May 19, 2007

Bali is Back on the Memory Lane

Chelsea of Tres Bon Vivant invites us to write something which is memorable when we happen to go abroad. And I say to myself great, I'll talk about Bali! If you feel like to share your experience in enjoying food from another country you've ever visited with us, please write to Chelsea and join us on her event Meals Abroad!

I first came to Bali in 1994. We (I said 'we' as I and a group of friends at college) stayed in a four-star hotel in Nusa Dua. I think it was called Bali Resort Palace Hotel. What we saw at that time was pink-faced foreigners (everywhere!), white sand, ocean waves, offerings on the corridors, coconut trees, sarongs, and the luxury breakfasts.

We made a long trip to Denpasar I had to fall asleep (gosh, it took hours!), the capital city of Bali, and then made ourselves a small getaway between projects to Kuta, where young people were enjoying the sun. I wasn't keen really to sunbathing, for I'm already dark myself. Some white boys happened to came to us and asked us to join them, and I said 'Well, I've got enough sun, thanks very much.' The other girls gave me a ready-to-eat-me-alive look with wrists curled up, and said 'You blew up!! They're gorgeous!' I could just run away from them, laughing with terror. Gosh, temptations are everywhere. Surfing boys?? Helloooo we're working on a project here!! When they came back to the hotel room, they were very exhausted and didn't finish the research. Time for me to say 'I told you so.'

There are so many places you can always go to. Everywhere is great place. When I visited Bali in 2001, I went to Ubud, the very place where I met my husband. This little place offers different lifestyle, different surroundings, different aura. You can feel it when you just come, there's the sense of religious state streaming in the air. You can smell the pandanus leaves mixed with incense sticks, bringing about the very purest-state in you whenever you think that you are entering a sacred spot with rich carvings, beautiful paintings and brilliant sculptures.

Yes, Ubud is the place I agree to live and stay whenever we get back to Bali again. We rent a bungalow for 22 years which sometimes is rented out to other people when we are not going to go back. Ubud is where I met my husband, and the place we honeymooned. It is a very special place which locates the truly lovely spot on our memory lane.

It is also still pretty much the same place we brought our children to introduce them with a part of Indonesian cultures. They learn to accept other people's existences around them, the various languages (I speak mainly Bahasa Indonesia and Palembangese, and I know a little bit of Javanese, and SundaneseIndonesia is rich with different cultures and different languages, mind you), the customs, the traditional values and traditions.

We went back to Bali in 2003, where it was completely different from what we experienced before the Bali bombing in 2002. People were begging for a job, begging for a better life. Do you know how hard I was to literally avoiding those women who sold bamboo-woven dishes in the market? They were desperate as no tourists came to Bali let alone bought their souvenirs. They were depending on how much they could sell the dish and each day they might come back home with nothing. It was a very difficult moment for everyone. It was very sad.

When we went back there again in 2005, the situation was more cheerful than in 2003, though we were still quite surprised to find that some of the cafes we usually visit were closed. Gone bankruptcy, most of them. However, some favorite cafes like Casa Luna, Tutmak, Lamak, and used-to-be-our-favorite cafe Batan Waru are still standing tall.

Above all the cafes, we love Tutmak. Not only it is an old friend's cafe, but it is also the friendly service they offer. Their waiter and waitresses are very friendly, even to your kids. You can always feel that you're home, surrounded with people who care and have willing-to-help attitudes.

There was the time I was so thirsty (you always are in a hot climate) and they offered me this Lemongrass and Ginger Ale Fizz. It was really a fizz of great herbal-mixed quencher of a thirsty traveller, I should have to order it again everytime we were exhausted after a very long walk from one shop to another. Our children loved their banana juice, watermelon juice or a tall glass of smooth banana lassie.

There were groups of people and children walking around the streets for Galungan Day (we missed the Galungan D-Day, but still could see the bits and pieces scattered in Ubud) with Barong. A great entertainment you can bump into in every corner of Ubud and other parts of Bali. Temples were still decorated with colorful ornaments and offerings.

Girls in Balinese traditional customs, very exotic-look.

This is the street to go to our bungalow with the tall decorations along the streets on the occasion of the Galungan Day.

At dinner time, we always came back to Tutmak if we feel like to walk a few kilometers from our bungalow, trying out every dish they offered on their special menu blackboard. My hubby once ordered this Middle Eastern plate (a small plate of pita bread accompanied by a bowl of cucumber raita and a large plate of lovely flavoured minced beef burgers, a small mound of buttered couscous, a spoonful of tabouleh, two spoonfuls of hummus, and great salad mixed of lettuce, carrots, beetroots, tomatoes, and crumbled feta. YUM!) ,

and I ordered a plate of Chicken Caesar Salad (a plate of great bunch of mixed lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, which topped with creamy diced chicken, accompanied by bread and butter) (sorry for the poor photographs—I was a new user of a digital camera at that time). We criss-crossed our forks or fingers to try each dish. I fell in ove with the Middle Eastern dish at first sight, and had to order it for myself the next time we came again. Lovely, lovely meals.

Oh, one more: the coffee is EXCELLENT!!!

So, come to Bali, especially to Ubud. Be prepared with your camera, a bag of memory cards, swimsuits, sunscreen (of course!), and be induldged!