Archive for February, 2009

Seminyak, Bali


THE adults seemed to agree on a few observations taken from our sunset trip to Ku De Ta, a restaurant in Seminyak, Bali that overlooks the ocean. First, it was not kid friendly as far as sitting down to eat was concerned. The place was pricey and the area where we hung out lacked tables and chairs. It seemed more beach lounge than a restaurant. Two, it had a level of Western swank and high-rollers that didn’t sit well with us. Three, the women hanging out there weren’t wearing bras.

I noticed this rather quickly. It applied to both the European vacationers and the local women decked out for a night on the town. One of my sunset photos is a blatant attempt at trying to capture one of these specimens (I failed). As I said above, it wasn’t just me who caught this.

“Did anyone else notice that none of the women there were wearing bras?” asked Katie as we walked out. I wondered if we’d spotted a new fashion trend.

That said, it was a great place for cocktail hour. In typical Balinese style, Ku De Ta is an open air place—no walls. It’s a square, actually, with the middle part a fountain and plot of grass that leads to the beach—perfect for allowing kids to run around. The calamari and the hummus were excellent. The beers were cold, but they took a while to arrive.

The highlight was the 3year-old’s dance party. There was a square stone block that I think covered an outdoor speaker. The girls used this as a dance stage. T danced a little, but stopped when she saw me filming. In the video clip, she’s saying “see, see,” because she wants to see the digital image. Then she starts saying “jump, jump” as if she’s going to jump if I don’t smarten up. She would have, too.

We wrapped up the dance party and headed back to the villa at around 7 pm. On the way back, our friend bought 20 dvds for $20 plus six free ones—The Wire, Kung Fu Panda, Dora. The nice thing about renting a villa was that you actually enjoyed hanging out there.

We stayed at the Villa Nakula for around $220US per night, or $110 US per family. The place was located just off of Seminyak’s main drag, down a chopped up side street. Each villa was enclosed by a 7 foot concrete wall and two doors. On the other side of the street was a rice field that’s turning into more villas. Cows and stray dogs roamed the field. Ours was a two-story compound with a big and a small bedroom upstairs, balcony, staircase, open air living room and kitchen, a downstairs bedroom, small yard and pool.

One issue we faced was ants. They were everywhere, all the time. A tiny piece of bread would attract hundreds in seconds. A line of ant traffic constantly led up the wall behind the water cooler. We checked. None in the water, ever. The geckos come out at night. They hang out on the walls waiting for bugs. We had about five or six every night that we watched. Twould run around, pointing, saying “Geeko. Geeko.” Upstairs, one gecko was a little too large for my comfort. He looked like a tiny dragon and I prayed he kept out of our room.

For people who get bitten, the mosquitoes were brutal. Poor F got devoured in Seminyak. At night, she didn’t have a mosquito net so she was easy prey. The doors didn’t fully close.

The villa manager come in every morning with two women who cleaned up, did dishes, cooked breakfast and diced up fresh fruit. His name was Kutuk, and he was very nice though we had a hard time understanding him sometimes. Everyday he cooked toast and scrambled eggs for the kids, and omelets for the adults. To our amazement, the only coffee supplied was instant. I tried looking for a locally brewed cup the first morning we were there, and failed. It was a rough way to start the morning. My brain hurt by 830, and I was slurring words. Katie rescued me with a cup of instant. We bought and brewed our own from that day forward.


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Bali I: Monkey Attack

20090206_0222Kwas a few steps ahead of me, holding her daughter. E was up ahead with F. Z and I were in the back, with the two youngsters in backpacks. Z had the good sense to grab a long stick before our march into a forest and up a series of steps to the Pura Luhur Uluwatu temple, that overlooked the ocean. The one issue we faced was hundreds of monkeys that prowled the steps and stone wall looking for food. We thought seeing monkeys would be kind of fun on the way to the temple. Vendors sell banana bags and green beans to dopes like us, who think it will be a friendly feed. Just before entering the forest, I was told by our driver to take off my hat because the monkeys here were “naughty.” Stupidly, I left mine on, thinking that if T kept hers on, I’d keep on mine. What a dope.

So the monkeys start getting aggressive and are crowding us. One of them pulled at the purple sari wrapped around my legs – the required uniform for anyone in shorts. I started filming, and as soon as I stopped, K tripped and fell. She gathered herself quickly—her daughter S,  was fine. But with the two of them down, a monkey snatched the lollipop from S, adding more trauma to the situation. As I reached to help K, another monkey snatched my bag of bananas. Lucky for me, they didn’t take my camera, which I held in the same hand. Now S is hysterical, which prompts F to start crying. Z started sweeping away monkeys with his stick. K’s leg was bleeding, and I looked up at E and gave her a “let’s get the hell out of here” look. We decided to soldier on, up the hill and steps. Going back the other way would have us encountering just as many critters. These monkeys weren’t fun or nice. They were like the ones in Wizard of Oz.

When we reached the temple, we looked back and saw a stunning view of steep cliffs descending down into crashing ocean waves. Some idiot tourist in glasses reminded us that carrying plastic soft drink bottles also attracts the monkeys. Thanks chief. I decided to explore around the temple a bit, aware of the monkeys on the roof in front of me, but not the frigging ones behind. Boom. Something jumps on my neck and knocks off my baseball hat and T’s rainbow bucket hat.

“Jesus Christ!!” I yell. I grabbed both hats and wheeled around. A family who looked like they were either from Austria or the Midwest stopped and stared at me.

“You know the monkeys like hats too,” said the idiot tourist in glasses.

“How’s T?” I asked. I think I was still yelling.

“I think she’s in shock. T?”

T never once whimpered or cried or yelled. She understood the situation. She maintained her blank expression throughout the whole ordeal.

Now we all agree it’s time to get the hell out of there. So we line up against a stone wall for a group shot, cliffs and ocean behind us. Just then a monkey walks down the wall toward us, and S let’s out a wail. She’s hysterical again. F starts crying too.


I walked ahead and found another trail that avoided the evil monkey route. Guiding folks up the hill to the main gate, I hear F say, “Mom, I, I, HATE monkeys.” She paused because she knew she’s not supposed to say “hate.” E and I both told her that if there was ever a time to say the word, that was it. I’m pretty sure our friends 1yo was awake the whole time, because like T, he didn’t mutter a sound.

The unfortunate thing about the monkey attack was that it was a traumatic finish to an otherwise awesome day. We’d spent the whole day at white sand beach, accessible only by an outdoor elevator that goes down the side of a cliff. We swam in the clear, aqua ocean water, protected by a reef roughly 300 yards into the shoreline. We built a sandcastle, or, I should say, started to. After some of the kids got distracted, we looked down and saw Z going to town on the castle project. He built 7 parapets and two moats.

20090206_0171We had fried calamari, sea bass, French fries, pizza and Bintang beer for lunch. T slept for the last few hours of the beach day. When we went back up, we took a page out K and me’s family handbook, and crashed the upscale resort’s pool. Everyone jumped in, and none of the guests seemed to care. A nice local woman in a resort uniform came out and politely told us the pool was for guests only. No problem, we said. After she left, I grabbed T and leapt into the pool to cool her off. K and Z took another dip too. We left behind a pile of towels and wet lounge chairs. T was naked at one point, with half of a diaper hanging from her butt. It was well worth the pool hop. Little did we know the evil monkeys awaited us…

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valentines_day_mmMy husband is sick so I took the kids this afternoon to the club so he could get some sleep. During dinner I asked F and T to be my valentine’s and they both said yes. F asked me all about valentine’s day, true love, and our courtship leading up to her and t’s birth. She then informed me that when she grow’s up she wants to be a rugby-playing-princess-arial-doctor and I told her that was awesome and she would be the coolest person I ever met. Wishing you all a great valentine’s day….

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veggiesWith the title of this I’m sure most people will think of the awful melamine scare with china milk supply.  However my food dilemma here started the day we landed, nearly a year ago. Before we left new york we had a great routine of buying as much from the local’s farmers market as possible and the rest from the supermarket, where I would check labels and buy things with the smallest carbon footprint, in terms of both where it was produced and whether it was organic. I felt like I was feeding the family fairly nutritiously, affordably, sustainably and responsibly. Well I fear all that has gone to the wayside.

I find my carbon imprint is huge here due to the fact that nearly all of my dairy is from abroad, as are a lot of the meat and fish. I’ve started getting the organic box from The Organic Farm so I feel better about that but I’m still a bit too nervous about the pollution to get fish from the wet market, and I’m still very conscious of hormone and antibiotic free meat. The organic box only contains vegetables so I still have to decide between conventional fruit, where I worry about pesticide levels, versus paying a lot for organic. We’ve been trying to eat more vegetarian but my 19-month old literally subsists on – in this order – cheese, bread, milk, meat and fish.  I have to hide all fruits and vegetables in various ways to get T to eat them – which makes it all the more stressful. Thankfully my 3yo is much better.

On top of all of this is the cost. It’s crippling us. I can’t keep up financially. I am so conflicted on so many levels. And while I’m focusing on the specific food related issues I face here in Hong Kong, overall I am so frustrated by the growing industrial food complex and the mass-production of food. For example the rampant salmonella scares in the US, the latest from peanuts. I do try to live by Michael Pollan’s credo of “if your grandparents wouldn’t recognize it it shouldn’t be on your plate” but it’s not always easy or affordable. Don’t get me wrong I’m not some crazy food nazi – when we’re out of the house most anything goes (including McDonald’s when necessary) but within the confines of the home I do try to make it as healthy and sustainable as possible.  So what do you do? What are your concerns about the state of the food industry? Any recommendations for Hong Kong?

For some interesting articles on the topic try:

opinion on melamine in all foods

michael pollan

– meat and emmissions

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copy-of-k_z_hk_visit-202Our friends and their kids arrived last week and we’ve been having a blast! So far, all together, or in various family configurations, we’ve gone to the Victoria Park Chinese New Year Market, eaten at a private kitchen, spent a few hours at a dive bar, done the aberdeen walk, had brunch at the jumbo, gone to Stanley market and  Sugar Street Market, rode the peak tram and caught the view, played at various playgrounds, had a cookout with friends on Silvermine beach on Lantau, spent a day at Ocean Park, watched the fireworks, walked around Central, Soho, and Hollywood road, gone to the club, and out to the New Territories.  Tonight it’s aqualuna, night markets, and a drink at the felix. More is on the agenda like dim sum, our local dai pai dong for beef noodles, mongkok, chi lin nunnery, lamma island, the FCC, LKF, before we all go off to Bali. It’s been tremendously fun to have them here. It’s also been good for me, who struggled in my transition here, to show off this great city and have such receptive guests who are loving it.  I’m reminded of how much there is to do here and how remarkable the architecture, the nature, the food, and the people are here.

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