Thursday, 3 December 2009

in the shadow of things...

Thursday 3rd December 2009
a shadow, something indeed so intangible. we remember when we were younger chasing our shadows around the garden and using our hands to create the shadows of animals on our bedroom walls. in those times of such innocence we are shielded from the shadows we later learn about. the shadows in the corners of our minds where our deepest fears lurk like predators, haunting our dreams and holding us back from what we know we can do, the shadows that fall across our hearts, for every love that is loved and lost and takes with them a part of our very being and the shadows that often encircle our souls, squeezing out the very life force that sustains us and brings us to our very lowest point. these are the shadows that cast the darkest force and these are the shadows that remind us to search in every part of darkness for the light, to embrace the glorious rays that dance across the earth each day and that we fail to truly bask in for lack of time, lack of energy, lack of love, lack of money. that light is the very brightness that shines from within us. because life really is a dance filled with steps that bring us dangerously into shadow and yet in the next pivot, back into the luminous light. it is remembering that light always follows dark, that one step always follows another and that this glorious dance happens only once so shake your hair down and let loose...shadows, light, come one, come all...we are ready with toes pointed and palms out-stretched...let the music begin...

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

how sweet it is...

Tuesday 1st December 2009
palm sugar is the most wondrous of substances. whenever i see it like this piled high in market baskets i have this overwhelming urge to just pick up a piece and take a gigantic bite out of it. of course, this would not be the wisest thing to do because it would be insanely sweet, but it just has this bite-able look to it and it also reminds me of chocolate.
these sections of palm sugar have been made into this shape from coconut husks and palm sugar is used as a cooking ingredient in all kinds of dishes here both sweet and savoury. It is made by making several slits into the bud of a coconut tree and collecting the sap. then, the sap is boiled until it thickens after which, in the traditional way, it is poured into bamboo tubes or coconut husks and left to solidify to form cake blocks. rather ingenious, don't you think?

Sunday, 18 October 2009

there's a hole in my...tree? there is at bunut bolong!

Sunday 18th October 2009

so i heard about this tree, that's supposed to have a hole right through the middle of it where cars can pass through. hmmm, really? this was something worth checking out. the fact that aforementioned tree is in Negara district didn't bother me at all. an hour and 45 minutes later on my humble little moped i was beginning to wonder whether it was worth it, when at the turn of the bend...the tree came into sight...bunut bolong. bunut is a kind of fig tree and bolong means hole in bahasa bali - so the name means hole in the fig tree. and it was rather a spectacular vision. the tree itself was huge, with its gnarled roots creating a beautiful tunnel that in my childhood would have been the perfect place to create secret worlds and fantastical hideouts. from there it stetched its branches way up into the sky and it was very quiet, very peaceful...a calmness around it that felt quite comforting, this tree that embraces the road with a temple on either side of it. and sure enough, just about everything was passing through, motorbikes, people, dogs...and the best bus loads of tourists piling out of their giant coaches...snapping their photos and then bussing off to the next location on the list of 'must-see's'. it was just me...and a tree...and oh, what a tree!

Bunut Bolong,
Manggisari, Negara

Friday, 16 October 2009

pura tirta empul...temple of the holy water

Friday 16th October 2009
in Tampaksiring, there's a temple named Tirta Empul. tirta empul means water that comes from the earth naturally. And until this day Balinese still believe in the miraculous healing powers of the water. i have wanted to visit this temple for a long time because i have heard so much about it and it totally lived up to expectations...apart from the inevitable troupes of tourists, i found this temple a haven of peace and calm, with the sound of the running water into the baths a great soothing for the soul. the gardens are lovely surrounding the temple and you are not bothered by people selling sarongs, trying to be your guide but instead left to wander at your own pace and take in the beautiful, calming energy of a very special temple.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

it's galungan again...

Wednesday 14th October 2009
on the road for galungan and every village is a beautiful display of colour and decoration as each home puts up their penjor to celebrate this special time.

The penjor is a tall, curved bamboo pole decorated with coconut leaves with an offering at the base. This is one of the media used by Hindus in Bali as part of almost every important ceremony, especially for the anniversary temple celebrations.
The Sri Jaya Kasunu manuscript states that the penjor symbolizes the mountain and the mountain itself is the symbol of the universe. Therefore, for the Balinese the penjor is synonymous with Mount Agung, the highest and holiest mountain in Bali.
The aim of erecting penjor at Galungan is to show devotion to God in His manifestation as Hyang Giri Pati (the God of the mountain). Mountains with deep forests hold a lot of water, which flows into rivers. This then fulfils water needs for irrigation and drinking water.
During Galungan celebrations, each family erects a penjor outside their gate, which makes the whole neighborhood look splendid.
The basic material of a penjor is a curved bamboo pole. The pole is then decorated with yellow coconut leaves, pala bungkah (roots - sweet potato or cassava), pala gantung (fruit - cucumbers, oranges, bananas), pala wija (cereal - rice, corn), plawa (leaves), traditional cakes, 11 Chinese coins, and a small shrine with some offerings.
All materials for a penjor constitute peoples' basic needs, signifying that we should take care of those things.
Selamat Hari Raya Galungan dan Kuningan bagi teman-teman yang merayakannya...yang jauh dan yang dekat!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

kintamani...there and back

Tuesday 13th October 2009

Saturday, 10 October 2009

absolut explosive...

Saturday 10th October 2009
ok so when you're out late and you feel yourself fading and like you need a bit of extra juice to help you go the extra mile and last the know that this stuff is gonna do the trick and give you that injection of power you need. not yet available on the general market but available at all good roadsides in Bali...

the red sign translates as 'your love is not as pure as my petrol'! absolut explosive...not for the weak-hearted! get yourself some NOW!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

twin sons of different mothers...

Wednesday 7th October 2009
so, last night i was up in ubud for the opening of an art exhibition at gaya gallery. the exhibition called 'twin sons of different mothers' was by two artists - one balinese and one irish who have come together to share with us this amazing stimulation of the senses through both 2D and 3D installations, sound, scent and music. i was awed by the richness of the colours that greeted me with every blink of the eye and particularly felt so proud to be a woman as the many paintings of the female form danced, paraded, gazed, peeked, flirted and blushed at me from their places on the wall. this one below being my particular favourite...

the show runs from 6th to 30th October so if you are up in the Ubud area you should definitely drop in to take a look. if nothing else, but to feel that you are being given this rare opportunity to catch the tiniest glimpse into the great mystery of women and perhaps come away a little wiser for it and also to share in private moments like a bride dancing as if no-one is watching, someone returning home, two dancers surrounded by the energy and soul of their music...there are many beautiful moments. certainly not to be missed...

Monday, 5 October 2009

long, lazy boulevards...

Monday 5th October 2009

on my recent trip to Singaraja, a few weeks ago, one of the things i particularly enjoyed about the small city were the many long boulevards throughout the city. they gave such a feel of an old european city. add to this some very old dutch architecture, due to the fact that back in the day it was the Dutch colonial administrative centre, and you have a little city that is steeped in history, tradition, a melting pot of cultures and a quiet sleepy atmosphere that makes you feel like you wanna cruise along those lazy boulevards forever...

Saturday, 3 October 2009

variety is the spice of life...

Sunday 4th October 2009
there's nothing i love to see more when i'm walking around a local market than a big basket of ripe red chillies. and of course there's no condiment i love more than a nice big squirt of chilli sauce on anything and just about everything. i am addicted to the stuff and if the truth be told it has probably forever ruined my taste buds as since becoming highly addicted to the delightful chilli i find it hard to eat anything that is not super-flavourful unless it has a big blob of chilli sauce on or somewhere near by. chilli truly makes the taste buds explode with such intensity that you either love it or hate it. i fall into the former category and life without chilli is a life without excitement, adventure and mischief! so i wanted to find out a little more about this huge presence in my gourmet habits...

chilli ; One of the wonders that Christopher Columbus brought back from the New World was a member of the Capsicum genus, the chile. Now this pungent pod plays an important role in the cuisines of many countries including Africa, China (Szechuan region), India, Mexico, South America, Spain and Thailand. There are more than 200 varieties of chiles, over 100 of which are indigenous to Mexico. They vary in length from a huge 12 inches to a 1⁄4-inch peewee. Some are long, narrow and no thicker than a pencil while others are plump and globular. Their heat quotient varies from mildly warm to mouth-blistering hot. A chile's color can be anywhere from yellow to green to red to black. Dried chiles are available year-round. The availability of fresh chiles varies according to the variety and season. Choose those with deep, vivid colors; avoid chiles with any sign of shriveling or soft spots. Fresh chiles can be stored in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. As a general rule, the larger the chile the milder it is. Small chiles are much hotter because, proportionally, they contain more seeds and veins than larger specimens. Those seeds and membranes can contain up to 80 percent of a chile's capsaicin, the potent compound that gives chiles their fiery nature. Since neither cooking nor freezing diminishes capsaicin's intensity, removing a chile's seeds and veins is the only way to reduce its heat. After working with chiles, it's extremely important to wash your hands thoroughly; failure to do so can result in painful burning of the eyes or skin (wearing rubber gloves will remedy this problem). Chiles are used to make a plethora of by-products including chili paste, tabasco sauce, cayenne and the dried red pepper flakes commonly found in pizzerias. Chiles are cholesterol free and low in calories and sodium. They're a rich source of vitamins A and C, and a good source of folic acid, potassium and vitamin E.

i think under benefits, it might have been important to add one more - general all-round natural body cleanser...after a night of hard-core spicy chilli eating, you sure ain't gonna need to go for no colon cleansing!!

the bearers of baggage...

Saturday 3rd October 2009
ok, so a couple of weeks ago i had a rather strange encounter with someone who thought they could read the very details of your life from a glance at your palms. and who am i to say they couldn't? but he said some things that bothered me for days after. i mean, one thing (of the many spoutations and declarations) he told me was that i am carrying baggage! baggage? BAGGAGE! i mean come on...please someone find me a single soul on this planet who is NOT carrying baggage. i think you would be hard pushed to find such a person because from the minute we are born, no, conceived in the womb, we are already carrying baggage. we are carrying the baggage of all those who have gone before us, our parents, grand-parents, great-grand-parents and so on down the bloodline back to the very beginnings of who we are. whether we realise it or not we are carrying that baggage. we are all constantly making up for the sins of our forefathers in some way or other. it sounds absolutely suffocating when you look at it like that...but let's face it, it's the truth. no one is born free from who they are and where they have come from. no matter how hard we try to run away from it. at some point it will always catch up with when you meet a stranger and he proceeds to tell you (as he tries to read your palm) that you're carrying 'baggage'...think about it...

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

habis, other words...we're all outta petrol!

Tuesday 15th September 2009

ok, so you look at the petrol gauge on your bike and you think...oh ow...i'm almost outta petrol so i need to get my motorised ass to the nearest pump and top drive for awhile and the panic sets in because you are coming dangerously close to push mode...where you're gonna have to work up those arnie schwarzenegger muscles into a frenzy as you potentially push your bike a kilometre or two or three. then up ahead, you catch sight of the equivalent of the golden arches in petrol terms...the red and white sign that equals pertamina aka the pompa bensin aka the petrol station. you cruise in...all smiles...all pleased with yourself because you made it...with still a few drops of precious petrol in the tank...and you're greeted with a sign...a sign that says 'habis, pak' for those of us lucky to understand it simply means, 'finished, mr' and when you translate it into the reality more PETROL! huh? what? no way! oh yes...this is indonesia...petrol runs out, things don't run on time, people get paid under the know...the usual...however, although the petrol station has run out of petrol...the good news is that the little warung...just next door is stacked with bottles lining a shelf FULL of petrol and ready to top up any depleted motorised traveller who's thirsty machine is in need of some juice! thank god for the little gotta love this makes millionaires outta the little people! (mind you, millionaires here do not translate into millionaires in the real world! but you get the idea!)

Saturday, 12 September 2009

once upon a hill...

Saturday 12th September 2009

...there was a little church, just outside of Singaraja, ever so cute, ever so balinese, ever so unexpected...

Monday, 17 August 2009

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Tumpek Landep...a day of celebrating the metal in our lives

Saturday 15th August 2009

today in Bali it is Tumpek Landep, which is a balinese ceremony that honours metal objects. i figured therefore, it was the perfect opportunity to bless the most important metal object in my life - my motorbike.

Desak, my wonderful balinese friend ordered offerings for me and came today to help in the ceremony. she started off by getting all the offerings ready and placing everything in its' rightful place. we then proceeded out to the motorbike (otherwise known as Fifi) and laid a cloth over the top of her. the offerings were put on top, incense was lit and the ceremony began. the ceremony itself is a nice simple one. Desak began by rubbing some powder on Fifi, then she tied lots of beautiful decorations on the handlebars and on the front of the bike. then we sprinkled her with holy water. we finished up by praying beside the bike to ask for protection and to keep out of danger.

it was a lovely little celebration to show thanks for the things that are so important in our lives like our vehicles and i truly love the way the balinese remember to honour them.

Huge thanks to Desak for making this a day for me to remember...

Saturday, 8 August 2009

what can you do with $147...?

Saturday 8th August 2009

ok, so i'm in singapore this weekend for my brother-in-law's wedding. and what do you do when he hands you $147 and requests you to do something special with it...? you initially rack your brains because you are so honoured that he has given you the very important job of aranging his mas kahwin...and let me explain a moment what mas kahwin also known as mahr actually is...
Mahr is a gift given by the groom to the bride after the malay solemnisation ceremony. It symbolises the beginning of a husband's responsibility towards his wife in fulfilling her everyday needs.
Mahr can be in cash or benefits, such as gold, silver, money, land, a car, or an apartment.
Mahr is the bride's right and she owns the Mahr. Thus, she has the will to dispose of it as she wishes.
The current minimum rate for the Mahr in Singapore is $100 cash.
my brother-in-law and his wife chose $147 as it is a combination of their favourite number 14 & 7 (lucky the bride didn't chose to arrange the numbers the other way around!) and because they decided on money, my brother-in-law wanted it displayed in a most eye-catching way. this is where i enter the picture...
ok first things first...singapore money is almost of a plastic i ask you...have you ever tried folding plastic money and actually getting it to stay in formation...super difficult. anyway after much folding, taping, pinning and various other activities of a not-so-PG quality...i decided to fold the money into a bouquet of roses...
this was made easy by the variety of notes i requested as $5 notes are green - they became the leaves. $10 red and $50 blue became the roses and the purple $2 notes became the added foliage. what a job! but worth ever pin prick, bead of sweat and moment of stress for the bride and groom...
and who knows? maybe i have a new career...mas kahwin folder and decorator pte ltd!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

the road not taken...

at times the way foreward may diverge and while one may lie in shadow and appear to be held together by mere fragments of thread and the other lie in the light and be easy underfoot. we have to choose. and which one will we take? for me, the more precarious route will be the one to reveal in ourselves who we are, for we persevered where others might have given up and gone back, we faced our fears by passing through the darkest shadows and we trusted in the universe to hold our path together where others might have not believed.

as robert frost so eloquently writes in his poem The Road Not Taken...

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

warung litut...a breath of fresh air

Saturday 11th July 2009
warung litut opened about 5 months ago along my absolute favourite road in the whole of the kuta area...believe me, these days in kuta it is rare to find a road lined in entirety by ricefields, but this road has it and it also just happens to be the road i travel along every morning to go to work. so having passed this warung every day for almost 5 months i decided it was high time to give it a try and see what it was like. first things first...the wind and the view. the wind hits you like the coolest and most refreshing gulps of air you feel you have ever had in this crazy maze of life called kuta. it takes you by surprise. you're just not expecting it...and then you gaze out across the landscape and see the ricefields and realise..ah-ha...that's why. but seriously, there are not many places left in this area that can compete with the breeze and the view at this spot.

at this point i'm kinda feeling know what, they could serve me up dirt and rocks for lunch and i wouldn't really care because that wind...that just caressing my cheeks and hair get the idea.
anyway, i give in and order nasi goreng ala litut (fried rice) and it's good. a decent serving, a nice dollop of hot sambal on the side, crackers and a fried egg and hey, i'm good. it's a firm favourite with both locals and visitors alike on this island so you can't go wrong.

my friend orders cap cay (mixed stir-fried vegetables) and is served up a very healthy sized portion that she assures me she will not be able to finish, but does and enjoys it.

and then comes a kinda speciality at the warung...deep fried ice-cream, which i can't resist and when it is served up, it looks delightful...almost too adorable to eat. the base is white bread with ice-cream sandwiched in the middle, rolled in coconut and deep fried and another blob of ice-cream on top. i swear i want to share it...but just can't...this is all for me.

the visit is all in all a great success, the service is friendly and welcoming and the vibe is both chilled out and relaxed. you want to come back again and not just for that breath of fresh air.

Warung Litut, Jl. Mertasari, Kerobokan

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

relak one pempek corner...

Wednesday 8th July 2009
on the side of the road along jl. sesetan in denpasar is a delicious little warung that serves pempek. pempek is a delicacy from Palembang made of fish and sago. pempek is served together with a dark, rich sauce called cuka which is made of brown sugar, chilli, garlic vinegar and salt added to boiling water. there are many varieties of pempek as can be seen from the menu on offer at pempek corner...

and you gotta love those pictures...i mean if you've never eaten pempek before then this gives you a pretty good idea of what you are letting yourself in for. dishes ordered included rujak mie tahu, mie celor and pempek tahu and pempek kapal selam...

rujak mie tahu

mie celor

pempek kapal selam (foreground) and pempek tahu

the pempek is delicious, a fish cake with an egg in one and tofu in the other. it has a bit of a chewy consistency and you dip it in the cuka, which is tangy and sweet at the same time.

the mie celor is reminiscent of mee rebus, a rich gravy with noodles and seafood in it while the rujak mie tahu is eaten with the cuka and has that tangy taste.

this is a great spot to try some indonesian food for a very cheap price. of course, being in denpasar, the motorbikes stream by just steps from the warung but the food makes it worthwhile.

Pempek Corner
Jl. Raya Sesetan, Denpasar

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

way down south...

Tuesday 7th July 2009

way down south in bali is one of the sacred directional temples, pura luhur uluwatu. the temple itself is rather small but it is the location that makes this a stunning spot for anyone who loves a good view. perched atop a cliff, with beautiful blue ocean crashing below makes it truly breathtaking and more than worth the trip. entrance fee is a minimal Rp.3,000 and sash and sarong are provided if you are not appropriately covered. you can walk around the temple complex at your leisure and there are numerous spots that make for great photographs. there are a number of monkeys who have taken up residence and are known to be quite an annoyance but nothing a stick picked up along the route won't deter. i believe that sunset is one of the best times to go but when i was there about midday the sun was shining directly on the ocean and the blue, aquamarine, turquoise kaleidoscope of colour that appeared everytime a wave broke was really pretty amazing.

Monday, 6 July 2009

lazy lunches at warung batavia...

Monday 6th July 2009
a favourite place for lunch these days is at Warung Batavia. there are a few around but i like to go to the one just off Jl. Kunti II as it has a great selection of food on the menu and in the nasi campur buffet and i like the vibe, the staff and the furniture! Warung Batavia is different in that it serves Javanese food...and it's good. first things first...the drinks...served in giant mugs and you can't go wrong with an es jeruk which is a kinda orange juice served with ice, sweetened a little and just so refreshingly good that you have no problem polishing off the amount in the giant glassware.

then when it comes to the food, two favourites of mine are karedok and ketoprak.

karedok is a raw vegetable salad. it is made from cucumbers, bean sprouts, cabbage, legumes, thai basil, and eggplant and served with a spicy peanut sauce. at batavia you can request the sauce to be as spicy as you want and i like it hot, hot, hot!

ketoprak is another kind of raw vegetable salad but this one also has tofu, bean sprouts, bihun noodles and chopped up rice cakes in it. the sauce is slightly more peanut-y and again you can request how on fire you want your mouth (and stomach) to be when ordering.

both dishes are delicious and firm favourites of mine so that i specifically go there to eat them. you can actually see the guy make the dishes right in front of you and the ingredients are fresh and tasty.

this is a great little warung to hang out for a lazy lunch. you can sit and watch the world go by and yes it's a little more pricey than your average road side warung but worth every penny for the service, the food and the atmosphere. Not to be missed!

Warung Batavia,
Jl. Kunti II,

Sunday, 5 July 2009

the latest discovery...

Sunday 5th July 2009

headed off on another road trip yesterday and made the most amazing discovery...after a very bumpy, dusty ride down a long winding road...we reached a temple with a staircase...and as we descended the staircase, we caught glimpse upon glimpse through the trees of what would finally greet us when we reached the bottom of the descent...the most beautiful, peaceful beach i have ever had the luck to set foot on in bali. beautiful clear blue waters, white sand and best of all...hardly any people. it was a most welcome sight, especially after the walk down, which made my legs wobbly...but a dip in that crystal clear cool water was enough to ease away any pain. i believe there will be many return trips made to this spot...

Saturday, 27 June 2009

to bedugul and back...

Saturday 27th June 2009

snapshots from a road trip to bedugul, today...27 June 2009, the wonders of bali never cease...