Eating Real Food in Baguio

I call this my Baguio Real Food post because you won’t find the chic or chill dining options that Baguio has become famous for in the past few years. In the 6 days since arriving last Tuesday morning at this cold city, I purposely shied away from the Instagrammable places as I was scrimping a bit for my European trip coming-up in two weeks. The 3-day conference I attended also came with lunch and snacks so I didn’t really go out much to eat. If you’re the “I just wanna eat good real food” this is for you. Of course, I only went to local places (always always patronize locally-grown businesses).

Luisa’s Cafe

Back in those days when there was a toss-up between Luisa’s and Star Cafe, I’ve always been partial to the latter mainly because of their delicious curry pies. Unfortunately, Star shut its doors some years ago.

Nothing’s better than a bowl of very tasty broth with the signature chewy home made noodles.

The dumplings, however, were the tiniest I’ve ever seen. Quite good, though. The bola-bola siopao was forgettable. It arrived lukewarm and had more dough than meat.

Though, the soup and siopao combo satisfied my appetite, I’m not quite sure it was good value as the servings were small. Perhaps, consider it a snack rather than a meal when you come here.

Luisa’s is old-school Baguio and amidst the city’s culinary gentrification, I hope it doesn’t suffer the same fate as Star Cafe’s.

Sizzling Plate

Another Baguio old-timer. The double pork-chop (Php 219) was chunky and sizzled perfectly. The signature gravy was thick and savory. It’s the kind of meal that made one feel so manly. They could have used better quality rice for their Java rice, though.

Nevertheless, it was a dinner that hit all the right notes— filling to the tummy, satisfying to the taste buds.

Jack’s Baguio Restaurant

The lechon on fried rice (Php 80) was cheap and filling. Amidst the tourist-oriented prices in Session Road, Jack’s is a haven for the budget-conscious.

Unfortunately, the sorry-looking fried pork and the bland fried rice makes me think that’s all Jack has going for itself– cheap and filling. Maybe, I’m being too harsh. Jack’s, however, always has a steady stream of patrons everytime I pass by so I guess it’s not so bad.

Central Park Restaurant

The cool evening weather brought Chinese noodle soup cravings again and since Good Taste was full, I crossed to the other side of the road to this restaurant that always had a good number of diners inside everytime I passed by. Surprise! There was a dimsum cart. Unfortunately, only the “snowball” (meatballs with chorizo and egg white, Php 80) seemed tasty. The rest of the dumplings looked like they came from some dumplings factory. True enough, when my dumpling noodle soup (Php 110) arrived, the siomai was a mashup of flour and extenders wrapped in thick sickly yellowish wrapper. I’d take Master Siomai over it anytime.

Good soup and noodles though but not as tasty as Luisa’s. The taipao (Php 90) was hefty and chock-full of meats. Good points on this one.

The price is good value considering the big bowl of noodle soup and large taipao. Glancing around at the other tables, the plates of a la carte orders held generous servings. Perhaps next time, I should have some rice meals and just skip the dumplings. This place deserves another chance especially since the service was quick.

So I went back for dinner and had the lechon rice. 2 slabs of pork belly and a big cup of rice.

It’s just okay. The meat was tender but the skin wasn’t crisp. Also, by the look of the dark-colored meat, it didn’t seem to be too fresh. The service, however, was excellent again.

Good Taste

I finally snagged a table here even if it meant having lunch at 10am on a Sunday. Good decision as the place was brimming with people and by 10:30, large groups were arriving. Of all the rice meals I’ve had, the lechon chopsuey rice (added Php 30 to upgrade to fried rice) was the best value. It only cost Php 140 and the serving was huge. I’m not a chopsuey fan but I wanted some vegetables with my pork so I ordered the combo. Wise choice.

The vegetables were cooked just right– still crisp. It was tasty and mixed well with the large cuts of crispy skinned lechon kawali. It made me regret why I only ate lunch here just when I was taking the bus home to Manila. Now I know why people are willing to line-up here.

Pinares Pagkaing Pilipino

Such a pleasant surprise! This was just at the ground floor of my hotel and I headed here as the reviews on FB promised good Pinoy food. Promise fulfilled! The place had satisfied diners digging on heaping plates of food. My bagnet express was delicious. The pork belly was tender and fried perfectly and served over a heaping mound of Bicol Express.

You know that feeling when you’re happy putting spoonfulls of food in your mouth? Plus points too for the professional and super attentive service staff.

A Little Indulgence

I needed to work so cafes with strong coffee and even stronger wifi was my go to.

Cafe By the Ruins

It’s back and it’s just across my hotel. After dropping my luggage at 8 in the morning, I needed to stay awake. The cafe’s unique take on coffee (cardamom and cinnamon) did just that. For Php 80, you get heaven in a cup. I didn’t like the kamote bread, though. Store-bought dinner rolls were better.

Hill Station

So I rewarded myself with its decadent chocolate cake (Php 150) and good Cordillera brew (Php 80).

Because, I wanted to stay forever, I had the spinach and cheese dip an hour later. I came in around 4pm and had the place almost to myself. Bonus points for the electric outlet by my corner table by the window. Hill Station is still impeccable. Made me feel truly rich and handsome.

Il Padrino Cafe

I came here mainly because I needed to work. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The club sandwhich was hefty and had bacon!

Coffee was also good and strong. I especially liked the outstanding service. Smiley faces and staff refilling your glass with water without you needing to ask for it. Oh, and some of the tables have sockets.

Categories: Baguio, Philippines | Leave a comment

Applying for a Portuguese Visa

My paper was accepted for presentation at a conference in Lisbon in April. It was the perfect opportunity to apply for my first ever Schengen visa. Unfortunately, applying for one is challenging. Just like a US visa application, it’s another step to travel adulthood.

Having previously been granted visas to the US, Azerbaijan, and Turkey (the last 2 just given last year), I was a bit emboldened to snagging a Schengen and Portugal seemed like a perfect entry point.

So here’s how to apply for a Portuguese Schengen visa in Manila.

First, do know that there no Portuguese Embassy in the Philippines. Visa applications are handled by the Greek Embassy in Makati.

Step 1. Request for an appointment.

Send an email to visa.man@mfa.gr at least 2 months before your preferred appointment date which should 2-3 months before your intended departure. In my case, I emailed them on Nov 16, 2018 to request an appointment for Jan 18, 2019 with an intended departure on Apr 2.

Write the following info on the email using this format:

PREFERRED DATE: 18 JAN 2019
Name of Applicant:
Passport No:
Contact Tel.:
Type of Visa: SCHENGEN/SHORT TERM
Main Country of Destination: Portugal
Expected Date of Departure:

If you are applying as a group, put the same information for each person in the same email.

The embassy responded after a few days and gave me a date and time: Feb 19 at 11:00 am. The email stated that considering my departure date, this was the appropriate appointment date. So I guess, 1.5 – 2 months before departure date is enough time for the application process.

You will also be asked to reply back confirming the appointment. I simply responded that I was confirming our appointment on the scheduled date.

2. Prepare the requirements.

Download the list of requirements from the Greek Embassy website at https://www.mfa.gr/en/visas/schengen-visas/application-form.html

Make sure you present as many appropriate documents depending on your purpose for travel. Since I was going to a conference (listed under cultural events), I presented the official letter of invitation from the conference organizer. I also presented the printed program which showed my name in the schedule as well as my abstract to further bolster my claim to attending a conference.

My sister and aunt who were joining me as tourists simply presented the standard requirements:

  1. Itinerary
  2. Hotel reservations
  3. Flight bookings (courtesy of a travel agency; confirmed for but not yet paid)
  4. Bank certificates
  5. Photocopies of bank book pages showing transactions for the past 6 months
  6. Photocopies of credit card statements of the past 6 months
  7. Certificate of Employment
  8. Letter of Official Leave from my university (in my case)
  9. Business permit (in my aunt’s case as she was not employed and she had to show proof of income). Photocopy this.
  • You will also need the following:
  • 1. Application form (download from the website and type in the info. It’s in Word format so just type it in. Do not handwrite it.)
  • 2. ID picture (follow the required size) to be pasted on the application form.
  • 3. Travel insurance specific for Schengen countries. Check the list of approved insurance providers at the website. I always use Malayan whenever I travel as you do everything online and receive your insurance policy in your email immediately. Quick and easy.

Also photocopy your past visas if you have any to save you the trouble of going across the photocopy shop across the embassy building should they ask for it. This is not in the list of requirements but everyone else during the time we were applying brought their old passports with them. In the case of one of our 2 family friends who had a different appointment date, she was asked to photocopy stamped pages of her passport.

Put all of the documents following the order prescribed in the official list of requirements inside a long brown envelope. On the back, upper left corner, write down your name (Surname, First Name) and your contact number beanethe it.

Step 3. Show-up at your appointment.

Head to SEDCO 1 building at Rada St in Legaspi Village, Makati. No sense arriving early as the guard will only let you in the building lobby 10 minutes before your appointment. So be there 20 minutes before and check that your name is on the guard’s list. Wait outside the entrance. He will then announce the appointment time and you all line up and sign the log book and leave an ID. Head to the 6th floor.

Inside the Greek Embassy.

Step 4. Sign-in at the log sheet at the counter. Submit your documents. Remember to put your current and old passports inside.

Step 5. Wait. Take a seat and wait to be called.

Step 6. Pay. You will be called. If your documents are in order and have been verified, you will be given 3 BDO deposit slips. Fill these up with the bank and payment details posted on the bullettin board on the left side of the room. Our visa fee was Php 3,600.

Go to the BDO across the building and pay. No need to surrender your ID or log out at the building lobby.

If some of your documents need to be photocopied, you will be told to do so. There’s a photocopying shop that also sells office supplies across, beside Mini Stop.

If there’s something wrong with your documents, you will be informed and you might not be asked to proceed to the next steps. One woman didn’t have any flight nor hotel reservations for Portugal only for Spain. She was told that she needed to apply at the Spanish Embassy even if Portugal was part of her IT.

Step 7. Submit your deposit slip.

Just give it at the counter. Take a seat and wait to be called.

Step 8. Photo and Biometrics. You will be called to have your photo taken and your fingerprints scanned. Wait again.

Step 9. Get your claim stub. You will be called and given a sheet of paper which you should bring with you to claim your passport.

Does this mean you get a visa?

Apparantly not. When we were called, we were told that there would be no interview that day. Should it be needed or additional documents were required, we would be called. In the meantime, they will process our visa application.

After 10 business days…

Step 10. Get your passport back. Passports are released between 2:30-3:30pm. Just simply show up on the day of releasing. Log-in at the lobby and head up to the embassy.

I was unable to join my sister and aunt so I sent my claim sheet along with an authorization letter and a photocopy of my ID. The visa should be in your passport if you were granted one. In the case of our 2 family friends who were denied, there was a letter explaining the reason why they weren’t granted a visa.

Other Things to Consider:

1. Is there an interview?

The next morning, my sister received a phone call from the Greek consul (my sis gave our house landline as contact number). She was interviewed about our itinerary, etc. The concern was that while my sister had been granted a Schengen visa years before, my aunt and I had nevet had one. The consul, however, recognized that “one had to start somewhere.” My sister assured her that we will surely come back and would even show ourselves at the embassy on our return, to which the consul replied that indeed it was a requirement for first-timers. As my sister narrated it, the consul was very nice and she even said, “So it was your brother who instigated this trip. I wish him good luck in his presentation. ”

I guess, what’s really important is that your able to convince the embassy of the intent of your visit.

In our 2 friends’ case, they never received a phone call. When they were called to get their claim sheet, it was simply given to them, no instructions about a probable interview.

2. So what’s in the visa?

We were given the requested 15-day visa that was valid for 30 days starting April 1 (our date of entry as stipulated in the IT and flights). That means we could enter Portugal anytime from April 1-30 and stay 15 days.

Our visa also stated that it was “multiple entry” and alid for “Schengen states.” We could exit Schengen countries and re-enter any number of times. Suddenly made me think of crossing from Seville to Tangiers in Morocco (visa-free for Filipinos). In our visa application, we checked “single entry” as we were only traveling to Portugal and Spain.

There was also a small stamp at the bottom of the passport page saying that we needed to show ourselves at the embassy on our return.

3. Why were our friends rejected?

The letter said that the information given to support their intended travel was deemed unreliable. Hmmm… what does it mean? I guess they didn’t believe that they would join just to listen to me at the conference. Among their documents was letter from me saying they were close friends and that they will be listening to me at the conference. I should have showed proof that we had previously traveled together.

Also, they could have had a better chance if they hadthe same appointment date as ours. I had already made an appointment for my sister, my aunt, and myself when the 2 of them decided to join. Though I did request for their appointment and asked to put them in the same appointment as ours as we were traveling together, they were give a different date, about a week later than us.

Also, one of the ladies at the counter replaced Portugal with Spain as their entry point and asked them to sign the correction Perhaps she got confused with the flight which had Madrid as a stop over enroute to Lisbon. They, however, did not protest about the mistake. Perhaps, the embassy noticed that it did not coincide with the IT.

Tips on applying for a visa

1. I guess, the lesson to be learned here is to really prepare strong documents that would convince the embassy that your travel intentions are what you say they are. So take time to prepare and understand your documents and the application form. Try to give all the documents required.

2. Have other visas. The consul mentioned in her phone interview with my sister that though my aunt and I had never had a Schengen visa, we both had previous visas. My aunt had US and Canadian visas issued more than a decade ago while I had a US visa that expired 2018 (placed in an expired passport) and an Azerbaijan, Turkish, and Nepalese visas in my current one. They must have some sort of data base as my aunt didn’t show her US and Canadian visas. Neither did I with my US visa. In addition, my sister didn’t also submit her old Schengen visa in an expired passport. In the visa application form, since her Schengen was issued about 15 years ago, she ticked the box that said she had not been issued a Schengen before. The consul, however, mentioned that my sister had a previous visa which was to her advantage.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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?

Categories: Indonesia | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Indonesia, Indonesia, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Indonesia | Tags: | Leave a comment

“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.

Categories: Indonesia | Tags: | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Indonesia | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Indonesia, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Indonesia, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Thailand | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.