Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sink Lizard

Sometimes it still freaks me out a little bit to turn the light on in the kitchen and see a lizard skitter across the counter.  I know they're supposed to be good luck, but it still makes me jump a little bit.

This guy was actually stuck in the sink.  While I was making my trusty banana shake, he tried and failed twice to climb the steep wall, so I stepped in and gave him a hand.  By "a hand," I mean that I draped a paper towel over the edge of the sink to give him some grip so he could climb up on his own.  He did just that and headed straight for his sanctuary under the microwave.  Good deed for the day, done.

Friday, May 25, 2012

PulSAting with Life

While watching cable TV in Indonesia, we've been inundated with repetitive and seriously overly dramatic commercials advertising the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore.... it's a super fancy hotel downtown on the marina (hence the name), topped with a structure resembling a giant curved boat.  According to the commercials (which sound suspiciously like someone used a thesaurus for every other word when writing the script, never getting it quite right), the hotel and casino complex has:

a) a promenade pulSAting with life
b) a choreographed spectacle of light and water
c) an oasis of possibilities
d) a sumptuous journey that promises to tantalize the senses
d) every moment rewarded

Anywho, Tim got to stay at the hotel this week for business, thus getting the opportunity to check out the "Skypark" (aka giant boat thing), which has 360 degree views of Singapore and a crazy infinity pool.  Here is the hotel website's description of the Skypark:

"Stretching longer than the Eiffel tower laid down or four and a half A380 Jumbo Jets, with an impressive 12,400 square meters of space, the Sands SkyPark can host up to 3900 people. The gravity-defying cantilever is one of the largest of its kind in the world. From this privileged observation deck, hundreds of visitors at a time can feast their eyes on the unforgettable panoramic view of Singapore."

Subtle, eh?

I haven't had a chance to talk with Tim in depth about his experiences there, but I'm sure he "pursued excitement through unforgettable moments."


Huge ships dot the harbor in the distance.
These things in the middle are Singapore's massive man-made "Supertrees."
Marina view from the hotel side of the hotel.
The interior of the complex apparently has a canal running through it...  ?
The rooftop infinity pool.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Grocery Games: Chicken?

4 chicken heads for 83 cents???!!!  Shut the front door!

12 chicken legs for 91 cents?  Sold.

A quarter of a kilo of chicken intestines: priceless.

Belated May Day Post

This is a little belated, but May Day is a pretty big deal here in Indonesia... thousands and thousands of workers were bussed into Jakarta for the protests, which were, luckily, peaceful (unlike last time).

Like I did for the last protest, I got some bird's eye shots from my office of the protesters gathering and heading on their way to the Jakarta's government buildings.  

I don't know if you can see from these photos, but this is like a mile and a half by three lanes worth of people... massive!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bali: Other Assorted Ubud Shenanigans

While in Ubud, we participated in a lot of activities, but we also did our fair share of lounging around in our relaxing suite at Alam Jiwa.  Here are photos of some of the other leisure activities in which we partook:

Looking shiny, drinking Bintang besar and eating some excellent sate at Kafe Batan Waru:


Taking a break from our power shopping around town to watch the cute local kids play soccer in the main square:

Eating lunch (and taking terrible photos, see below) at the famed Ibu Oka's babi guling (roast suckling pig) restaurant.  Made famous both because it is delicious and because Anthony Bourdain stopped by several years ago to indulge in the porky heaven and record a segment for No Reservations, Ibu Oka's is an Ubud institutionI've tried babi guling before in Bali and enjoyed it, but this experience was above and beyond that.  We ordered the "special" and were served a mound of rice topped with large slices of super tender roast pork covered in an awesomely fragrant spice mix, some fresh long bean and coconut salad, caramelized crispy pork skin, some blood sausage and these amazing  spicy crispy bits (I don't really want to know what they are) that are to die for.  This place was hilarious, too.  Overrun by people every day (I read that some days they go through 8 pigs at lunchtime), it has developed somewhat of an attitude and the surly service associated with U.S. diners and the Soup Nazi.  I'm sure it's a turn-off for some people, but I actually found it amusing because service in Indonesia is usually so over the top.

Continuing on our "treat yo self" quest, we indulged in massages and manicures at the Alam Wangi spa.  The massages were lovely and the manicures less so, but the tasty tea and snacks at the end made up for that:

Getting our cultural fix at the ARMA Museum, a large museum devoted to maintaining and making available to the public Balinese artwork, both traditional and contemporary.  The museum had a dizzying collection of beautiful and detailed paintings and sculptures depicting life on Bali and various Hindu tales.  I would recommend the museum to anyone visiting Ubud...

My favorite part of the trip to ARMA was actually at the ticket booth.  We had a little bit of confusion about whether the entrance fee quoted to us by the ticket seller was for all 3 of us or just 1 of us.  In the confusion, Meghan had paid for all of our tickets, so Liz and I handed her change to cover our portions.  The ticket seller made an attempt to convince Meghan to give him the small bills we had handed her in exchange for the 100,000 rupiah bill with which she had just paid him.  She quickly shot him down, basically telling him (with a wink) that she had been in Indonesia long enough to realize you don't just give away your small but highly-coveted bills.  Bravo, Meghan!  Small bill hoarding is necessary here, as many shops, stands and taxi drivers will not have change for the larger bills (or will claim to not have change even when they do, which results in a stand-off/stare-down at each transaction, both sides waiting until the other breaks and looks for change.)

We weren't allowed to take photos inside the museum, but Meghan captured the great detail in the carvings on the outside of one of the museum buildings:

Eating a tasty dinner at Cinta Grill (where we had sparked the interest of the bartender and a random dude from Boston earlier in the week) on our last night in Ubud, followed by drinks with all the long-haired locals and aging hippies at the Laughing Buddha next door.  The cover band was pretty good (somewhat of a rarity, I've found), doing twangy and bluesy versions of Superstition and some Rolling Stones tunes.  However, they confirmed my suspicion that the '80s-era Sting song, Englishman in New York, is Indonesia's favorite song.  I have now heard at least 4 separate Indonesian cover bands play this song.  So random.

We were excited because they were the first bar we'd been to in Bali that actually had Storm beer in stock...  we drink it all the time in Jakarta, but seemed unable to find it in Bali and I wanted the girls to try the alternative to Bintang.  Also, Meghan got a really fancy looking watermelon mojito that she enjoyed:

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bali: Mozaic Restaurant

After eating $2 and $3 meals during our time in Jogja, when in Ubud, we decided, in true Tom and Donna style, to treat ourselves.  Three words for you:  Treat. yo. self.

On Dipali's recommendation, we splurged on a fancy meal at Ubud's famed Mozaic restaurant: a delicious 6-course (which was really more like 8 or 9 courses by the end if you count amuse bouche and petit fours...) degustation menu that featured local ingredients cooked using Western techniques, with a wine pairing for each course. Tasty.

Please excuse the terrible photos.  Super low lighting in Mozaic's courtyard, which was certainly lovely and romantic, meant we had two options: flashless, dark and blurry or flashy, bright and washed out.  But you get the gist...

First, drinks in the lounge:


Gin fizz, something lemongrass-y and a ginger/lemon/Curacao delight:

Amuse bouche: this isn't listed on the menu, so I am having trouble recalling the exact ingredients, but I think it was essentially a scallop and mangosteen (manggis) ceviche, served up in the cute mangosteen shell:

Before the meal started, the server brought out this display and explained each of the local ingredients to be highlighted in the evening's preparation.  From left to right: 

2)  turmeric root and fresh coconut (kunyit and kelapa)
3) tamarind (buah asam or asam jawa)
5) Calamansi lime (jeruk kalimansi)
6)  tree sorrel/star fruit (belimbing wuluh)

Course 1: Charred grilled tiger prawn, pink grapefruit infused with fresh ginger flower

Course 2: Tasmanian salmon cooked in fresh coconut oil, turmeric risotto, caramelized cauliflower and smoked milk emulsion

Course 3: Baked quail and foie gras pastilla with Balinese rujak sauce and apricot chutney


Course 4: Wagyu beef sirloin with Balinese long pepper, oxtail, porcini mushroom, young carrot and a kluwek nut broth

Course 5: Frozen kalamansi lime sorbet, black rice cooked in pandan leaf and lemon pepper tuile

Course 6: Valrhona 'Guanaja' chocolate fondant, fresh star fruit sorbet and spiced young star fruit in a coriander seed caramel

Petits Fours

After thoroughly enjoying the wine pairings (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean), Meghan decided that she simply must have photos of a) the empty petit four spoons, b) the napkin and c) her blinged out purse holder. And photograph them she did:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bali: Ubud's Monkey Forest

One of Ubud's famous sites is the sacred monkey forest sanctuary (Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana), which is a combination nature reserve and sacred temple, housing somewhere between 300 and 600 crazy long-tailed macaque monkeys.

The monkeys spilled out of the forest and literally onto the streets- we caught these two chillin' in the road as we walked from Alam Jiwa towards the forest:


The monkeys, as the guidebook warned us, are "greedy" and "ever vigilant for passing tourists who just might have peanuts and ripe bananas available for a quick hand-out."  Another source called them "ravenous," and suggested that by going in the forest, we would "risk bites and a need for rabies injections."   Furthermore, a couple we ran into the night before we planned to hit up the Monkey Forest told us their story, which involved monkeys climbing on the fellow's head, stealing his water bottle and sunglasses, and generally harassing them.  Comforting!  After hearing this, we were a little bit worried about how aggressive these monkeys would be, so we stripped our bags of all food and drink, hid our sunglasses and earrings and soldiered on. 

When we arrived in the Monkey Forest, the monkeys were everywhere... on the sidewalk, in the trees, on statues, on people (more about that later!).  They were definitely getting a little bit closer than necessary and giving us the once-over to see if we had anything of interest, but none of them really bothered us.

The monkeys were lounging, grooming (see below, left), eating, playing, fighting...

This monkey (below, right) was doing some pretty intense stretching/calethenics.  Yoga, perhaps?

I think the strangest part of our venture into the monkey forest came right around when we decided to enter the main temple.  Prior to entering, you must borrow a sarong from a man with a big stack of them at a stand adjacent to the entrance.  While waiting in a short line for our sarongs, we watched the sarong distributor playing with a monkey that seemed to have befriended him.  The monkey was sitting with his legs splayed out (see photo below), and the sarong guy was persistently trying (successfully) to touch the monkey's testicles (and giggling each time) while the monkey swatted the guy's hand away repeatedly and practically rolled his eyes.  Seriously.  It gets worse, though.  When it was our turn to get our sarongs, the sarong guy insisted that he be the one to tie them around our waists. With his monkey junk hands.  Thanks, guy... as if we weren't already feeling gross from the sweating and heavy bug spray and sunscreen application, we really need monkey nut hands touching us, too.


Anywho, we made it into the temple eventually, perhaps a little shell-shocked (nut-shocked?):

The gate above is the gateway to the temple's inner courtyard, adorned with fierce guardian spirits, including Boma, to ward off evil spirits. The snakey-looking statue we're standing in front of above is Bedawang Nala, a mythological turtle who supports the world on his back... he's surrounded by 2 giant serpents that bind him to human/earthly needs.

Cool carved statues, in profile... one of these things is not like the others:

Boma, one of the guardian spirits: 

In addition to the main temple, we also visited the Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal, or the cremation temple. This terrifying statue below is Rangda, a demon queen who eats childen:

Cool dragon statue: 

Once  in the monkey forest, we were finally able to observe exactly why we had been warned about the monkeys and their grabby habits... but we quickly realized that it was the tourists that were the true culprits in this scenario.  As I said above, the monkeys generally steered clear of us since we a) had no food and b) did not purport to have food.  The monkeys will only bother you if, like these folks below, buy bananas from the vendor and wave them around behind your daughter's ear, enticing the monkeys.  Then you risk having not one, but two monkeys climbing on your head/back/shoulders/legs.  Oh, tourists.  Sigh.

Aaaand one last monkey for your viewing pleasure: