezed out some enthusiasm to show I too was enlightened by this magnificent piece of rock. Meanwhile Bobo ignored both of us, taking photos, and didn't even bother to walk around the entire rock to see the carving. When we met back with him at the stone steps, the little wizened old man suddenly reached out a palm and said in a very business tone "tip."

I looked at Bobo, who reached into his pocket and gave the old man enough money to go to the loo (2K standard price for loo at all public sights in Bali). We ran off before he expressed pleasure in that he too could now go to the loo.
We walked around some more, but it wasn't very exciting so we returned because we still had other places to see. We did chance upon another little old man near a pond beside more stone relics, looking exactly like the little old man we left behind.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A week in Bali - Background story

It's been quiet here for a while because I was rushing my work in time for my week off in Bali. Was there to attend a family wedding as well as some R&R.

First Day - R&R
2nd Day - North Bali (Bedugul, Singaraja)
3rd Day - Sukawati & shopping
4th Day - Wedding
5th Day - Ubud (fuck you, Eat Pray Love for ruining Ubud)
6th Day - Ubud (Monkey Sanctuary and walk around)
7th Day - Come home.

2nd Day was the highlight of the entire trip, though the wedding venue offered some really awesome views too. Will talk more later. Tons of washing to do...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Weekend at the Countryside

Last week, I cajoled Bobo to bring me out, so we went to Kranji reservoir after stopping by a McDonald's drive-thru. The tide predictions online were so crap, when we arrived, the tide was rising already. In the end I only managed to dig out two mussels which neither Bobo and I like to eat. So he made me throw it back into the sea.

Huge sheets of rain came tumbling down while I was washing the sand off my feet, so we ran back to the car, a little wet from the rain. So feeling a little cold, we decided to stop off at Bollywood veggies to drink some hot beverages instead of going home immediately. Later when it stopped, we drove to Thow Kwang Pottery, which is now accessible from a side road near NTU, versus the past where it had its own ulu road. This is because JTC has taken back most of the land, and even the old kiln is sitting on leased land. It is the one of the two remaining wood fired kilns in Singapore. Already when we went this time, the pond and the treehouse are gone. It is going to be gone in end 2014, and the other kiln, in 2015. I can never understand why Singapore never retains any of its past. If it was on prime land, I can understand, but I suppose with the anticipated increase in population, everything will be prime land.

Bobo bought me a porcelain duck (I have another one which my aunt gave me, also from Thow Kwang), some vegetable chopstick rests and a small procelain picture which I intend to hand on my wall.

Tales of Stupid - Ang Mo Kio Nursery and me

I wanted to buy some more sticks to act as support for my fragile plants in the L-shape. The wind has been obsenely strong for the last few days, until one of my edamame branches snapped, losing a potential part of my harvest. So I thought I would cycle to the Ang Mo Kio nursery as well as return my books, instead of going to the library or the nurseries nearby.

Since I am still testing out the new routes, I decided to cycle to Ang Mo Kio via another way, which is shorter, if you are driving, than via my old way of cycling by the waterways. Turns out it was very very tedious and exhausting to cycle because it was uphill or downhill the entire way. 

I seriously died a little inside when I finally reached (about 45 min later) so I decided to rest a bit (and stink up the place) at the library before buying the sticks. Started reading furiously, and finally came out forty five minutes later with 8 books... only to find out the nursery had closed 15 minutes ago. 

For the win.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kirche Wedding

Today is Miss Bear's wedding. I wish her ever lasting bliss and happiness with her husband...

Knew her for almost 20 years. How time flies... and funnily how we all ended up with different people from what we envisioned when we used to sit on our old school steps. Well 3 down, 2 more to go.


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