Friday, 29 July 2011

Days 267-270-Gardens, The Balinese Style

The Spa Rooms at Maya Resort Ubud

I love tropical gardens. They are the gardens I grew up with. And even as I get older, saggier, greyer, these gardens remain in their prime, more beautiful than ever.  

The Spa Room at Maya Ubud Resort 

A great tropical garden is lush without being opulent, unyielding yet civilized, wild but not unkempt.  I love that it is not dainty. Or delicate. Or cute. It is Wilderness on its best behaviour, untamed and idyllic, all at once.
Biyukukung Suites and Spa Resort At Ubud 

In Bali, the science of building one has been perfected to such an art that often you are confused as to where the garden ends and the jungle starts. I have also caught myself asking on occasions,

Is this garden a padi field?

View outside a shop window in Ubud

or is this padi field a garden?

Grand Balisani Suites Hotel, Seminyak

This is not a garden vibrant with colours nor can it boast as many flowers but there is no less poetry 

Grand Balisani Suites Hotel, Seminyak

in its sounds

Grand Balisani Suites Hotel, Seminyak

in its motion

Maya Ubud Resort

or its scent.

Grand Balisani Suites Hotel, Seminyak

You'll see love in a makeshift pavillion 

Maya Ubud Resort

dignity in a stone planter engulfed in moss

Maya Ubud Resort

strength in the parasitic creepers.

And when  

Biyukukung Suites and Spa Resort

Apsara outside spa at Grand Balisani Suites Hotel, Seminyak 

  even apsaras cannot resist but dance and offer you flowers 

Ganesha, corridor Maya Ubud Resort

Taman Ayung Temple garden

Grand Balisani Suites and Hotel, Seminyak

Biyukukung Suites and Spa Resort

 and the Gods descend to keep company, 

offering protection, prosperity and promises

you know this surely must be heaven on earth.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Days 267-270-The Island of 1000 Temples

Entrance to a typical Balinese home through the courtyard-Ubud July 2011

My 1st trip to Bali was in the 90s when travellers were still talking about the three Ks of  backpackers heaven- Kuta Beach in Bali, Khao San Road in Bangkok and Kathmandu in Nepal. I saw Bali then as a student, spending my days mostly suntanning in the beaches of chaotic Kuta, staying in budget hotels and constantly being hassled by touts, rude drivers and peddlars. Bali did not leave a lasting impression for me.

Top of a Hindu Temple at Ubud Market- July 2011

I enjoyed Bali a lot more this time around because this time, I saw Bali as a builder of Indian houses albeit in dollhouse scale. My interest and participation is as deep as an architect's, perhaps more so in certain aspects as every little detail is an exercise in re-invention and re-engineering for the replication in tiny scale.

Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi

Bali, also known as the Island with a Thousand Temples, where more than 90% of its people are Hindus, appears to have more temples than houses. These temples were built in muted colours, often relying on the natural hues of the materials used. Despite being heavily influenced by the Indians and the Chinese, the Balinese practise a restraint in their use of colours not shared by the other two.  I think that's why I favour Balinese architecture and landscaping.

Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi

Tanah Lot Temple on Kuningan,the last day of the Galungan Festival

Tanah Lot

These temples- whether they are built in the middle of a heavenly garden, lying in the middle of the sea or erected against the mountains- are all exquisite, magnificent, mystical.

Decorations on the streets for the Galungan Festival

We were in Bali during the Galungan Festival. A major festival in Bali, it is held throughout the island and is an annual event in the wuku year or every 210 days according to the Balinese calendar. 

During this ten day period, all the gods, including the supreme deity Sanghyang Widi, come down to earth for the festivities. Everyone decorates their houses with bamboo and young coconut leaves.

Women at Tanah Lot

And women bring offerings of colourful rice cakes to the temple for prayers.

The young, the old, women and men don their best traditional sarongs and kebayas. And on Kuningan, also the last day of the festival and the day all the deities return to heaven, Balinese line the streets to watch the procession of the Barongs prancing from temple to temple and village to village. 

Taman Ayung Mengwi

Balloons sold at Taman Ayung

Barbecued chilli corns -Taman Ayung

We visited only two of the thousand temples but both were unforgettable experiences. Taman Ayung was crowded with families as it was Kuningan and the last weekend of the holidays before school started. There were little children carrying the most unusual balloons , wearing the cutest animal hats. We also had the best barbecued corns ever for a mere 3000 rupiah or 40 Singapore cents.

 Crowd at Tanah Lot Temple watching sunset

A picture perfect sunset at Tanah Lot

There was also a crowd at the Tanah Lot Temple but less boisterous, patiently waiting. A hush came over them  when the moment arrived, the happening of the legendary sunset of Bali.  

Musicians at Maya Resort Ubud

And so this is Bali, 
where traditional music is played to the beat of the winds in the padi fields,

Attendant at Maya Resort Ubud

where men wear flowers behind their ears and

Mi Bakso, Mi soto and crispy prawn crackers, Seminyak

where great food can be had for a dollar.

It is where the eternal song of OM is celebrated in every element of nature,
 in a rock, a dagger or a piece of woven cloth.

It was also where I rested my feet for 4 days and 3 nights in blistering July 
and had a vacation that was restful yet eventful at the same time. 

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Day 253,254 & 261-Ingredients for Fish Head Curry

Some of us are convinced that the 1st pot of fish head curry was created by an Indian chef called Gomez in Singapore. Back then in the 50s, where labourers and coolies squat in the backstreets for quick and cheap meals, the resourceful  Gomez had thought of a way to cook the fish heads that were usually thrown away. This dish was thought to be a uniquely Singapore one as Indians generally do not eat fish heads.  This controversial theory was of course promptly rejected by the Malaysians who claimed Fish Head Curry as their national dish. 

The Rollas however firmly believe that this dish originated from an upmarket restaurant  in  India. Needless to say, the dish is the household's favourite. At all time, ingredients necessary to whip up a pot of the curry are found in their kitchen. 

Firstly, we have the fishes of course. There are 2 types here.  The red snapper or ikan merah are generally used by the Singaporeans for this curry. It is also the one strangely preferred to by Sans!  She is of course a frequent visitor at the Rolla home, especially at meal times. The other type is the Rohi which is used a lot in Orissa and Bangladesh for the same curry. 

These fishes were bought in the JJ market in Bangkok- freezing not required as the smell was effectively masked with a generous seasoning of curry incense paste. The dish is a chopstick rest made with coconut shell and stolen from my  mum's kitchen.

Then there's the platter of necessary spices. You will need 

cumin seeds
2 inches
1 tbsp
Chili powder1 tsp
turmeric powder1/2 tsp
coriander powder3 tsp
red chili1
mustard seeds1/2 tsp
fenugreek seeds1 tsp

You will also need curry leaves, preferably picked from the garden with a bamboo sieve that is actually a plastic rement and a gift from sweet Glenda. The metal basin was bought from a shop in  Little India almost 3 years ago. 

No good curry can be made without coconut milk and at the Rollas, only the best are used. I am sure many of you can tell that these are Kiva's. They were bought in April last year but they are as fresh as if they were just plucked from the tree.

These ingredients are strictly optional. The purist will not approve the use of potatoes although okra is encouraged . Cucumbers and green chillis can be made into a side dish of cool and hot salad which some people like with tomato ketchup.  Personally, I think tomato ketchup is a poor companion for any dish, even MacDonald's french fries. All items were bought from JJ market in Bangkok and most of them were touched up with paint for a more authentic look and feel. 

Lastly,  may we show off what many regard as the most important ingredients for a pot of fish head curry par excellence. The utensils! Starting from the left-  a perky ceramic pot gifted by Rosanna when I visited her in Genoa last year. The clay cooking pot was bought at JJ market in Bangkok. The bowls were panted metal caps, ladles were made from the same metal caps, toothpicks and threads. The ladle holder is a wooden bead and the antique wooden sieve was bashed from a badly made metal one. 

I will be off to Bali in less than 24 hours to sample the Balinese version of their fish head dish which is really a spicy fish head soup or sup kepala ikan, sweaty hot, at the Warung Mak Beng in Sanur.  When I return, I will unveil the Rolla's kitchen with all these ingredients in their proper and permanent place.  

In the meantime, how many of you will like some gelatinous jelly like fish eye as souvenirs from Bali? 

Friday, 8 July 2011

Day 265-Gifts From Spain

I want to show you 
just some of the wonderful gifts 
that I have received
when Eva visited.

They are
but a few of the many.

The ones here are picked
for the Rolla's garden.

 Fountain made by Ascension

Frog painted by Eva

Eva also bought this Rusty Pail 

and this quirky watering can.

Of course I love them all.

 abrazos y  besos 
para mis amigos más queridos 
en España
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