Monday, October 18, 2010

We got lost today...

... and this is what we found

Can you find the splash of rainbow?

Putri Malu

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Charm of Purwokerto

Living in a small town has its ups and downs. Purwokerto is not exactly a small town relative to the area that it’s surrounded, but still tiny compared to Surabaya and Yogya. Living here is not always easy because there isn’t much to do, there are no cinemas, no modern shopping malls, and no hip & cool cafes. But after living here for 3 months, I think I’ve come up with a decent list of its charms.

Advertisements used to say that Indonesia is the Emerald of the Equator (Jamrud Khatulistiwa), yet the so-called green spaces are disappearing by the minute in the bigger cities. I get to experience the true jewel here, rice fields everywhere I laid eyes, especially when we drive towards the outskirts of town. The most fascinating thing I saw has been the tidily lined ducks crossing the street or simply following their master along rice field borders.

And with rice fields, come one of its most despicable pest, keong sawah (snails). Luckily, the people here know how to handle them in the most profitable way, turning them into a delicacy. Why a delicacy? Because they have become rare, again, in the big cities, including Sidoarjo (my home town) due to pollutions. I’ve been told that people would come from Yogyakarta, Jakarta and nearby cities to buy the cooked snails as oleh-oleh (souvenir). The family I live with told me that the place they normally go to is located south of alun-alun, in Karang Anjing village. This unique snack becomes really popular during the fasting month and eating keong during this holy month has become a tradition. The most convenient way to eat it is using a toothpick, but if you have none handy, you can just suck it out of its shell. But beware, since the cooking is spicy, you’ll have red hot lips by the end of it.

And with rice fields, come one of its most despicable pest, keong sawah (snails). Luckily, the people here know how to handle them in the most profitable way, turning them into a delicacy. Why a delicacy? Because they have become rare, again, in the big cities, including Sidoarjo (my home town) due to pollutions. I’ve been told that people would come from Yogyakarta, Jakarta and nearby cities to buy the cooked snails as oleh-oleh (souvenir). The family I live with told me that the place they normally go to is located south of alun-alun, in Karang Anjing village. This unique snack becomes really popular during the fasting month and eating keong during this holy month has become a tradition. The most convenient way to eat it is using a toothpick, but if you have none handy, you can just suck it out of its shell. But beware, since the cooking is spicy, you’ll have red hot lips by the end of it.

Another charm of Purwokerto still has to do with its scenery. At first glance, people assume there’s nothing in Purwokerto. Some of them don’t even know where Purwokerto is (I was one of them) and some don’t know there’s a town called Purwokerto. But I think this place is blessed with lots of sightseeing destinations, Baturraden and Curug Cipendok Waterfall to name a few, that can be reached in one hour or less. Yet, there’s one more thing that people seem to take for granted, given that it’s become their everyday view. Im talking about Mount Slamet, the biggest mountain in Central Java, that stretches from Purwokerto to Pemalang. You can imagine how huge it is. I’m so grateful to have it as my everyday view. I just need to look north and the mountain will be right there. Sometimes scarved in fluffy clouds, leaving only the top visible. And sometimes you can see it so clearly, making it look bigger than you can imagine. Looking at it would sometimes make my heart pound so quickly, amazed by nature’s greatness.

I would end on a personal note. There’s an important lesson that I learned while living here, which is tolerance, since we live with another family under the same roof. It was hard at first because I felt like an alien in my own house. Then, I forced myself to open my mind and place myself in their shoes. I began to understand the situation and try my best to maintain a harmonious relationship. There are so many things we take for granted, being grateful everyday is the least we could do.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Jazz Moments with Tompi

At the end of last month, we accidentally saw the big billboard for Cat's Pajama's 1st anniversary with Tompi. I quickly wrote down their hotline number, luckily we were at the traffic light. Why the enthusiasm? My husband has been Tompi's listener since his first album and he got me into listening Tompi. Afterall, it was Tompi's song my husband sang that melted my heart *blush* way back before we got married. The reason why he likes Tompi is because of his unique voice and I assume he's a fan of "scatting" since he can mimic them really well.

It's finally October 1st and we couldn't wait for the sun to set so we can be one of the first audiences at Tompi's live performance. We got a pretty strategic table with a good view of the stage, but not too close to the speakers to blow our ears. After waiting eagerly for 3 hours, Tompi & his band finally arrived at the stage. He just walked casually from inside Cat's Pajama, he seemed very down to earth.

They opened with "Sedari Dulu", followed with a Mario Bros'-themed jam session. It really brought back a lot of memories of nintendo playing days with sound effects like the coin "ding" and the menacing tune when Mario reaches Bowser's underground.

The next one and a half hour went really quickly, before we know it, it was already the end of the show. There were a lot of improvisations in the familiar songs so they don't sound exactly like the recorded versions. Of course there were tons of scatting at the point where Tompi's voice resembles a trumpet and at other times like a squeaky little girl. He could definitely reach the high notes, that was amazing! He's also very creative and played around a lot with his mic.

Finally he closed the show with a melancholic song "Tak Pernah Setengah Hati", which will be officially released in his upcoming new album, out this month. We hope that Tompi will make a come back to Surabaya in the near future!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

War of the Suckling Pig: Gemah Ripah vs Andi Jaya

Warning: This post is not vegetarian-friendly

It’s a rule of thumb that when you visit Bali, you have to try their roasted suckling pig (unless you’re a Muslim or a vegetarian).  Problem is, you can easily find warungs or rumah makan that sell Babi Guling (Indonesian for the roasted suckling pig). So, which one to choose?? I can guide you to two places that we ate during our last visit to Bali.

The first one, which is a family favorite (my mom & dad love this place), is called Gemah Ripah. My dad and my best friend, Winda, are the advocates for this place. It’s true, they have the softest & most delicate suckling pig meat. Then just pour the sauce, composed of arousing spices like lemongrass, shallots, etc, and you’re good to go. It’s a good idea to eat with some salt & sambal matah, available on every table. I don’t know how they do it but the skin stays crispy & it’s the crispiest suckling pig skin I’ve ever had (I know Winda would agree). The motto of these babi guling warungs is to utilize every part of the pig. They’re made into sausages, fried skin (rambak), soup, blood pepes. The most tempting item is battered and deep fried fatty stomach. It tastes so good but you also know that it is really really bad for your health. Unfortunately, the soup was on the ordinary side. Why do I say so? Because I have another contender for the soup, which brings us to the next babi guling stop.

Gemah Ripah
Location #1:
Pertokoan Udayana No. 9
Jln. Letda Made Putra, Denpasar
(0361) 254-327, (0361) 254-328

Location #2:
Jln. W. R. Supratman No. 83 C, Denpasar
(0361) 263-728

I discovered this place last year, while on the way to Gitgit for a charity event. We stopped by this babi guling place for pre-lunch, the name is Babi Guling Andi Jaya. It’s located on the right side of the road on the way to Bedugul. I don’t have the exact address, just the location, Desa Perean, Singaraja. But if you’re on your way to Bedugul from Denpasar, I bet you won’t miss it.

The first time I went there, the only memorable thing was the red rice. The meat, urap, and soup were too spicy that I couldn’t taste a thing. Surprisingly, this next visit begged to differ. I suppose it’s because my tongue has been accustomed to hotness & spiciness already. The suckling pig’s meat was just as tender as Gemah Ripah’s, but the sauce wasn’t as good. The variety of meat was not as many as the other place. Still, the soup has the right spiciness that I can’t stop slurping it to its last drop. The red rice still amused me; you know, it’s supposed to be healthy. It’s very thoughtful of the owner to use it.

There is still another famous place that we haven’t visited, it’s called Bu Oka and it’s located in Ubud. We certainly must pay that place a visit next time.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Diving at Menjangan Island

Dive Menjangan
Sept 16 – 18 2010

Can you spot the porcelain crab?

This was one of those (and many more to come I hope) trips that me & my husband came up with. I told him before that our next diving trip should be somewhere I have never been, such as East Kalimantan, Bunaken, and Raja Ampat. So, when he suggested diving in Bali, I always said no. But then, Lebaran holiday is coming and unlike previous years, my family is staying home for once. I thought this would be a good change, staying home and all. But, you know me, I really have itchy feet and we’re bound to go somewhere, somehow. I was right! Out of nowhere, my husband mentioned diving in Menjangan & I got hooked instantly! Mostly because it is not a well known & off the beaten path tourist destination. I like the idea of going where most of my family members have not been.

Menjangan itself is actually an island on the northwestern Bali, you can read up more here. The island is part of Taman Nasional Bali Barat, so nobody is living on the island. The only buildings there are Hindhu’s Temples (Pura).

The Resort

The choice of where to stay were between Mimpi Resort and Novus Gawana, we chose Mimpi since it’s a well-known place for divers. Read more about Mimpi Resort here. It’s located in the Banyuwedang village, Singaraja. There are more resorts and dive centers on the Pemuteran area. Mimpi resort has the most strategic location, as it’s located in a lagoon, which is ideal for a night dive. Most, if not all of the fishermen boats are parked at Mimpi resort’s jetty. It’s also got an advantage of sitting right on top of a mineral water source, that mean they got hot spring baby.

At first, I was taken aback by how remotely located & how quiet this resort seem. I secretly whispered to myself that we might have chosen a wrong place for a holiday. My dad did mention that since it’s in the Taman Nasional area, the place would be quiet. However, the quietness quickly turned into enjoyable peace and tranquility. It’s also a great place for birds to live freely. So far, we spotted sunbirds, spotted dove (tekukur), babblers (ciblek), Javan white eye (kacamata), and kingfishers (raja udang). The dragonflies also amazed me since I’ve never seen such red-winged dragonflies. I really never thought of myself as a bird-person until I met my husband. Now he got me into birds too! However, I find it sad to see birds caged as pets. I mean, birds have wings for a reason. They use them to fly. Flying is their life. What are they supposed to do with their wings if they’re caged? That’s why I was so happy to spot those birds in the wild.

We stayed in the Patio room and the Courtyard Villa, each for one night. From our experience, we can say that the Villa is worth the price. The patio is a very basic room with no TV and no hot water maker. So when we first entered the villa, we were awed. The amenities were complete, TV, hot water maker, tea, coffee, and even a loft (where the extra bed is located). There’s also a private hot spring pool in our private garden. Next to it is a bale bengong where you can spend your day lazying around. By the way, the HOT SPRING is one of this hotel’s main attractions. It’s very nice to just submerge yourself in the natural hot spring pool after a night dive (although it must be done with precaution).

In terms of food, there’s no other choice but to eat at the resort’s only restaurant. We ate there day and night for 3 days. It’s no surprise if the food price is on the high side plus 21% tax & service charge, starting from around IDR 30.000 for appetizers.

Despite the low occupancy at that time, the resort was really well maintained. It’s super clean, almost no trash in sight. The mangrove area was particularly clean too. According to our dive guide, Lebaran holiday usually brings a lot of locals, the resort was full a week ago.

A couple of tips before going to this resort or any other resorts in this area are to purchase bottles of Aqua upon you arrival in the big city (either Denpasar or Gilimanuk) and to bring a heap of readings in case you’re neither into diving nor trekking.

Diving at Menjangan Island

Who knew that you don’t need to go as far as Bunaken in Sulawesi to see incredible and colorful corals? The corals at Menjangan Island will fascinate your eyes already. Perhaps since I’m comparing it to the corals at Gili Trawangan, I found the corals here to be out of this world. I’m not all that knowledgeable about corals, all I know is there were definitely table corals, anemone, and fire corals. Anyone can name more?

Thanks to our sharp-eyed dive guide, Mr. Putu, we were able to see creatures we would otherwise miss. Diving in Menjangan is categorized as muck diving, where you’d dive really slowly while trying to identify one macro creature after another. While at Menjangan Island, we dived at 2 sites, POS II and Coral Garden. We didn’t go to the Eel Garden because Mr. Putu said the current is quite strong there. 

Diving here can also be categorized as wall diving since you’re mostly diving next to the walls, which is the underwater extension of the Menjangan Island itself. I was having trouble with my buoyancy under water and almost hit some of those fragile corals. Either my husband or Mr. Putu was always saving me. Need more practice, Cindy. (read: more diving please!)

Amongst the creatures we spotted were crabs (hermit, orangutan, porcelain), puffer fish, starfish, pygmy seahorse, nudi branches, cleaner shrimps, Jack school, jaw fish, ribbon eel, pipe fish, goby, urchins, bat fish, clown fish, lion fish, and black-tip reef shark. A shark? YES, a SHARK! Well, make it two. We were wall diving at POS II and not long after we saw the school of jack fish, a shark came swimming by in the distance. O my gosh it was such a surprise, that was truly a beginner’s luck. Yay! There wasn’t supposed to be many pelagic here in Menjangan. Maybe some occasional turtles and eagle rays, but not sharks. That was my first time spotting shark and a second time for my husband. 

I was amazed by all of these sea creatures, but I almost cried tears of happiness when I saw a single ribbon eel sticking out of the sand hole. I think I have affinity to sea eels, the same feeling I got when I saw a moray eel back in Gili Trawangan. I’m also happy that I finally see a lion fish and a nudi branch. The variety of crabs was really amazing too. There was one crab camouflaged as if it were a rock, it somehow looked like a tempura, so I call it tempura crab, but no idea what it’s actually called.

On average, we dived at 15 – 18 meters with very good visibility of 15 – 20 meters. The water was really warm too, around 28 – 31 degrees Celsius. There were a bit of currents, but very mild. 

During our 3-day 2-night stay, we did 4 dives, 2 of them being night dives.

The Night Dive

We did 2 night dives in total, first at Mimpi Chanel and the second one at the Lagoon for some Mandarin fish mating session. We spotted quite a lot of creatures on the first night dive, such as bump head parrot fish, hermit crab, pipe fish, puffer fish, red shrimps and pencil urchin. I noticed some glittery stuff on the corals, thinking that the corals produced them. Then, on our second night dive I realized that they were the little shrimps’ eyes! Wow!!! They glow in the dark! Other than that, we didn’t have much luck finding Mandarin fish. We were a few minutes behind schedule and those lovely patterned fish were already back inside the corals, sleeping after an exhausting mating activity. We did spot some pajama cardinal fish, which Mr. Putu said to be indigenous to the area.

Trekking at TNBB

We really enjoyed this 2-hour trek but I still think charging IDR 350.000 per person for a 2-hour guided trek is still too expensive. Our guide, Mr. Wardi knows the park really well and has a very keen sight and hearing. Thanks to his sharp eyes, we were able to spot the lovely orange-red kingfisher, which is endemic within the national park, according to our guide. Unlike the common blue kingfisher, this small bird has a vibrant red color all over with an orange beak. They prefer to fly around the water, so keep a watchful eye for them when you’re near the water. 

The next attraction was a flock of black monkeys up in the trees. We were able to spot them and followed them for a while. My husband even captured a tail of its young, which is characterized by a light yellow/golden color in contrary to the all black adults. They were really shy, but we did spot one of them sleeping on a tree branch.

There were two main trees that inhabit the national park, they were banyan tress and lianas. I found the lianas fascinating because their seemingly fragile branches are actually very strong. You can use it to hold on to and get across the river during rainy season. During dry season, the branches store water, I wanted to try to cut it and see if it were true…

On the last day of our stay, I noticed that are a lot of baby fish pooled near the jetty. Some are just black fish but there were some pipe fish and even a black & yellow butterfly fish. Amazing! It makes sense that the young stays on water’s edge since it’s safe from predators. I also found out that when the tide is low, one-clawed little crabs crawled out of their holes to look for food. There are also lots of blennies hopping around the rocky sands. Yes! Hopping on land!!! How amazing is that?? Love those tiny fish!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sapi Bali in Yogya

Just got back from my trip to Menjangan, Bali and I owe myself a review of Sapi Bali. It's been almost a month since we visited Sapi Bali in Yogya but the experience is still fresh!

First time I heard of Sapi Bali was from my husband (who else?) and I wasn't interested at all at the time. When you're in Yogya, you'd want to savor the local cuisines, not a Balinese food. But don't let the name fool you. It's actually quite catchy as the Hindhu Bali people don't consume beef, so this could a one of a kind restaurant.

This eating joint is located in the Palagan area, on the way to Kaliurang. When you see the sign of Rumah Palagan, you are close by. The dining area is set facing an empty field (supposedly a rice field maybe?) with modest furnitures. The waiter served us promptly but didn't know much about anything when we ask him questions like if Sapi Bali is actually from Bali.

I spotted a camcau plant growing vigorously next to where we were sitting & noticed they serve camcau drink, so I immediately ordered that to go with my grilled cow ribs, Balinese sausage, & clear rib soup.

I was amazed by the size of the portion in comparison to the price of only IDR 33.000! We dug in and found comfort on first bite. The meat was tender & the spices were just right, not too much yet enough to make the cow smell (bau langur) at bay. The turmeric soup that came with it was refreshing as well, a little on the spicy side. I found the sausage to be so-so, reminds me of sausages found in nasi campur Bali, but made from beef instead of pork.

At first, I had doubts about the clear non-spicy soup, but then I was surprised by the richness of the broth. The meat was just as tender & there were pieces of potatoes, carrots, & kidney bean inside. However, as much as I hate being the buzz killer, when we walked out of the joint, we saw a shipment truck unloading cartons of Knorr chicken bullion. You know what that means.. Uh oh...

Finally I have to complain about their es camcau (es cincau ijo/es daluman). It's said on the menu that they used roasted coconut for the coconut milk, but it tasted really rough, not smooth the way coconut milk should be. And the camcau itself, kinda tasted like they added lime juice in it. I much prefer the all natural camcau, like the way my mom makes it.

Overall, it was still a very nice experience and I would come back to try their other items like Ayam Betutu and their interesting minty juices.

Sapi Bali
Jalan Damai

Lesehan Oseng Mercon Bu Narti

I'm a fan of salty and savoury food, that's why my cooking tends to be on the salty side, but compensated with lots of spices. So, when I browse the internet for recommended culinary destinations in Yogya, the name Oseng Mercon Bu Narti caught my attention. It's described as an ultra spicy stir fry of daging tetelan with a composition of 1 kg chili paddy per 10 kg of beef. I drooled looking at the pictures, somehow spicy things draw up my saliva quickly. So, I nagged my husband to take me to this place no matter what.

The fateful day arrived and we drove to KH Ahmad Dahlan to locate this particular tent. Apparently, people are trying to steal some of Bu Narti's fame by setting up their own Oseng Mercon tents along the street, so it took us a couple of minutes to find Bu Narti's humble tent. We walked in and immediately ordered, "Oseng mercon satu buk." The other items caught our attention, so we ordered Grilled Quail (Burung Puyuh) and Fried Catfish (Lele Goreng). And we sat idly on the mat along with other couples & families.

This is the first time for us as a married couple to dine on the curbside.

Food came, along with two plates of steaming white rice. We dug in. Ouch! The oseng was truly spicy, not on first bite, but a few seconds after that. You get that burning sensation in your mouth. It was not only hot & spicy, but also very oily as they use unwanted parts of beef laced with fat. I can feel the fat hardening on my lips as I ate. Not a good feeling. Towards the end of our dinner, we can see the liquefied fat hardening on the oseng mercon's plate. I'd think twice about eating oseng mercon again. I wasn't a fan of the taste either. Sorry peeps.

The saving grace lied on the grilled quail and fried catfish, unlike the oseng mercon, I like these two much better. Though they could make a better sambal to make this dinner a complete experience.

But, who am I to complain. Overall we enjoyed eating on the floor with our hands. That's the beauty of eating on the curbside.

Afterwards, we drove to find Susu Murni Papiti, allegedly located on the north ring road near JIH. Couldn't find the tent :(
Anyone who could instruct me to find this famous fresh milk tent would be appreciated.

Oseng Mercon Bu Narti
Jl. KH Ahmad Dahlan, Purwodiningratan
(0274) 550258, 6501371