My epic adventure in Asia began with a brief rest at The Pod Boutique Hotel in Singapore, then on to Bali, Indonesia, where I slurped spicy instant noodles from a Circle K, prepared by my taxi driver(or taksi, as they spell it) on my way to Tanah Lot. It was the first stop on my journey, where I met up with dear friend AD, who now resides in Myanmar.
After nearly two hours in the frenetic traffic between the airport in Denpasar to the cliffside retreat of Pan Pacific Nirwana, I arrived to a wedding in progress. The resort features a series of lush, tropically landscaped pools and a golf course. The centrally situated grill serves tropical drinks like this banana papaya smoothie mixed with arak, an exceptionally potent Indonesian alcohol. Lunch selections include thick burgers with a variety of internationally inspired toppings as well as local specialties such as fried noodles with seafood, a fried egg, and crispy shrimp crackers called mie goreng.
Room service became commonplace. How about some eggs benedict in bed? We also enjoyed breakfast in the peaceful restaurant called Merica where I first tried bubur ayam, a traditional rice porridge with shredded chicken and a boiled egg. Here the dish is presented with fragrant chicken stock on the side, along with crispy fried shallots, hot chilis, and a sweet hot sauce to add as you like.
Another great dish was the beef rendang, a very spicy plate of curry served with rice. However, I was most excited about trying babi guling, a local favorite of roasted pig found at roadside stands. On our way to Ubud the next day, I asked our taksi driver to stop when he saw one of these stands, referred to as a warung. They open early and often sell out by noon. It was only 10:45am when he spotted this one, Warung Makan Mika, specializing in babi guling. My plastic container held the somewhat chewy pork, rice, vegetables with ground pork, homemade dried sausage, fried pork skin, and fiery red chilis in oil, possibly the most authentic meal I would have on my travels.
Arriving in Ubud, we settled into our room at the amazing boutique hotel, KajaNe, just a short walk to the Sacred Monkey Forest. They brought tea to our room at 3:00pm daily plus a full breakfast spread including eggs, bacon, croissant, yogurt, muesli, cappuccino, fresh tropical fruit and juice. And we practically lived on guacamole and pina coladas!
Crispy duck for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant,Ubud Homemade, was first baked, then fried for an extremely crisp exterior. It was served with soto ayam a traditional Indonesian chicken noodle soup, rice, vegetables, and a selection of spicy chilis and sauces. I started with crispy fried wontons and a refreshing Bintang beer.
AD found a very exclusive restaurant in Ubud called Blanco Par Mandif, with only ten seats per evening available. Excited about the culinary experience, we chose the six course dinner with cocktail and wine pairings, each dish explained by its chef, mixologist, or sommelier; unparalleled service in a magical setting. (full review coming soon…)
Our last two days were spent at Ayana, a resort so gigantic it requires a map and a shuttle and boasts stunning views of the Jimbaran Beach area. It is also home to the famed Rock Bar, the scene of this year’s Halloween party where AD and I enjoyed the sunset, samosas and cocktails like her lychee martini and my tamarind margarita served in a soda bottle.
On our last day I indulged in a light shrimp salad and pina colada on our canopy bed at the Ocean Beach Pool overlooking the Indian ocean. In Bali, the locals are happy to serve traditional dishes and some are wonderfully spicy! I fell in love with the exotic yet comforting cuisine of this tropical paradise.