Oct 2012. Day 7 & 8: Back to Cooking

Oct 2012. Day 7 & 8: Back to Cooking

I woke again before the birds, as is becoming my habit.  Again I did not sleep well, but as I am not doing anything that requires much energy, it doesn’t matter that much.  I can always have a nanna nap in the afternoon if need be.  It is Saturday and it is another glorious day in Ubud.  I have been so lucky with the weather.  Sunny since I set foot on the island of the Gods.  And hot.  Even the locals are complaining about how hot is has been.

Another hearty breakfast beside the fish pond.  I had forgotten how sweet in taste sliced white bread is in Bali.  I opt for wholemeal toast this morning, which is marginally better. Then I realised that the butter has a slightly sweet taste too.  My weight-watching mind goes into wasted calorie mode.  But I am on holiday.  A little sugar is not going to kill me.  It just doesn’t taste the best with eggs & bacon.  Again I dread weighing myself when I get home.  I have made a few bad choices already, like the vanilla milkshake I had last night. Mmmmmm. A piece of toast flies off my plate after being vigorously cut, landing on the decking.  I pick it up and crumble it, throwing morsels into the fish pond for the koi.  They must be well-fed, as they have little interest.  Maybe they are watching their carbs?  Several waterborne insects that look like long-legged spiders swim over to the floating crumbs, surrounding them.  A few of the smaller fish nibble as well.  Then two spotted doves fly down from the frangipani tree that shelters the fish pond.  I break off more toast to share with them.  They are very polite birds, and a bit shy about getting too close.  I had noticed some doves helping themselves to the rice in the offerings for the gods left on the footpath near my room and wondered if they were the same birds.  They are happy to share my breakfast.

I returned to my room. The cleaning fairies had been & there was another towel animal cleverly folded on my freshly made bed – a pig. Back on my patio with my laptop, I decided to have a spa experience and jump online to do some research.  I have not had a massage in Bali for years after I was ‘traumatised’ by having to shower in the nude in front of a therapist.  Bali Botanical Spa has good reviews and I like the sound of their all-day package.  I give them a ring and they can’t fit me until Wednesday.  I take the booking, requesting a female therapist just in case. 

During my research, I look up the elderly Ketut – the ‘guru’ from Eat Pray Love fame.   I don’t fancy seeing someone who doesn’t meet me on the same spiritual plane, and from what I have read he mouths the same platitudes to everyone he sees for $25.  I decide to give him a miss.  Funnily enough, I read a scathing BTF (Bali Travel Forum) post about him the next day, so I knew I had made the right decision.  Looking up healers next, I find a site for the Yoga Barn and read that they have a naturopath who has a special interest in allergies.  I still have an annoying itchy rash on my back and hope she may be able to help me.  I like the sound of her modalities so I make an online enquiry.  Then I thought about cooking schools.  I don’t know why.  I hate cooking.  Love the results of cooking but not the physical act itself.  I did a cooking class many years ago but it was mainly as an observer.  I read a few reviews and decide I like the sound of Paon Cooking Class, which is more interactive.  I send off an online enquiry to see of they have a class on Sunday.  I get a response within an hour and book myself in.

After a quick lunch by the fishpond, I venture into the pool for a swim. There is a high ledge to climb over to the steps. My descent was not elegant. I swam around for a while then drip-dried on a sun lounger reading my e-book on my phone. The pool area was quiet, only 2 other couples there sunbathing.

Reception called for a taxi to take me into Ubud township early, around 5 pm so I could look at some of the shops along Monkey Forest Road.  I also needed to buy some heavy-duty mosquito repellent to minimize the pox look I was getting due to bites.  I really really tried the alternative non chemical method and Ubud mosquitoes have taken it as an apertif to my blood.  I’m sick of being attacked.

I see that Ubud market is having a reno.  It’s not looking at all recognisable.  Off I trot down to the little supermarket in the music store.  I found two mozzie repellents – one ‘au naturale’ made of undisclosed essential oils for Rp75,000.  Having been down this road already, I opt for a bright yellow spray can called ‘Off!’ with not a scrap of English on the label.  Rp40,000.  I took it to the counter & ask the cashier if is for mosquitoes? Yes.  How long does it last? Yes.  How often do I need to spray it? Yes. I paid & left.  I’ve probably bought a toxic surface spray but I need protection.  I sprayed myself with it on their steps.

I did a lot of window shopping.  I went into a couple of gift type shops with lots of silver buddhas and Ganeshas, etc.  And a silver kiwi! What the?  I had entered a shop to add to my collection of gifts to give to my workmates and friends.  I very much dislike being hovered over by shop assistants as if I am about to steal something & make a run for it.  In Hardy’s, I was followed around every nook and cranny upstairs.  I do not like to shop under pressure. As usual, I see nothing I want to buy for friends & lots I would like to buy for me! I was very taken with a kneeling man & woman in traditional dress, painted with gold highlights.  Real gold, I am told.  Yeah, right. Rp480,000 ea.  I decide I am not that in love with them.  I did like the Indian Hindu chanting that was playing in the background.  The shop assistant began to regale me about the benefits of having a Ganesha statue by the front door for protection.  Sorry to any Hindu readers, but Ganesha is butt ugly.  I like the other silver elephants, wholly elephants and not half man half beast, though again for me and not my friends.  Then she went on about the god Saraswati, but I have a wood carving of her already, so no sale. As I was edging towards the door, a family with young children entered the shop and the children, bless them, began dismantling the window display, distracting my shadow so I could make my escape.  Empty-handed.  Thanks, kids.

It is very difficult to windowshop and walk with your eyes glued to the footpath.  They are appalling in Monkey Forest Rd in the way they have little valleys and umpteen untrustworthy grills in the footpath for the unwary to fall down and be swept out to sea, or to the soccer field at least.

I am getting hungry.  I am eager to try The Three Monkeys restaurant, sister to the Sanur restaurant of the same name.  My mouth salivates at the thought of another summer berry granita.  I manage to get a table outside next to the rice paddy.  Lovely.  And it’s non-smoking. Bonus. I still hate smoke wafting into my vicinity when I am eating.  But where is my welcome basket of prawn crackers & pappadammy thingies with sambal? Non-existant here. I ordered a shredded chicken and young mango pizza and a summer berry granita.  While I waited for my order I watched the bats flying around the rice paddy next door in the dusk.

My pizza was good, granita was soooo disappointing.  To start with, it was almost melted.  It did not have the same taste or texture.  I finished my pizza, to the amazement of the rude European woman at the next table who practically dislocated her neck as she peered over her shoulder to inspect my pizza when it arrived.  And to get updates on my progress. Granted it was big.  And I did eat almost every morsel.  As well as being hovered over,  I dislike being watched while I eat.  I am not a sideshow. Eyes forward, you old bag! It’s rude to stare & I nearly asked her if she wanted a closer look, but settled on a raised eyebrow, the subtlety completely lost on her gawking.

Getting the attention of the waitress, any waitress, or a waiter, or anyone even walking past seemed doomed to failure. None of them would make eye contact. Short of tripping one up to ask for the bill, I got sick of waiting and went up to counter, pointing to where I had been seated & was given the bill at last.  Not that I felt like paying it or giving a tip.  This place is poles apart from Sanur, where a pointed look would bring a waiter running to my side to grant my next wish. I will write to them and tell them their restaurant is much more awesome than Ubud’s.

I was inundated with offers for transport as I walked back up to the road negotiating the hills & dales of the footpath in the dark.  I find it a wee bit dodgy this ‘taxi’ business that has no regulation.  I could accept, climb in a minivan or SUV never to be seen again, hacked up into little pieces and fed to the suckling pigs, and no one would know until I didn’t come home from my Bali holiday!  I suspect it does not help that I am reading Christine Feehan’s Dark Shadow where there is a lot of evil & hacking going on!  I decided to walk up to Jl Bisma where I got a lovely driver home from Café des Artiste the other night.  But there is no-one there!  It is Saturday night after all.  So I just keep walking, depending on the headlights of passing traffic to guide my footsteps.  I am an idiot.  Someone could just as easily jump out of the bushes or drive by and scoop me up in their van, never to be seen again.  There really is no one around as the road descends towards the bridge.  I am feeling somewhat apprehensive.  Even all the shops are shut.  I don’t fancy walking up the hideously steep hill in pitch darkness to my hotel.  My nervous energy and the long walk would have burnt a few calories – enough to justify having pizza again? I have reached Murni’s Warung, surely there will be drivers hanging around there or out the front of Bridges restaurant.  Hello, my friend!  A man separated himself from a group of three and walks towards me with a big smile and hand outstretched, asking how I was.  Bagus I answer as we shake hands.  Where are you going? Back to my hotel.  It’s Saturday night, you should be at a bar with your friends.  No, I want an early night.  Where are you staying, do you need transport? (halleluiah!).  Yes please.  I did not negotiate a price. I got his whole life story in the 3 minutes it took him to drive me up the hill.  As he delivered me to the hotel carpark, I asked how much do I owe him? Whatever you think is fair, he answers.  As he was sent to me by my guardian angel, I give him more than I usually negotiate in sheer gratitude and thanked him.  I am home safe, an idiot, but safe and unhacked.

I slept solidly for 7 hours.  Hooray! I needed to get cracking this morning, as breakfast service starts at 7.30 am and I am being collected at 8.15 am for my cooking class.  The hotel restaurant is crowded this morning.  All the comfy lounge chairs by the fish pond are taken so I sit at a dining table a step up from the decking. For a change, I have a mixed omelette with my bacon & toast.  Sweet toast.  They bring around this morning’s treat – a banana fritter with chocolate sauce drizzled over it and coconut sprinkled on top.  I really shouldn’t but I did.  WTH! Seems that it is not coconut, but grated cheese on top.  Eww! The waitress must have seen my face, came over and asked me if I liked it.  Is it supposed to have cheese on the top, thinking the chef had been drinking a bit too much arak last night? Yes, you don’t like? I don’t like. She whipped it away an brought me another one with no embellishment.  I did not recall objecting to the chocolate sauce! 

I have some dirty laundry to take to reception so pop back to my room to get it.  I put it on the ground as I locked the door after myself, bent down to pick it up again and my back went.  I’d say the disc in L4-L5 has decided to bulge to the left as it is wont to do on occasion after 20 years of nursing and I could no longer stand up straight. Bugger! The car is coming for me in 5 minutes.  I gingerly hobble back inside to down some Nurofen then hobble to reception, like a bent eighty-year-old woman, with sound effects to match.  I hand over my dirty laundry, which was not heavy, btw then take a seat and wait.  About 20 mins.  The van arrives, nearly full – a French family of 4 in residence.  The back seat is raised so I can climb into the caboose.  Comfy? No. Fortunately we are only going as far as the Ubud Market.  In front of the royal palace, we meet up with two other carloads – 16 people who want to learn how to cook Balinese food on a Sunday morning. Who’d have thought?  We are divided into 2 groups and meekly follow the leader into the still trading end of the market.

Our guide stops in front of a flower & readymade offerings stall & we gather around as he explains why the offerings are made, how they are made and what they are made of and passes around samples of flowers, dried banana leaf & pandan leaf for us to touch and smell.  Around the corner, we stop in front of a vegetable stall & we are shown varieties of veggies. Any questions? I have one.  How do they keep the fish fresh? I had noticed a basket full of what look like big sardines, a frequent landing field for numerous flies, being idly shooed by the stall vendor! Oh, they are already cooked, he laughed and led us away.  I found myself hoping fish is not on today’s menu. We are led to a stall selling kitchen implements.  We’re shown various knives, graters, bowls etc and then it is upstairs to a spices stall.  Various spices are handed around to sniff.  I saw some silver clove ointment & Bokashi oil for sale at the stall and was asked about them by some friendly fellow Aussies.  They also sold coffee, including Coffee Lawar, of which I was unfamiliar. Gag! When it was explained by our guide how these ‘cats’ eat only certain coffee beans, are fed papaya for its aperient effect and the partially digested beans are collected after being passed in faeces, treated, roasted & packaged I was never so glad to be a non-coffee drinker. Ewww! And kitty-poo coffee is expensive too! Who buys that stuff? 

 Our final port of call was a fruit stall.  Mangosteens are in season. I did not know that you can tell how many segments are inside by counting the ‘petals’ on the underside.  We were offered mangosteen, salak (snake fruit) and rambutan to try.  I have eaten all three in the past, so left that to the others.  It was stinking hot in the market and I was desperate to sit down.  My back was killing me. We made our way to the cars & were driven to a village in Petulu where there were many terraced rice paddies.  Our host, Wayan was introduced as we stood out on the roadside and given a lesson on the cycle of growing rice & irrigation.  He was an excellent speaker, had us laughing and eating out of the palm of his hand with his big happy smiles and jokes.  I took to leaning on a tree as I listened until someone pointed out that it had big red ants crawling on it. I leapt away & flicked one off a finger seconds before it could bite.

Back in the vans & our final stop is Wayan & Puspa’s family home.  We were given a drink as we sat around the meeting bale while Wayan explained each buildings’ significance, position & typical family life.  It was very educational.  We then filed out back to the kitchen and dining area where Puspa showed us the ingredients we would be using to cook & set us up in aprons & chopping utensils. Everyone had a task.  I had the task of chopping tempe and then snake beans.  Once the ingredients were prepared we all had a go at grinding the basic ingredients in a huge deep mortar the size of a bucket with a wooden pestle as big as an oar.  We were given a tour of the kitchen garden and then set to work cooking our meal.  It was so much fun.  I sat out most of the actual cooking part as my back was so sore. I was presented with a chair to sit & watch the others toil over gas stoves & woks.  We sat down to some fantastic tasty food & had a ball chatting with each other.  During the meal, Wayan came up to me & asked if he could put some fresh aloe vera on my burnt back, which looks worse than it is because of the rash, that continues to itch.  It was heaven and so thoughtful.  They really are a delightful couple and so genuine.  I cannot recommend this experience highly enough, even though I spent most of the day in pain. I had so much fun.  And now I have the recipes for each dish we prepared to try at home. 

After I was dropped off at my hotel, I spent the afternoon online, looking for a chiropractor.  I got a reply from the naturopath – booked out.  I will ring around in the morning.  I am still feeling really sore & not hungry so it’s time for bed.

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