Choon Kee Hakka Noodles


Waking up at such ungodly hour, I ‘zombied’ to my sis room, knocked, went in and shouted ‘ Wake up!’ and immediately ‘zombied’ my way to the bath for the usual morning ritual.

After 5 minutes or so, everyone was ready. Sis drove and after a few wrong turns, we reached the quiet Jalan Pudu. It was still dark and we parked our car along the main road, convinced that the enforcement guys are not that efficient to serve us a ticket.

  • Oops, all the tables were taken! ( we were there  by 6.45 am!)
  • There were another couple who were behind us ( read : competitor! *Kiasu self kicked in*)

But, hey, there is no system here. The servers do not give a damn. You get your own table.You stand and you look left and look right, lock your gaze target and you quickly walk towards him / her. Stand next to him / her. Detach all thoughts that you are being impolite, intrusive. In any case, if you are a regulars at Choon Kee Hakka Noodles, you would know that it is not exactly the place to hang out. You finish your noodles and you vacate your seats to others.

  • There were 2 prospects – 1 chap was finishing soon but he was at the long tables ( 3 tables combined) and we would have to share. There was another chap eating alone at a round table. Hmmm…
  • The chap at the long table finished his drinks and left and I sat down. No need to ask if you can share table – it is an unwritten understanding!
  • The serves did not give us a second look. I walked over and ordered. I was still groggy and I ordered wrongly ‘ 3 large and 1 small’ which should be ‘ 3 small and 1 large’. I realised my mistake and informed the server.

Be prepared to wait for a while.

  • I looked around and saw those earlier ones were still waiting patiently. Most of them were quiet – it was still early.
  • Eventually, we got our bowls of noodles and paid.
  • I tossed the handmade noodles. Took the first bite. Awww….they were firm and springy and coated with gravy from pork lard. I savored the minced meat and BBQ pork. I licked the bowl clean. It is almost sinful to have leftovers.

By the time, you are finished,there would be people standing around you waiting for your table. Automatically, you vacate your seat. You walk towards your car and you may just be humming a tune or two as you just had an awesome-licious Hakka noodles.  Life is good.

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Choon Kee

Jalan Sayur

Pudu ( opposite Sek Yuen, near Pudu Market)

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Bali Day 4 : Kuta Beach,Shop @ Rock Shop & Eat @ Cafe Moka


Time flies when you are having a good time. In a blink of an eye, it was already our 4th and last day at Bali.

Our flight back to Kuala Lumpur was scheduled on the later part of the afternoon, we had a bit of time to kill and hence, after breakfast and packing, we took a cab to Kuta beach. Considered as surfers’ paradise ( facing Indian Ocean), Kuta beach stretches over 5 km.Although it is a public beach, it is surprisingly clean ( unlike those in Malaysia).

I adore the beach but the sun aint exactly my best ally. But you still gotta take a few obligatory pictures of Bali.

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As we were at the beach early, it was not that congested. As my friends were busy taking pictures, I was all the time under the shade and of course, being disturbed by the annoying beach vendors selling their massages, hair braiding,etc. At first, I smiled and waved them away. Well, that did not deter them, so at the end, I just could not be bothered at all.

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Due to the increasing popularity of Kuta beach over the years, it has become so commercialized and overcrowded that some surfers have moved on to other less congested beaches. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of visitors that throng Kuta beach.

After the obligatory pictures, we still had some time to spare and we decided to have a cuppa at Starbucks which is located opposite the beach. But, I just had to pay a visit to Rock Shop which is just next to Starbucks.

IMG_1028 What we thought going to be a brief 5-minute window shopping turned to another shopping spree! We bought tees, lanyards, necklaces, bracelets and even fridge towels!

P1100911 After the shopping spree at Rock Shop, we had a quick drink at Starbucks. We were surprised that we were told that Starbucks ran out of coffee bean! So, no coffee for the day.

After the drink, we took a cab back to our hotel and checked out.

As our transport ( the hotel provides free transport to the airport, but must inform them earlier for them to make the arrangement) is only fetching us at 2.30 pm, we left our luggage at the receptionist and we had lunch at the nearby Cafe Moka. ( In case if you guys are wondering, we DID NOT shop anymore)

Cafe Moka which has been operating for more than 5 years was initially a traditional French pastry bakery but in response to the great demands, it also serve salads, sandwiches and savories.

From outside, the cafe looks like a simple cafe. But the inside exudes certain coziness that you just feel you want to sit and lay back and enjoy the pastries. The cafe was full and we were quite confused what the hype was all about.

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Maybe the thought of having to go back to reality was bothering, we did not order much. I ordered a mushroom quiche.

A quiche is an oven-baked dish made with eggs and milk or cream in a pastry crust. Usually, the pastry shell is blind-baked before the other ingredients are added. Other ingredients such as cooked chopped meat, vegetables or cheese are often added to the egg mixture before the quiche is baked. Quiche is generally an open pie (i.e. it does not include a pastry covering), but may include an arrangement of tomato slices or pastry off-cuts for a decorative finish. Quiche may be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, depending on local customs and personal tastes ( Source : Wikipedia)

The crust was very crispy and they were very generous with the ingredients especially mushroom.

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My friend ordered a quiche too – but I have forgotten what it was. Anyway, according to her, it was nice too. P1100952

We also a piece of cake to share -  some praline chocolate cake. Not too sweet. A sweet ending to our short Bali trip. Cafe Moka is definitely a place to go if you are in Bali.P1100948 The address of Cafe Moka:-

Jl. Raya Seminyak, Legian
Kuta – Bali

( very near to Made’s Warung, Seminyak)

Bali Day 1, read here.

Bali Day 2, read here.

Bali Day 3, read here.


Bali Day 3 : Shop @ Seminyak, Eat @ Seminyak Cafe & Made’s Warung


( Beware! Bimbotic post ahead. Proceed at your own risk!)

What is the fun of travelling without a ( bit of ) shopping? Everyone knows or would have guessed ( the signs have been obvious) that I am a shopacoholic and it does not help to have friends who are equally, and if not as obsessed as I am!

One of the main reasons that we stayed at Seminyak is because of the lure of its shopping. Famous for its upscale boutiques, Seminyak is considered the shopping capital of Bali.

Our villa is located at the end of the shopping strip ( Jalan Raya Basangkasa) which eventually connects into Jalan Raya Seminyak. Both roads are lined with endless boutiques at each side.

We started our shopping spree at approximately 9.30 am and we immediately switched from our touristy self to Rebecca Blooomwood’s.

3rd travel tips : Do not be tempted to change money in smaller currency exchange offices ( the exchange rate displayed on the board, placed along main road, is set higher). Their honesty is highly doubted and most often than not, they would use their ‘creativity’ to steal money from you. Only change money at authorised money changers with proper offices and always ask for receipt. Or change at hotels or banks.

Our strategy was to divide and conquer walk towards Jalan Raya Seminyak and shop at one side of the street first, make a u-turn at the end of the road and continue to shop at the other side of the street. No-brainer, really but when almost all the boutiques have such appealing/impressive/interesting/alluring  window display, we kinda got distracted and we were crossing the streets when we spotted something interesting at the other side. Grass seems to be greener at the other side – how true is this saying.

With the myriad of  boutiques and being unfamiliar with most of them, we kind of lost track of which one we had entered and vice versa. But of course, our senses got the better of us. We put our feet down and insisted that we must shop at one side first notwithstanding how tempting the shops are at the opposite side.

The clothing at Seminyak are hip but yet still exudes certain elegance. Some are sexy and yet not slutty and cheap. Natural fabrics and beads are also used extensively. Notable boutiques are Prefer Batik, Biasa ( there is an outlet store a few doors away from its boutique) and Body & Soul ( there is an outlet store opposite its boutique).

One very intriguing phenomena that I notice in Bali is that the large number of boutiques that sell imitation designer wear. Fake Polo Ralph Lauren, Paul Smith and Versus are a common sight. More appalling is that these boutiques are located just a few doors away from the original one. There are even fake Polo Ralph Lauren boutique in the airport. And mind you, the selling price is not cheap either!

I was trying out a black see-through top with sequins and soft, airy black pants with gold sequins. Great for partying and you may just be the centre of attention! Are you doubtful?

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Sexyback….( pardon the stupid expression on the face)

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I feel like a million dollar baby in a long dress from Prefer Batik. Only 1 piece and price upon query.

P1100869 The minimalist interior of Prefer Batik. Our favourite boutique as we went there everyday except on the last day! I was wearing a jump suit from a random boutique in Ubud, Bali.

P1100797 Apart from the above, they also have some quirky tee. This tee is supposedly for kids but I love it so much that I bought the bigger size. 100% cotton. It reads “ Never mind the bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols”. This is the album cover of British high influential Sex Pistols’ the only studio album.

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It was already lunch time and we did not even manage to finish shopping at one side of the street! We were famished and we desperately need to take a leak. My standard operating procedure is to look for hotels ( preferably good ones) but in Seminyak, hotel and villas are hidden at those small and narrow lanes. We do not think that it is a good idea for us to walk some distance and greeted by some dodgy hotel.

We saw Cafe Seminyak, which is located in front of Bintang Supermarket and there seemed to be a lot of patrons at that time, so it could not be that bad. Apart from that, it looks quite decent, so the loo must be quite clean too. We settled down at Cafe Seminyak for some rejuvenating and quick recharge and of course, to pee. How wrong were we! They do not have a toilet! Hmmm, well, we had just ordered, so we just had to ‘tahan’ for a while.

I ordered ‘Nasi Goren Ham’ – nicely fried fried rice with generous bits and pieces of ham and of course, and runny egg ( poke the egg and mix the runny yolk with the fried rice, delish!). Bespectacled friend ordered tom yam soup with rice which tasted (surprisingly) quite good, according to her. Another friend ordered pineapple fried rice with cashew nuts but according to her, there ain’t any cashew nuts. Hmm..maybe the chef forgotten. My bespectacled friend suffered from headache, sleepiness and shoulder pain after the meal – we suspected that she suffered ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ (symptoms after eating too much MSG-laden food). While the food is nothing to shout about and the service were not exemplary, its strategic location does provide an excellent place to chill out whilst drinking in the hustle bustle of Seminyak.

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After the quick lunch, we proceeded to find the (elusive) toilet. We went to a pharmacy but was told that the toilet was out of order. We soldiered on and we saw some hotel villas and we went in on the pretext of being interested in its accommodation package! Well, as long as we get our big or small business done!

We  continued our shopping and we basically spent the entire afternoon at changing rooms! We returned to our villa in the evening and these were our loot.

P1100868 By this time, we received news that Osama bin Laden has been killed in an air raid in Pakistan. I had earlier planned to have dinner at the posh La Lucciola but fearing retaliation, we decided to have dinner at Made’s Warung again ( read our maiden time at Made’s Warung here)

But again, overpowered by the urge to shop and shop and shop, we only had our dinner at 9.30 pm! We ordered pork ribs with young papaya. The ribs were soft and tender ( probably cooked for long time) and the stew was quite strong. I love this dish and you can mix the stew with the white rice – heavenly. Too bad, the portion was quite small.

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We also ordered sate lilit – a variant of sate from Bali. It is made from minced seafood which is then mixed with grated coconut, thick coconut milk, lemon juice, shallots and pepper. It tastes just like our otak otak. If you love spicy food, this one is for you.

 P1100883 And lastly, we ordered bebek bertutu. Bebek means duck. The duck is marinated with herbs and spices and later roasted in banana leaves over charcoal for a few hours. The duck was tender and soft and exude certain distinctive taste ( which I guess was due to the spices and herbs). My travel companions did not like it but I find it quite ok.

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The address of the restaurants :-

Cafe Seminyak

Jl Seminyak 17 Kuta Bali

 

Made’s Warung

Br. Pande Mas

Kuta, Bali, Indonesia

or

Made’s Warung

Br. Seminyak

Bali, Indonesia

For Bali Day 1, read here.

For Bali Day 2, read here.


Bun Cha @ Hang Manh Street (Old Quarter)


One thing that make me miss Hanoi very much is its Bun Cha – combination of vermicelli noodle ( bun in Vietnamese), bbq minced pork patties ( together with some pork belly sliced into bacon-cut like) in fish sauce with herbs.Commonly found in the northern part of Vietnam ( instead of the southern part e.g. Ho Chi Minh City). Bun Cha is normally taken during lunch.

I was at Hanoi for a short getaway recently and since I was travelling with a friend who is familiar with Hanoi, I left all the planning to him. He brought me this shop located amidst the puzzling Old Quarter for a supposedly late breakfast. We were there early ( approximately 9.30 am) and we were whisked away by one of the (fierce) servers who insisted that the restaurant only opens at 10 am.

We wandered around looking for late breakfast and we settled for a bowl of piping hot pho. After the breakfast, we loitered around Old Quarter, took pictures at Hoan Kiem Lake. At this point of time – I still had no idea what bun cha is and did not realize that I would be missing something so great if I did not pay this restaurant a visit! Luckily, he insisted that I should try out bun cha or else, I would be missing one of the best food in Vietnam…

We reached there slightly past 1 pm and the ground floor, comprising a kitchen that occupies half of the narrow shop and a few long tables. It was full and we climbed the narrow staircase to the 1st floor. The first floor is just as small. There were like 4 tables ( maybe) and we were lucky that there was an empty table. We squeezed in and before we know it, the servers came with 2 bowls of grilled pork patties dipped in rice wine and fish sauce. We stared at the elaborate spread before our eyes – 2 bowls of grilled pork patties, cold clumpy messy of rice vermicelli, herbs and greens, bowls of thinly sliced cucumbers, mangos and papayas soaked in liquid, coarsely chopped chilli and garlic and a bowl of spring rolls. I looked at him hoping for some hints on how to consume these……

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You are supposed to pile the ingredients – a bit of the rice vermicelli, some fish sauce,a spring roll, some sliced papaya / mango / cucumber, chilli, pork meat patties and finally some green herbs as topping.

Isn’t this tempting? I am already drooling by just merely looking at this picture!

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Instead of piling the ingredients in separate bowl, I dipped the rice vermicelli in the pork patties’ bowl. This bowl is heavenly. It was food orgasmic!

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The kitchen that occupies half of the ground floor.

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The bun cha shop that you MUST go to while you are in Hanoi.

DSC_0947 Address :

Hang Manh, Old Quarter

Hanoi


Kedai Makanan Sinki @ Dengkil


A few weeks ago, my client brought me to this unassuming looking restaurant in Dengkil for a lunch after our meeting. Although I have stayed in Kuala Lumpur for the past 14 years or so, Dengkil is really an unchartered territory to me. The food was so good that I just had to re-visit the restaurant again.

Located along the main road of Dengkil ( Jalan Besar), just a few doors away from the town police station, Kedai Makanan Sinki is really obscure, typical of a small town kopitiam.

DSC_0557 Before you brush aside Dengkil as being a bit far away from town, it is actually only about 30 minutes drive away ( via Maju Expressway) from city centre. As I live somewhere near the city, it does not really make much difference if I travel to Dengkil or Sg Buloh / Kepong. For that matter, going to Dengkil is much easier as traffic is really a breeze to Dengkil ( as compared to the congested Sungai Buloh or Kepong).

Devoid of any fancy decorations, the restaurant is segregated into 2 parts i.e. an air-conditioned room that fits about 4 tables and of course, the main dining area sans the air-conditioner.

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There are so many newspaper clippings and photographs adorning the wall of the restaurant. There are reviews by local Chinese papers and many photographs of the who’s who’s who had dined there before. But, the most interesting clippings are actually those funny and of course, thought-provoking Chinese sayings. Whilst snapping away these meaningful leaflets, the server was so good to give us a photocopy of the leaflet to us.

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DSC_0512 DSC_0510 Our sinful indulgence includes deep fried fresh river prawns, steamed village chicken, stir fry sweet potatoes, steamed tofu with fishballs and deep fried fish with chili gravy (all are Sinki’s signature dishes).

DSC_0532 First out was the deep fried fish with chili gravy. The skin was deep-fried to perfection ( very crunchy) and yet the meat still retain its juiciness. The fish was very fresh too.

Hot chili deep fried fish

The gravy, comprising mixture of soy paste, ginger, garlic and bird’s eye chili was very thick. Don’t be fooled to think that the dish is extremely spicy – the fish only carry a slight hint of spiciness. The gravy itself exudes certain sweetness in it. You just gotta order another bowl of rice to go with the gravy.

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Another signature dish is its steamed village chicken. I love village chicken as the meat is much leaner and of course, healthier. But, most of the time, I refrain from eating steamed chicken ( except home-made) as they are either very fat with a layer of yellowish fats beneath the skin ( really a turn-off) and/ or there are blood clots trapped amidst the bones.

* One of the reasons that there are still blood trapped in chicken bones despite the chicken being cooked well done is that the chickens are marketed at considerably young age. The bones are yet to mature and are still soft and porous. As a result, there can be seepage of bone marrow through the soft bone and into the surrounding meat. When a young chicken is deep chilled, frozen ice crystals form inside the bone. They expand and force the heme out of the marrow through the soft, porous bones. During the cooking process, the tissue will darken in color. Although the appearance is unappetizing, the meat is not harmed when this happens. Source : O. Peter Snyder Jr. Ph.D.,Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management

Sinki’s steamed village chicken were cooked to perfection. If possible, I would prefer thigh / drumstick / keel over breast meat as the former are more tender, juicy and smooth. I dislike breast meat ( although they are the much healthier option) as it can be very dry and harsh.  The one at Sinki’s are quite acceptable, though.

Steamed in rice wine, it can be eaten on its own or together with the accompanying specially concocted sauce, a mixture of ( very generous) oyster sauce, oil, soy sauce and garlic. We ordered half a chicken and hence, there were some breast meat with thigh and drumstick. I love the sauce so much that I had it together with my rice! Some of you may not like it as it is a bit greasy, but hey, just take a few more cups of Chinese tea to wash away the oil!

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The less sinful dish – steamed tofu with fishballs. The tofu was very smooth and soft and yet not mashed. The fishballs were very springy too. However, as compared to the rest of the dishes, it pales in comparison with the rest. Nevertheless, it was quite delectable.

DSC_0527 Stir fry sweet potato. Its looks may be ordinary, but the taste was out of this world. It was so full of ‘wok hei’ ( 镬气) – flavor, tastes imparted by cooking the food in a wok over high flame while being stirred quickly. Normally, attained via cooking over an open flame.

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The star of the day – Deep fried fresh water prawns / udang galah. It was even bigger than my fist! It was so crunchy that you can actually eat the shell and the head too! The meat were fresh, firm and juicy.

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Total bill came up to RM165 for the above together with a pot of Chinese tea and 5 bowls of rice. The prawns ( 4 pieces) was about RM80 – RM90. Very reasonable pricing for such scrumptious offerings.

The address :-

Kedai Makanan Sinki

No. 96, Jalan Besar

43800 Dengkil

Selangor

Telephone : 03 – 8768 8268 or 012-266 7161 (Mr Lee Chee Keong)

Close every night on Tuesday, 1st and 15th of every month ( Chinese calendar)


Bali Day 1 : Stay @ Desamuda Village, Eat @ Made’s Warung, & Warung Italia Pizzeria, Visit @ Uluwatu Temple


Three of us arrived at Ngurah Rai International Airport at about noon and we were greeted by the scorching, eye-blinding and ‘skin piercing’ afternoon sun. I guess that my new Dior sunnies would come in handy for this 4 days & 3 nights trip to Bali. Since one of the travel companions had never been to Bali and the other one had been to Bali for like how many donkey years ago, I ( who had been to Bali for the 2 times previously for the past 3 years) I naturally assumed the role as the travel butler.

I did not arrange for any hotel pick-up as it was mentioned in the hotel website that airport transfer costs approximately USD15 per person ( if I am not mistaken) which is quite exorbitant for 3 of us. Hence,we bought a taxi coupon outside the arrival hall for RPH70,000 ( approximately RM25) for a (maybe) 30 minutes drive to our villa (Desamuda Village) in Seminyak. There were so many people surrounding us at the airport and there were these porters that readily lug our luggage to the waiting taxi at the airport parking lot. We even commended how great the hospitality industry in Bali – you have porter to lug your luggage.

First mistake. Upon reaching the taxi, we were (blatantly) asked for tips. Ok, fair. So, I handed 3 of them RPH20,000 ( nearly RM10) and they had the audacity to ask for RPH20,000 EACH! We told them that the RPH20,000 is to be divided among the 3 of them, which they disagree! We were like WTF. Ok, come’ on, it is really daylight robbery to ask us to pay so much for such easy peasy job. We ignored them and went into the taxi. And of course, the taxi driver did not even say a thing ( you’ll know why later).

1st travel tips : DO NOT let porter take your luggage for you. Grab it back from them, if need be. Although nothing untoward happened, I guess it is better not to create a scene in a foreign country.

The drive to hotel was uneventful – of course, there were occasional traffic jam as it was a long weekend ( Labour’s Day holiday). Upon reaching the hotel, the taxi driver had the audacity to ask us to tip him! Omigosh, we were astounded. If the driver had wanted tips, might as well incorporate it as part of the taxi fare instead. We ignored him, took our luggage from the car boot and walked into the hotel. We did not even bother to reason out with him as we had already reached the hotel. I was thinking since when Balinese had become so blatant in asking for tips. I did not experience it during my first 2 visits. Hmmm, I guess one of the reasons is that we resemble the Japanese so much that we were mistaken as Japanese, who are quite lavish.

2nd travel tips : Always try to create an opportunity to impress upon the taxi driver / guide that you are NOT Japanese. Talk to him in Bahasa Indonesia. Call him ‘Pak’ ( Indonesian for Mr) – then they would know that you are familiar with Indonesia.

Check in was a breeze. We were served the customary welcome drink ( orange juice).

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We even managed to arrange for transport for our half day and full day tour with the receptionist ( a very sweet lady). Not exactly the cheapest ( RPH250,000 for half day tour and RPH400,000 for 1 day tour) but a it saved us the hassle of having to find the transport ourselves especially after the 2 tipping incidents above. Moreover, it was arranged by the hotel, so if something goes wrong, we can always have recourse against the hotel. We were handed a few brochures that highlights all the interesting place, spas and adventures in Bali and were asked to choose for our half and full day tour.

We freshen up a bit before heading for quick lunch before the half day tour scheduled at 3 p.m. As a traveler, one of the criteria for accommodation is that the hotel must be near eateries ( and of course, preferably some good ones). Bali’s famous Made’s Warung (Seminyak branch) is just located ( literally) around the corner ( maybe like 5 minutes walk) and in such instance, we must eat there.

Made’s Warung has a large garden area with tables and chairs plus an inside section with long tables and bench seating. Since I think that there were not many patrons, the garden section was not opened in the afternoon. The tables inside were full though.

As time was limited, we ordered a few dishes to share – nasi campur special ( special mixed rice)( recommended by the server), pork satay ( there were chicken and beef satay too, but we did not order them as pork satay are really hard to come by in Malaysia) and nasi goreng. For drinks, we ordered some fruit juices. Bintang Beer, local beer is not cheap though.

Nasi Campur special (RPH55,000 or approximately RM19), Made’s Warung’s bestseller, comes with assortment of accompanying dishes like beef rendang, vegetables, grilled chicken,prawns in sambal, crackers,tempe, pork satay and etc . I am not a fan of Malay mixed rice but this dish quite enticing ( It had to be good, right, considering the exorbitant price for a plate of mixed rice only albeit with present presentation!).

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We also ordered pork satay (RPH40,000 or RM14) ( we did not know that the nasi campur special comes with satay too). Anyway, we can’t complain though because it was so gratifying. Well- marinated both outside and inside, the meat are tender and juicy. Apparently, they are grilled with Balinese spices.

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Nasi goreng special that comes together with 3 sticks of satay ( I think it was chicken satay) that really pales in comparison with the above.

We ordered ice lemon tea (RPH 14,000 or RM5 per glass) are quite authentic with real tea and lemon. None of those instant powder blend. These drinks are indeed life saver for such hot day.

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After lunch, we made our way back to our hotel and our guide + driver were already waiting for us. Both of them are very soft-spoken and men of few words. We were stuck in a bad traffic jam – seems like the entire world was in Bali and almost all of them were heading to Uluwatu. We enjoyed the trip along the way, making mental note that there are SO many Malaysian banks in Bali. CIMB Bank Niaga are almost everywhere – you have to be blind to miss them.

The journey to Uluwatu was quite far away – maybe slightly more than 1 hours. It felt even further away due to the earlier traffic jam. We actually made an excursion to Bulgari Hotel and Resort in Uluwatu ( presently, there are only 2 Bulgari hotels in the world, the other one is in Milan) but too bad, we were not allowed to enter as they are having a private function there. Hmm. My wedding will be held there, so never mind lar. ….Haha.

Uluwatu, located at the south westernmost precinct of Bali Island, is regarded as one of the 6 most important temples in Bali. Its location, they believe, guards Bali Island from the evil spirit of the ocean. The temple is built on the tip of a majestic coral reef. As the temple is located at the end of Jalan Uluwatu – you’ll need to pre-arrange a ride to get there and back.

Entry fee to Uluwatu is quite nominal. If you are in short skirts or pants, you would be given a silk-like sarong to cover up as a mark of respect for the temple.

At the ticketing counter, our guide advised us that there are a lot of naughty monkeys around and these monkeys will grab things from visitor.

Hmm, I thought to myself “ There were a few monkeys around the last time I was here ( most probably 3 years ago) and they were quite alright, so how bad can they be”. Anyway, I quickly tucked away my Dior sunnies and Tom Ford glasses. As I stashed my glasses into my bag, out of a sudden, I heard this loud speaking Mainland Chinese guy speaking to my bespectacled friend. At first, I can’t make out what he was shouting at ( he spoke with heavy Hokkien / Hakka or whatever Chinese dialect accent) but later understood that he was advising my bespectacled friend to hide her glasses as the monkeys are quite notorious. He even gave a really thick long stick to my friend to ward away the monkeys ( if the need arises). Though my bespectacled friend intended to take away her glasses, she could not do it as she could not see a thing without her glasses!

And off we went happily and snapping photographs along the way, monkey-ing ( no pun intended) around with the stick from the Mainlander Chinese, oblivious to the M-I-S-H-A-P that would befell us ( or specifically my bespectacled) friend later!

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We reached the peak of the cliff and the scenery that greeted us was so spectacular. The waves was washing against the cliff.

However, before we can even to start marvel at the breathtaking scenery, I saw a monkey crept behind my bespectacled friend who was in the midst of taking out her point and shoot camera! I shouted and everyone stared at me.

Everything from thereon was quite chaotic. Instead of grabbing the camera, the monkey managed to grab the L-I-F-E-L-I-N-E of my bespectacled friend. Her GLASSES! I was initially going down the steps towards the cliff to snap photos whilst she was a temple / hut when the incident happened.

I quickly made my way back to the hut to reunite with my other friend. At that point of time, 2 things happened – a few guides came to see what happened and there were a few monkeys moving around! Three of us quickly made our way out of the monkey-infested hut and sat on a ledge next to it whilst waiting for the monkey tamer to chase and re-possess the glasses.

One of the monkey tamers managed to retrieve the glasses ( after luring the monkey with peanuts) but one of the sides was detached and the glasses was misaligned! We tried to fix the glasses but to no avail.

But of course, we are resourceful people – my friend used her sunglasses instead. But of course, it was just a temporary measure. The power of her sunglasses is not that accurate but I guess, it is better than you can’t see at all.

The temple is inhabited by a lot of monkeys who grab/snatch visitors’ belongings like bags, glasses and cameras. I think that these monkeys are ‘encouraged’ to grab things as they will be enticed with food by the monkey-tamers in exchange for the loot.

We decided to skip the walk around the cliff and I tucked away my Nikon D90 and hence, no photographs of Uluwatu. After the incident, we were really drained and our earlier enthusiasm were slowly ebbing away.

My bespectacled friend did not want the earlier incident to be a spirit dampener and hence, despite her being visually-challenged, we still watched the daily kecak and fire dance performance which is held in an open arena at the other part of the cliff. However, we confirmed with the guide that there ain’t any monkeys around there.

Admission ticket is not cheap,approximately RM20 per entry and you will be given a 1-page leaflet on the dance ( come with different language like Japanese, Chinese and German). The dance is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. and we were so drained out that we decided to get seated at 5.30 p.m. We managed to get good seats and we chatted and made fun of ourselves in spite of the recent untoward incident. “ These people’s glasses are still intact, why the monkey grabbed mine” she exclaimed as we sat there, people watching.

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Crowds started to trickled in, good seats are getting scarce. 2 things happened:-

  1. Despite the lack of space, they kept allowing people to come in. In one incident, we were asked to move to the side to allow some space for the latecomers. My bespectacled friend was so angry – she reasoned that she was advised to go in early to get a good seat and that was what she did and why should we forsake our good seat for some latecomers. The Balinese organizer was quite pissed off but he did not dare to come and bother us again. Come on, we paid our entry fees too. Just because we do not look like the lavish Japanese, does not mean that we should be treated anything lesser!

  2. We were reprimanded by the German lady seated in front of us for talking loudly at the beginning of the dance. Hmmm. Firstly, I think we were being mistaken for the loud Chinese Mainlanders and she must have encountered them beforehand and it must be some really bad experience and hence, her dislike for us. Or we were commenting about the various sizes of the male dancers and she may be offended ( she came with her hubby and teenage son). Well, whatever. (She was trying to capture pictures of the dance with her entry DSLR but almost all them came out pitch dark, ahem….)

Segregated into 4 acts, the dance is approximately 45 minutes – for us who are not culturally inclined, it sure felt longer than that!

Kecak is derived from an old Balinese ritual called the ‘sanghyang’ –  a trance dance whereby a person communicates with the deities or ancestors in repetitive chanting. Kecak and fire dance is the most unique Balinese dance which is not accompanied by any orchestra / gamelan but by a choir of bare-chested men. Instead these men would sit in a circle and utter ‘chak-chak-chak-chak’ rhythmically and repetitively. Basically the story revolves around the Hindu Ramayana epic – the good triumphs over the evil. The performance is set against Uluwatu temple as the sun sets and the finale includes a giant fire display.

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By the time the show ended at 6.45 pm, the sky was already pitch dark and imagine this : My unfortunate friend was in the sunglasses at night and we were holding hands while getting out from the temple as it was pitch dark. I had to preempt her on the steep steps, left or right turns – it is like blind ( me who was still paranoid from the glasses grabbing incident that I decided to keep my glasses safely in my bag) leading the blind! It was such an amusing sight!

In a normal touristy manner, after a visit to Uluwatu, the guide would usually suggest a dinner by the beach at the nearby Jimbaran. But in our situation, it ain’t normal anymore ( your glasses won’t get grabbed on normal circumstances). Before we continue our day 1 adventure, let’s talk a bit about Jimbaran.

  1. 2 bombings happened in Bali. One in Kuta and the other one in Jimbaran ( just in case you are interested to know).

  2. The guide will bring you to the restaurant that offer him the best commission and hence, the price of the food is quite exorbitant.

  3. If you go to Jimbaran after sunset at Uluwatu, the beach is pitch dark and you can’t see a thing. Maybe hear the waves washing against the shore but I guess, you can do that in Malaysia or any part of the world too. So, if you really want to have dinner there, you need to be really early, say maybe 5 pm to catch the sunset.

In our case, our guide felt sorry for what happened and brought us to the optician instead! But I guess, there ain’t many of his clients’ glasses that were grabbed by monkeys or maybe, they are still relatively new to the job ( the driver did not seem to know the way, the guide was giving him directions most of the time). He brought us to the city suburb, passed by a few optician but we did not go in as the shops look a bit dated, yeah, we are very judgmental and biased.

We made a few rounds and it was already 8 pm and we were afraid that the shops are closing soon. So, of course, I have to show my capability as a travel butler ( I can’t be appointed for nothing, ahem). I instructed the driver / guide to bring us to the optical shop opposite Matahari shopping centre at Kuta. I remember there is a proper and modern looking optical shop there ( I was contemplating to get myself an Oakley from that shop the last time I was there and hence, the lasting impression of the shop and of course, I have a memory of the elephant!).

The driver parked the car the basement car park at Matahari and the guide brought us to the optical shop. The young chap managed to re-attach the side and tried his best to align the specs again. Though not fully and properly restored, it was good enough to be used temporarily. When asked how much it cost, he said ‘whatever you think’. My friend gave her approximately RM20. It was worth every single cents. Despite the fragile state of the specs, it stayed intact during our stay in Bali. Thank God for that.

Thereafter, we were driven back to our hotel. We asked if there is any good food around and the guide recommended us to go to Jl Oberoi. He volunteered to bring us there but we would have to take a taxi back on our own. We were tired and wary of (maybe) anothher flawed outing that we decided to dine somewhere near our villa.

We were torn between a Chinese restaurant and an Italian restaurant. At the end, we chose Warung Italia Pizzeria over the Chinese restaurant as we wanted to save the option for Chinese later in the event we have cravings for Chinese food at the end of our trip! Moreover, Warung Italia seemed more lively and crowded to the Chinese restaurant.

The service of the restaurant was quite slackly. Waitresses with that “I can’t be bothered” look and attitude and less than memorable food. We had Spaghetti Aglio Olio, an artichoke pizza and mixed grill ( grilled sausages and beef). While the Spaghetti and pizza were passable, the mixed grill platter was an utter disaster. The beef was charred and it was so well done that it was as hard as rock!

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We called it a night after the dinner as almost all the boutiques in Seminyak are closed.

The address of the restaurants that we went to:-

Made’s Warung

Br. Pande Mas

Kuta, Bali, Indonesia

or

Made’s Warung

Br. Seminyak

Bali, Indonesia

Warung Italia Pizzeria

Jl Kunti, Seminyak

Bali, Indonesia


Bali Day 2 : Ubud, Ibu Oka Babi Guling, Dirty Duck Diner, Tanah Lot and Poppies


On the second day of our trip, we hired the same driver for a full day trip for RPH400,000 ( or approximately RM140). Not exactly the cheapest but we were quite satisfied with their attitude ( responsible, honest and not pushy) on the first day, so we do not mind paying extra. The guide even accompanied us to buy mineral water from K-Circle ( Bali’s 24 hour convenience store) on the first day! Talk about personalised service.

We were supposed to travel north to Ubud (the major arts and cultural center of Bali), head over to Pura Tirta Empul ( the holy water temple) and lastly enjoy the sunset at Tanah Lot ( a temple that sits on a large offshore rock which has been shaped continously over the years by the ocean tide). If you looked into those travel brochures, there are so many more things that you can squeeze into the itinerary ( e.g. barong and keris dance, gold and silver shopping, Kintamani, etc). Instead, we prefer a leisurely tour instead of  a packed one and hence, just a few places on the list.

The driver picked us up at 9 am ( they are always punctual) and we braved the Sunday morning ( it was 1st May, Labour’s Day) ‘s traffic and slowly inched our way out of town. When we stopped at traffic lights, we saw vendors selling newspaper – local and foreign ones to the people in the car. I guess business is not that great – no one seems to wind down the window to buy. Hmmm. Roads seems to get narrower as we left the city. Two lanes merged into one. Along the way, the roads are lined with crafts shop ( wood, silver and gold) and of course, temples.

The driver asked if we are interested to watch the barong and keris dance at Batu Bulan Village – to which- we unanimously said no.Then, after a short while, ( out of courtesy as a guide since he would have guessed that it was unlikely that we would be interested), he asked us again if we are interested to visit Celuk Village for its gold and silver smith and of course, we unanimously ( again) said no. Hmm, he must be thinking that this group of people here really have no appreciation for art. He did not even bother to ask if we wanted to visit Mas Village for its famous Balinese wood carving.

We were so engrossed in chatting ( or gossiping??) and we were in Ubud in no time. Actually, we reached Ubud at approximately 10.30 am and of course, the first thing that we did was EAT. Our modus operandi was to EAT, shop and later eat again!

The driver stopped right in front the Ibu Oka Babi Guling – one of the most famous restaurant in Ubud. People travelled half of the globe to have roasted pork at this place. Even Anthony Bourdain covered this place.

We were early. There ain’t many people in the warung yet. As a matter of fact, they would have a roasted pig placed right in front of its warung – but, we were early, no such sighting this time.

We were seated on wooden floors. We were early and hence, still a lot of seats. By the time, we left, the warung was almost full.

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I had a bad experience with babi guling ( roasted pork) at Ibu Oka the first time I was in Bali and hence, during my subsequent visit, did not try out any babi guling at all. I just could not take the pungent flavor of the dish last time.

Hence, to minimise wastage and since we are going to have lunch later, we ordered 2 plates of babi guling special ( to be shared amongst the 3 of us) and 1 plate of fried pork skin. BIG, BIG mistake. I had my skepticism initially, but my pork-loving friends encouraged me to try it. They said that it was quite nice. You gotta trust your friends, right…..This time, I thoroughly enjoyed the humble-looking bowl of rice served with paper in a basket! Damn, I can’t have enough of it this time.

Babi Guling Special comes with rice, a piece of crispy pork skin, some fried innards, meat and of course, some chili-vegetable gravy. The pig used is not infantile i.e. not our Chinese usual suckling pig and hence, the skin is a slightly thicker. Very crackly but slightly greasy. The meat is very well-marinated, soft and tender.

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A close-up of the oh-so-tender meat. Haha, I am already drooling as I am typing this.  And you can eat with the accompanying sambal, which I refrained as I did not want smoke to billow out from my ears ( yeah, I tried to be funny).

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The measly looking pork skin. Crispy but a bit greasy though.

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They also sell durians. For RPH30,000 ( or RM10.50), we ordered ourselves a small one. I did not try the durians. I am a durian eater but the thought of the lingering pungent smell kind of put me off. But this durian did not smell as pungent as ours and according to my friends, the taste was also quite bland. Oh wells….

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Gotta dress in all-white to fight the unbearable heat.

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After the early meal, we took a stroll along Jalan Raya Ubud, which is the main shopping strip in Ubud. The boutiques are scattered over a few streets but I find Jalan Raya Ubud being the main ones as there are more boutiques and more things to shop there.

It was painfully hot that we did even bother taking pictures along the road. We find solace in air-conditioned boutiques but too bad, most of the shops are quite stuffy and warm too. We spent quite some time at some boutiques ( nice and edgy in-house / local designers’ items) and we bought quite a handful. However, almost, if not all, are fixed price item. But I guess, if a girl has set her sight of something that she loves, price is of second concern already.

I love the silver bangles ( I did not buy any though as it was way TOO loose for me), the rings ( way too large too) and the long flowy silk dress. Too bad is that some shops actually charge extra for payment via credit card!

The shop assistants also thought that we were Japanese – they were actually talking about us in Bahasa Indonesia. We surprised them with a few words of Bahasa Indonesia!

We walked and we walked towards Bebek Bengil ( Dirty Duck Diner), another popular restaurant in Ubud. Bebek means duck in Indonesia and Bengil means dirty in Balinese)

Gosh, it was so far away that we should have asked our driver to bring us there instead ( it is actually a walk- able distance IF the weather is cooling). Oh well, since we are already half way there, guess we had to keep on walking. We did pass by some interesting shops but the heat was so unbearable that the only thought was to reach the restaurant quick and have a cooling drink!

Finally we reached the restaurant and thank God that we managed to find a table, albeit sharing a gazebo with a group of Mat Sallehs. Dirty Duck Diner is actually a garden type of restaurants with gazebos/ huts dotted here and there and of course, with a breathtaking neighbouring rice field.

We quickly ordered some fruit juices with really funny names. Drank so much fruit juice at Bali that I can’t recall what I drank here. Guess that under such hot weather, ANY sweet and cooling drinks is considered god-sent. I ordered my favourite food – its signature dirty duck, spare ribs and for dessert, its intoxicating vodka chocolate cake.

Its signature, ‘ Bebek Bengil Crispy Duck’, which is crispy outside but really tender, juicy and soft inside. The duck is marinated in Indonesian herbs and spices for 36 long hours before being fried in hot oil for crispy finish. The crispy duck comes with a steamed rice.

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Another popular dish at Dirty Duck Diner is its BBQ pork ribs which is extremely soft and juicy. You can even chew its bones. And the best part is, it is so unbelievably cheap – slightly less than RM20 per serving ( pork ribs together with steamed rice). Highly recommended.

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As for dessert, we indulge in its signature Black Russian Vodka Cake – cake with mixture of vodka and Kahlua, topped with chocolate with crust on the side. They are really generous with the usage of alcohol and it is as if we are drinking the alcohol itself! The crust is very crispy too. A must try too.

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The restaurant has a pond in the middle gazebos / huts surrounding it.

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Lotus in the midst of the pond.

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The paddy field next to the restaurant.Isn’t it beautiful?

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The original crispy duck – since 1990

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After our lunch, we walked back toward Ibu Oka. Everyone were tired – so not much talk, just concentrating on our walk. Luckily, it was not as hot as in the morning. It was quite cloudy and breezy after lunch. We were supposed to meet our driver at 2.30 pm but we were 45 minutes late! We were supposed to go to Pura Tirta Empul but our guide advised that in the interest of time, we should go to Tanah Lot to catch the sunset instead. He assured us that we did not miss much although we skipped the temple.

From Ubud, we made our way to Tanah Lot. We were so tired that we dozed off. I think the guide must be thinking that these women finally shut their mouth! Not sure how long was the drive but we passed through some villages, I was quite a long drive though.

When we reached Tanah Lot, there were already a lot of tourists – a blend of locals and international. A lot of students from nearby islands too. Entrance fee was quite nominal ( just a few ringgit). You would walk pass a maze of souvenir shops adjacent to the beach. Once you find your ways through the souvenir shops, you will be greeted by the magnificent sea and temple perched on a rock.

Me fighting my way against the holiday crowds.

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You will be greeted  with the following. Blue sea and of course, loads of tourists taking photographs. The white shirt guy on the left is our guide.

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It was already my 3rd trip to Tanah Lot, so I did not take many photographs.

Pura Batu Balong – one of the temples found in Tanah Lot.

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Moreover, I was so tired and felt really uncomfortable with sweaty and sticky body.  I waited for my friends while they visited the temple. And of course, my friends are not that nature-loving – they just snapped a few pictures that indicates their presence and they were done!

After Tanah Lot, we were almost half dead. We went back to our hotel to shower and changed to fresh clothing for dinner.

We went to Poppies at Kuta – a restaurant established since 1973 and so well-known that the lane where the restaurant is located is named after the restaurant! The restaurant offers a combination of international, Asian and Indonesian cuisine.

Taxi from Seminyak to Poppies, Kuta costs approximately RPH30,000 ( slightly above RM10). It was slightly more expensive ( normal fare is approximate RPH25,000 or approximately RM8) due to traffic congestion at Kuta.

Poppies Lane 1 flanked by roadside stalls are narrow and hence, only accessible by foot, bicycles, scooters and motorcycles. There were 2 entries to Poppies Lane 1 – taxi driver initially wanted to drop us at the darker side and of course, we refused to come down from the taxi. With our limited Bahasa Indonesia and his limited English, I am still amazed that he understood that we wanted to be dropped off at a better / well-lit area instead. He dropped us to the other entrance ( somewhere near to McD, Kuta Beach) and we made our way to Poppies. The lane was quite long and at a point, I began to wonder if we are at the right place. Asked for directions from the local and was instructed to walk forward. Apparently, the taxi driver actually dropped us at the right entrance i.e. the darker side. Hmmm. Anyway, we reached Poppies at approximately 9.30 pm. It was so dark that we did not have a good look of how the restaurant looks like. It is a garden restaurant and the ambience at night is quite romantic. We asked for special table and was given a solitary table facing a mini pond. So solitary that service ( to take order and call for payment) was so slow. Apparently, overwhelming patrons due to the Labour’s Day holiday. Poppies have special dishes every day and for Sunday, they serve Babi Guling but to my disappointment, it was already sold out!

The ambience was dark. It was as if we were having candlelight dinner.

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For dinner, we ordered Rijsttafel ( a Dutch word that means ‘rice table’) – a feat of small tasty portions of Indonesian delights from all around East Indies. It was the colonial Dutch way to sample the best food of Indonesia (RPH219,000 for 2 persons or approximately RM78.00 for 2 persons) ( as extracted from the menu).

According to Wikipedia, Rijsttafel consists of many side dishes ( up to 40 dishes) served in small portions, accompanied by rice prepared in several ways. Popular dishes include egg rolls, sambals, satay, fish, vegetable, pickle and nuts. It was created to provide a festive and official type of banquet that would represent the multi-ethnic nature of the Indonesian archipelago. Dishes are assembled from many of the far flung regions of Indonesia, where many different cuisines exist, often determined by the religion of the particular island or island group.Brought back to the Netherlands by former colonials and exiled Indonesians and Eurasians after Indonesia gained its independence in 1949, the rijsttafel was predominantly popular with Dutch families with colonial roots. In the past two decades, however, Indonesian food has become part of a mainstream interest in South East Asian cuisine, and there has been a proliferation of Indonesian restaurants in the Netherlands.

The Rijsttafel at Poppies comprised 12 side dishes comprising beef, fish, lamb, chicken, seafood, vegetables, tofu, satays, plain rice, fried rice and dessert. There were some hits and misses but generally, the food was quite good especially the beef, greens and tofu. The satays were not up to the mark, though. Well, the black rice pudding was an acquired taste.

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Apart from the above, we also lempe ( vegetarian spring rolls). The skin is very thick and the filings ( mixture of vegetables) tasted weird. Anyway, I am not a fan of greens and hence, maybe it is my biased opinion.

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The dessert which I think is an acquired taste.

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Although there were a few misses, I think I will still visit Poppies again the future. I just love the elaborate presentation of its Rijsttafel and of course its delectable taste!

We called it a night after the dinner and we used the darker lane ( it was just a very short distance) to exit Poppies Lane 1 to get taxi. It was quite safe. But, we did encounter children sleeping at the five foot way ( and begged for money when they saw us).

The address of the restaurant that we went to:-

Ibu Oka Babi Guling

Jl Suweta/ Tegal Sari No.2

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Dirty Duck Diner ( Bebek Bengil)

Jl. Hanoman,Padang Tegal

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Poppies

Jalan Poppies 1 (Poppies Lane 1)

Kuta, Indonesia