Southeast Asia travel

Settling into Sanur

On the beach, Sanur

In a break from tradition, I was up for sunrise for the second day in a row. This is so unusual for me that I found myself often referring to the sunrises as sunsets whenever we talked about our mornings.

Double Rainbow!!!!!!!
Double Rainbow!!! Before the westside cloud burn-off.

Our friends, A & B, were set to arrive mid-afternoon. We spent all morning in the sun, moving only to walk into town for lunch.

Green Leaf Organic Warung

We found Green Leaf Organic Warung by happenstance, a restaurant west of our hotel by about a 10 minute walk into Sanur. I went for the Ayam Lalapan (fried chicken!) and guess what Mr. T ordered? Nasi Campur! He’s a loyalist, that one.

Fried Chicken - Ayam Goreng Nasi Campur #3

This meal was spectacularly fresh. Happy and well-fed, we walked back to our hotel to discover our friends had arrived and set up camp on the beach. I ordered celebratory Coconut Juice, with extra limes. Like all the watermelon juice I’ve been ordering for breakfast, this made me feel particularly detoxified. And also very very full. There’s a lot in that coconut.

Coconut Milk!

We put in more beach reading time before another serendipitous find for dinner at Rasa Senang.

Beef Rendang
I would later put in good effort hunting for fantastic Beef Rendang again.

We took a post-prandial stroll to the grocery for aloe vera, lotion, and more SPF 50. Some of us are real white and burned through all our sunscreen in two days. Locals even expressed concern about my SPF strength, in between solicitations for mani/pedis. Their comments strengthened my resolve to try to stay as pale as possible and not be silly and try to tan which NEVER EVER EVER works for me.

I missed sections, as you do, so at the store I bought lotion along with the SPF. The next day I discovered a key ingredient in the English Translation of the lotion was “skin whitening.” This explains why the salesgirl giggled a lot when she escorted me to the register. Girl, I’d giggle too if I was selling that kind of body creme to the whitest lady I’d ever seen. Well, it was soothing lotion anyhow.

I couldn't stop giggling at the notion of an Irish band for tourists in Indonesia
The leprechauns playing were of Indonesian descent. I found this charmingly amusing.

Husband Daycare Center
My husband did not take up my suggestion for him to pose in front of this, even though this venture would be perfect for him. (He does not share my love of foreign grocery shopping.)

Southeast Asia travel

Our First Full Day in Sanur, Bali

More sunrise from my pagoda
The upside to falling asleep before dinner is that if you keep on til morning, you’ll get 14 hours of sleep AND be up in time for the sunrise.

La Taverna's Private Beach at Sanur
We kept today low-key: we stuck around the hotel mostly, but also wandered into townto check out some local food.

Come Sail Away

This sign is as old as film.
Fuji film sign photo by Mr. T

Sanur, Bali, has a 5 km boardwalk. We wandered the southern half on that into town to visit Warung Belanjung (aka Warung Blanjong) for more Nasi Campur (Mr. T’s beloved mixed plate) and Siap Betutu. Siap Betutu is chicken cooked in Balinese spices, wrapped in banana leaves with a side of rice and green beans. Later that evening at the Bonsai Cafe, I tried a similar dish, but this time with fish. Both would be worthwhile recreating at home.

Nasi Campur #2 Siap Betutu

Mostly, we relaxed into our surroundings today. We spent hours on the beach where I skillfully sunburned a single kneecap.

From our lounge chair, to the left

From our lounge chair, to the right

It was a delightfully lazy day.

A Happy Beach Bum

Southeast Asia travel

Arrival in Bali — Jetlag: 1, Us: 0

Somewhere over the Bali Sea
We flew into Denpasar on Bali by noon, via Air Asia. I’d never heard of them before this trip and now I can tell you they’re much like a cross between Virgin America in style, with a dash of RyanAir low-cost thrown in. We splurged the extra $5 to reserve in the front section, but passed on any of their meals or shopping deals. I was impressed overall with Air Asia and wouldn’t hesitate to book with them again.

See the world in green and blue

Our hotel, La Taverna, sent us a driver with an air-conditioned SUV. He was a welcome sight after a humid, 30-minute wait in the Visa line. After another half hour drive, we checked in, cranked up our AC immediately to counter the oppressive heat, and made hunting for lunch our first order of priority.

We only made it one more hotel down the boardwalk to Tandjung Sari before realizing it was not within us to trek further. I ordered my first Mie Goreng with Satay. (“Put an Egg On It!” would be my de facto request for the next few days.) He ordered his first Nasi Campur of many of the trip — an Indonesian mixed plate consisting of rice and a variety of other tastes.

Mie Goreng with Satay -- put an egg on it! Nasi Campur #1

And then we both crashed for 14 straight hours.

Southeast Asia travel

Singapore Changi Airport – Ambassador Transit Hotel – Terminal 1

The Best Airport Idea
27 is my lucky number

For years, I’ve read Singapore’s Changi Airport recommended as designed for long layovers, and today we finally put that advice to the test. We were lucky to have a quick 2-hour connection at Tokyo, but conveniently direct 19-hour routes from Seattle land you in Singapore very early in the AM. As in, 1 AM early with an 8-hour layover before our next leg to Indonesia. This makes for a very long journey, I tell you what.

I followed the great Internet’s advice and reserved ahead at the in-terminal hotel. I didn’t know what to expect. What this place going to be gross? Was my luggage going to be stolen? Was this going to agitate Singapore customs and immigration if we didn’t show up right away to collect our luggage? I was very nervous about the arrangement. We’d have to head directly to the hotel from the gate. No customs, no immigration, no picking up baggage because you can’t re-enter the terminal once past a checkpoint.

I emailed the hotel manager beforehand about the luggage –> Is it safe? Did people do this routinely? I was assured yes. Google backed me up. Mr. T wasn’t too worried about our bags being stolen and reminded me the city-state was famously strict. I wasn’t sure if this would work for or against us.

We gambled for the solid 6 hours of sleep. We arrived on schedule. Lo and behold, our gate was one escalator from the hotel. I’m glad we made a reservation because we watched someone get turned away as we arrived. We whisked through check-in, showered in a private room, and were asleep within 15 minutes. (Bonus: I felt pretty pleased with myself for having remembered to pack fresh sleeping clothes in my carry-on!) It could not have been easier, plus they provided coffee, tea, and TV! Make no mistake, it was no frills and basic. We had a good laugh over the fact that the curtains didn’t actually cover any windows but hey, nice touch! The water was hot, everything was CLEAN, and the bed was better than some you’ll find in certain central European 3-star hotels.

When it was time to answer our wake-up call, we moseyed out to immigration. We found zero lines and zero hassle. Next, we found baggage claim. Our bags were kept safely in a secure area — we showed our boarding passes and baggage tickets to leave with them. This was a detail missing elsewhere on the internet, so I’m sharing that knowledge here.

In minutes, we were on our way to our first Asian breakfast of Laksa and Chicken Rice, before our next ride to Bali!

Above Singapore

Above the Java Sea

Southeast Asia travel

Off We Go

Off We Go
This afternoon, we took off for points in Southeast Asia: to Bali, Indonesia, via Tokyo and Singapore. This is somewhere over Puget Sound.

(More to come, after I make it through the first week of jetlag.)

about Seattle

Who you gonna call?

Who you gonna call? Chris Hansen! (Atlantic Crossing)
Those are some clever artists at the Atlantic Crossing. (We were en route to Pies and Pints, the long way.) There’s always a different sign out there.

about Seattle

Smith Tower, in Autumn

Autumn, Smith Tower

Smith Tower, just before sunset, Fall 2011.

(Also, I finally published my post on our day in The Connemara.)

about Seattle

Fall struck the Brandywine Maple

Fall struck the Brandywine Maple
We planted this fella, to add more color to the local world amongst the evergreens. Glad it’s working out.

about Seattle

Ray turns 40.

The book of Toasts
One of Mr. T’s old colleagues turns 40 next week. His girlfriend threw a combination 40th birthday + housewarming tonight.

I like to peruse people’s bookshelves, and found this gem — a 1904 book of Toasts. I tried to find one suitable for the man of the hour, but many were like this:

From the book of Toasts


about Seattle

Pasta with Gnomey

Gnomey's flowers
If you ever get an invite to eat pasta made by the Gastrognome and her DHBiker, you should jump all over that.

(I loved her fall flowers, too!)

about Seattle

I Often Wonder

I often wonder how I'll look back on this time.
…how I’ll look back on this time.

(Mid-Autumn 2011, overlooking Pioneer Square.)

about Seattle

Foodcentric Book Club, at Brook’s

I love what Brook did here!
I love what my friend, Brook, did here with the lighting and color in her main room. She hosted our Foodcentric discussion tonight of The Feast Nearby, by Robin Mather.

international Ireland travel

The West – Connemara and Ballynahinch

Coastal Connemara
Mr. T and I rented a car from the D4 Sixt, bright and early. For our big weekend plans, we were off to explore the Irish backroads and stay in a castle.

By noon, we’d gone from the metropolitan east coast of Ireland to the rural west. We stopped at Westport, for lunch at a place I imagine is your typical Irish-style diner. I ordered a chilli chicken sandwich (I was going for spice). I don’t really know why I keep doing this in Ireland when I should EMBRACE THE POTATO. Mr. T fared better with this shepherd’s pie thing.

Pony rides!

We found a Fall Festival going in Westport.

Westport pony

After admiring their livestock, we moved right along to the coast. Mr. T’s (Irish) colleague strongly recommended we take the N59 from Westport to Clifden to Ballynahinch. Conveniently, this specific drive is also Rick Steves recommended so we had a handy Kindle guide to provide more context en coastal route. The whole shebang loops you through The Connemara, so you get a scenic drive past lakes and Kylemore Abbey and the bogs and a national park.

The Coffin Ship

Our first stop out of town was the National Famine Memorial, situated near Croagh Patrick. This Croagh (mountain, not pictured) is the site where St. Patrick expelled those snakes which is very near where many Irish left for other lands to escape dire poverty. We took a photo break at the famine ship sculpture before continuing onto the boglands.

Connemara National Park

At Connemara National Park (pictured above), we got out for a brief hike to see what a bog is all about. It is this precious energy resource that looks like it could easily be taken for granted but is now protected from over-development.

I kept asking Mr. T, so is that bog? What about over there? What do you think?

These Sheep Are Taking a Stand, They Will Not Be Herded

We rolled on through the wilderness, past sheep and the coast and lakes and farmland.

Before nightfall, we arrived at our evening’s destination, Ballynahinch Castle, in time for an early meander around the grounds and dinner at a pub.

Pictures on the castle tomorrow.

international Ireland travel

Grand Canal Grocery Delicacies + Crackbird

Haggis Chips
I reached the point I always get to in our travels, where I paid a quality solo visit to a grocery near where we’re staying. The Fresh market I found is bigger than a EuroSpar, but smaller than your average American cousin. Inside, my favorite find today were the Haggis chips from Scotland. Options seemed global in scope, I presume for all of the transplanted tech workers living in the D4.

Hot Dogs in a Can!
The hot dogs in a can sorta freaked me out though.

Tonight, we visited Dublin’s Crackbird out with an old friend — Sasha — and her partner. She’s lead me to all of my favorite Dublin restaurants. This one will be worked into my regular rotation for they specialize in my favorite addiction: fried chicken.

On this evening, they also happened (unexpectedly) to have a DJ…whose mixing made it practically impossible to carry on a dinner conversation but seemed popular with a hipster crowd. I took to calling the joint a Fried Chicken Disco.

Once we polished off our birds, we retired to a quite civilized watering hole, where our ancient ears could recover and we could catch up on life since our last dinner together.

international Ireland travel

Dublin Oktoberfest

A New Island in the Liffey
Late this afternoon, I met up with a Seattle friend who just relocated to Dublin. We headed over to the Dublin Oktoberfest at St. George’s Dock. They channeled Munich well — the entire festival smelled like sausage and beer and sauerkraut and pretzels.

For the first time this week, the sun broke out from behind clouds as we walked home along the Liffey.

That little island in front of my favorite Dublin bridge (the Samuel Beckett) with the orange tent is an art installation for the 2011 Fringe Festival — No Man’s Land/No Man is an Island. An artist is supposedly living there during the entire Fringe Fest. Later, a cabbie told me the conspiracy was that he had a trap-door to a warm room below. Conspiracy!

international Ireland travel

That’s About the Size of It

"That About the Size of It"
When I signed up for “That About the Size of It” as part of Fringe Fest, I was expecting an entertaining but nerdy 40 minutes of science talk by Niamh Shaw. Actually, I don’t really know what I was anticipating based on this festival sheet, but what I watched was better.

Yes, she started about CERN, the search for the God Particle, atoms, neutrinos, but quickly moved into very autobiographical stories about trying to find her calling, about lives she didn’t pursue and where those paths live on now. We imagined the co-existence with her as she talked, while videos projected behind her of those possible alternate lives, running along at their present courses in a 10th dimension.

It was absorbing and gave me a whole new way of re-imagining my past and present, for the next time I go wandering down those paths of my own.

international Ireland travel

All Things Considered, It’s a Nice Place to Start

Another Alley in Temple Bar

One of the things you should know about Dublin is that as a matter of course, it punches well above its weight class with its (frequently free) museums, special libraries, and cultural activities. We are especially lucky to be visiting during September for Dublin’s Festival Season. During our two week visit, there’s the GAA All Ireland Finals, Dublin Fringe Fest, Dublin Theatre Festival, Arthur’s Day, Culture Night 2011, Dublin Contemporary 2011, and even an Oktoberfest on the Liffey. That’s just in the city.

All Things Considered, It's a Nice Place to Start

Today at lunch, I checked out “All Things Considered, It’s a Nice Place to Start”, a play for Dublin’s Fringe Festival. These playwrights wrote letters to 300 strangers, targeted amongst all the counties and social classes, thanking them for the good things they’d done. Then they wrote a play about the response of their attempt to combat a grim climate in a dark time, fighting cynicism with quirky Irish optimism. It was a good hour.

I also made a quick stop at the National Photographic Archive, to check out their “Irish Children through the Ages” exhibit. It’s a small space, and this year, I enjoyed the 10 minute stop more than last year.

For dinner, we discovered Dublin’s Smoked Haddock Fish and Chips, at Leo Burdock’s. We’ll be making a regular place for this in our Dublin restaurant rotation. Does anyone in Seattle make smoked haddock? They should.

We then visited The Longstone Pub, whose backroom reminded me very much of Return to Oz.

A bit Return to Oz, don't you think?

One of the city’s Fringe outdoor art installations was next door — the “I am afraid” wall.

Dublin Fringe: "I am afraid" Wall
I took this photo for the office. The next day, all chalk items were erased except for AdWords

international Ireland travel

Finding a Pho Sub in Dublin
I awoke this AM, fearful of a looming cold. My 2nd thought: find pho. Between that and Emergen-C, it is my anti-illness voodoo. The internet turned up zed Vietnamese options in the Dublin metro area, so a Chowhound post suggesting Wagamama‘s chilli chicken ramen was my best bet. I doctored it up with extra chilli. It worked well enough, for I was cured of the cloudy head and my fear.

Tell Me Your Troubles, Darling

I made a quick detour to Boots to stock up on Berocca Boost. Then, I walked all the way home to Grand Canal Quay, looking for changes of the last 18 months.

Graf Eat Tea

Celtic Tiger, Having a Bit of Lie In
Sadly, not new.

Why Go Bald

After dark, Mr. T & I walked over to South Great Georges St to hit up our favorite restaurant in Dublin: L’Gueuleton. Very French and remarkably good — we ate there twice on last year’s visit. The menu’s totally changed (I presume for Fall), but tonight, I had maybe the best french onion soup I’ve ever had.

L'Gueuleton's French Onion Soup and Brown Bread

international Ireland travel

Hello Dublin (2011)

The Liffey Cuts the City

I awoke as we descended into Ireland. My transcontinental sleep routine had been foiled by flight attendants who left the cabin lights on 2 hours longer than normal, so I wasn’t exactly bright eyed nor bushy-tailed at Customs.

Good Morning, Ireland

We gave awake-ness a fair shot on this blustery (and very Seattle-gray day), starting off at our beloved Junior‘s for brunch, then continuing along the Liffey towards the new Dublin Wheel, near the ferries to England and Wales.

Funny story: while out walking, I spotted a Seattle friend on her Sunday run. She moved here two weeks ago, but I hadn’t yet emailed her I’d arrived. This kind of random thing happens to me, more often than you would expect. It’s a small world.

If nothing else, the potatoes were decent.

Later, after an unintentional 3-hour slumber, we checked out the new Ely at Grand Canal Quay. Skip it if you’re in the hood — it’s not worth going out of your way to visit.

We cut our dinner losses and returned to the hotel for the thrilling Season 2 Premiere of Downtown Abbey! Huzzah! I can’t remember the last time I watched something on the night of broadcast, on its originally intended channel.

about America Ireland

On to Dublin

in Atlanta
On our way to say Hello to Dublin, 2011-style.