Sambal For Life (Bali Pt. 2)

This is the second post about my recent trip to Bali.  The first post can be found at Terimah Kasi Bali! (Bali Pt. 1).

So lets talk food.  Particularly, Balinese/Indonesian/Malaysian food.

One of the most popular regional cuisines in Indonesia is Padang fare.  Padang food  is usually served in a series of small plate portions of deliciousness, and is somewhat akin to dim sum or tapas in that you are presented with all of the options at once, and you pick which ones you actually want to eat.  The cream of the crop though is rendang.  Oh my god, its easily one of the best foods I’ve ever eaten.  Unfortunately I got food poisoning for the tail end of the trip and only got to eat rendang twice.  Other than padang, Indonesians like fried food, and they do it very well.  Nasi goreng, their fried rice, is hugely popular with tourists (including myself).  Then there is satay, which is principally prepared the same way across southeast Asia.

So yeah, food poisoning.  It was expected, and it was painful.  I went into the trip knowing that I’d get food poisoning at some point, and I thought I had dodged the bullet. Boy was I wrong.  It could have been from all the sambal I sucked up, which is basically Indonesian for hot sauce.  I do love spicy!  Anyways, wash your hands all the time and don’t get ice with your drinks.

Here is a monkey.

As far as sights to see in Bali, there are a few specific hot spots that are sort of a must.  My mom’s old friend Harry, who’s lived in Bali for 30 years and is best known as one of the resident DJs of Leed’s prolific disco club The Warehouse, was kind enough to accompany us on all the road trips that we just had to do.  Harry has known me since I was a wee tike in Jakarta, so I call him uncle.

My old friend Marco came to visit us.  Him and I used to play in a band in high school, and we’ve managed to keep in touch for over 20 years.

First of all I’d like to say that my mom and I avoided the beach, with prior understanding that Bali is not about the beaches.  Don’t get me wrong, they looked beautiful with turquoise water and volcanic sands, but my pale complexion is no match for the near-equatorial sunlight.

Aside from Denpasar, a major draw point for tourists is Ubud.  The surrounding countryside is hilly, with jungles and rice paddies taking turns.  It’s gorgeous. The town itself is unfortunately dense (and I mean dense) with tourism and markets.  Lots of good food though!

Next up is Kintamani.  You drive up a mountain, and when you get there you have this massive view of an extinct volcano with a beautiful lake at its base, all within a giant crater.  The view is obviously one in a million. We ate from a Balinese buffet looking out over the mountain, and it was so serene.

Afterwards we drove down into the valley and made our way to a small village that had some beautiful old Hindu temples.  There were people there that had commuted from far away just to worship at that spot, as there was some religious significance to the location.  Every village you drive through is sleepy and laid back, and this one was no different.  I could also feel the age of the place.  There was emotional and spiritual history there, dense with vibe.

Another city worth mentioning is Singaraja, which used to be the capital of Bali before they moved it to Denpasar.  It’s sleepy, old, and beautiful, and fortunately untainted, as the majority of tourists don’t really have any reason to visit it.  There are some gorgeous old hotels here, many that are slowly decaying but are still lovely.

My favorite part of the entire trip was our drive back from Singaraja through the mountains, past the three lakes in an area called Buyan (I think, will double check).  Absolutely the most stunning views, and an adventurous drive through towns that live in the clouds and are perpetually foggy.  Keep in mind that I was in the throes of food poisoning through all of this, but it was an experience that I couldn’t sit out.

Credit must be given to our driver Ajik, whose honed reflexes and keen road awareness kept us safe and moving through the jungle.

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