Monday, 4 March 2013

Day 12 - The Three Step Plan to Beat Bali Blues

Friday 1st March 2013

ADELAIDE Weather: (7:30am) 18 degrees | (3:00pm) 27 degrees | Sunny
ADELAIDE Petrol Price: 159.9 cents per litre OMG!!!

As usual, not much quality rest on the midnight flight home.  Even with the spare aisle seat, there is just not enough recline on the seats to be comfortable and you are always conscious of snoring or farting in your sleep so only doze.  Lights on as we prepare to land, wide awake now but with a massive sleep deprived headache.  Suddenly, we suffer the worst ever turbulance I have endured in a big plane - I FEEL ILL!  Deep breathing, bracing the seat in front, hot and clammy, considering pulling out the bag.  Finally, wheels touch the ground and I can't wait to escape the confinement.

Regardless of the mishap with our tickets/gates at Denpasar, we arrive to Adelaide about 15 minutes early.  Relatively quick escape to the front of the airport, detour via Duty Free to collect our pre-purchased goodies, first time using the "smart passport" option thing which worked no problem, however we still managed to be one of the last ones out of customs.  I don't know if this is because we are too honest, or simply buy way too many declarable items.  We made sure we packed well this time, so everything was easliy accessible, but still... The only items we lost were some coasters (not worth paying for treatment) bought from Biarritz, still in packaging that had some insects come out when the Customs Officer banged on the counter (at least we know what to do next time).  I was actually surprised the bamboo steamer Alex's wife purchased from the market for us was allowed in, but we made sure it was washed before we packed it.

Out the front, a quick phone call an Mum 1 and 2 are already at the drop zone to collect us and take us back home for a shower and nap before collecting Miss 7 from school - the most exciting thing about coming back home!  It's 2:30pm and we can't wait any longer.  Short drive to the school was quicker than the wait in the carpark.  With five minutes before the bell, we wander to her classroom and she spots us out the open door.  With total disregard to classroom ettiquite, she bounds out the door and flies into my arms, sobbing happy tears onto my shoulder.  Kisses all over, a wipe of her face, an embrace with dad and she's laughing away her tears back into class.  As bittersweet as it was going on this trip without her, that moment of reuniting makes the absence all the more worth it.

So... what now... well the household whiteboard has already been updated to show "359-ish days to Bali" and Miss 7 is helping with this count down.

And... the "Three Step Plan to Beat Bali Blues" is underway:

1. Re-read blog to assist with Trip Advisor Reviews

2. Submit Trip Advisor Reviews on visited properties and attractions

3. Commence planning for next Bali holiday!

Day 11 - Sampai Jumpa

Weather: 32 degrees | sunny| 88% humidity
Exchange: 9690 Rupiah = $1AUD (hotel)

We sleep-in for our last Bali morning and lazily wander down to breakfast.  Same boring selection, but boy do I love those Indonesian coconut jelly type dessert things - I just know all that walking will not be enough...

I have booked for a facial at the hotel spa and am lucky enough to get Widia for a second time.  We chatted indepth at my first appointment with her, sharing some intimate stories about difficulties with conceiving - we really connected.  After this, every time I pass her in the hotel during our stay, we stop to chat.  She is happy to see me and I am happy to be receiving my last Bali pamper session from her.  The facial was amazing and she even gave my foot a quick massage when she noticed one of my feet were uncomfortable.  The hour went too quick and when it was time to say goodbye, she hugged me so tight and began crying so much that she made me start to cry.  She told me how much she liked me and was very sad that I am leaving.  Obviously, I felt the exact same way.

Back to the room to finish packing, which was definitely going to be a little bit like putting a puzzle together.  Hubby and I shift items from one case to another in an attempt to get the weight limits correct.  Thank goodness we found that luggage scale or we would have been in big trouble at the airport.  We finally get our two carry-ons to 7kg exact and our two check-ins to pretty much 23kg (give or take)... fingers crossed!

Time to check out of the hotel, I search for Widia to say our final goodbyes, but she must be busy with a client.  I ask for a piece of paper/envelope from the reception staff and write her a letter, leaving her a small bracelet to remember me by and my email address if she wishes to keep in contact.  Our friend Alex, is already here waiting to take us to his home for a delicious lunch cooked by his wife.  On the way, we stop off at Alex's Aunty's Villa for us to check out as a possible accommodation option for our next trip.  Lovely complex of three double storey villas with a pool to share for around $100 p/n - not bad.
We arrive back at Alex's home and greeted warmly by his wife, who is busy on the kitchen floor preparing sweet cakes to sell at tomorrow's market, with the help of her sister.  Alex's daughter is hiding in the shadows, but unfortunately we are still not able to meet his son who is at school.  The power is out, so we sit in the front room and swelter. Hubby is offered a Large Bintang - Alex knows him too well already.  Soon Alex's wife presents us with a tray of her home cooked Balinese food, including rice, fish and chicken sates, vegetable salad, and meatballs steamed in banana leaves.  I ask how she managed to prepare with no power, and of course it is no problem when you're cooking with gas.  We encourage Alex to join us - it's weird him watching us eat, but who knows if he is even hungry as our scheduled eating times don't always flow with Balinese culture.  However, he grabs a plate and again food brings us together.  He asks if "too spicy"?  My lips are tingling, but the spice is just right for me and it is delicious - hubby says "not spicy enough".  Alex tells us his wife "did not make so spicy".


I attempt many times to befriend Alex's daughter, but she is so shy and still quite scared of the big white couple in her house.  Actually, I think it would have more to do with the big white hairy man :-)  I try to take a photo, but she won't even look at me.  Eventually Alex is able to capture a photo with my camera.  I suggest to Alex that next time we visit, perhaps he can bring her along on one of our trips - maybe to Butterfly Park (she has never been), when our daughter will be with us and maybe they will connect.  Here's hoping...

Fed and full, we say many thanks to Alex's wife and farewell our new found friendly Balinese family home.  As we drive back past the house, I finally get a wave from Alex's daughter... slowly cracking that shell.  We are now really just trying to find things to do to kill time before going to the airport for our midnight flight home.  Alex takes us out to Sanur, as we have never really been out there and are considering staying for a few days next trip.  We drive around and decide to check out a few hotels.  A look through the Griya Santrian and Puri Santrian, both nice hotels/resorts in their own right with pros and cons for both, but we are not overly fussed.  I write down a few names of places we pass and know that I will spend the next few months researching Trip Advisor for the best value for money stay in Sanur.

We then decide to drive out to Uluwatu and get there with plenty of time to make the Kecak dance.  This was really a spur of the moment thing, but seeing as we didn't get the chance to do this in Ubud, and we still have at least four hours before we could check-in at the airport, we thought "why not".  So, into the temple area we go - hubby worried he would have to wear another sarong, but we get away with a simple sash this time.  We buy the dance tickets and begin to climb the stairs to get a closer look at the temple.  A way up and we can see the seating area for the dance is already starting to fill up, so I suggest to Alex that we make our way over there instead.


What a fun way to end our night!  The dance was interesting and very entertaining, the naughty white monkey Hanoman certainly gets the crowd laughing.  I also got a great view of that wonderful Bali sunset for our last evening in Paradise.

When the show is finished, we locate Alex out front and meet his cousin.  We jump back in the car and with another couple of hours still to kill, he asks "where to now?".  I tell Alex I must have one last Avocado Juice before we go, so we stop at a Warung somewhere between Uluwatu and Jimbaren called Mak Jo.  Still full from our delicious lunch, we are not ready to eat but just know the food here would have been delicious.  It goes without saying that my juice definitely was!  For two juices and a coffee, we paid less than I would have just for one coffee back home.

We know we could think of a million more things to do, but...  Alex drives us to the airport, pointing out his Aunty's house as we pass, where he needs to return the car after he drops us off.  We wind down the windows and shout out hello's to his Uncle and cousins manning the street market stall right alongside the house.  Last year, we passed his dad in the streets of Ubud and we encouraged Alex to pull over to say hello.  Already, we have met so many of Alex's family - you just know when you are supposed to be in somebody's life; whatever the reason.

We pull up to the drop off, say our genuine and heartfelt farewells - but there are no tears, as we will definitely keep in touch and see each other again soon.  One last wave goodbye as Alex drives away and we only have a half hour to wait before we can check-in.  Everything seems to go smoothly, our luggage slightly (within 1kg) over, but the staff member didn't even blink an eye, puts a heavy tag on each piece and marks one at 23kg, the other 22kg (maybe their scales are out?).  One counter after the other, we head towards immigration and eventually we see the duty free shop and know it's only a little while before we board the plane.  As our tickets indicate, we head down to Gate 1 and grab a drink in the cafe close by.

With 20 minutes or so to board, we find a seat near the gate entrance and begin chatting with a lovely couple also returning to Adelaide and swap Trip Advisor nicknames.  We are close to boarding time, other Australian cities are being called but not Adelaide.  As I am most observant (some refer to me as nosy, but I call it attention to detail), I overhear a couple in panic saying something about their ticket saying Gate 1, but the electronic board saying Gate 8 and final boarding is being called.  I nudge hubby and the couple sitting with us and say we better get moving... FAST!  A quick check of the board and yes, we need to hot foot it right down the other end of the airport... urrrggghhh!  I feel sick at the thought of not being there to collect Miss 7 from school as we had promised and the fact that I haven't had to move this fast in a very long time.  Luckily we get to the gate with 10 minutes to spare and with a smile on their face, the staff have absolutely no explanation to my ranting about Gate Satu (1) now Gate Delapan (8) - WHAT HAPPENED!!!  Flustered but relieved, we board the plane and hope to get some shut eye over the next five hours.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Day 10 - A little time to myself...

Weather: 31 degrees | patchy cloud/rain | 77% humidity
Exchange: 9690 Rupiah = $1AUD (hotel)

No rush today... no plans, hubby wants to relax on our last full day at the hotel, but I'm not one to sit around idle.  I'm also not a big fan of hanging out at the pool, unless it's really warm and to sit at the swim-up bar and I'm not in the mood for drinking... yet.

After brekkie I decide to head into Legian/Kuta by myself for some "last chance-uninterrupted-hubby not groaning in the background-shopping".  I ask for the taxi to take me to Banjar, but I must have confused him when I said to turn towards Seminyak on Jl. Legian and then he confused me and I forgot where Banjar was.  I finally asked him to pull over and I'll walk, on a mission to get to (Jo's Shop) "B Design" (I had already been to the shop at Kerobokan, but we had a driver waiting and hubby breathing down my neck).  I couldn't believe it!  When I finally reached the shop, TETUP (closed) with a sign saying "due to renovations, visit shop in Kerobokan".  Oh well, wasn't meant to be.

So, I just kept walking until I reached my favourite moziac shop "Patola Ratu" for one last look.  There's nothing here that you couldn't find in other similar shops, but I really like the lady owner.  She delivered items as promised to me at the hotel last year and remembered me as soon as I walked in to the shop on my first visit earlier this trip.  I buy a small pair of chalk stone Balinese couple and an antique looking welcome sign (total 200,000 Rupiah).  She gave me a small moziac plate as a gift before leaving.  I chat with her about designing a mirror for our bathroom (I bought one from her in 2011 for 120,000 Rupiah that looks gorgeous in our ensuite) and emailing her the details for her to make ready for our next visit (TBA).

With some money still in my purse to spend, I head back to Ketut's for a better look.  I spy a cute pair of bathers for Miss 7 and grab 6 more singlets for hubby and dad, various logos, e.g. Hot Tuna, Fox Racing, Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, and of course Bintang.  It didn't matter what was on the singlet, price was for sizing: 3XL = 25,000 Rupiah and 4XL = 40,000 Rupiah.  I introduced myself to Ketut, told her how famous she was and scored myself a bottle of water.  With not much to play with in the purse, I decide to head back to the hotel to find Hubby relaxing in the air conditioned room, reading his book.

For the convenience, I go downstairs to change some more money then walk around the corner to the little (cheap) spa I found "Beauty Corner".  I choose Paket 3 consisting of a Hair Creme Bath, Manicure and Pedicure for 150,000 Rupiah.  I paid an extra 40,000 Rupiah for the Opi brand silver nail polish, that I really wished I had bought from them and will now search to see if I can buy online.  I really loved that polish, but wouldn't go back to Beauty Corner.  The location is very secluded and not at all in the tourist path.  The only tourists who would find this place, is those shopping at ACE Hardware or drinking coffee at Gloria Jeans across the road, or those staying at Kuta Central Park and the service is much better at the hotel - you get what you pay for.

When I get back to the hotel room, I try desperately to Skype Miss 7 for the last time, but finally the hotel internet connection has decided to misbehave.  A quick phone call instead, then we take a taxi to Jl. Padma and decide to eat our last evening meal at Indo-National.  Fairly well rated on Trip Advisor and Aussie owned, we thought this would be a good choice for steak, but were slightly disappointed.  At least I finally got to drink a Bali Cider - YUM!
Back to the hotel, we begin packing our treasures and have a few beverages to toast our amazing time... again... in Bali - I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S ALMOST OVER!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Day 9 – Teman = friend

Weather: 31 degrees | partly cloudy | 73% humidity
Exchange: 9930 Rupiah = $1AUD (street)
Must say... getting a little bored with breakfast selection now, but I guess that happens when you stay at the same place for an extended period.  We finish up around 9:20am and decide to quickly go to the supermarket around the corner when we spot our driver, Alex who yells out to us “where you going” – “10 minutes” we say.  We rush back to meet him out front and he takes us to his rental house located on the outskirts of Denpasar.
When we arrive, we are greeted warmly by his wife – his daughter is glued to her side.  Dressed so smartly in her royal blue and white uniform; she has already finished school for the day.  His son is a typical busy boy, out on his bike, playing with his friends before he must go to afternoon session school – so we do not get to meet him today.  We are asked to sit in the living room, a fan is pointed in our direction and we are offered snake fruit, coffee, water and some delicious traditional sweet treats Alex’s wife makes to sell at morning market.  We relax for some time before I attempt to befriend his daughter, but she is too shy – we confirm later that we are the first white Australians she has ever been this close to.  Before we leave with Alex, I hand to his wife a gift bag of stationery items I have put aside for his kids – they are most grateful.
Once in the car, Alex throws around some suggestions of places to go / things to see, but most of what he mentions we have either already done or would prefer to wait until Miss 7 is with us next time.  I suggest to Alex that we head back towards Ubud and attempt to locate the gorgeous little ceramic pots kept in our hotel room at Beji Ubud and the Jasmine scented shower gel inside that I absolutely loved.  As he drives, I phone the hotel and Alex chats with the hotel staff, but they cannot confirm where the items were purchased.  I remember to show Alex a photograph from my camera and he says he knows somewhere else close we can try.
A few minutes later, we are in front of a store called Jenggala (Jl Sunset Road) that has a decent range of ceramic items for sale.  I spend a little while in the shop, but do not find the items like those at Beji or anything even close.  However, on the other side of the room, I come across some very nice teapots and teacups and purchase a 2-person set for 385,000 Rupiah – just perfect for that lemon grass and ginger tea I have developed a taste for!
Alex then takes us pretty much across the road, which of course is the long way in Bali.  We enter a shop named Bali Tangi, which sells massage oils, soaps, lotions, and other aromatherapy/beauty type products.  This is where Alex tells me I can buy the Jasmine Shower Gel – they have none in stock but promise to get me a 1-litre bottle by 1pm.  Hubby spots a pair of absolutely divine ceramic bottles – not like the ones at Beji, but definitely more than acceptable.  The shop assistant puts them away for me and we agree to come back later.
Back on the road, Alex asks “where to now”.  As we still haven’t really decided where we want to go, Hubby asks for him to find as a decent motorcycle shop in the hope to find some new mirrors – one guess where (not our first choice as most of you would know Hubby rides a Honda and Harleys aren’t really his thing).  We have a quick look, but no mirrors for sale, so back in the car, quick look at the map and we decide to go to Jatiluwih.  A nice couple of hour’s drive to serene and peaceful countryside once we get away from the hustle/bustle.  30,000 Rupiah to enter the area, another 5,000 Rupiah as we get closer (apparently for parking - I guess this is no different to paying tolls on certain Aussie highways) and the views are rice paddies for as far as the eye can see.  Alex pulls into a nice looking restaurant, Billy’s Terrace Cafe with great views and we ask him to join us for the buffet lunch.  I’ve always been meaning to try an Avocado Juice (I’ve heard many rave about) and finally get to order one – the few times before I’ve ordered, the Avocado has “run out”.  Alex also has an Avocado Juice and of course Hubby has a Bintang.  The meal was pretty average, but the view and the juice was awesome – total cost 348,000 Rupiah.
We finish our meal and go for a stroll in the rice paddies.  It’s a little tricky to navigate and we get so far before a father and two children call out to Hubby and Alex for help.  They’ve spotted a snake and are too scared to move – they come from France and he says he’s never seen one before.  Hubby and Alex run to the rescue and discover the snake is dead – I ask Hubby to take a photo but he says you can’t even see it properly.  They give the three French tourists the courage to move and we all head back to the top of the road.  It was really quite funny – you had to be there.  We tell the French man to be careful of snakes if he ever goes to Australia and he tells us they are going for a few days in a week (to Darwin).  Of course Hubby takes this opportunity to exaggerate about Australia’s deadliest animals and I think the French family have changed their mind about going.
All three of us are still laughing as we drive away and make out trip back to Kuta.  We can see Alex is getting weary – he tells us his daughter did not sleep well last night and kept him awake.  We keep up with the idle chit chat to help him stay alert and encourage him to pull over, but he will not.  He tells us usually he keeps chillies in his door pocket to pop in his mouth and wake him up when he feels this way, but he forgot to grab his stash this morning.  I offer him a wet towel for his face and all is good.  We are soon in Seminyak and Alex willingly takes us to pick up our items ordered earlier in the week: 1. Miss 7’s stunning red leather jacket and 2. Our Julio painting.  We then return to Bali Tangi and I collect my items from this morning, plus can’t resist throwing in another smaller bottle of Body Milk and Mud Mask (total 410,000 Rupiah).
 Finally Alex drops us back to our hotel, but not after we’ve agreed for him to collect us at 12:30pm on our last day once we have checked out of the hotel.  He will then takes us back to his house and we will share a traditional lunch together, cooked by his wife – we feel so lucky that he wants to invite us into his life.  We will spend the afternoon together before he takes us to the airport.  As we get out the car and are greeted by the hotel staff/security, our friend Eddie who collected us when we arrived asks what we have done today.  We tell him where we visited and one of the security staff is so happy he shakes our hands and thanks us immensely, as this is his village.  It’s so easy to make friends in Bali!
I’ve pulled some muscles in my neck and use this as a good excuse to book in for a massage at the hotel.  It’s been a while since I’ve had a massage and haven’t really made the time to have one yet in Bali.  Agustin works her magic and cracks my back numerous times, but no matter how hard she tries, cannot get the knots out of my shoulders.  I feel moderately better, and decide to book in again for the morning we leave.
Hubby and I decide to walk into Kuta and try out the Japanese restaurant we spotted the other night, Fuktaro I (Jl Legian).  We go a bit crazy as we didn’t eat much at lunch and order Gyoza Salmon, Pond Snails (hmmmm – Hubby’s choice) and Mixed BBQ Grill Skewers to share for Entree; Super Box for Hubby and Rainbow, Spicy Salmon and Spicy Tuna Sushi Rolls for me; a large Bintang and another Avocado Juice (total 618,200 Rupiah inc. 16% tax – our most expensive meal yet, but easily a pub meal cost for three back home).  We decide to walk off our evening meal and head back to the hotel, before calling it a night.
Another day in paradise comes to an end, and I’m sad to say our time here is running out.  But one thing that’s only just beginning – the start of a new friendship that distance will only make grow fonder.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Day 8 – More shopping?

Weather: : 31 degrees | partly cloudy | 68% humidity
Exchange: 10,500 - 9900 Rupiah = $1AUD (street)
We take our time moving this morning, with no schedule to follow or plans to keep.  Eventually we go down for breakfast around 9am.  After breakfast, we leisurely walk around the corner to check out ACE Hardware store.  This store is not bad at all – heaps of variety – kind of like a Bunnings and BIG W all-in-one.  We purchase a few incidental items, but most importantly buy an electronic luggage scale (we left our other one at home) to ensure our bags are evenly packed and don’t go over the weight limit for the return trip.
We take our items back to the hotel and consider jumping on the free shuttle to Kuta, but find out it’s already fully booked.  Oh well, I’m sure the $2.50 taxi ride won’t break the bank.  We call for a taxi and have him take us to Beachwalk Mall.  A quick walk through the new mall – it’s definitely not my kind of Bali shopping, but I can see how it would appeal to others – we head back out towards Poppies 2.
Another long walk around the block, we decide to purchase some DVD’s (only a few series sets – one that we cannot get in Australia just yet) - the usual, buy 10 get 5 free, 10,000 Rupiah each disk, a total of 100,000 Rupiah and walk back up Jl Legian to find a reputable money changer.  There are many along the street offering over 10,000 but I would rather lose a few cents for less hassle and a moment of air conditioning.  We walk quite a way (nearly to Legian) before settling on 9940 Rupiah per dollar, then turn around and walk back towards Kuta on the other side of the street.
My main goal for today is to find some of those compact little purses with 2 or 3 zips that easily hold my phone and money (I have managed to buy one each time I visit, but this time wanted more as eventually the strap wears thin).  I spotted only a couple in as many stalls, but they were not to my liking.  Hooray!  I find the perfect stall with a really nice lady selling; with a great selection of what I wanted (the only stall I have found with this many to choose from and I have been looking since we arrived), I decide to buy 3 different purses for me, one larger one for Miss 7 and a gorgeous black/white Jimmy Choo-ish handbag.  We barter with minimal fuss and I’m happy to hand over 400,000 Rupiah – maybe a little more than I could have paid elsewhere (especially for the handbag) but I was so happy to have found my purses that I didn’t really mind.  Obviously happy with my find, I bump into a cheerful little girl selling those leather strap things and although I usually just say “no thanks” with a smile, I give her an Aussie gold coin and she gives me two straps.
On our visit three years ago, I purchased one of those ever familiar Bali Batik style bags that pretty much go together with the Bintang singlets in the category of traditional tourist Bali purchases.  It’s the best value Bali thing I’ve bought, staying strong through every one of our return trips – zips and seams still intact (touch wood).  It carries so much stuff and I can wear it across my body, so when on a spending spree can hide items well and avoid the “why you not buy here” taunts (of course, unless it’s another bigger bag that won’t fit).  As an example, when at the market yesterday I fit the mortar/pestle, deep frying implement, peanut sauce blocks, bottle of water and other personal effects with the only trouble being how much it weighed.  Many stall sellers often want to sell me another bag and I’m always willing to look (for a spare – just in case...), however every bag I try across my body never sits as well as the one I have (mine is quite long for some reason, and I’m certain it hasn’t stretched).
We wander into many other stalls with sellers’ promise that their bag will be “long one”, try bags for size, but none are right.  We get hassled to buy more Bintang singlets, get dragged down a side alley with many stalls, have an argument with some very pushy sellers and high tail it out of there.  A little peckish, we grab a hot dog and steak sanga, with 2 Large Bintangs and 2 Smirnoffs for the grand total of 197,000 Rupiah at Redin’s Cafe (Poppies 2). We go back up to Jl Legian, turn left on to Jl Pantai and come across a rather large clothing stall where I hope to find some nice dresses for Miss 7... Success – six for 300,000 Rupiah (and an Aussie gold coin for good luck)... I hope she likes them!
We walk back down (or up) Jl Legian, so I can check out Miss Becky shop.  The style of clothing is not really my type, but I’m excited when I spot these little Balinese (Cabbage Patch type) dolls that I have not seen since my first trip in 1991.  I bought one from a restaurant called “Yanies”, which back then was quite popular and owned by an Aussie who imported Heinz tomato sauce and Cottees toppings – it obviously no longer exists.  I still have my Bali doll sitting on a shelf in my bedroom and every time I set eyes on it, it reminds me of my very first amazing trip.  I don’t buy one, but keep in the back of my mind – maybe I should get a girl doll to go with my boy doll back home?  I should have asked the price...
As we are close to the 100% Genuine Fake Shop, we call in one more time so that I can get another pair of those coloured flip flops I bought a few days ago (they are so comfortable) and I spot a Genuine Fake Chanel satchel which would be perfect for work.  50,000 for the shoes, 110,000 for the bag and we grab a cab back to the hotel.  Once back at the hotel, we relax in the pool for an hour or so, drinking at the swim up bar and chatting to one of the staff.
Earlier today when walking to ACE Hardware, I located the only day spa within close vicinity to the hotel and grabbed a brochure.  The prices were great, but there were no opening/closing times listed.  At about 7pm, hubby and I walk over with the plan that I’ll stay for some pampering and ring him when I’m done, then he’ll walk back over to collect me.  Unfortunately, the place is closed – it’s no surprise as the area is very secluded and probably wouldn’t be frequented by tourists.  We then catch a taxi back into Kuta, and after scanning Trip Advisor think we’ll try out the Dog and Dragon Restaurant on Jl Benesari.  However, once seated we scan the unappealing menu with very limited choices and decide to leave, walking back to Stakz – another high TA recommendation.  Stakz had a much bigger menu selection and wasn’t too badly priced either.  We ordered Mixed Grill, Tuna Steak with Vegetables, 1 Iced Coffee, and 1 small Bintang (total = 208,000 Rupiah).

Back at the hotel, a quick phone call from our driver Alex who is excited to let us know that a TA connection has contacted him on our recommendation to book him for next month.  He confirms our pick up tomorrow morning... no set plans – we’ve decided to leave it up to him although he did suggest travelling around the East side of Bali.  The part I’m looking forward to the most is finally getting to meet his wife and children!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Day 7 – Cooking up a storm!

Weather: 32 degrees | scattered rain/thunderstorms | 74% humidity
Exchange: 9,900 (avg.) Rupiah = $1AUD (street)
Today is the first day we set the alarm for, which really is not allowed on Bali time.  However, we needed to be up, showered and checked out before 8:25am and if time permitted a quick bite for brekkie too.  As usual, my super organisation skills had us packed last night and of course we had enough time for me to grab a slice of toast and glass of juice and hubby to have a coffee.  We were finalising our check out just as Wayan himself – Paon Cooking School owner – drove up and jumped out the car to greet us with a big welcoming hug.  He knew I had come last year – this was a first for hubby – and was so pleased I had chosen them once again.  He loads our suitcase in the back and guarantees he will take good care of it for us.
A short drive to Ubud Place, where we meet up with our new found friends for the day and the gorgeous Made (our tour guide and assistant from last year) leads us to the morning Market, but not before she gets a big hug from me.  The Market is exactly what I remembered from last year and Made doesn’t leave out a single explanation.  This time I make sure I purchase a Balinese style volcanic rock Mortar and Pestle (Rp. 75,000), a small deep frying implement (Rp. 25,000) and four blocks of peanut sauce (Rp. 25,000 each) – I know I can get some different versions cheaper from Carrefour, but I have cooked with these in the past and they seem more compact/decent quality.

We finish our Market tour and the group splits into two cars to make our way to Laplapan Village for Wayan’s explanation of his village’s rice fields.  There are some children playing in the rice fields with long sticks in the close distance and Wayan tells us they are trying to catch dragonflies with the sticky substance (from fruit) on the end of the stick to use like glue.  I wander away from the group and approach the children; I ask to take their photo and offer them a sweet each.  They eagerly come to me with their hands out and thank me many times.  As I rejoin the group, Wayan asks where his sweet is.

Soon we jump back in the cars and take another quick drive to Wayan and Puspa’s village, where we will play in their kitchen for the day.  As we enter their compound, Puspa is right there to greet us giving me a kiss on each cheek.  A lemon welcome drink given to each guest, we relax on their “meeting room” platform and find out more about Wayan and Puspa’s life story before being taken into their kitchen, their home, their family.
I was pleased to see that the profits made from their business obviously went straight back into the family compound and improving the area used for the cooking class.  Since last year they had built a new toilet facility and put a brand new roof over the kitchen area.  They were very proud to share this with me.
Straight to it, Aprons on, knife in hand we chop; pestle in hand, we grind – mixing and creating so many flavours and aromas that will result in our amazing menu for the day.  Together, all participants take on a role in the kitchen to contribute in some way to each and every dish we will later share for lunch.  The menu includes: Clear Mushroom and Vegetable Soup (Sup Jamur), Base Gede – Basic Yellow Sauce (Bumbu Kuning), Be Siap Mesanten – Chicken in Coconut Curry (Kare Ayam), Sate Siap – Minced Chicken Grilled on Bamboo Sticks ( Sate Lilit Ayam),  Kacang Me Santok – Vegetable in Peanut Sauce (Gado Gado), Coconut and Snake Bean Salad (Jukut Urab), Pepesan Be Pasih – Steamed Fish in Banana Leaves (Pepes Ikan), Tempe Me Goreng – Deep Fried Tempe in Sweet Soy Sauce (Tempe Kering), Kolak Bui – Boiled Banana in Palm Sugar Syrup (Kolak Pisang).

This was the exact same menu I tried last year, but just as good and what made it even better, is that Puspa helped me make some minor variations to my dishes so that I could try something different.  Of course she checked for any allergies prior and one of the participants was allergic to banana, so the dessert dish had Balinese Sweet Potato substituted for the banana, which I also tried for something different – YUM!
The group separates (in no particular order) to two tables and we enjoy our first course – the soup.  Some idle chit chat and getting to know one another, we learn in our group there are three people from Astonia, one from Finland, two from West Germany, two from Singapore and us two Aussies... and that was just our table.  There were another five people on the other table.
Every single person’s soup bowl bone dry, Puspa ushers us back into the kitchen to continue our cooking.  What seems like only a few moments later, we are told to take our seats and a feast is quickly delivered to our table.  There is SO...MUCH...FOOD!  We pass the platters around and fill our plates with a little bit of everything.  Hardly any room left for seconds, but feeling bad that we have left so much food, the platters do the rounds again for just a little more.  We share stories with each other about our own countries and experiences and before you know it, the time has ticked away into the late afternoon.

Puspa knows we are bursting at the seams, but who could resist that delicious and simple dessert – it literally takes minutes to whip up.  A drink of coffee or tea to go with it, our day together winds down and the group prepares to go their separate ways.  Puspa tells us their driver will take us back to our hotel in Kuta, but “no worry, no hurry”.  Nyoman drives us all the way back to Kuta, with our suitcase safely still in the back of Wayan’s car.

Although this was my second visit, it was just as special if not more as the first.  Wayan and Puspa were so happy for me to be there and mentioned this many times throughout the day, that they made me feel like I was, in fact, their special guest.  They both treated me and hubby like family, and I can confidently say that if you show genuine care and respect for their family and business, you will be well looked after.
Hubby had his reservations (pardon the pun) about this day and really only agreed to come along to keep me happy.  However, he did more work in the kitchen than me – I used the excuse that I’ve done it before and needed to take the photos – and he got to meet and chat with many really friendly people.  Wayan took an instant liking to hubby, which immediately put him at ease.  He tells me he would definitely do it again.  I would definitely do it again... maybe mum will join me next time?
We return to Kuta Central Park, and decide to relax at the hotel for the rest of the evening.  We have had a couple of jam packed days and still full from our delicious home cooked lunch, are not wanting to head out for tea.  I spend an hour on Skype with Miss 7, Nanny and Grandpa; hubby takes a dip in the pool and later we order a light snack via room service.  As hubby answers the door, he slips on a puddle of water and we realise our air conditioner is leaking.  Soon after around 10pm, the hotel has a blackout and we sit on our balcony watching the hotel staff runs around with torches to sort out the problem.  About 15 minutes later, lights back on and we call for Maintenance to fix our air conditioner.  I sit here compiling my blog, while the Maintenance guy tinkers with the leaking air con unit and I cringe at the thought of what could happen – is the power still actually connected?  But, hey presto, another 15 minutes and problem fixed.
While I sit here sipping a few glasses of  Hatten Aga Red, looking back on this amazing day I come to realise that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, with a common interest and  goal in mind you can work together to achieve anything.  It wasn’t until we had almost finished eating our lunch that I commented to those sitting at our table that we didn’t even know each other’s names, which we then went around the group and shared.  It really is true that: “Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love” – Giada De Laurentilis (American Chef).