Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bali 2014 - Tegallalang Rice Terraces

One of the most beautiful sights in Bali is the Tegallalang Rice Terraces. It is around 1/2 hour drive to the north of Ubud, and is well worth the trip.

The Balinese practice a traditional system of irrigating the rice fields called "subak", where everyone share the precious water resource which flows through all the fields. Due to the hilly terrains of Bali - the rice fields had to be terraced on the slopes. Coupled with the natural scenic beauty of the valleys in Ubud, these rice terraces are now a Unesco World Heritage Site. 

As is usual in many attractions in Bali, you will arrive at a  spot where there are many shops and makeshift stalls touting souvenirs to the tourists. Here there are also many cafes and simple tea houses built on the terraces, offering refreshments while you enjoy the views. Pick one with the best views and you will be very happy.

While rice terraces are quite a common sight in Bali, the ones at Tegallalang are truly spectacular. If you come during different cycles of the rice growing season, you will see quite different views. They say the fields are most beautiful at the early stages when you can see the water - but I find the sight of the ripening rice grains quite mesmerizing.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bali 2014 - Kopi Luwak

On the way down from Kintamani, you pass through lots of farmsteads on both sides of the road. The volcanic soil on the island is very rich and that is why the vegetation is so lush in Bali, and the farmers here take full advantage of it. Here some enterprising entrepreneurs have also set up local attractions to trap the passing tourists. You will see many signs touting the famously expensive "kopi luwak" or civet coffee. 

After parking at the road side, you walk through a thick orchard filled with cocoa and other fruit trees. You then end up at a small hut where they are roasting the coffee beans. The aroma is quite intoxicating. 

What makes Kopi Luwak so special is that the coffee berries have been eaten by the civet cats, and the seeds which are not digestible are then passed out and processed. It is claimed that the civet cats know how to pick the best berries, and that passing through the digestive system of the cats improve the flavour of the coffee. Aficionados are willing to pay USD100 per kilo or more for the prized beans. This is the cute animal which help to produce the World's most expensive coffee.

After spending some time at the hut, you then proceed to the tasting pavilions. They offer free samples of their normal range of coffee and other beverages. However if you want to taste the Kopi Luwak - you will have to pay around USD 5 for a small cup.

I also tried the Kopi Luwak - it didn't really hit any spots for me.

After the tasting, you can move to the shop to buy the coffee and other agricultural products. Being a tourist trap - the prices are quite high so be warned.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bali 2014 - Kintamani and Lake Batur

After a few days in Seminyak, it was time to head to our next stop Ubud. Before that we had planned a trip to Kintamani to see the famous Gunung Batur and the lake. Gunung Batur is an active volcano at the North-Western side of the island. It is very popular with visitors due to its scenic beauty. The drive from Seminyak takes around 2 hours. 

You can't miss the popular viewing spot which is always full of people. This is however not the only spot to see the volcano and the lake. There are several lunch spots nearby where you can get very good views while enjoying a bit of refreshment.

The sky was a bit cloudy and overcast - no great for photos. Still Gunung Batur was quite an amazing site. From the scorched vegetation around the crater you can see that this volcano is definitely not sleeping.

There are roads that take you down to the lake where many villagers live - defying the danger posed by the volcano.There are even resorts and homestays should you wish to spend a bit more time here. Trekking to the crater is one of the popular activities on offer for the more adventurous.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bali 2014 - Anomali Coffee

Anomali Coffee is an Indonesian homegrown chain of specialty coffee cafes. They have quite a number of outlets in Bali, and of course there is one in Seminyak. The design of the cafes are simple yet full of character - sort of like a localized Starbucks. Anomali specialize in coffee from different regions of Indonesia - Bali, Flores Bajawa, Aceh, Jawa, and Toraja.

The interior is more quirky and grungy then your standard Starbucks.

The coffee is good - much stronger flavour profiles compared to Italian style coffee. It may take a bit of getting used to.

It is always great to see local enterprises making a mark in the F&B scene. You should definitely give this a try instead of sticking to your usual Starbucks.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Bali 2014 - Biku Restaurant

Biku has become somewhat of an institution in Bali. Located along Jalan Petitenget, this small and cozy venue is popular with the expats and locals alike - and also attracts lots of visitors come seeking for the famous high tea. The restaurant is housed in a Javanese-style pavilion. It gets crowded very fast so make booking to avoid disappointment especially during the peak hours. We went around 4.00 p.m. and was lucky to get a table.

There is also an outdoor area at the side of the building if you prefer to be away from the crowd.

We went there mainly for the Asian High Tea - which comes in a 2-tier platter filled with around 10 items. You can order either tea or coffee to go with the snacks. There were Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Samosa with Chutney, Curry Egg Sandwiches, Date Scones with Jam, Moroccan Orange Cake, Pineapple and Mint Agar Agar, Kue Mochi - an Asian version of the Japanese Mochi, and Dadar Gulung - a rolled cake filled with sweet shredded coconut. All the items were quite good and definitely satisfying for an afternoon snack.

Other items on the menu were also very good - like this Club Sandwich with generous fillings of chicken, bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomatoes.

If you are looking for a relaxing and enjoyable afternoon in Bali - then Biku is the perfect spot. Great ambiance, good food and quite reasonable prices. Can't ask for more.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bali 2014 - Motel Mexicola

I am generally not a night spots person and usually avoid loud and rowdy places like the plaque. However I have seen posts on one of the latest hot spots in Seminyak - Motel Mexicola - and the design intrigues me. I had to check it out - but during the day.

When I went there in the morning it was closed as expected. Luckily the door was not locked and I was able to sneak in. A couple of staff were resting there probably after a big night - and they didn't mind me snooping around. 

A lot of night spots look terrible in day light when you can see all the flaws and all - but Motel Mexicola actually look pretty good during the day. It is strangely authentic in a surreal way. It is a bit like walking onto a Baz Luhrmann film set when he was filming Romeo & Juliet. A lot of love and work has been put into the design and details, and I can imagine the atmosphere must be great in the evenings.

The amount of details in every corner is simply amazing and I was happy I went in the day so I could drink it all in. Somehow all the gaudy colours seem to work together very well.

If you like Mexican food and night spots - this is the perfect combination. Definitely worth a visit.