i think we were generally "ill-prepared" for this trip, in that we didn't do much detailed background reading. even though it wasn't planned with military precision, it really turned out quite nicely maybe because we took things as it came. perhaps that's how vacations are meant to be enjoyed.
(1) i had this bizarre idea of renting a car & driving, GPS-guided of course, around the island at leisure. that way, we can slowly explore most of the tourists' attractions unhurriedly. until someone told me the roads are narrow &
motorists obey traffic rules even less than those in m'sia. we therefore followed the recommendation of others to hire a guide & driver/car instead, & that turned out to be a sound idea. with a land area almost 6 times larger than penang, there is much to explore. here, the guide, Mr Dana, explains the sights as we travel in comfort in a MPV. he gave an excellent account of bali & i would strongly recommend him. incidentally, missyC gave me his contact some time back..
(again, notice the narrow road)
2) balinese women are no pushovers. they work hard, not only looking after the family but help out their spouses at work as well. if left without transport, they move around carrying loads on their heads.
3) the cottage industries are located at specific districts, eg. in celuk, there are numerous silverware shops along one particular road.
somewhere along a road in ubud, there too are clusters of shops displaying & selling wood/carving products.
4) besides the ubiquitous nasi goreng & satay, 2 dishes tourists scramble to savour are babi guling (suckling pig) & crispy duck. the babi guling, though a must-try dish, is certainly no match for our siew yoke (roast pork) in appearance & taste.
the skin wasn't even crunchy. so that was a disappointment maybe because i expected more. the crispy duck is something else. it's deep-fired till you can actually chew on the bone.
oh yes, satay is served the traditional way, complete with a burning charcoal grill.
5) kintamani in north-east bali has been likened to cameron highlands in terms of altitude and climate. at 1200m above sea-level, it was a welcome reprieve from the heat of the lowlands. i even noticed some roadside stalls offering strawberries. it's here that the active volcano mt batur & it's adjacent lake is located. tourists actually trek up its peak to catch sunrise. the black-coloured earth by its sides are fertile lava spewed out during previous eruptions.
nearby is where the some of the rice terraces are located.
rice, being the staple food in the region, is grown also in the fields. here on the terraces, each farmer form part of a cooperative that shares the limited water supply & the complex irrigation system is jointly maintained so that a farmer does not block the water from flowing downward to rice terraces below his. communal living is a major issue in bali - families are closely-knit & wives are expected to look after the parents-in-law till they pass on.
6) also in kintamani, we visited a family-owned coffee plantation. the 2 varieties grown are the well-known arabica (more expensive because less caffeine content) and robusta beans. but what we really came for is the kopi luwak - coffee made from beans that had been ingested & passed out by the civet cat.
by some weird twist of fate, this product is now the most expensive coffee in the world.
dare i try some?this shop assistant beckons with a cuppa & a smile......at Rp50k (about rm18) a pop. oh, what the heck, i've already had babi guling & crispy duck, one more won't hurt.
of course, to savour coffee, you have to take it as it is, unadulterated by sugar or milk. i confess that i'm no connoisseur, so to me, it didn't taste anything different from the brew from ipoh or muar. perhaps a tad sourish but it had the ooomph though. i was wide awake after that. should you be in a boutique cafe & the premium coffee you ordered tastes like s**t, you know, you could be right! anyway, i bought a box home..
so, if you're ever in the neighbourhood, give me a shout & i'd love to make you a cup of the most expensive coffee in the world. but do give me a few hours' headstart because i've got to 1st retrieve it from the safe deposit box.
**i thought i could squeeze bali in one post but looks like there'll be a sequel**