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A day in Bali – the villa, the beach, and the food

After just about a week of travel, we were pretty exhausted. Bali was a really welcome change. We could just literally do nothing and relax.

All of this was a part of our villa. I’ve never had such nice accommodations.

We got to try some Indonesian Roti. Each dish was like a dollar!! We watched the staff at the restaurant tossing and spinning the dough and everything. They have plain roti, roti with sausage, cheese, onions, or even dessert roti!

Warung Bunana

Getting around is pretty easy with the many taxis around or even a motorbike rental. I’ve read that there have been altercations between taxi drivers and Grab drivers, but I didn’t experience that while I was there, except for some areas clearly marked as not Grab friendly. There aren’t a lot of gas stations around, but a lot of stores fill up petrol in vodka bottles and sell them.

This section of the beach was part of a restaurant/bar/resort called Ku De Ta, and people could just sit back and enjoy a drink or two (cigars are on the menu too!) while enjoying the beach. Locals own the chairs on the beach and charge people to sit on them.

The waves were a bit strong for actual swimming though

We couldn’t chill on this beach, but we did have a pool in our villa! Mike made an amazing video tour of the villa in his video below!

I spent my time in the pool learning how to swim (at this point, I didn’t even know how to float). I started off being super uncomfortable even leaning back to float, and was really frustrated at not being able to do basic actions on the water. I looked up YouTube videos on how to float and tread water and eventually figured it out! We basically stayed in the pool until we got hungry for dinner – this time to try local seafood. Mike, if you’re reading this, you missed out by not recording this part.

Warung 24/7 has an option on the menu that serves a variety of barbecued seafood and it’s amazing – highly recommended for seafood lovers

After the meal, we went back in the pool. I practiced some more, and when I got tired, I floated on my back and gazed at the stars.

I was disappointed to leave this amazing villa, but alas, all good things must come to an end. The next day, we took the plane and flew back home, where we resumed our regular lives.

For my photos of Bali, click here.

Luwak coffee, getting attacked by a monkey, and pouring rain in Ubud, Bali

Aside from tropical beaches in Bali, there’s quite a bit to do inland in Ubud. We hired Enrico, a driver/tour guide who spoke super good English and he was around our age so it was super easy chat with him. The first destination he took us to was a coffee plantation (I never knew what a coffee plant looked like before this!), where they had luwak coffee and a slew of different coffees and teas for us to try.

The luwak coffee is at the top, and each of the other coffees/teas are labeled here. There’s even durian coffee!

The luwak coffee has no added milk or sugar and is sweet on its own. It tastes like regular black coffee with sugar in it, but then I’m not a coffee drinker, so my taste for it isn’t as nuanced.

The luwak eats the coffee cherry (the fruit that contains the coffee bean), and. The bean itself is partially digested and defecated and then used to make the coffee. Yes, the coffee is actually made from part poop. Plantations send people out into the woods to specifically look for the poop. The guide said 1 kg takes 42 days to produce.

It’s one of the most expensive if not most expensive coffees in the world. Our guide at the plantation called it a “cat-poo-ccino”!! The plantation doesn’t actually charge for any of the tours and samples (except for the cup of luwak coffee), but rather they rely on people buying coffee and tea to make money.

They’re nocturnal, and our guide at the plantation tried to wake the poor guy up

The next stop was the monkey forest. It was really cool to see monkeys running around with humans so close to them.

They literally just sit in front of you, forcing you to walk around them

There was a sign that said to not stare at the monkey for too long, but I clearly forgot…

Here’s a fun YouTube clip of it: https://youtu.be/dANaZnrgZv0

Monkeys like to play too!

The monkey forest was the coolest place in the whole tour. Mike’s video has even more clips of the monkeys. Check it out below.

The next stop were some rice fields. But a freak rainstorm occurred and cut that way short. At first we thought, it’d be okay with a little, but then it just poured.

The raindrops were HUGE.

We’ve now gotten rained on in every single destination we went to on our trip

15 minutes later, the rain was gone. A bit of a drive later, we reached a waterfall as the conclusion of the tour.

From there we drove back to our accommodations and passed by some more rice fields. Throughout the car ride, we chatted with our guide about sorts of things like the history of Indonesian independence, North American culture, and life in Indonesia. One thing that really stood out to me was that he spoke very fondly about how dad prepared dog meat really and how much he enjoyed eating it. To him, it’s something super normal and part of the culture, but it seems so foreign to us in North America.

This ends our day trip in Ubud. See more of the trip here.

A brief layover in Kuala Lumpur

The next destination after Chiang Mai was Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. We boarded the flight to KL early in the morning and our flight was scheduled to leave KL to Bali at night – this would give us a solid couple of hours for sightseeing.

Apparently this is a restaurant. How did that get that there?

The flight was to arrive in Kuala Lumpur at around 13:00 and we would depart for Bali at 21:50. Arriving at 13:00, we should have been able to arrive in the city via Grab between 14:30 – 15:00, but it took at least an hour at the immigration line so we didn’t get to the city until after 16:00. This would leave us around 5 hours in Kuala Lumpur, which is not great, but not terrible.

We had only eaten breakfast, so by this time, we were starving. So we went to Lot 10. Everything looks super good, but in actually only tasted okay. I thought it’d be on par with my trip to Singapore.

Clockwise from top left: fish head noodle soup, egg custard buns, spicy noodle soup with fish, fish cake, meatballs, etc., hainan chicken rice with cha siu

Next, we visited a nearby street market. The market reminded me a lot of Singapore – similar food options (bak kut teh, chili crab, stingray, etc.), which makes sense since Singapore used to be a part of Malaysia.

Our next destination was the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, but all of a sudden out of nowhere, it started pouring with thunder and lightning. At first the thunder was a few kilometers away judging but how long it took to hear the sound, but not long after it was right on top of us.

Just a little bit of rain, nothing to worry about

We got on a Grab to head over there, but the sudden rainstorm brought traffic to a complete stop and it was barely moving. After being in the car for 30 mins and having gone less than a kilometer, the driver advised that we head to the airport directly as there wouldn’t be enough time to hit up the twin towers and make our flight. We reluctantly agreed.

During the car ride, I chatted with the driver about living in Kuala Lumpur. The driver was Cantonese in enthnicity but was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, which I didn’t expect at all. I had forgotten about how stuck we were in traffic while chatting with the driver (at one point the driver took a bathroom break and left the keys in the ignition).

Eventually, I looked on Google Maps, and saw there was no way we’d make it to the airport by car. We decided to get dropped off at the metro station in the pouring rain and we’d take public transit the rest of the way. Check it out in Mike’s video (the raining part starts at ~5:10).

That was pretty much our trip to Kuala Lumpur. After a big delay at the airport and the freak rainstorm, we really only had 3 hours in the city to do stuff, which was too bad. See the rest of the photos here.

Chiang Mai food

I’ve already talked about the live shrimp and the bugs, so this food post is going to have normal stuff.

The first stop is a food market not far from where we stayed. The curry dish isn’t as spicy as it looks and is very flavourful. The beef noodles is pretty similar to pho, but with their Thai spin on it with the herbs that they use. I’d say it had a bit more umami than the typical pho. The Pad Thai I thought wasn’t as flavourful as I liked, and was actually kind of plain. The other two dishes are highly recommended though!

Clockwise from top left: panang curry, pad thai, beef noodles
https://goo.gl/maps/UEaeswTuJGpKNCeDA

As far as fruit smoothies go, the fruit seemed to be so much more flavourful. I know that with bananas they are harvested before they’re riped so they can last for a few weeks as they are transported, so it’s possible the same thing is happening with these fruits. But since these fruits are local, they get to fully ripen on the tree.

I also saw them add a little bit of salt to enhance the existing sweetness and acidity of the smoothies. It made it perfectly sweet, without being overpowering.

From left to right: pineapple, mango, and honey queen orange

Next is probably the most famous dish in northern Thailand: Khao Soi. It’s a noodle dish with soft noodles in the soup and deep fried noodles on top. The soup itself can vary in spiciness, but is made of a curry-like sauce with meat, chilis, lime, and coconut milk.

The main attraction about this dish for me is the spiciness of the soup. It isn’t just a big spicy attack on the senses, but rather it’s nuanced because it’s balanced by the coconut milk.

https://goo.gl/maps/XSJwL5seVhNWdPRA9

Last but not least, we had some tom yum, yellow curry, and morning glory. This place is an actual restaurant with western style ambience, so naturally there was a price premium to that.

It’s kind of difficult to comment on how the yellow curry and tom yum tasted because it was way too spicy for our senses. I definitely tasted the spiciness and sourness of the soup, but the spiciness overpowered me quickly. The best by far as the morning glory. I just really like leafy greens with crunchy stems. The chilis added gave it a slight zing.

From left to right: yellow curry, tom yum, morning glory, pad thai

As usual, Mike has made a video!

The food I miss most is definitely the fruit smoothies. When I came back home, I had constant cravings for those smoothies for weeks. To see the other parts of my trip in Chiang Mai, click here.

A day trip to Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai

After eating weird things and going to street markets, this excursion took us to a more mainstream tourist site: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

Shoes aren’t allowed here, and since it’s so hot, the floor literally cook your feet as you walk around

We took a Grab (the Southeast Asia version of Uber/Lyft), which costed only ~$15 USD for some 30 km, which is super cheap. I have no idea how the economics of that even work since the cost of a car is about the same everywhere. The driver dropped us off at the base of the temple and we had to walk up a long flight to stairs in the burning heat.

Trying not to break a sweat while walking up these stairs when it’s 35°C outside is impossible

The temple grounds has a lot of rooms like this for worshipping. They all have big golden statues in them too.

The Thai royalty is also a big deal too.

Not far from the temple was the palace gardens of Bhubing Palace. It was a nice scenic walk, but otherwise there isn’t much to see.

When walking through the trees, I could hear cicadas chirping everywhere

As usual, Mike has made a video about this part of the trip. Check it out!

On the way back, the same driver who took us here to begin with was still hanging around, apparently looking for people to drive back. When he bumped into us, he offered to drive us back for a rate less than what Grab charged (way to cut out the middle man)!

Because it’s apparently okay to drive along the shoulder for over 100m if we’re making a left turn…

That ends our touristy day trip. See more of my trip to Chiang Mai here.

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