My ‘To Don’t’ List!

I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve always had a ‘To Don’t’ list, that is, a list of places that I don’t/didn’t want to visit. The list was never written down but it was one of those things that if someone said, how about going to xxx I’d say something along the lines of ‘oooh no, I’ve never really wanted to go there.’ In most cases my reasons, if I could even come up with any, have proved unfounded.

So, hopefully without offending anyone and with apologies in advance to the residents of these places, most of which I’ve changed my mind about completely, this WAS my ‘To Don’t’ list.

  • Bali – friends and relatives have been going to Bali since the 1970s when tourism was very young there. It’s not a place I ever wanted to go. I didn’t like the idea of less than hygienic conditions, ‘foreign’ food or the crowds of youngsters on cheap holidays. Ok, I was wrong, I admit it. I finally made my first visit there between Christmas and New Year two years ago. My cousin’s travelling companion had backed out almost at the last minute and she gave me 15 minutes to decide if I wanted to take her place. I did.  Three weeks later I was having a brilliant time and within six months I was back there again – says it all I guess.

  • India – this one is almost impossible to explain. Not why I didn’t want to go but why I am going (well, Nepal is near enough to India and much the same reasons for not wanting to go apply). I’ve always watched travel shows and The Amazing Race and thought ‘no way’. This is simply not my type of holiday. The apparent dirt and squalor and lack of sanitation, the smell, the chaos and the crowds are/were not for me. But then out jumped the trekking opportunity. Now, I know that once I get on the trek we’ll be heading up into cleaner air and less crowded places but I’m also very aware that the villages we’ll pass through are likely to challenge me and that Kathmandu will provide me with a case of ‘here, cope with this.’ I’m going with an open mind and a very different attitude to any that I’ve previously had and I’m hoping that my pristine mind will allow me to understand and appreciate the cultural differences that I’ll encounter. Don’t forget if you want to encourage me on this mad adventure head to the ‘Donate’ button up the top there and sponsor me. You’ll be helping out a very worthwhile cause.
  • America – I’ve never had any desire to go there, don’t ask me why, it’s just one of those places I’ve never had the urge to visit and the big American cities still hold no attraction for me. But, I’ve been following some blogs of Americans lately and the photos I’ve seen on their pages of their local areas, the countryside, the mountains, the scenery, it looks awesome and these people are gradually changing my ideas about the country.
  • Cairns – It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to go there, it was more a case of I’d rather have gone somewhere else. I was outnumbered though and am so pleased I was. We had a brilliant holiday, snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, which is as blue as the pictures you see, taking underwater photos and doing a 4 wheel adventure tour to the Daintree Rainforest. I’d love to go back there one day just for a relaxing break in a secluded rainforest resort. Hmmmm….
  • The far North West of my home state – Too hot, too dry, too isolated. So why did I enter the radio competition offering a trip to Kunnunurra? Long story short and all that, I actually won it. What a holiday that was! Fishing for Barramundi on the Ord River while crocodiles lazily watched our progress from the nearby banks, staying in tented cabins at the El Questro Gorge Resort, flying over the Bungle Bungles in an open sided helicopter, hiking into Cathedral Gorge. The whole thing was spectacular and if you ever get the opportunity don’t pass it up.

The Ord River

So much for my ‘To Don’t’ list, I no longer have one, not even a mental one. Do you, or did you? What places are or were on it?

Tasty Travel – Eating in Ubud

Casa Luna, Ubud

It wasn’t only the markets that had me hooked in Ubud, the real surprise was in the number and variety of amazing places to eat. I could have spent the whole seven days that I was there eating. What I did discover though is that Bali does not do iced coffee. Now I know that when we travel to places foreign we should be prepared to eat and drink the local food, not expect them to pamper to our sometimes outlandish requests. But iced coffee – come on, just one indulgence. The first time I ordered it, at a resort in Kuta, I was given a glass of cold black coffee with a small jug of sugar syrup, so I was reluctant to try again. It was the photo on the menu card at Bar Luna in Ubud though that convinced me that ordering an iced coffee was worth another try, and this time I wasn’t disappointed. Tucked away behind the market, on Jalan Gootama, in Ubud, Bar Luna is one of three eateries in Ubud owned by Australian Janet De Neefe. As its website http://www.casalunabali.com/ announces, this is ‘the local hot spot for literary musing, tasty tapas, cocktails and more’. For the best iced coffee in Ubud, and possibly the whole of Bali, you can’t go past it.

 

The view from Indus

Another of Janet De Neefe’s creations, at the other end of the scale, is Indus, a well known restaurant, just a few minutes from the centre of Ubud. With stunning views over the Tjampuhan River this reataurant offers a mix of Indonesian and Western dishes. You can relax on Balinese lounges, heaped with colourful cushions, positioned around low tables or choose a table on the deck overhanging the river gorge. A Margareta in hand, a Balinese sunset and a breathtaking view, what more could you ask for?

Interior of Indus

 

Mmmmm - dessert at Indus

Ubud does views well, and if you can sip on a cold drink while you take in the view all the better. Within walking distance of the Ubud market, if you’re not too footsore after the shopping, Bridges, a terraced restaurant overlooking the lush green of the river bank, offers casual fine dining and another one of those views (http://bridgesbali.com/). Whatever you are after in the way of food or drink, this place can do it. Not only breakfast, lunch and dinner but nibbles, cocktails, afternoon tea, even ice cream is available at any time of the day. What struck me about Bridges was their willingness to accommodate. Fourteen of us turned up there at around 9.00pm with no booking. We walked in anticipating a few issues. Some of us wanted dinner, others just dessert, some wanted coffee and cake while others were looking forward to a glass of wine or

Dinner at Bridges

possibly a cocktail. The first question, did they have room for a party that large, was answered in minutes. The French manager was summoned from somewhere, under his direction tables were pushed together on the terrace and, hey presto, we were seated. No fuss. Next question, could we have separate bills? Again, not a problem, they simply took each of our names with our orders. The manager himself took many of the orders and they arrived promptly and with a smile and friendly conversation. Nothing was too much trouble for these friendly, smiling staff. Young Australian chef Nicolas Lazzaroni presides over the kitchen and, on our second visit for a farewell dinner, even made the time to come out and say hello. 

More dessert - this time at Bridges

Other eateries well worth a visit in Ubud would be Casa Luna, also a Janet De Neefe establishment, the Lotus Café ( http://cafelotusubud.com/), upmarket Mozaic ( http://www.mozaic-bali.com/)  and Minami, if you’re after Japanese ( http://www.minami-bali.com/entrance/entreetest.html)

Lotus pond at Cafe Lotus

This list comes nowhere near being an indication of the variety and choice available when it comes to eating in Ubud. There are only so many meals you can eat on one visit though so take the time to look around, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

Added snippet of information:

For those interested in everything literary, Bar Luna will be hosting the 9th annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival from 3rd – 7th October 2012. This international festival holds book launches, workshops and performances, with writers and readers attending from around the world. For further information check out http://www.ubudwritersfestival.com/