My Favorite Rice Field Walk

Today’s my last day in Ubud and I decided to spend my morning on the rice field walk that passed through Cafe Pomegranate, famous for its rice field location. It was quite cloudy which made for a good time to be outdoors.

The path was easy to find and follow as I just looked it up at Google maps. From Jl Raya Ubud, I turned right at Jl Campuhan which was the uphill paved path after Pur Dalem. It was actually just before Ibah Villas, the marker for the path to Campuhan Ridge. As it turned out, the rice fields on this walk was just on the other side of the ridge. Seated later at Cafe Pomegranate, I could see people walking on the ridge.

Heading up the steep path. I came to Angsa Bungalow on the right, thus I knew I was correct. I followed the pavement which turned left and then split. The wider path led to the field and for a second I thought of following it; but I remembered a blog that made mention of a narrow path separated by a concrete wall. There were also numerous signs to homestays that pointed to it. I followed this winding path past some homestays and it eventually opened to the rice fields.

Unlike the Campuhan Ridge Walk, this one took me closer to the fields as the path actually ran through it. The fields were also prettier than the ones at the Kajeng Walk.

There were quite a number of cute cafes settled among the fields. Cafe Pomegranate wasn’t open yet so I headed further up the path to Warung Boga Sari, the cafe run by Sari Organic. Ordered a Balinese coffee (Rp 15) and Balinese crepe (Rp 35) and settled at a corner table. Relaxing.

I could have stayed there forever just reading the book I brought along with me but decided to head back to Cafe Pomegranate and snagged one of the precious tables in front facing the fields.

Had the guacamole with pita bread. It had a hint of coconut cream which kicked- up the flavour. But what really amped up the experience is the setting. You’re really sitting right next to the rice field amidst the ducks and the cool breeze.

I must have spent 3 hours there just alternating between quick napping, reading, and watching the ducks. I also ordered a margherita pizza which was flavorful and had a nice thin crust. It was big too. I could really have stayed at my spot forever. It was another “I should have done this earlier” moment. Oh well. When I return to Ubud, I’d love to stay in one of the accomodations there. Really peaceful.

Of the three walks I did– Kajeng, Campuhan, and this one— rhis was my favorite as the path was really pretty. The path gets narrower until it becomes a single lane. I wonder what lies ahead?

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Ubud Eats

Ubud is a foodie’s delight and part of the excitement of coming here and just walking the streets are discovering nice restaurants, quaint cafes, and cheap warungs.

STILL MY FAVORITES

It’s been four years since I was last here and it was good to see that my favorite haunts are still up and serving good food.

Warung Sandat

On my trip here in 2014, I stayed at Taman Mesari Homestay on the same street, Jl Sandat, which meant taking several meals there. It’s still as reliable as ever. Good food, low prices, and friendly service keeps me coming back. For such a simple warung, the couple that runs it still make some effort to plate the food quite nicely. Think of heart-shaped rice. The nasi campur is very good value.

Cafe Wayan

Skipped the famous Sunday buffet this time as I wasn’t to keen on stuffing myself. Just had the popular lime tart and tea. Yup, it still is good.

The garden is attractive and the staff evermore gracious. I actually felt honored being there even if all I had was the tart.

Caramel Ubud

I have fond memories of this place as I was one of their regular customers who visited almost everyday when they had just opened years ago. The only patisserie in Ubud that’s worth its name. Always delightful.

NOT MY FAVORITE BUT VISITED AGAIN

Warung Bernadette

Famous for its beef rendang (Rp 75) which comes in a set that includes rice, crackers, soup, vegetables, and a corn fritter. Tasty and filling. The place is decorated with whimsical metal decors that you can buy. If the wooden chairs were just a little more comfortable, I could have sat there forever.

NEW DISCOVERIES

Warung Kopi

It was my go to place whenever I was too lazy to go too far from my homestay at Jl Hanoman. Supposedly serves organic food. Prices are a little higher than your usual warung. Their gado gado was the best that I had. The vegetables were steamed nicely and there huge pieces of nicely-fried tofu and tempeh. The peanut sauce was also very good and more than enough. At Rp 40k, it was the most expensive gado gado I had but totally worth it.

Warung River View

I lunched here primarily because of its nice spot set back from Jl Rayad Ubud overlooking the river. Nothing special about the nasi goreng nor the kolombok (fried pork in pineapple sauce). The large plates only made the small servings even smaller. Will probably only go back to have a drink and sit on the small table by the corner.

Pizza Bagus

It had good reviews at Trip Advisor and in a place swarming with pizza places, it was the cheapest. I ordered a margherita pizza and a spaghetti limone which arrived close to 45 minutes later! You could fall asleep waiting for your order. The spaghetti was very good– al dente noodles and a light lemony sauce. The pizza, however, was disappointing. It was dry and tasted like something I just made at home. The tomatoes looked so dehydrated. The portions are filling, though. If you just wanna satisfy your pizza craving and not looking for a gourmet experience, it will do. But then again, is ir worth the loooong wait?

NEW FAVORITES

Unlike the other new discoveries, these ones deserve repeat visits.

Warung Ijo

This padang style eatery is good for stretching your budget while filling your tummy.

Kedaton

Stumbled on this coming from ARMMA. An upgraded padang style eatery with solid wooden tables and seats. The food is inside glass display cases and you point to the staff what you want. The dishes aren’t the usual curries and vegetables. There was sate lilit (Rp 3k) for one and delicious shredded chicken dish in a spicy reddish sauce. They also seem to cook new viands when one runs out as I saw piping hot dishes coming out from the kitchen. If it weren’t quite a distance from my homestay, I would have returned.

Kebun Bistro

My mouth waters just saying it. The interiors are cozy though the a/c could be turned-up a bit. My favorite spot inside is the corner table looking out the window. The dishes are heavenly and well-proportioned. Considering the quality of the food, the prices are reasonable. Besides, this is one restaurant you won’t feel bad spending on. I had an early dinner here on New Year’s Eve and I just wanted to stay and taste everything on the menu. The French pressed coffee is good.

Warung Pondok Madu

Why I only decided to check this out on my second to the last day in Ubud is something I will never forgive myself for because I could have had the grilled pork ribs on nasi goreng everyday. Large size (Rp 145). It’s that good. Perfect blend of spices enhanced by the delicous sambal.

Cafe Pomegranate

Mainly for the rice fields and to relax amidst the sound of ducks. The guacame which had a hint of coconut milk was good, though.

GREAT FOR WORKING

Yes, I do some work while on vacation as it’s one way for me to make sure that the holiday doesn’t get thrown out of the window by the sheer amount of work I’m faced with when I get home. Plus, one of my goals really is to work on my dissertation. Aside from the balcony of my homestay, Ubud has lots of fantastic cafes that were perfect— strong wifi, outlets, good coffee, and staff that won’t bother you.

Cafe Angsa

Just across my homestay. Nice corner table with a ricefield view. With Balinese coffee only at Rp 20k, it was my cheapest workspace. No outlets, however.

Monsieur Spoon

Added a French twist to my day with strong coffee and a butter croissant and a good crumbly raspberry tart. The place is quite busy, though.

Ary’s Book Cafe

This was such a delightful find. The frontage doesn’t look much but once you step inside, it’s spacious. There’s even a garden! The coffee is good and goes well with the lime tart. I really like this place as it’s a quiet oasis along tourist-choked Jl Rayan Ubud.

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A Walk on the Campuhan Side

Just like the Kajeng Rice Terraces walk, the Campuhan Ridge Walk is near, easy, and satisfying. The day dawned with blue skies today so I headed out a little past 8 in the morning following Jl Raya Ubud until Ibah Villas. Followed the small faded sign by the driveway that pointed to the downward path to the hills. You can’t miss it. Besides, in case you do miss it, there’s a barrier to the entrance of the villa telling you that you aren’t supposed to be heading that way. At the bottom of the path were steps (again, another sign) that led to the side of a temple. It’s a pretty path as you have the moss-covered temple walls on one side and the ravine on the other. With the gurgling river below you, it’s easy to forget that the busy road is just a few meters behind you.

Followed the sign again and emerged on to the paved path on the ridge. Yehey!

The sun was out and I had forgotten to buy some water but I figured it wouldn’t be too tiring. In any case, there was Karsa Cafe at the village a bit midway into the walk (the entire walk goes for about 10k). Many others were out for a walk but not too many as to be crowded. Yes, you can still take your Instagram pics without too much angling to cut the people out and make it appear to your social media friends that you have the ridge all to your self. The gently rolling path cut through nice views of the hills and was so peaceful.

It was green and more green everywhere.

On one side of the ridge, you could see some villas perched on the hills.

Perhaps, when I have more money, I’d stay there for the views and the peace and quiet.

I finally hit the small village which was home to some villas, painting shops, and cafes. Ordered a cup of Balinese coffee at Karsa Cafe and took a seat overlooking the lily pond.

Again, if I had more money, I would have gotten a massage at the nice spa with interesting treatments— Reike, anyone?

The walk back was, of course, faster as there were many gentle downward slopes which was easier with a little downhill run. Came across many people still starting the walk. Finally back on the road and to the buzz of central Ubud.

So, now I’m having nasi goreng and kolombok (fried pork in a sweetish sauce) at Warung River View, a nice eatery set back at Jl Raya Ubud with outdoor seating overlooking the small river behind the road.

Peaceful morning.

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“Warung” What?

“Warung,” the word conjures little family-owned eateries where you can have an honest-to-goodness Balinese meal in Ubud. That still rings true today, especially at places outside the tourist belt of Jl Raya Ubud, Jl Hanoman, and Jl Monkey Forest. Today’s tourist-oriented warung have smoothies, granola bowls, and pasta alongside nasi goreng, sate, and curry. Nothing wrong really except that prices are a little steeper than usual. Think of IDR 40k for nasi goreng instead of IDR 25k. Some such as Warung Enak have taken it to a whole new level with nice interiors that make it more like restaurant than warung. Indeed, the term warung has come to mean more of a place where Indonesian food is served rather than what it really is

Jl Goutama probably has the most warung per square inch of space. Some are small holes-in- the walls such as Puspas Warung (I found the chicken curry bland, though, and the servings are soooo small).

There’s even a warung of Thai food (Warung Siam).

One of my favorite warung which I always go to when I’m in Ubud is Warung Sandat near the corner of Jl Sandat and Jl Raya Ubud. There’s balcony seating and the owners are friendly. The food is very tasty and well-portioned and the prices low. The nasi campur and the nasi goreng both have a small piece of delicious ayam goreng (fried chicken).

Warung Ijo is another favorite for padang style eating. I usually end up with about 25k worth of food taken from the buffet.

I was surprised how Ubud has changed since I was last here in 2014. More and more Western-style commercial establishments from shops to spas to cafes to restaurants have opened. I just hope the warung lives on amidst all these, maintaining its Indonesian identity.

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The Best Pig

After waiting three days for Ibu Oka since arriving in Ubud Christmas Day to open (they were closed for Christmas Day up to Galungan), I was at the branch at Jl Suweta just across Ubud Palace promptly at 11 am wanting to beat the lunch time crowd. Took a table near the counter and ordered the “special” (Rp 70) which comes with a small grilled blood sausage, fried intestines, and vegetables.

I eagerly looked forward to digging into the mound of rice topped with slices of the tasty meat and crunchy skin of the babi guling slathered with Ibu Oka’s famous sauce.

Unfortunately, it was disappointing. Gone was my “this is so delicious” feeling the first time I had babi guling here several years ago and again just a couple of years back. The meat was sliced too thinly for me to actually taste, much more, chew on it. And the skin! The crown jewel of any self-respecting Asian roasted pig was leathery! I actually bought a packet of keropuk to get some crunch in my meal. I was so disappointed, I made a mental note of eating lechon when I get back home in Manila to make-up for it. What happened? Did Ibu Oka and her pig go by the way of other commercial establishments that lose its sparkle once they earn their tourist fame? At least the service was still efficient and friendly.

I hadn’t finished my yet and I was already googling “best babi guling in Ubud.” That’s how disappointed I was. Gung Cung came up and it led me to the reviews at Trip Advisor. They were glowing with many reviewers choosing it over Ibu Oka. I paid for my meal at the counter and headed north of Jl Suweta past the 3rd branch of Ibu Oka, saw the sign, and saw that the place was . . . CLOSED!! That’s two sinking feelings within the span of an hour. Not good. Not good at all. It was definitely not my babi guling day.

So today, with hope and a prayer to the gods of Bali, I once more took the long road from my homestay near the end of Jl Hanoman to Jl Suweta with nary a glance at Ibu Oka. Okay, I did peep just to see if there was a crowd at a little past 11. Nah! Just like yesterday. Tables were available. Once more, I passed Ibu Oks 3 and saw the sign and saw that it was . . . OPEN! Perhaps proof that this was the home of the better pig, there was a small crowd of locals waiting for their take-out orders. A woman busy wrapping orders directed me to the second floor for dine-in. There were a few diners there. I ordered a “special” to eat and another one to take-out (just because). It was just as the reviews said it was. The meat slices were thicker and more succulent and the skin was so crispy!

My take-out order which I promptly ate when I got back at the homestay was the same quality. I have found the winning pig.

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Walking at Kajang

Except for the shrines, I could have been back home in the PH at any countryside.

I really just needed to walk my legs and see some greenery.

After seeing shop after shop, cafe after cafe, warung after warung, yoga studio after yoga studio, homestay after homestay at Jl Hanoman, Jl Raya Ubud, Jl.Monkey Forest, and all the little jalan in between, I needed to go where the green things are and the walk to the Kajeng rice fields fitted the bill. It was near the town center and was easy to go to. Simply follow Jl Kajeng to the very end where Luxe Villas is or veer of to the left to Sweet Orange Cafe. I chose the path more travelled by — straight ahead to the villas then backtracked my way back to Ubud center.

The rice fields aren’t really pretty as some are a bit rundown but it still makes for a nice walk.

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Happy Galungan

I had unknowingly arrived in Bali the day before Galungan, one of the most important religious celebrations in this Hindi island. Occuring every 210 days, the Galungan is on December 26 this year while Kuningan, the last day is on January 5. Being a holiday, many commercial establishments, mostly the family-run ones are either closed or open half of the day.

Yesterday, At the homestay where I am at, the family was busy making offerings. Out on the streets long bamboo poles decorated with offerings called “penjor” were being erected.

The statues that adorn many homes and temples also seemed to be wearing new or at least, newly-washed sarong.

Throught the day today, Ubud’s streets were made more colorful with the locals in their beautiful Balinese wear. Temples were filled with families making offerings. I had to buy a sarong at a shop near a temple just so I could enter the complex as it is customary even for foreigners to wear one.

Groups of children also paraded the streets playing gongs while the “barong” (a lion-like creature in Balinese mythology who represents good) “danced” (the “barong” used by the children is not the sacred one used in temple dances but the one used for practices).

In the evening, I chanced on this all-boy troop at the streets near my homestay.

They had two gongs (the large one played on the boss and the smaller one on the surface), a bamboo drum called “tawu-tawu,” a wooden drum called “khendang,” and pairs of cymbals called “ceng ceng.”

Two small boys held donation boxes for the barong. It was fun to watch them go down the streets sometimes stopping to rest.

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Life’s a Beach in Jomtien

I never expected much from Jomtien Beach or Pattaya. I knew from travel guides and the internet that the bar scene was more memorable than the beach. It’s another destination that was never in my bucket list but somehow got there due to my travelling companions who figured spending a few days for some vitamen sea before plunging onto the convention which we came for in Bangkok.

Took the airport bus to Pattaya as soon as we arrived from our Manila flight last Tuesday. Of course, the taxi driver ripped-us off with his 100 baht/person fare from the Jomtien bus stop to our hotel. We checked-in at the 60s sounding McCoy Beach Jomtien Hotel just a short walk to the beach. I really liked the spacious and modern rooms with its luxurious double beds. I could have turned the entire 2 days into a staycation.

It was off-season so there weren’t too many people on the streets or on the beach. I was pleasantly surprised to see how clean the shore and the water was. Made me wish I brought swimming gear.

One thing I noticed was the pharmacies that seemed to be present every 200 meters, much more than 7-11.

Even more surprising was how much I eased into the slow pace of Jomtien— simply enjoying the street food in the evenings, having pad thai, drinking tonic water and hanging-out at the Chinese seafood resto-bar while listening to a Chinese pop songs sung by a Thai singer, and getting a foot massage. I was almost sorry to leave. Perhaps, because we were on the quieter section of Jomtien and it was off-season but somehow, 2 nights in Jomtien was just the rest I needed.

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Just another Bangkok day

I had barely unpacked my clothes last Saturday after my trip in HongKong and there I was flying to Bangkok last Tuesday. I was arriving ahead of everyone else for the Southeast Asia Music Education Exchange (SEAMEX) 2018 at the Thailand Cultural Center. With about 30 people in the delegation I’m heading from my university, I just need that one day of solitary mindfulness. Always good to have a little me time.

Having been to Bangkok so many times, there’s nothing to do anymore but just head to After You, my favorite spot for shibuya toast.

I arrived at opening time (11am) which meant a choice of seats and no lines. Ordered the honey toast. Big size as always.

It has been five days already as I write this and so far everything has been going great inspite of walking around the city with such a large group. We even managed to survive rush hour at Sukuhmvit MTR.

A colleague and I have been staying in this wonderful hostel at the back of Grand Mercure near the Phra Ram 9 MTR station. LITA Bangkok just opened about 3 weeks ago and it has been the best budget place I’ve ever stayed at in all my Bangkok trips. It’s a little more expensive than the others but the place is clean, modernist, and spacious.

The staff is very welcoming and friendly. It’s the kind of place where you wouldn’t mind getting stuck due to the rain or the heat. It was a joy to be coming home to such a nice place after an entire day of walking. The students and my other colleague were staying at X9 Hostel just 300m away which made it convenient to meet and organize things.

In spite of being in this vibrant and busy city so many times, there’s still something in Bangkok that makes it enjoyable. The street food, the gentle manners of the Thai, the organized chaos that seem to underlie the city, all these come together to put some sense of why I still don’t mind coming here.

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Hong Kong for another day

I thought the peking duck lunch at Peking Garden was the perfect ending to this HK trip before taking the express train to the airport. After all, we had a whole duck for all four of us! However, as it turned out, HK was not done with me yet.

With nothing to do at IFC Mall due to the crowds at Lady M (that NY patisserie known for the crepe cakes) I just decided to head to the airport though it was still much too early at at 2pm, for my 7:35 flight back to Manila; but nevermind, I thought I’d sit and have a coffee somewhere at the terminal. The Rhoda and the rest of the gang were headed to the HongKong Convention Centre for the food expo.

Looking at the announcement board, I noticed that all Manila flights had been cancelled. What the heck? Checking the FB sight of the NAIA, I saw flight cancellations due to runway closure.

This is the culprit.

My heart raced as I saw 5J113 HongKong-Manila on the list. A quick check on my email and I saw the notice. Lesson learned: always check your email for any airline notice before heading to the airport.

No wonder I saw so many Pinoys waiting at the airport. At the Information Counter, I was directed to the Jardine Services counter where an unsmiling woman simply gave me a piece of paper with Cebu Pacific’s contact numbers and told me, “Call and ask them directly. We are just agents.” 2 tries and 5 minutes of waiting, I gave up. A Pinay seated in one of the chairs pointed me to row D of the check-in counter where a long line had formed. I could have my flight rebooked there, she said, just as she had earlier at 9 in the morning. I took my place in the cue though deep in my heart I knew I wasn’t gonna last long. The Pinay in front told me they were hoping to score a seat at the HK-Clark flight departing at 9pm. The problem is the guys at the check-in counters weren’t attending to the line as they seemed to be from another airline.

I stood in line for about 5 minutes then decided to leave. I called the call center again and a miracle happened! A live person came through at the other end. Umfortunately, the choices were grim: either take my flight that had been rebooked to Sunday or the only available Sat flight at 7:35pm. That means missing the CCP concert I had planned for months. I gave up and headed back to the apartment hoping to catch the gate open so I could leave a note at the door telling Rhoda I was staying the night.

Luckily, the gate was indeed left open and after knocking twice, I left my note. Decided to just stay at one of the benches just outside the MTR station so I could catch Rhoda and the others when they pass through. Plan B was to just score a room at Mongkok. I think it was about that time I was searching for rooms at the Booking.com app that they did pass through as I missed them.

Decided to try to rebook my ticket via the app and there it was — an available flight tomorrow at 9:45 am! I even managed to secure an emergency row aisle seat! So I would be doing the commentary at the concert tomorrow, it seems.

Finally got hold of Rhoda over the phone just as I was about to give up and move on to Plan B.

All’s well that ends well.

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