I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Indonesia (6)




One the highlights of this trip was a chance to visit Borobudur, a World Heritage site and a place we’d very much wanted to visit. 




It was a fair drive from Semarang, where we were docked, so it involved an early start.  We’d gathered at 6.15am but various immigration procedures and suchlike meant that it was gone 7 before we actually got going.  Our late departure was causing concern, since we knew that we were in for a long journey but the Captain was there to wish us a great day and promised that he wouldn’t leave without us!  It was raining, but even so, these lovely Indonesian dancers were there to greet us, beautifully made up and doing their best to create a little sunshine on this rather dreary morning.




As a result, we didn’t see much of the first part of our journey.  We did, however, hear the siren of the police car which escorted us throughout the day!  Our coach sped through the traffic behind the flashing blue lights and siren making the journey rather entertaining at times.




The suburbs of Semarang weren’t too pretty in the rain, though our guide, Udin, pointed out anything interesting.  He also reassured us that Mr Puddy, the driver, was very experienced and we were in good hands.  We were to be glad of that reassurance later!




We passed by markets where people were doing deals, buying the odd duck or hen for supper and then carrying it away by it’s feet.  At this point, I was glad to be at a distance!




Soon, we began to climb up out of the build up environment and into a lush world of paddy fields and wooded hills.




At this point, the driving became, ermmm…..interesting!  Travelling in a line of traffic uphill, behind a slow moving lorry, the police car would overtake on a blind bend, waving the downhill traffic into the gutter to allow our passage.  At times, there would be inches between us and some two ton truck and somehow a motorcycle rider would sneak through with millimetres to spare.  Just like in Vietnam, a shared responsibility for everyone’s safety means that people take risks in the hope that others will avoid them.  Oh my.




A “comfort stop” along the way resulted in a rather long line for the ladies!




But we were soon back on our way and passing through coffee plantations, mahogany  and teak woods and  before long, we got our first glimpse of our destination.




Though we’ve seen pictures, we didn’t really have a grasp of the scale of Borobudur. 




But here we were.

Wow.  What a setting!  We did our best to tie on the obligatory sarongs, take photos, look around and take it all in, but already Udin was setting a hot pace.  Photographers did their best to entice us into posing in front of the monument, but we didn’t want to linger.




We wanted to climb!

Well, not so much climb, but we certainly wanted to see more.  Though the steps were steep and unevenly spaced, it wasn’t too difficult because they were in groups of no more than a dozen or so, allowing us to catch our breath on each stage before climbing higher.




Not only that, but our “VIP” status allowed us to begin the climb from the best place and to avoid the km walk uphill to the entrance.




We walked around each level, gasping at the beauty and fine detail of the carvings.  We learned how the nearby volcano had erupted and covered the temple with dust, how it had been taken apart and reassembled with stronger support on the inside.  Above all, we marvelled at the engineering expertise of the builders.




I loved the colour variations, especially where the water had flowed and there was a small mossy patch.




I loved how the pathways were paved like a game of Tetris.




And when I remembered to look up and out, I loved the view!




The depth of the relief and the detailed carving was remarkable and every small vignette revealed a new image, a different story and truly individual characters.




In just one or two places, the pieces didn’t quite match up and for me, that could only add to the charm!




Soon, we were nearing the top.  Standing here amongst the stupas, each of which had a carved Buddha inside, we listened to Udin as he told us about the way to achieve Nirvana.




We enjoyed the company of local youngsters and laughed with them as they took photographs of us and we of them.  Good humour abounds!




From the top, the views were stunning.




We just couldn’t stop taking photos.  But then Udin recommended we follow the Buddhist way and walk three times clockwise around the top stage.  The first time around, we should contemplate the view.  The second, we should focus on the Buddha statues and the third, we should meditate in silence.  That way, we could experience what Borobudur was all about.

We followed his advice and having done our three rounds, we made our way down again.




That took concentration and perhaps it was good that we had gathered our thoughts before attempting those tricky steps again.




By now it was lunchtime, more yummy Indonesian food and a tasty selection of desserts.  The small bananas are always our favourite, the mangosteen is a refreshing and slightly less cloying alternative to lychees and rambutans.  But the green jelly spheres concealed a palm sugar and nutty syrup inside which was a delicious surprise and the cone was a leaf rolled around a soft palm sugar blancmange-type dessert.  All interesting, beautifully prepared and presented.




And accompanied by lovely smiles and charming dancing.




The way home was exactly the outbound route in reverse, though the traffic was incredible.  Believe it or not, our police car got us through, though Mr Puddy’s skills were sorely tested, I can tell you – as evidenced by the occasional squeal from those people who had bagged the front seats.




The Durian season is coming to an end here and there were stalls selling them by the side of the road.  This was another occasion when I was glad to be behind glass.  If you’ve smelled Durian, you’ll understand why!




We were racing to get back to the ship, though, because we needed to be on board for 3.30pm for a 4pm sailaway and it was now gone 3.25.




When we arrived, however, we were to find the Captain and several members of the crew dealing with a rather curious situation.  The tide had come in and the inshore wind was blowing the water over the dockside, resulting in acqua alta!




Concerned as always for the safety and comfort of his passengers, this Captain has been a delightful presence throughout our journey and on this afternoon, he was there to welcome us back and to reassure us that he’d have kept his promise not to leave without us!




Safely on board, we popped outside to see what they’d had to do to keep our feet dry!  The crew of this ship are truly remarkable and once again, we admired the way in which all the senior officers get involved with situations such as these.

And that was that.  The end of another great experience and time for Trivia again.  Would we make it three triumphs in a row?  Sadly not – we were beaten in the tie-breaker!


A fun evening followed – the Crew show is always charming and dinner with a bunch of friends in Signatures, the French restaurant, followed by the Broadway show was a fine finish to the day.  Sadly, we’re nearing the end of the journey but we’re not quite there yet.  We cross the Equator tomorrow and anyone who’s done that on a ship will know there’s fun involved.

I promise to share!


At the cooking school




Through the lush green Balinese countryside then, to the Alila Manggis Cooking School




More smiles and welcomes awaited us there and we were shown to a beautiful sitting area around a low table on which were set a few ingredients.




Cool water and hot ginger tea were brought to us and we sat as Chef Santika told us more about Balinese cooking and the flavours which characterised his recipes.  At this point, we wondered if we were simply going to watch a demonstration rather than do any hands on cooking – and that was fine with us.




But no sooner had we had the thought than we were given pinnies to wear and shown to an open sided kitchen with glorious views of the gardens and the beach.  There seemed to be some serious cookery tools there too – oh my, we were indeed going to be “hands on”!




Chef explained everything fully before we began and we followed his instructions and advice to the letter.  His assistants were there to help if needed but stood back and allowed us to work at our own pace. 




They were happy to offer friendly support with the knife skills – those knives are fiercely sharp, I can tell you!




They were also carefully watching to make sure we crushed the correct ingredients and chopped the others.




Best of all, when we gathered to watch chef do the next step, or taste his sauce before adjusting our own, the “elves” cleared away all the used pots and pans and replaced them with clean ones.  Bliss!




We began by making the basic spice paste “Bumbu Bali”, which involved a great deal of chopping, pounding, grinding and mixing.  This spice paste was then used in the other recipes.




All ingredients were laid out “mise en place” for us, covered in banana leaves (so much more attractive than cling film, wouldn’t you say?!)  Here are the ingredients for the chicken satay, for which we made a peanut sauce too.




Every time we moved on to the next recipe, the things were cleared for us and new ingredients laid out, prepared and ready.  The organisation was superb, the facilities perfect and we were having a great time.




We stuffed squid with chopped prawns which chef steamed in a basket like we’d seen in the market earlier.




He made a spicy curry of tofu and soybean cake whilst we waited for our chicken to marinade




Not a moment was lost, but we always felt we understood what we were doing.  This was a great class.




Last but not least, we made Nasi Goreng.  This involved the use of the wok and a very high flame.  We were advised to fold our tea towels to protect our hands as we held the wok steady – hold in one hand, stir with the other and crack and add the egg with….?  ermmm…..  This was all quickly done and there were plenty of onlookers to ensure that we were ok.




So my tea towel hadn’t burned that much before someone noticed and ran to put out the fire!!




We took the finished (yummy!) Nasi Goreng to the table for our lunch, only to find everything else we’d cooked there on the table, too.  Wow!  We were ravenous, but still couldn’t finish it all, sadly.  So delicious, so straightforward to prepare and yes, of course, we all said we’d go home and cook it again!

We were presented with certificates and aprons by Chef Santika, who was the most charming and talented teacher.  What a great way to spend the day.




Back on the ship, we looked out over the river, watching a lone fisherman walking in the shallow water as the tide rushed in.  We’ve had a wonderful couple of days here in Bali; full of activity and delight.  We quickly gathered our things together and just made it in time for a TeaTime Trivia triumph! 

The “ladies who lunch” took our heroes out to dinner tonight which was fun.  Lots of stories to tell from busy days over more great food and wine.  A day at sea before our next adventure begins!


To market, to market


thankfully not to buy a fat pig.  We’d driven along a village road behind a small truck loaded with cylindrical bamboo baskets, about a metre and a half long and half a metre in diameter.  Only when we spotted the curly tail and a rather large pink backside prodtruding from one end of a basket did we realise the truck was carrying a couple of pigs in the traditional manner!




Anyway, we’d had an early start on this, our second day in Bali and were driving through the morning traffic, towards KlungKung again, this time accompanied by chef Santika.  We drove past small groups of youngsters on their way to school, including these girls carrying their whisk-brooms because they were on cleaning duty this morning.  Coc had explained yesterday that schoolchildren take turns to prepare the classrooms ready for the day, to sweep and keep things tidy.




About an hour’s ride later, we arrived and here we were, in just my sort of place!  We hadn’t even stepped inside before I’d spotted bamboo baskets, woven and stitched in much the same way as the young woman had demonstrated to me yesterday.




We were here to learn about ingredients however, and chef Santika was soon pointing out items on stalls: palm sugar, shallots, garlic here




tobacco there




and a whole range of roots and shoots like galangal, turmeric, Bali ginger and the ginger we get at home, known here as elephant ginger.  Santika stopped each time to break off a piece, to pass it around and invite us to taste, smell and compare.  Fascinating!




All the time I was looking around, doing my best to spot things and to look closely at the goings on, watching people and noticing the small things whilst still trying to gather all the information about the chillies, the beansprouts or whatever else was being discussed.




The stallholders were charming and happy to have Santika stop and talk about their produce.  We learned about the Bali limes – small, hard little fruit with thousands of seeds inside and a distinctive aroma – we had so much to learn.




We came upon the bamboo department then and Santika held what looked like a hat aloft – except it wasn’t a hat but a steamer, cleverly woven to have a more open base to allow steam through.  We did a quick assessment of whether we could get one home…




But my eyes were already on the square baskets and I’m thinking that I’d rather have one of those…




or a colourful bag…




but then look, there’s another little offering down there – and already, my mind has moved on, has been drawn away from the acquisition of things and back to absorbing the visual feast which is all around me.




There are small green woven pouches which are for steaming rice.  The pandanus leaves impart flavour to the rice and keep it contained, so the package can be transported easily for lunch or a snack.




We turn a corner and we are outside again, amongst the melee of sellers who don’t have a “proper” stall in the market, doing our best not to get in the way of women doing their shopping, carrying it on their heads in some cases.




We regroup and Santika has something to share – he’s bought some snakefruit for us to try.  We’ve never come across this one before, so having admired the beautiful patterns and colours on the skin, we do as instructed and peel it away.




The texture of the fruit inside is slightly crisper but has the similar consistency to that of a chestnut.  There are three or four segments, each with a large stone and the flavour is sweetish, slightly astringent but rather refreshing.

We are then told to do something which is clearly against all of our instincts




to throw the peel and stones on the ground and move right along.

Next stop, the cooking school!


Bali continued




Ok, so it must be around lunchtime?  I’m still collecting gorgeous patterns but yes, I’m feeling peckish.




We find ourselves at the Tepi Sawah Restaurant in Ubud, noted for fried duck on the menu.




Very good it is too, though the lady sitting opposite me isn’t so keen.  Not that she says much.




The satay chicken is divine and served in individual little barbecues, each with a few hot coals in the base, keeping everything piping hot.




The setting is idyllic and we could stay the rest of the day, but yes, there’s just ten minutes before we must move on.




That’s ten minutes in a little shop, then.  Where someone is busy creating something with their hands.




The young shop assistant is stitching together pieces of dry bamboo leaf to create decorations for temple offerings.  She smiles shyly as she explains how to make them to me.




It was interesting to drive back through Ubud, a tourist town made even more popular in the recent “Eat, Pray, Love” film and now overwhelmed by visitors.  At last, two women carrying traditional woven boxes of goods on their heads were close by and we were driving slowly enough to finally be able to capture an image of this posture-friendly way of bringing the shopping home!




Next stop, the Neka Art Museum. Right up my street and possibly offering enough details of interest for a whole blog post later.  For now, though,  have a glimpse at a corner of traditional Balinese painting




and a similar area of the more modern works on display




From here, we drove through small villages and at last, I took a half decent photo of  a penjor




Imagine, streets with these either side, swaying in the breeze.  Delightful.




Let’s see, where were we?  In a woodcarving workshop where the work and craftsmanship were first rate, the subject matter perhaps not exactly to our taste and the abundant smell was of Kiwi boot polish.




Last stop of the day was a batik workshop – now we’re talking!  Behind the shop (because the work part of it was a simple demonstration by two ladies of rather impressive ability to draw freehand using a djanting, it must be said) was a traditional Balinese home, including a small temple where the family could worship.




A display of old metal batik stamps made an effective screen, though as always, I found myself questioning just how much of the fabric inside the shop was created by hand – very little, I suspect.




Though these pieces of work in progress by the two ladies was very impressive indeed and showed what could be achieved, given time and expertise – neither of which is a very cost effective commodity, even here in Bali.




Inside the shop, where we mooched for twenty minutes or so, enjoying the air conditioned atmosphere in the late afternoon, there was plenty of fabric but mostly machine made, printed examples of “batik style”, as well as a few puppets with rather interesting faces.




Charming, for sure, and definitely very decorative but once again, we reminded ourselves that it’s possible to like something without needing to bring it home with us and moved right along.  It was time for home.  It had been a long day, we had seen and learned a great deal about Bali and the people who live here and visited some very interesting places.  What’s more, we’re here again tomorrow!




In the theatre, instead of the normal ship’s entertainment, a local dance group came to give us a flavour of the Balinese culture.  Colourful and graceful, these charming performers won us all over with their lovely traditional dances.




But, for today, that was more than an elegant sufficiency!



In Bali


It’s our first time here and knowing virtually nothing about the place, we were eager to learn more.  How lucky we were, then, to have a small group of eight and a really great guide who was happy to share as much information as we could handle!




First impressions were great – warm smiles of welcome and happy greetings of “Good Morning Madam!” from everyone. 




Our first stop was the old Court of Justice at KlungKung.  This was a spectacular place with beautiful details and pattern everywhere.




Going inside one of these buildings revealed more spectacular paintings on the ceilings




Based on the great Indian Mahabharata epic story, the paintings are finely detailed and we spent a while taking photos and listening to Coc’s commentary.




As we did so, we heard a bit of a hoohah outside – what was going on?




We’d already learned that today was Full Moon and here in Bali, that was of special significance as it marked the end of Galugan and here was a procession of villagers making their way to the sea for prayers and celebrations.  As we drove through villages, we’d spotted the penjor outside each home and were intrigued by them.  Though we tried all day to get a photo of one we were not that successful!




I asked Coc about these structures, wondering if they were each made by the householder or if they were bought, in the same way we’d buy a Christmas tree.  He replied with a memorable statement, which said a great deal about life here in Bali, “They are homemade, Madam – it really doesn’t matter how they look, as long as they are made with love” – and of course, that statement was delivered with a wide smile.




The Kertha Gosa is situated on a busy street corner, with a traffic roundabout right there in the middle.  With red, yellow, white and black shrines to the four main points of the compass, women were bringing offerings the whole time we were there.  Having seen these offerings there in the Kertha Gosa, we began to notice them everywhere




Once again, Coc’s words were in my ear: “made with love”.




We loved looking around this place and there would have been sufficient patterns, designs and motifs on one single pillar to keep me occupied for months.  How about this one?




But it was time to move on.




Next stop, the Kehen Temple at Bangli.




Here were more mossy stones, fascinating little temples within the larger compound and no-one but us and a couple of others here.




Brightly coloured ceilings made venturing that bit further into the complex well worthwhile




and the odd, incongruous lightbulb stood out rather!




Once again, I loved finding the small details,




and admiring the handiwork of the people who left their offerings at each of the small shrines.




The ants were finding these very attractive, too!




We loved the huge, old banyan tree, too large to fit into one photograph!




Stepping carefully over the little offering on the pathway out of the temple, it was time to move on to our next stop, which I’ll continue in the next post.