Bali: Day 5: Wednesday 13 September 2012

17 09 2012

This was the last full day in Bali for my sister and me. It was another early start, but this time even earlier as I had to be ready for hotel pick-up at 6:00 am to visit the markets prior to the Bumbu Bali Cooking School.

The maximum number of students is 14 (two minivans of seven people each), though they fitted me and my sister in, with one of us having to miss the market visit as the vans were full.

First stop was McDonalds! Seriously!! But only to meet the other minivan and allocate people between the two vehicles πŸ˜‰ So the real first stop was the Jimbaran markets. At the markets, Heinz von Holzen — the chef (classically French trained and ex-chef at various Hyatts throughout the world and author of several books on Bali cuisine) — talked quite a bit about breakfast foods and ‘Mama Bali’ and her disposable daily income and why she has to come to the markets every day (no refrigeration) to get food to prepare meals for her family.

We sampled several breakfast foods — despite them looking very sweet, they weren’t. Heinz then guided us through the markets, explaining various foods, herbs, and spices (their pork meat is quite red as it is freshly slaughtered and there are no preservatives or hormones etc. in it).

Surprisingly, there was no ‘off’ smell in the markets, despite everything being out in the open (uncovered) and the closeness of the produce and the stalls. Everything is fresh and is sold the same day it comes to market or the next day. The markets are open seven days a week, for many hours (I believe the Denpasar markets are open 24 hours). Thus there is no food left out long enough to rot.

After the Jimbaran markets we headed to Jimbaran Bay where the fish markets are. Again, there was no smell of rotting fish in the markets, which is REALLY surprising as there are no concrete floors that get washed out each day. Heinz spoke at length on the overfishing in Jimbaran Bay and we watched as various catches came in and the fish were pulled from the nets and put into baskets and taken into the fish market.

Back to Benoa Peninsula and the Bumbu Bali Cooking School (right opposite the Peninsula Beach Resort, which is where we were staying), where we met up with my sister and had the most amazing breakfast! What flavours and delights for our tastebuds! Palm sugar and coconut cream featured in some of the most delicious dishes — they weren’t sweet… just DELICIOUS!

Then it was a few steps over to the open-air kitchen where we were to learn how to create 15 to 20 Balinese dishes (including stocks, spice pastes, and sauces). But before that Heinz showed us the ‘happy piggies’ they raise themselves for their restaurants, and the 24-hour old Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings that they rescued from the beach at Jimbaran Bay (see the photos — link at the end).

We didn’t have our own cooking stations (with 15 people, that would’ve been really hard to manage), but we all had a really good view of everything and we each got to help prepare at least one dish. Everything was pre-cut and ready to go and the almost invisible team of helpers cleaned up after each dish, took away the empty containers and dirty utensils and brought out the next lot for the next dish. It was a very well-oiled and practised machine. We sampled many of the dishes in the preparation and completion stages, including raw Wagyu beef brisket cut up in small cubes for beef satay. I was hesitant, but figured that I’d eaten steak tartare before so the small piece of raw beef (imported from Australia!) should be OK. It was. I was amazed how nice it tasted.

It was an amazing day. Heinz and his offsider offered SO many tips, including busting several myths about cooking that we had (like NOT searing steak on a very hot pan/griddle and cooking with high heat versus low heat).

After cooking school was over (about 2 pm), we sat down to lunch on all the dishes we had collectively prepared over the past 4+ hours. The food was magnificent. Unbelievable flavours, textures, and tastes.

Heinz said our names would all be on the blackboards at their two Bumbu Bali restaurants that night as ‘guest chefs’ as we had helped make the spice pastes etc. that would be used that night in the restaurants. We were already booked into the Bumbu Bali restaurant that night, but unfortunately we had to cancel as our plans changed (more later).

My verdict on cooking school: BRILLIANT! Well worth doing. If you’re going to Bali and are interested in food, then book a place (try and book as far ahead as possible — I heard there’s a two to three month waitlist; we were just fortunate there was a cancellation). Cost: US$90 for cooking school plus market (start at 6:00 am); US$80 for cooking school only (start at 9:00 am). If you can get up early enough, do the market part to as Heinz imparts a lot of information at the market that he doesn’t cover while cooking.

When we rolled into the resort after cooking school πŸ˜‰ we found that some friends of my sister’s had arrived a few hours earlier and had invited us to their apartment about 2 km down the road. They sent their driver to pick us up, and when we got to their place, their staff had prepared a veritable feast! So we cancelled the reservation at Bumbu Bali. Rob and Jules’ apartment overlooked the beach and had an infinity pool on the first floor. Amazing place! Two ladies from Broome (Colleen and Cori) who were staying in their other apartment next door also joined us. We had a lovely night with them. Their driver dropped us back at the resort about 8:30 and my sister and I packed as we had another early start tomorrow — we have to be at the airport at 7:30 am to catch the 9:30 flight back to Perth.

So, suddenly, the holiday was over. 😦

Will I be back? I think so πŸ˜‰

More photos:

Bali: Day 4: Tuesday 11 September 2012

17 09 2012

A very quiet day lazing by and in the pool today. Read lots, did some puzzles, drank fruit juice and generally did not much at a very slow pace! Isn’t that what a holiday is all about?

Later in the afternoon we took the shuttle van over to the sister resort being built on the other side of the peninsula, not far from the resort where we were staying. The first block of 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments are finished, and they expect to have the main reception, restaurants, bars, spa etc. block completed by Christmas and more 1 and 2-bedroom apartment blocks. The maximum height for any development on Bali seems to be four floors, so these blocks aren’t huge.

The sister development already has two of the three pools completed and has a temporary restaurant/bar. Residents have reciprocal rights at the resort we’re staying at and can catch a free shuttle to the other resort any time they want.

We looked through a 2-bedroom unit and a 1-bedroom one. The 2-bedroom apartment was VERY stylish and HUGE! This resort is a timeshare with a difference — the apartments are for sale ‘in perpetuity’ so there’s no limit on how long an apartment can stay in the family. Also, they can be sold privately or willed with no effect on the status of the apartment.

Although the 2-bedroom apartment could sleep four people in beds, you could actually sleep eight in it at a pinch — the massive sofa would sleep two, the day bed on the verandah would sleep another two, and another day bed in the dining area would sleep another two.

When we got back to our resort, we got a call that my sister and I had got into the cooking school tomorrow, though there was only room for one of us for the market part of the day. My sister graciously let me have the 6:00 am start πŸ˜‰

Later that evening we went to dinner with some of Mum and Dad’s friends (Mary and Jeff from Victoria, Alan and Diane from NSW) at Giorgio’s Italian Restaurant at the Aston next door (I still don’t know why we ate Italian in Bali!). The food was excellent — I had the linguine with veal meat balls and it was full of flavour.

However, there were some discrepancies in the menu. Of the eight of us, seven had a menu that had ‘grilled aubergines’ on it, but my sister had this:


More photos:

Bali: general observations

11 09 2012
  • Areas at hotels/resorts/restaurants are very clean as are most businesses and homes, but the vacant lots in between as well as stormwater drains etc. are strewn with rubbish (probably blown in).
  • HUGE number of motorbikes — everyone rides them. I’ve seen Muslim women in full hijab, small children riding in front of or between their parents, riders carrying sheets of glass (!) and other merchandise, women riding sidesaddle as pillion passengers. There’s lots of tooting and it all seems terribly chaotic, but there’s no evidence of road rage and little evidence of bingles between various road users. We could learn a lot!

  • There’s no such thing as clearing tree branches around power lines. I saw power lines running through trees, trees leaning into power lines etc. Heaven knows what happens to the power if trees blow down in a storm!
  • The Balinese are a very religious/spiritual people. There are temples and shrines everywhere — homes, restaurants, businesses, hotels, etc. And people make offerings all the time. Therefore I was very surprised to see some tagging on some buildings (never templates/shrines) when we were out and about on our trip to Ubud and Denpasar. I guess not everyone is as respectful of their own place….
  • Very few insects/bugs. I expected a lot of bugs as Bali is warm, tropical, humid/ But I’ve seen maybe two flies, no mosquitoes, no cockroaches, no spiders, no ants, no moths etc. anywhere. We saw one large scarab/rhinoceros beetle on the verandah one day, but that’s all. It was on its back so perhaps it had been dropped by a bird. I’ve also seen no geckos, which are always good at reducing insect numbers in a house.
  • First world problems: Disputes at the resort about towels and ‘baggsing’ sun lounges by the pool! It’s taken up a lot of conversation time that I’ve overheard. Really, people. There’s a helluva lot more to worry about than who left their possessions unattended for more than an hour or who ‘bags’ a sun lounge at 5:30 am!

Bali: Day 3: Monday 10 September 2012

11 09 2012

Up early again this morning. It was very still and very smoky (from rainforest burning in Java?). We had booked a minivan and driver for the day and he picked us up promptly at 8:30. Off we went to Ubud, via Sanur.

The first stop was a batik demo place and HUGE store (Sari Amerta in Batubalan) — really interesting and a great range of stuff in the store, but no batik quilting cottons.

I expected the drive to Ubud to be very rural, but it wasn’t — all the roadside areas were populated except for some very small patches of rice paddies (the rice was ready for harvest or had just been harvested). The closer we got to Ubud, the more stone carving places and art galleries we passed.

Our first stop in Ubud was meant to be the markets, but they are in the process of pulling them down. Next door was a smaller version of the old markets — very crammed and lots of bartering going on. I ended up getting a sarong for AU$5 (started at $15), and a couple of other sarongs I can use for quilting also for AU$5 each. Sarongs are about 2.25 metres long, so that’s a great price for fabric!

After some more fresh fruit juices in lieu of lunch (my intake of fruit has increased exponentially since we’ve been here πŸ˜‰ ), we headed back down to Denpasar to check out a fabric store in the Denpasar market area that I’d been told about. Fortunately, I had the address otherwise I could have been looking for ages and not finding it. After driving through some very narrow roads behind the main markets, we parked and had to walk through some very narrow lanes to get to the ‘street’ the fabric stores are on. Most had dressmaking fabrics — lots of silks, suiting etc. But as I had an address (THANK YOU, FLORA!), we were able to go straight to the place. And what a motherlode/treasure trove it was!!! All quilting batiks were 24,000 RP (about AU$2.50) per metre, with a minimum length of 1 metre.

I bought: 13 single metres, seven 2-metre lengths, about 3 odd lengths (e.g. 1.75 m), 3 jelly rolls (AU$13 each), and 3 fat quarter packs (AU$16 for 18 fat quarters). Total: around AU$160!!! Quilting batiks are about $20-$30 a metre in Australia, and about $6 to $7.50 per fat quarter…. You do the math! There were a couple of ladies (with husbands in tow) from Goulburn, Victoria, buying up a huge amount of stock for their store. Not surprising considering the price. They said that 7 metres = 1 kg baggage weight, but I’m not sure of the accuracy of that.

The store is: Maju Store, 19 Sulawesi St, Denpasar (markets), Bali. I believe there’s another quilting batiks store around the corner too: CV Dewi Mas, jl. Gajah Mada 48, Denpasar.

From Denpasar, we headed back to the resort. The traffic is amazingly frantic and apparently chaotic, but surprisingly organised, though some of the things people carry on motorbikes has to be seen to be believed…

We got back to the resort around 5 pm, thenΒ had an early dinner over the road at the Laguna Garden restaurant. AU$43 for the four of us — again, 2 starters (samosas, satay sticks), 3 mains (beef rendang, BBQ pork spare ribs, pulled spicy chicken), 2 desserts (banana fritter and creme caramel) plus 4 fresh fruit juices.

More photos:

Bali: Day 2: Sunday 9 September 2012

9 09 2012

Just another day in paradise! Up early and down to pool area about 6:30 am. Went for a long walk along the beach path with my Mum and sister (Mum and Dad were up before us and had already been for their walk before 6:30 am!). Breakfast again, then a swim or two in the pool.

I wandered over to change my massage appointment to an earlier time as we’re going to the Bali Collection (shopping area?) later this afternoon then having a meal there. Possibly also getting a fish pedicure! I also bought a couple of 6 litre containers of water (AU$1.80 each) to top up our supplies. It seems every restaurant and bar in this area (at least) cooks with and uses bottled water for ice and in the kitchens, and we clean our teeth with bottled water, as well as drink it of course.

Then I found the business centre at the resort where I’m typing up these blog posts (free). Once I connect to the internet to upload them, they’ll charge me a small internet connection fee, but just typing up the blog posts costs me nothing.

So here it is, about 11:30 Sunday morning, and I think I like Bali πŸ˜‰ It’s far more ‘civilised’ than I expected it to be, but then we’re not staying in a Australian yobbo tourist area, which has been my major reason for never coming to Bali until now. I really don’t want to go overseas to see Australians misbehaving or behaving badly and disrespecting the local people and culture. I’ve seen NO evidence of that as yet, which has been a lovely surprise.

I probably won’t get a chance to write another blog post until Tuesday as we’re off on a day trip tomorrow to Ubud, hopefully to the lizard park, and to Denpasar for me to find some fabric πŸ˜‰ We’ll be gone all day, I expect. The van and driver from the resort is going to cost us about AU$40 for the entire day — not bad for four people!

More from Sunday…

Had a lovely massage this afternoon (though painful in spots where Inda had worked on me heavily the day before). Came back to shower and get ready to go out to Bali Collection (a group of shops in Nusa Dua). Noticed that my phone, which I’d put on the charger just before my shower, was going crazy! It was flickering so I picked it up to read a message that there was one more attempt at login before it would delete all data on the phone! I had no chance to stop it as it was randomly entering letters/numbers into the password field then all of a sudden it stopped and EVERYTHING on my phone was deleted!!!! The screen was locked so I have no idea why it tried to log in. The same thing was about to happen the day before but I caught it in time and was able to enter the correct password. This time I had about 5 secs and just didn’t have time to delete what had already been entered (and was still being entered) before it wiped ALL the data. All my contacts, calendar appointments, ebooks, audiobooks, photos, apps — everything. Just GONE in a matter of seconds. I was FURIOUS — I didn’t know whether to be angry at Telstra or Android for this, but I knew it wasn’t me as I was in the shower and the rest of my family was by the pool!

Then, when I restarted the phone it wanted to set up from scratch and asked me to select a WiFi spot before doing anything else, and it wouldn’t read my SIM card. I tried to go into the APN area for mobile, but the phone said it didn’t recognise my SIM card. I removed the battery and the SIM and tried again — same thing. SIM not recognised so my phone is USELESS until I can get to a Telstra Shop back in Australia. NOT HAPPY! (Update: reason SIM wasn’t recognised is that I still had the phone in Airplane mode… Silly me!)

I was being so good with my phone to avoid any charges — I’d turned off data roaming, had altered the APN details, had it on Airplane mode so it didn’t try to connect to anything, and had all location services turned off. I only wanted to use it to play word games, sudokos, listen to audiobooks and read ebooks! It’s now turned off completely and my first job when I get back home is to contact Telstra about the SIM card and why my phone went crazy trying to log in — and why it DELETED ALL MY DATA!!! The phone had been doing some strange intermittent things the past few weeks (long before I went to Bali) and I wonder if they are related to what happened — for example, I’d have it sitting next to me on the Home page and it would randomly try to do a Google search (different page), or try to send a blank SMS to no-one (it would ask for the cell tower to use to send the SMS!). I hadn’t really thought that anything more sinister might be going on and just thought that maybe I should do a full power down and reboot of the phone at some point.

I’ll also have to download all my apps again, and audiobooks and ebooks, and reconnect with Exchange Server for my contacts and calendar (thank goodness I have Exchange Server!), and set up all my settings again. This could easily take a day…. so I am NOT happy at all.

The only positive was that I’d spent part of the morning on the internet uploading the photos on my phone to Flickr, so they were safe. The other photos I’ve been taking with my camera, not my phone.

Back to Bali…

We went to Bali Collection in Nusa Dua this afternoon. It’s quite big, not many people around, and except for shop workers, the only customers were ‘Europeans’. Shopping is hard when nothing fits, but I ended up buying some track shoes as mine are starting to get holes in them. I got a pair of New Balance women’s running shoes — retail ~AU$100 but with the 90% discount I got them for AU$16.70!! I also picked up some little goodies for some friends.

We had dinner at Frangipani’s Restaurant in Bali Collection. It was OK, but not as good as some of the other food we’ve had. Best bit? AU$45 for 4 people (2 starters, 3 mains, one dessert, 4 fresh fruit drinks), plus free transport back to our resort (quite some distance).

More photos:

Bali: Day 1: Saturday 8 September 2012

9 09 2012

We were all up fairly early (it’s a family trait…). I saw the sun rising over the ocean and was able to see more of the resort than just the room — absolutely beautiful! Went for a walk with the family; after the path along the beach ended in one spot, my sister and I continued walking along the beach sand at the tide mark.

Unlike my experience walking along beaches in Sri Lanka 30 years ago, there was NO evidence of ‘human waste’ at all, although there was a bit of plastic rubbish on the beach. Not a lot, though.

We had a full buffet breakfast at the resort (AU$7 per person) — it seems my parents eat a hearty brekky, then a piece of fruit for lunch, then go out to dinner somewhere. Sounds good to me! I had muesli, yoghurt and fresh fruit, followed by a poached egg, bacon, and beef sausage. Plus apple juice.

After breakfast we parked ourselves under the shade on the sun lounges by the enormous and very pretty pool, had a few swims, read, etc. for a couple of hours.

Mum, my sister and I then wandered down the road to the Bumbu Cooking School to see if my sister and I could book in for a class later in the week. Unfortunately, they only operate the cooking school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday, so we got put on the waitlist for Wednesday (we fly home on Thursday). Here’s hoping — it looked really interesting, starting with a market visit at 6 am, then breakfast, then cooking until 2 pm when we eat the meals we’ve prepared (some 15 or so dishes!).

We also booked massages etc. for later in the day at the Joy Spa about 20 metres from the resort’s entrance.

Back to the resort for (fruit) drinks by the pool, then at 2 pm us girls went over to the Joy Spa for our treatments — I’d booked a 1-hour full body massage (ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!) plus a 1-hour reflexology foot massage (also great) plus a pedicure (got flowers painted on my toenails — too cute!). Mum had a mani/pedi, and my sister had a half-hour reflexology foot massage plus a pedicure. Even Mum got flowers on her nails — go Mum! πŸ˜‰

Hour-long massages were AU$6, hour-long reflexology also AU$6, and the pedicure was about AU$5. Unbelievable. Equally unbelievable was the massage. By full body, they mean full body — everywhere was massaged except the genitals. And at various times the masseur climbed up on the table to get better purchase on the spine etc. The massage was SO good, I’ve booked another one with Inda (my masseuse) for tomorrow (Sunday) and Wednesday (just before we fly home on Thursday). At AU$6 each, they are a real bargain.

Back to the resort to shower and change for dinner. We’re eating at the other Bumbu restaurant tonight — it’s meant to be quite an amazing experience and the food is supposed to be to die for (NOT literally!).

The weather here is just perfect — warm to hot, but with cooling sea breezes constantly keeping the worst of the heat and humidity at bay.


Dinner at Bumbu was BRILLIANT! The food was amazing and very plentiful. First we were served with tiny prawn cracker type things with a HOT HOT chilli dip (yummo!). Then for starters we had one serve each of chicken satay sticks and beef satay sticks (20 small sticks altogether), plus all the lovely sauces to go with them.

We’d ordered four main dishes to share and boy, was there more than enough food! We had grilled chicken with roasted coconut sauce, chicken with spicy coconut sauce (like a Thai curry), grilled pork spare ribs with a Bali BBQ sauce, and baby roast suckling pork with crackling. The grilled chicken and the suckling pork were unbelievably moist and tender, the meat on the ribs just fell off the bone, and the array of accompaniments was amazing. For drinks, Mum and Dad had Bumbu’s home-made lemon squash; I had a minted lime squash, and my sister had a mango, banana and tangerine fruit juice. We even got free transport back to the resort! Total bill including taxes, gratuity charges etc. — AU$86!!

I like how the security guys at the hotels and resorts stop the traffic to let the tourists cross the road and to let out cars into the traffic. No-one seems to mind these constant interruptions and the traffic still flows pretty smoothly.

More photos:

Getting to Bali: Friday 7 September 2012

9 09 2012

My sister and I flew Garuda to Bali, leaving Perth around 2:15 pm and landing at Denpasar some 3 and a bit hours later.

The flight was uneventful — both for turbulence, and passengers. The average age of passengers by estimate was about 50, so the Australian yobbos I expected were few in number, if present at all. That was a the first pleasant surprise. The second pleasant surprise was the quality of the meal we were served. We both had the beef and rice, which was a lovely spicy beef rendang. Yummo. One of the most flavoursome airline meals I’ve ever had — most airline food is bland in the extreme to cater for every possible taste. The Diet Coke I had tasted quite different to the Australian version — possibly made with different water or with a different sugar source?

The only downside to the fight was the two toilets for about 160 people in Economy. At one stage the queue to the loos snaked at least halfway down the plane. The decision for me (a first-timer to Bali) was to go to the loos on the plane an hour or so before landing, or wait until we land and punt that the loos at the airport would be clean, assuming we didn’t have a long wait at immigration and customs, or wait until we got to the resort (possibly another hour from the airport). I opted to stay in line and wait my turn.

We had left early and therefore arrived early and as we were the only plane in, clearing immigration and customs was super quick, which means Mum and Dad and the driver weren’t there to meet us. We waited about 15 mins or so for them to arrive — we had no way of letting them know that the flight had been rescheduled, so we didn’t really expect to see them when we landed. It was about 27C and just balmy. The smell of incense wafted through the air, but no other less-exotic smells common to many Asian countries.

By the time we left the airport, it was dark and so I had no clue where we were going (except for the map in my head).

My parents’ 2-bedroom apartment at their timeshare resort is quite lovely — at least, what I could see of it in the dark. The apartment is really spacious and both bedrooms have en suites. Everything is spotlessly clean and very Western. Even on the drive to the resort I was surprised by the amount of Western chains I saw — KFC, Macdonalds, Starbucks, Burger King etc.

We had dinner at one of the restaurants in the resort — the ‘Jacaranda’. I had beef rendang (again!), with extra chilli as it wasn’t spicy enough; my parents both had sizzling sweet and sour pork; and my sister had satay sticks. We had the most delicious fresh fruit drinks with dinner — mine was mango, papaya and pineapple (AU$2 each). We also shared a large creme brulee between the four of us at the end of the meal. The total for all our meals plus drinks, plus dessert cane to AU$40 — for four people.

My first impression of Bali — lovely weather, very very clean, no smells except the occasional wafting of incense and frangipani, and quite Western.


Other notes:

Garuda check-in weighed our carry-on bags (which my sister and I had carefully packed so that we didn’t need to go to baggage claim!). It seems there’s a 7 kg limit, and we were both a tad over, so we had to check our bags anyway. Reason — a 10 kg bag falling out of an overhead locker would really hurt someone. My response? And a 7 kg bag would do as much damage falling on your head!

Also, only those flying Garuda Business class can access the lounge. Garuda doesn’t have its own lounge at Perth International Airport; it uses Qantas’ lounge. I’m a lifetime member of the Qantas Club and my sister is also a member of the Qantas Club, but we couldn’t use the Qantas Club as we were flying Garuda Economy. You can’t even buy a day pass (effectively a 2-hour pass), like you can with Alaskan Airlines and other US airlines and Virgin Blue in Australia. Qantas/Garuda are doing themselves out of money by not allowing you to purchase a day pass (both Alaskan and Virgin Blue has a $30 one-day pass — easy money for usually 2-3 hours access!).