Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cilik's Beach Garden: costs

We paid 75 euros ($A118 or 875,00 Rp) per room. That included laundry, a great breakfast, and snacks at morning and afternoon tea. Cilik is happy to drive you wherever you want to go, though he is a somewhat phlegmatic, taciturn guide, and his services do not come particularly cheap, comparatively. He has a brand new car, which is a decided cut above the average transport, and the airconditioning is effective. He charged A$14 to take us to the temple, A$28 for a several hour trip to Singarajah and Lovina, and $A21 for a dash into Singarajah market. The literature provided by the Europeans provides good ideas about where to go.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Again, the octagon at Cilik's Beach Garden, Air Saneh, Bali

The octagon bears the personality of Inge Croe. It is akin to staying with Cilik's family in Inge's holiday house, making the experience about as far removed from staying in a resort as is possible without actually being someone's private guest. She keeps stuff here in the locked parts of the cupboard and the desk has on it a box with her scissors, glue, and collection of business cards. She has a good cd collection too, mainly classical. The sound system's speakers are mounted in the roof space, and the lighting system is far better than in the other places we have stayed, though still quite inadequate for reading at night on the sofa or the bed. Its magnificent traditional alang-alang thatch ceiling is pictured.

The octagon at Cilik's Beach Garden, Air Saneh

The octagon, where we stayed, is half of glass and half of something solid, probably cement. The floor is of a glassily polished terazzo. It is just a few metres from the sea wall against which the waves lap, or crash, according to their mood. There is no beach. Initially, I was disappointed, but soon realised that in truth I have never been a sand lover. A pair of padded sun lounges on a private patch of grass in a beautiful garden right next to the breaking waves is preferable to a stretch of beach. Instead of walking along the beach, you can walk along the sea wall.

Cilik's Beach Garden, Air Saneh, Bali: best rooms

The four bungalows are the east and west villas (that is, Cilik's Beach Garden, an investment by a German, Dr Rudiger Krechlor, a doctor of linguistics), and the octagon and the lumbung (that is, Just Beside CBG, an investment by another German, Inge Croe). The east villa has by far the better garden and is removed from the other four buildings. It is easily the best lodging, but the octagon follows close behind, particularly if you are a couple.

I much prefer the octagon to the west bungalow, certainly if the lumbung is unoccupied (as it was for most of our stay). The lumbung (pictured) is probably a little overpriced. The upstairs is relatively small; the downstairs is a terrace, which is pleasant enough, but inferior to the generous bale provided in substitution for the octagon's lack of terrace.

Layout of Cilik's Beach Garden, Air Saneh, Bali

I was not sure after reading the website how close everything is to everything else. All the buildings are close in the sense of being spaced more or less like normal Australian suburban houses, though the lumbung and the octagon are more or less on each other's doorsteps.

The vibe at Cilik's Beach Garden, Air Saneh, Bali

Generally, being one of two sets of guests to whom 9 staff are devoted (because two rooms were vacant) in a town where the youth have nothing to do and those who do have things to do are making crude concrete bricks in palm leaf shelters, or threshing rice in the sun, is a little difficult. As one lazes away, it is difficult not to wonder what the staff make of such lassitude. According to Cilik, very few Australians have stayed here. It is the preserve of Europeans, Germans, Swiss, and Dutch in particular. Wayan, dubbed the gardener, but in fact the servant dedicated to the occupants of the octagon and the lumbung, is pictured.

The ocean at Air Saneh, Bali

The sea stretches away to the horizon, just 30 tiny footsteps away, as though the sea were the largest pool possible to imagine, just across the lawn, either flat and undulating and sparkling, or, more often during our stay, with small waves breaking and then sloshing against the sea wall. The water is the warmest I have experienced anywhere, and you can use Cilik's snorkels and mask to swim out to a small coral reef 100 metres away. Apparently you can go out on a little fishing boat and there is better snorkelling. There is no beach although some sand is exposed at low tide. There is a metre or so of slippery rocks to navigate even at low tide (the room literature advises wearing "bathing slippers" if you happen to have included them in your packing list), and at high tide the water is high and the swell against the rocks sufficient to discourage swimming. Mind you, we left on the day of a full moon, and the tide was apparently at its highest when we were there, and Cilik is talking about clearing away the rocks to provide a more attractive entry to the ocean.

Lassitude and decrepitude in Air Saneh, Bali

There was an air of lassitude and decrepitude in Air Saneh, also sometimes spelt Yeh Sanih.

The seawall at Air Saneh and other north coast places

The seawall is in disrepair.

Decrepitude in Air Saneh

Generally, the little stretch of road on which Cilik's finds itself is scratchy and dry and unremarkable. Mind you, this photo I took in an effort to avoid contributing to the perpetuation of the idea that Bali is 100% tropical idyll goes too far in the opposite direction; this was clearly an abandoned dwelling, and not really indicative of its environs.

Little kids are a safer conversational bet

The north coast of Bali near Lovina

The traditional use of the land was salt production. Now, the traditional use is selling the land to developers. Nonetheless, large tracts of prime waterfront land lie completely undeveloped along this coastline. Some of it is sitting there, owned by Chinese in Denpasar, waiting for tourism to grow up again. It has to be imagined though that a garden and a view of the ocean stretching off from right in front of you to the horizon can be had for not too much money.

Air Sanih is not really close to anything much of interest, though it is within reach of the clove gardens of Munduk, the rice paddies of Jatiluwih, and the botanic gardens at Bedugul to the west, the mountainous region of Kintamani, Tirtagganga in the East, and the whole of the north coast really.

Really close landmarks are limited to beautiful temple of Pura Meduwe Karan (temple of the land's master) in next door Kubutambahan featuring the famous carving of W.O.J. Nieuenkamp, who cycled around Bali in 1904 on "Bali's first bicycle", and some cool springs which have been made into swimming pools fringed with frangipani trees, where locals swim, wash clothes, brush their teeth, and splash around. One tends there to get accosted by Nyoman, a man who complains about being "bored, nothing to do", a beach masseur without a beach and without a private room in which to give massages, or an 18 year old Lomboker selling songket (gilded handweaving) the day after finishing final year of high school, in order to finance his hoped-for English studies at university, find a job, and then a wife etc etc. But such requests soon enough give way to pleasant conversation (if morose in Nyoman's case).

Cilik's Beach Garden, Air Saneh, Bali

Cilik's Beach Garden has only four bungalows, not counting Cilik's family's house ("Born right here, live right here, hopefully not die right here"). Two are officially at "Just Beside Cilik's Beach Garden", but it's all one.

Cilik has been lucky. He was a bemo driver in Singaraja for many years, until Rudiger decided it would be nice to build a villa on Cilik's land. Now he and his venture capitalists are the employer of 9 staff at Air Saneh, more at Tejakula, 15 km away, where he is the manager of a new development of two bungalows; the investors in this new case are Americans. He says the gardens are better there, being closer to the mountains, and not so arid as Air Saneh's which do have a proliferation of cacti and thorny things, not entirely what one expects of Bali, but pleasant nonetheless.

Desperate Leslie lied for her freedom - The Age

Desperate Leslie lied for her freedom - National - theage.com.au

An Age investigation has revealed that hearsay statements of people to whom Michelle Leslie apparently confided suggest:
  • she had taken ecstasy on the night of her arrest (well, she was going to a dance party which was presumably going to be playing music that only made sense to the stoned)
  • Mia (in fact Siti Nameera Azman) had not put the pills in her bag, and had not disappeared
  • that Leslie's family and legal team offered and paid numerous bribes, including to the police who tested the pills
  • that she was not addicted to Ritalin.
Now I haven't made a study of the facts' detail, but it seems fair to say that according to gossip good enough for the front page of The Age, substantially no part of her case was true.

It occurred to me that bribing Indonesian officials in Indonesia was probably a crime under Australian law, but apparently not, since s. 70 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code only prohibits the bribery of foreign officials in business. If the conduct may be said to have occurred, or been procured in Australia, I daresay a crime would have been committed, and any Australian lawyer's knowing involvement while in Australia in the conduct would probably constitute misconduct of a kind which would make regulators think hard about striking the lawyer off. Of course I am thinking about rumours (which The Age suggests were put about by her campaign team) rather than her case actually put forward in court. It may be that all this flowed around the case, and that she more or less adopted a submissively apologetic silence in court.

It is interesting that The Age has suddenly discovered all this now that Leslie is home. If they knew of a campaign of bribing Indonesian officials, and kept quiet until the bribes had done their work and our girl was back home, they would be implicated in precisely what they're purporting to expose.

Be Serious, Okay?: November 2005

I'm so sorry. I know this is supposed to be a blog about nasi campur, and where to stay in Bali if you're a progressive but sceptical young white western man, but I'm getting increasingly distracted about the execution of Van Nguyen.

I very much like the look of Mr Darren's Singapore blog. I like his letter to drug dealers, and the comments which follow it. It took a Singaporean's blog (or the blog of a person in Singapore? I wonder) to lead me back to Melbourne University's Associate Professor John Fitzgerald's analysis of the actual potential end-user effect of the importation of 400 g of heroin (a year's worth for 6 to 8 dependent users; only 10 to 30% of heroin users need treatment), as well as to Phillip Adams' piece on the Van phenomenon.

What I find odd about this episode is the special treatment accorded in the public mind to Van Nguyen. The "and back home now" parochialism which seems to be accepted as a natural facet of the nation state seems to extend to him without much question. It's coz-he's ozzie we're upset about this execution.

[How, conversely can we be so ambivalent about David Hicks, the quintessential Ozzie adventurer who is penning a fishing novel in prison, and enjoys skinning roos? Because we can understand drugs at least at one level (bad, but everybody's doing them arent' they?), and hanging (barbaric!), but terrorism is difficult? America's spinning it, England's spinning it, and Australia's spinning it, and theh spin is easy: terrorism plays on our fears of indiscriminate violence (unlike drugs, which wouldn't happen to us). Or is it only because of his association with bearded fundos we intensely distrust, and dislike?]

But can someone answer this? This is the kind of thing I think about all the time. What about the young girls being gang raped by the state-sponsored Janjawid in Sudan, the kid dying of diarrhoea in Chad because the aid for the new well has been siphoned off by a military thug to bribe the university to let his malicious little son into computer studies, the human rights campaigner murdered by the state? Compared to Van Nguyen, these people are infinitely more deserving of our sympathy. Why shouldn't we just look at Van Nguyen and say, uncaringly, "so what?" as we do in relation to each of the above examples of state sponsored death which is infinitely more likely to be moderated by a sustained international campaign, and which we know to be happening over and over again?

The only answer I can put up is coz-he's ozzie, even though he's not, in the minds of those for whom I imagine the coz-he's ozzie thing matters most, in the sense that his Mum can't even read English. I'm relatively confident this outpouring of love for this comparatively un-innocent kid is not about capital punishment. Most Australians are not exactly implaccably opposed to it -- it was only rid from our statute books in 1985 and our Prime Minister brayed for it behind carefully chosen code in the case of the Bali bombers -- particularly in these difficult times, when we might just have to dust it off if we are to preserve our all important way of life. It's about Chinamen being disrespectful to an Ozzie.

Of course I think a kid who's nowhere near organising the heroin trade shouldn't hang. Of course I think capital punishment is abhorrent. But I am already so worn down by the preventable misery of the unAustralian world that it surprises me that so many find it in themselves to become so passionate about this already over-resourced campaign over something so trifling in the catalogue of global misery?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

exit 105 : A Jersey Girl's Travels Through Time and Space

Dear Readers,

Exit 105 @ Blogspot

I know I am getting distracted. I have abandoned for a short time the greatly interrupted reminiscence of our jaunt in Bali. This blog is about Mali and Bali, and its authoress has been kind enough to link to my blog on hers. So here's a repaying of the favour.

Back when I travelled to places like Timbuktoo, many Australians said "I've been to Bali too", which made me feel smug (curiously conversely, when I went to Samoa three people thought I had taken winter sun in Somalia, which made me feel interesting).

Joyfish can say that I've been to Mali and Bali too. Her blog, with its news of Dogon country which I too trekked through (more anthropologists / peace corps workers per capita than anywhere else in the world?) may be more interesting to me than you, but heck, armchair travel doesn't get much better than the boondocks of Mali.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Singapore accused of hypocrisy on drug stance - The Age

The Age has picked up my story of last night about Singapore's heavy investment in Burmese drugs.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Financial Times: Bali bombings revive calls for special autonomy

Here's a better than average little article with a human perpsective on the downturn in tourism since Bali2.

Not a must read, but interesting nonetheless. It talks about how most of the Balinese tourism industry is owned by cronies (including family) of Suharto. Suharto was a terrible dictator of the twentieth century -- a fact which is filtering through only slowly to Australia and everywhere else.

And it talks about a push within Bali for a greater share of the profits from tourism, using as a point of argument increasing proportions of natural resources able to be kept by the island provinces where they are found. If natural resources qualify those above them for such treatment, why not cultural resources of the Balinese which, it is argued, drive the tourist economy in Bali. It seems another reason to desire increased autonomy is the consequential increased ability to keep out those pesky Javanese muslims who keep on blowing the place up, and who threaten to make the Balinese a minority in their own land, much as the Han Chinese are doing to the Tibetans.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

My two cents worth on the execution of Van Nguyen

Have drug importers ever been so popular? The popular outpouring of warmth for Van Nguyen is doing strange things to Australia's prime minister John Howard who actually has not the slightest sympathy for Van Nguyen (if he did, he wouldn't come out with lines like this to comfort the object of his sympathy in his last days on death row:
"I could only say to anybody contemplating ever taking drugs or committing drug offences in Asia to bear in mind, if they have no concern for their own fate … the terrible pain that is inflicted upon those who love them most."
But, swept up on a wave of adoration for the lad, Howard is grudgingly telling Singapore that his execution will not go unnoticed.

It's almost as though importing drugs to help your brother's debts is a kind of cute thing to do. I wonder what Lex Lasry QC (pictured) is actually doing over there. I would have thought a Singaporean lawyer might be thought more likely to be effective. Lasry wrote a great article in The Age. He astonished me by making some points I had not thought about, and did not repeat the obvious. In particular, he pointed out that Nguyen was only transiting Singapore; his only link with the jurisdiction of his execution was incidental. And he said that the mandatory death penalty meant that at the trial there was none of the usual enquiry into how evil the defendant was, or what excuses could be made on his behalf, so that these were matters which needed to be ventilated during the plea for clemency.

There has been much criticism of the letter advising of the date of the execution, but it seemed most appropriate to me:
"Dear Madam,

1. This is to inform you that the death sentence passed on Nguyen Tuong Van will be carried out on 2 Dec 2005.

2. We will arrange for additional visits from 29 Nov till 1 Dec 2005. Approved visitors may register for their visits between 8.30am and 9.30am and between 12.30pm and 1.30pm at the Prison Link Centre, Changi (990 Upper Changi Road North Singapore 506968).

3. You are requested to make the necessary funeral arrangements for him, however if you are unable to do so the state will assist in cremating the body.
Please do not hesitate to contact our officers in charge if you have any queries.

Yours Faithfully,
Chiam Jia Fong"
Any "It is our melancholy duty to inform you"s would have been criticised for insincerity. Perhaps Lasry has a point though, that the message could have been sent through diplomatic channels. Personally though, I think I would trust the postie to convey the news with sensitivity more than I would an acolyte of John Howard or Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

This death sentence is terrible, like all death sentences. If Australians are to get so worked up about death sentences against our drug couriers, we must practice restraint when conniving at the death sentence demands arising out of the Bali bombings, though. It is ethically possible to approve of the execution of a terrorist who has murdered many but not to approve of the execution of a drug dealer. A death sentence might sometimes be justified ethically, but I do not think so. Even if it were, you would have to be very confident about your justice system before you would have the presumption to sentence someone to death. There is a brutalisation of society which goes along with any lawful execution. What is really icky though is the grotesque efficiency of lawful homicide. I think our revulsion at the gas chambers has an awful lot to do with Western revulsion for state-sponsored death. Very Nazi, and very American a phenomenon at the same time. Enough to turn anyone off. There is no euphemism. It is not collateral damage. It is the most premeditated form of life taking conceivable.

Ah but it gets worse than this. 400 hangings since 1990 gives Singapore the highest rate of execution per capita. Quite an achievement given the rate China terminates undesirables. But here's the thing: Singapore props up the drug trade in Burma, supplier of 60% of the United States' heroin, with state investments in the business of a SLORC-sponsored heroin king-pin according to this article:
"Singapore has achieved the distinction of being the Burmese junta's number one business partner -both largest trading partner and largest foreign investor. More than half these investments, totaling upwards of $1.3 billion, are in partnership with Burma's infamous heroin kingpin Lo Hsing Han, who now controls a substantial portion of the world's opium trade. The close political, economic, and military relationship between the two countries facilitates the weaving of millions of narco-dollars into the legitimate world economy."
People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Times' Feature on the US-funded Indonesian anti-terror unit's taking out of Azahari

Bali bomber shot as he plotted new blitz - Sunday Times - Times Online
It seems US$8 million a year is what was needed to prevent the death in terrorist attrocities being planned at the time of his death by Azahari in Bali and Jakarta for Christmas Eve. That's the funding given by the Americans to create Indonesia's first anti-terrorism squad, Detachment 88. The Australians' no doubt considerable funding was extra, I suppose.

The Indonesians' mobile phone tracking technologies are sufficiently good now that the terrorists needs use couriers bearing snail mail, and it was one of the couriers who led the cops to Batu where Azahari was doing his thing. And there they found a video made by the 3 suicide bombers who perpetrated Bali2 on 1 October 2005.

Meanwhile, the brother of one of the bombers recognised one of the severed heads and contacted police, who took a DNA sample and confirmed that the bomber was Misno. According to Pravda:
Sukarto spoke at a news conference organized by the family's lawyer in the hope that reporters would no longer disturb the family once it was over. His wife cried throughout, and chose not to answer any questions.

Sukarto said [his son] Misno, the sixth of seven children, dropped out of school during junior high, and left the family's poor home near central Java's Cilacap town soon after. His last job was that of a vendor of chicken porridge, Sukarto said.

He said his family had not been attracted to hardline Islamic teachings.

"He (Misno) wasn't especially religious and neither am I," he said. "He was a normal kid."

In August, Misno returned home and told his father that he was leaving for Batam, an island near Singapore, to find work as a construction worker. Sukarto said he told him he would write him when he had settled in there.

We drove up the slopes of Mt Batur, and then down through beautiful clove farming communities. The price of cloves has been high recently, and our driver told us how rich all the clove farmers were at the moment. Their homes did not show it. Clove trees are biggish things with reddish brown aspects amongst their verdure. Plastic sheets weighed down by logs on four sides lined the roadside, with great quantities of cloves set out to dry. We passed too through orange plantations.

Ubud to Air Saneh on the north coast

Enquiries indicated a relatively standard price for the exactly 2 hour trip from Ubud to Air Sanih on the north coast of 250,000 Rp (about A$33), and the Tjampuhan was quoting 300,000 Rp (A$40). The cost of a public bus would have been about 20,000 Rp according to our driver whom we ended up hiring through the Tjampuhan. Although we paid all of the money to the driver he told us he was obliged to pay a commission (he described is as "a kind of thanksgiving") to the hotel. No doubt the journey could have been achieved more cheaply, however our driver was a lovely guy whose English was good. The photo is someone else's, and is of the ubiquitous Toyota Kijang.

An Ubud Cafe

This was a particularly nice looking cafe. Can anyone remind me of its name?

The jewjaw I resisted in Murni's Warung, Ubud

After a couple of Bintangs, I very much wanted to purchase the cast iron Ganesha statue which was going for A$12,000 (less whaat might be bargained off, plus the cost of getting a huge metal elephant statue back to Australia). But $12,000 is a small price to pay for the lavishings of good karma a Ganesha that big would bring you.

More about Murni's Warung in Ubud

Murni's is an institution with a great website, in my view, the best there is on Bali, which I discovered to have been written and designed by an English chap, one Mr Jonathan (and if Mr Jonathan reads this post I very much hope he will drop me a line). It is a bit out of the way unless you are staying at the Tjampuhan, and apt to be overlooked, in favour of newer, flashier places. It is well worth a visit, though, furnished as it is with beautiful South East Asian antiques.

This is the Tjampuhan bridge near Murni's in Ubud

The photo is from the vacation memoirs of the Singaporeans who put me onto Sa Gu.

Murni's Warung, Ubud, Bali

Miss K and I went back to Murni's Warung, and ate in the room known as The Lounge. It is a beautifully furnished room, on the second level. The first is ground level, and the levels go down from there, ending on the fourth not too far above the Tjampuhan River. I had tenggiri. I got it because it was described as coming in an "award winning" sauce. It was good. It had the unexpected taste of celery, and tiny snow peas swimming around. It was unfussy; the room was really a bar; the white rice was divine. Sorry about the outoffocusedness of the photo.

Nasi campur at Dirty Duck Diner 1, Ubud

Miss K and I ate there. This, out of focus as it is, was my nasi campur. You've got your nasi in the middle with a couple of fried shallots atop. Then prawn crackers, a kind of bean and sprouts and coconut milk thing, a lump of beef from a curry, an egg with some sambal on top, salad, peanuts, satay lilit (seafood) skewered on a bit of lemon grass, a prawn, what was from memory some kind of corn fritter, and some chicken currry. The food was not up to the ambience of the place, but there was nothing to complain about.

Remarkably, this photo is not the only one of the Dirty Duck Diner 1's nasi campur on the web.

Ducks at Dirty Duck Diner 1


Dirty Duck Diner 1, Ubud

Now that's what I call a nice restaurant, or "resto" as they sometimes get called, somewhat hilariously, in Bali.

Looking back towards Dirty Duck Diner 1, Ubud

That emerald verdure in the middle distance is rice, not lawn.

Dining bale at Dirty Duck Diner 1, Ubud

Dirty Duck I, Ubud, Bali

Eventually, I got to one of the two Dirty Duck Diners. I had a beer there while waiting for the shuttle bus to buzz my way. I had a look around. It is a beautiful restaurant, consisting of a relatively orthodox front section, and then a beautiful garden featuring growing rice bordered by a row of pavilions in which one can lounge and dine.

L'Arbre a Plumes, Ubud

Down Jl Hanoman was a surprise at no. 49, L'arbre a Plumes (The Feather Tree), a charming little bookshop cum cafe with a few quality English books amongst its otherwise Francophone collection. A French man hangs out there and cooks up what I imagined after scanning the menu to be good European and local food. Its telephone number is 747 0163. As I have said elsewhere, the French love Ubud and there were a lot of them there when I was.

Interior of Sa Gu Ubud

Originally uploaded by Trapped In A Suit.
One last photo of Sa Gu, a clever shop. I knew when I was buying these things at these prices from the beautiful sales girl that I was paying through the nose for things which could be got at the supermarket for next to nothing, but I didn't mind. I liked everything about the place: the coffee with ginger they gave me and Miss K, the cup and saucer in which it was served, and the fact that you could taste everything.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Peanut cookies from Sa Gu, Ubud

Finally, some tiny biscuits which stick together, and have a slightly gooey exterior, described as peanut biscuits, but being impossible to describe except that they don't taste much like peanuts or anything usually associated with them. Wonderfully bitter.

Shrimp paste cookies from Sa Gu, Ubud

The shrimp paste biscuits were great: pungently stinking pellets of shrimp paste combined with wonderfully crunchy deep fried pastry, like nothing a placid Melbourner like me has ever tasted; sweet and salty and oily and crunchy.

Jackfruit at Singaraja Market

And this is what the fruit looks like. My earlier post has a beautiful picture from Miss Yasmina of the segments of the jackfruit.

Its eating is impossible to describe, but I'll try anyway. It is very smooth against the tongue, chewy, and slightly like bubble gum in taste.

It was a great disappointment that durian was not in season when I was in Bali.

Jackfruit tree

Jackfruit tree
Originally uploaded by Henrique Vicente.
Thanks to a Brazilian, Henrique Vicente, for this photo.

Jackfruit chips from Sugu in Ubud

The jackfruit chips were merely good, a bit like banana chips, but better, and not only because of their novelty value.

Tamarind tree leaves and trunk

Tamarind tree, Air Saneh or nearby

They're magnificent trees, and they have hundreds of seedpods all over. This was an avenue of the things in the road along the north coast of Bali going east from Air Saneh, near Lovina. The air smelt wonderfully of the decomposing tamarind squashed to a pulp by vehicles, or just rotting peacefully on the road's verges.

A fallen tamarind pod

A fallen tamarind pod
Originally uploaded by Trapped In A Suit.
You're going to get a bit of an understanding of my tamarind obsession for the next few posts. It's not just me who's obsessed by the way; it's the whole of South and South East Asia.

Sugared tamarind from Sa Gu, Ubud

These are wonderful things which should be a feature of every trip to Ubud. You kind of gnaw the tamarind loose from the strings which hold the thing together, leaving a joined up set of strings to throw away at the end. The pod has been slit diagonally repeatedly along its length, and the seeds extracted through the slits.

It is sour and sweet, and impossible to imagine unless you are acquainted with the idea of tamarind already. You eat it and it is one of those revelations where you discover in its raw form the source of one of the flavour elements of South East Asian cooking. According to La Gazette de Bali No. 3 (August 2005), it is an essential element of Worcestershire sauce, and the author of "Le Banquet D'Obelix" made the same point as me: "on le connait sans le connaitre" (one knows it without knowing it). Now the fact that Worcestershire sauce has tamarind in it means that you'll find tamarind in an orthodox Caesar salad as well as in your bloody Maries.

Tamarind from Sa Gu, Ubud, Bali

Originally uploaded by Trapped In A Suit.
The beautiful saleswoman regarded my request for 100g of candied tamarind with the greatest of suspicion, offering me tamarind balls instead, much sweeter and less like eating the seadpod of a tree, which is what you're doing when you eat what I ordered.

Shopping in Ubud: Sa Gu

I took up a suggestion from the blog of a Singaporean's vacation and went to Sa Gu, on Jalan Hanoman. It is a shop to die for. Snacks from all over Indonesia are presented beautifully, and what snacks. Forgive me while I express in a blog my rapture for the four I purchased at the rate of A$6.50 a kg (except for jackfruit chips which were A$20 a kg).

Shopping in Ubud: Jl Dewi Sita

After a couple of banana pancakes and some tropical fruits from the Hotel Tjampuhan, I hit the shops with Miss K. She was targeted, and I dawdled. Both Miss K and I separately decided we needed some organic soap from Kou on Jl Dewi Sita, not far from the corner of Jl Monkey Forest. At the time we were unaware of the fascinating characteristic of the soap that it is aged for one month. Why, the rather ornate booklet which comes with the soap does not explain. There is a good second hand bookshop nearby, with two amazing and unusual ornately painted chairs inside. Yoga and Sexual Power featured several times in the collection, along with The Celestine Prophecy, and some better books. The owner rents out standard texts on Bali, including some old hardback books with photos, for some quite substantial amount I no longer recall (200,00 Rp?) per 3 months.

Vulture tourism; the 10,000 free tickets to Bali; arsenic and OJ

The Australian: Vulture tourists [October 24, 2005]

This article has an interesting analysis of the fortunes of tourism-reliant economies in the aftermath of terrorist and other tourist-scary events.

And here's how the 5,000 free tickets for non-Indonesians work:
"the chance to win free tickets to Bali on Garuda Indonesia's international flights will be given to foreigners living in Garuda Indonesia's international destinations (except Jeddah, Dammam, Ryadh) after first registering on Garuda Indonesia's website (www.garuda-indonesia.com) between November 10 and December 31, 2005. Drawn early in January 2006, the winner will receive free tickets valid between the dates January 8 till May 31, 2006."
I haven't worked out where on the website you register. This being Garuda, I wouldn't be surprised if they haven't got round to putting the registration page together yet.

A word of warning though if you do win and you're vocal about your support of human rights, particularly Indonesian human rights: don't drink the orange juice, and generally ask the cabin crew to eat or drink a portion of anything you eat or drink before consuming it. Can anyone tell me where the prosecution of Captain Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto is up to? The photo is of Munir, the late human rights campaigner.

Hibiscus tea at the Casa Luna Cooking School, Ubud, Bali

The other thing I liked about the class were the great jugs of hibiscus tea. Brilliant red, I have had it before, but had forgotten about its existence. I can't remember where I had it; probably in Bali four years ago I suppose. You take a hibiscus flower, break off the stamen, and pour boiling water over it. The water goes blackish purple. Then you add sugar, and dissolve it. A couple of tablespoons of lime juice turns it scarlet. It tastes good, and is terribly refreshing. There is an astringency about it redolent of cranberry juice, but it is much more drinkable.

You come away with a little spiral bound recipe book containing only the recipes from the class, and notes on all the ingredients which were the subject of the first few hours' discussion. When de Neefe advertises a culinary tour of Bali, go on it. She is talking about writing a Balinese cookbook, though Fragrant Rice already contains many recipes. So are Mary and Agus of West Melbourne's wonderful Warung Agus. Either will be worth buying; the existing cookbooks have quite a different emphasis from what I reckon will be in de Neefe's.

Thanks to Duane Romanell, a 39 year old guy from the United States with a pretty serious Flickr addiction for the beautiful photo.

Balinese water spinach (kangkung)

Then we made kangkung pelecing, a spinach with a tomato sambal, a separate raw sambal (shallots, chillis, torch ginger, shrimp paste, ginger, lemongrass, oil, and lime leaves), and a salad.

Black rice pudding was prepared at one stage, though frankly I do not remember learning how to do it.

It was all good, though more of a demonstration than a class, as I suppose many cooking classes are. Everything was done with a slurp of this and a dash of that, and really, what the class gives you is some insight into the ingredients, the mode of preparation, certain timings, a technique or two (grinding using the shallow mortars and pestles; wrapping and steaming using banana leaves) and most importantly, the opportunity to eat the result over lunch and taste the appropriate balance of flavours.

It is washed down with homemade brem (rice wine, good stuff, unlike the utterly foul tuak: palm beer), which I suppose many visitors would not otherwise get around to trying.

Pink torch ginger in a fish curry at Casa Luna Cooking School, Ubud, Bali

Torch ginger
Originally uploaded by Trapped In A Suit.
Next was fish curry, which I had eaten with rapture at Indus. The most useful thing I learnt is that torch ginger can be purchased from Flowers Vasette in Melbourne. This is the ingredient she carries on about in her book, and with good reason as I discovered at Indus and at the cooking class.

Pepesan ikan (Balinese fish wrapped in banana leaves)

We made pepesan ikan, a popular Balinese dish of fish cooked in banana leaves. Her way of wrapping involved making a roll of leaves and securing the ends with slivers of bamboo, though she advised staples were just as good. That was a concoction of garlic, tomatoes, candlenut, shrimp paste, tamarind, chilli, turmeric, palm sugar, oil, shallots, salt, lemongrass, pepper, galangal, ginger, and coriander seeds.

The photo is not from the cooking class, and is of pepes ikan, a different dish I think, and obviously, on this occasion far away from Ubud, steamed in a palm leaf rather than in banana leaves.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Novelist in Paradise � About me

Here's the blog of an (American?) Bali-born novellist, Richard Lewis, who lives in Bali still. He has a diary of the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival in which he was a participant.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Rujak rocks

We made rujak, apparently a standard snack, of cucumber and fruits in a sauce of chilli, fried shrimp paste, tamarind, palm sugar syrup, and sea salt. Man that was good, completely novel, and full of tamarind, with which I have an infatuation. We made two versions, one with and one without shrimp paste. They were both good. This photo doesn't look too much like the rujak we made, but it doesn't look too different either.

Casa Luna Cooking Class - IV

There are many cooking classes on the island. She makes 15 x 200,000 Rp (A$210) from each class, a fortune in local money, and good value for each student who pays a mere A$28 for the class. To have an Australian with perfect English feed raw information at you for several hours is a joy in this land of people whose English allows only stilted conversation and much misinformation through misunderstanding.

Space cadets and the Casa Luna Cooking School

She told us with incredulity and laughter of a woman from Brisbane who after having been in Bali for a substantial number of days asked whether coconuts were grown on the island (one of the most wonderful stories I have ever heard: you couldn't make it up it's so crazy), and of a "space cadet" who informed the class of having "accidentally" allowed a couple of kegs of nutmeg to fall into the blender when making milk shakes for his mates ("Yeah, that happens" she said grinningly) and fell into a state for 3 days from of which he later had no recognition (this in response to my educative observation that nutmeg is a powerful hallucinogen).

She is a great fan of the book Nathanial's Nutmeg and urged us all to read it. I was reminded with renewed amazement that certain spices were worth more than gold by weight, and that the Renaissance's correlate of the arms race of our times was the spice race of the C17th. Publishers' Weekly's review, as extracted at Amazon says:
"Exotic spices such as nutmeg, mace and cloves were treasured in the kitchens and pharmacopoeias of 16th- and 17th-century Europe. Nutmeg was even believed to be an effective remedy against plague. Small wonder, then, that traders of the time ventured to the ends of the earth to secure it. With high drama and gracefully integrated research, Milton (The Riddle and the Knight) chronicles this "Spice Race," profiling the leading participants and recording the ruthless violence with which this very real trade war was conducted. The maritime powers of Europe sent companies of adventurers to the Spice Islands (now part of Indonesia), each nation intent on establishing a monopoly and reaping the stupefying profits that the spice trade could produce. The book concentrates on the competition between the Dutch and English East India Companies to control the spice trade nearly 400 years ago. In 1616, Nathaniel Courthope led an English expedition to occupy the Spice Island of Run, a few square miles of land thickly forested with nutmeg trees. As Milton explains, Courthope's assertion of English ownership of Run Island was rejected by the Dutch, who besieged the island for four years before ousting the English (and killing Courthope). However, Courthope's apparent failure led to an unexpected benefit for his country when, in 1667, a treaty confirmed Holland's seizure of Run but, in exchange, validated England's seizure of another piece of land on the opposite side of the world - the island of Manhattan. Sprinkled with useful maps and illustrations, Milton's book tells an absorbing story of perilous voyages, greed and political machinations in the Age of Exploration."
The photo is lifted, with thanks, from this site where you can find out even more about nutmeg.

Casa Luna Cooking Class - III

She emitted happiness and a self-satisfaction which did not border on self-congratulation; she had an impish Australian humour which did not take anything too seriously, and was constantly starting sentences with the exclamation "Hey" (followed in invisible punctuation by a comma, not an exclamation mark) as if she had just thought of something and was genuinely interested in sharing the novelty with her great new friends. What a contrast from her book, which is full of gush like this:
"He slowly edged the ring off his elegant finger and placed it in the palm of my hand. I examined the stone, marlling at its silent power nad the craftsmanship in the setting. The gold held a rosy tinge and the creamy opaque stone was an organic oval shape. It looked as if it had been poured into the giant claws of its setting and seemed almost to breathe with life, a heart beating with molten love.

I slid the ring onto my finger and gazed at it as if it were a crystal ball. At that moment, I closed the final pages of the book that spanned twenty-five years of happiness and sadness, of growing pains and childhood antics. My new life had begun. Five years later Ketut and I were married."
She was an ambassador for Bali, and particularly the natural health and beauty giving qualities of its foods and tonics, but was capable of criticism of her home and her adopted people where warranted.

Casa Luna Cooking Class - II

Then, until about noon, de Neefe talked about the ingredients which were arrayed before us. Candle nut is a natural laxative, and not to be gathered up at a roadside stall and chomped on during a long journey as if macadamias, as one tourist apparently did. Turmeric is the base of betadine, and is a powerful topical antiseptic. Tamarind is sometimes called "the date of the east", pandanus leaf "the vanilla of the east", and sea salt is different from table salt: the former has 74 minerals and table salt 2.

I was familiar with many of these ingredients already, living near a Vietnamese enclave of Melbourne, and having travelled before in Asia, but it was all new to some of the students. I would have preferred more cooking and less talking, but I learnt stuff too. In particular, I was reminded of the very great difficulty in replicating dishes in foreign lands. The kaffir limes are half the size of golf balls, the lemongrass smaller, the nutmeg much softer and more moist than in Australia, as was the palm sugar. As de Neefe observed, everything smelt and tasted different; everything smelt more aromatic and in particular, more like eucalyptus.

Casa Luna Cooking Class - I

I attended a cooking class given by Janet de Neefe at her Honeymoon Guesthouse. In an unusual turn up for the books, the guesthouse is nicer than its website makes it seem, and seems like a good place to stay. It is down a side street off the main road in Ubud, relatively well located. The staff spoke English really well.

Most of the rest of the students were from Perth, though there was one aristocratic English ski instructress who lives in the Alps, and an Italienne from near Venice who was staying at the Waka di Ume. She raved about all the Waka resorts in Bali; I marvelled at her willingness to pay their rates.

The class started very late. Several people had raced the clock to get there by 9.30 a.m., including a couple who had driven up from Tuban (the suburb of Kuta's airport) that morning. Although everybody was relatively well acquainted with one another by virtue of the enforced camaraderie of waiting for half an hour while seated around a table, all 15 people were required to introduce themselves in a few words.

Thanks go to someone whose name is probably Tina Gale for the photo, and from whose site I intend to steal the rest of the photos illustrating this part of my blog. She has lots of Bali photos at her site.