March 24, 2007

One more amazing meal >> Bali 08

Going home today, so we decided to treat ourselves to one last good local meal at Warung Biah Biah.

The cosy and quaint restaurant (mud walls, etched artwork, hewn wood furniture) had friendly staff. We ordered a combination of Balinese dishes with rice. The food came, charmingly presented on leaves fashioned into cute, mini-plates. The rice has a faintly woodsy taste since it was cooked over charcoal fire. This was one of the most enjoyable meals we had although the bubuh injin was a disappointment.

Then we had to take the dreaded Perama bus back to the airport. Not much choice since a car / taxi cost six times more! Luckily for us, the bus back was air-con and in very good condition, with curtains to shade us from the afternoon sun and only half-filled. ^_^

So we’ve come to the conclusion that the type of buses you get really depend on your luck.

We decided to buy some titbits at the airport since the prices were ‘fixed’. After picking up the items we wanted and mentally calculating the total amount, we approached the counter. We found it strange that the staff was using a calculator to add up the amount instead of scanning the bar codes.

Imagine our surprise when the total amount exceeded our estimate by over 10,000 rupiah! Surely our math could not be so bad? We asked for a receipt since the staff had torn off the price tags. The lady cashier was very reluctant to do so but we insisted. Instead of giving us a printed receipt, it was handwritten so nothing was recorded in the cash system.

Before leaving the shop, we compared the prices on our receipt with the items on display in the shop, which had price tags on them. We discovered that they overcharged us by 10,000 rupiah for one of the items! When we questioned the staff, she was very quick to claim that the item was on offer and refunded us the 10,000 immediately, plus another 3,000 from the other items bought.

Of all the scams / cheats that we’ve encountered so far, this has really got to take the cake! Do they really think tourists are so gullible that nobody will notice an extra 13,000 rupiah? And we thought it was ok to buy things at the airport since prices are ‘fixed’…

But, we did not want the incident to sour our memories of this Bali trip, so issued settled, we went for a drink and spent our last half hour in Bali recalling our favourite moments of the past week.

That's all for Bali. Next >> On a loop - Mae Hong Son to Pai to Chiang Mai

March 11, 2007

That Singaporean accent >> Bali 07

Today, we decided to attempt one last walk before going home. Destination? Goa Gajah.

Our guide book says this is a long 10km circuit. But, after our ‘extended’ Campuan Ridge walk, we feel we ought to give this a try, at least.

On the way, we met a very nice American who seemed very concerned that we were walking to Goa Gajah.

“You’re Singaporeans, right? It’s your accent! I can tell because my wife is Singaporean.”

The tall, gangly man said the walk was not very pleasant and was dangerous. Unpleasant we could understand, as it was rather dusty walking by the road, but how could it be dangerous (unless the locals know something we don’t)? Anyway, he pointed us in the right direction and promised to pick us up if he saw us again later (he was waiting for his staff to pick him up after getting supplies).

True to his word, he appeared about fifteen minutes later and offered us a ride to Goa Gajah in his pickup. He even gave up his seat next to his driver to us so that we did not bake in the sun at the back (where he sat)! We chatted with the driver (his employee) and learned that the American had settled in Bali 8-9 years ago, was in the construction business and was a good boss.

When we alighted at Goa Gajah, the American was still vaguely worried (don’t know why) and we assured him repeatedly that we would be fine. Our compatriot is so lucky to marry such a nice man! Too bad we didn’t get to meet her.

There wasn’t much to see at Goa Gajah although the surroundings was quite pleasant.

Met a Malaysian couple with two daughters whom we’d seen at the next table in Café Lotus yesterday. The father said he brought his family here so that he could expose his kids to Asian values and let them learn about their roots as they’d been staying in America all these years.

We took a bemo back to Ubud and observed that both the locals and tourists (us) paid the same price. A poor, old woman boarded midway and when we reached Ubud, the driver actually gave her half the fare back. What a heartwarming gesture! ^_^

We lunched early at Gayatri Café, a popular and cheap restaurant with a varied menu. Since lunch wasn’t very substantial, we decided to have tea at Café Wayan, supposedly famous for scrumptious, fairly-priced Western breads and cakes. Was quite disappointed as we found it way too expensive for mediocre cakes and lousy service.

Debated whether we should have dinner at GreenHouse in Pertiwi Hotel or Lamak and finally settled on GreenHouse as it was just across the street from where we stayed. I had the highly recommended five-spiced duck breast while J ordered the squid-ink pasta. The pasta was a bit too hard (al dente it was not) and the squid slices were not too fresh. My duck dish was quite good though and J also enjoyed the tasting portion I slided on to her plate. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our leisurely dinner until it was time to settle the bill.

When the bill came, we were charged for items we did not order although the restaurant was quite empty (only 2-3 tables were occupied throughout our dinner). After the mistake was corrected and payment made, the staff did not return our change although we sat at our table for quite a while. No doubt it was a small sum but they should still give it back to us since service charge was already included and they should not just pocket the change as extra tips without our consent!

We would go back to Tropical Bale (even though it’s more expensive than GreenHouse) anytime when we compared the attitude of the staff at both restaurants. Maybe we should have gone to Lamak instead, which several guide books have recommended for outstanding, creative food.

Next: One more makan session

January 20, 2007

Bipedal pests >> Bali 06

Moved to Sri Bungalows today. Our room was very clean and comfy and the staff helpful. The wooden doors were very ornate but they creaked very loudly every time someone opened or closed them – a very good security measure! ;p

We decide to take another walk, this time around Penestanan and Sayan. According to our guide book, we should be able to cover the 6.5km route in about three hours. After walking for a while, we stopped at a provision stall to ask for direction, as we did not want to repeat yesterday’s mistake.

A local on motorbike told us to keep to the road we were on, though we saw fellow walkers in front of us turning into a side street. Assuming that he would know the area better, we continued down the road.

Soon, we came to a fork and were wondering where to go when we saw the same local ahead of us. He told us to cross a short rickety bridge built over a small stream before climbing a short flight of slippery, muddy steps. By now, we should have realized that something was wrong as there was no mention of such a bridge or steps in our guide book, but us gullible types still believed that the ‘kind’ man was trying to help.

After struggling up the wet, slippery stairs, we landed right smack in somebody’s rice fields. The man offered to show us around, but we refused any further ‘help’. Then, he actually had the cheek to ask for money for showing us this view! We were fuming by now as this was a very dishonest and sneaky way to earn extra money. If he had offered to be our guide at the provision shop, we would have turned him down and be on our way instead of being led astray. 8(

Thankfully, we managed to find our way back to the main road after wasting much time and effort. When we finally reached Sayan Terrace Hotel (superb view overlooking distant rice terraces and the deep valley of the roaring Sungai Ayung below), two locals materialised out of nowhere and very ‘helpfully’ pointed to a path (already clearly signposted) next to the hotel, which would eventually lead to the riverside.

By now, we were wise to their tricks and decided to have a drink in the hotel instead. We decided to turn back after our break and - surprise, no surprise really - those two guys were still waiting next to the path! Their expressions were really comical when they realised that we were not taking the path. :p

This is really ridiculous! These guys are not providing any service at all as we can find our way easily. Besides, they could hardly speak English, so getting any commentary on the way was out, and yet they would still expect to be paid. Anyway, it’s dangerous for two women to follow two men to who knows where!

So today’s walk has been a disappointment, but at least we manage to get some exercise. ^_^ Am really glad we were not pestered at all yesterday, although we stopped to talk with local artisans, vendors and villagers.

Had our lunch at Café Lotus overlooking the lotus pond. It was packed, but compared to the good food we’ve had so far, the Western and Indonesian fare served here was nothing special and the service left a lot to be desired.

Had noodles at Waroeng Noodle Bar, a few doors down from Sri Bungalows, for dinner. We opted for a lighter dinner to save room for dessert (J: yah, we missed dessert last night). The noodle bar was bright and cheery though the noodles were nothing great.

Then we visited Kafe Batan Waru again to sample their fantastic bubuh injin, a warm pudding made from black rice. The version served here has vanilla ice-cream as well and the hot-cold combination is simply sublime! J’s brownie was not bad, but could not hold a candle to the black rice pudding. It’s obvious, from the way she was poaching spoonfuls of my rich dessert!

Next >> That Singaporean accent