Fab Asia Travel  --  Fab Food

    The Flavors of Bali

    Cooking Class in Munduk Bali

    Location: Munduk, Bali, Indonesia

    Lemongrass, garlic, turmeric.  The Flavors of Bali.  Ginger, cloves, coffee.  The Flavors of Bali. Cardamon, nutmeg, galangal.  The Flavors of Bali. Chili, Chocolate, Fruit.

    The flavors of Bali

    At the morning market

    Bali smells good.  Bali tastes good.  And Bali is a feast for the eyes as well.  A beautiful tropical island in Indonesia with happy and kind people, gorgeous mountains and seashore, lush green foliage and bright tropical flowers and fruits with flavors that explode in your mouth and bring a smile to your face.  The Flavors of Bali. Fresh and unforgettable.

    During our three days at the Puri Lumbung

    The flavors of bali

    Buying the banana leaf

    Cottages in the village of Munduk we enjoyed an hour and a half cooking class where we learned about combining all the amazing flavors of Bali into six distinctly Bali dishes.  We enjoyed a feast after we cooked and found a new appreciation for fresh and local ingredients.

    Our day started with an early morning walk to the tiny and very authentic local market in the village

    The flavors of bali

    Beautiful view from the outdoor kitchen

    of Munduk.  We purchased our fresh ingredients here including; cassava a green similar to spinach that would go in our soup; ferns a green similar to fiddleheads that we would use to make a side dish; lemongrass a Bali staple that we would use in multiple dishes; fresh white corn that we would use in corn fritters; banana leaves we would wrap the fish in; and galanga a root flavoring similar to ginger that we would use in multiple dishes.

    The flavors of bali

    Ingredients waiting the preparations

    When we arrived at the beautiful open air kitchen overlooking the rice fields and vast valley below we found four work stations each with a ulekan and cobek – a Balinese style mortar and pestle made from local basalt.  At each work station ingredients where waiting in each ulekan for us to begin the somewhat arduous process of crushing and combining the flavors of Bali for each individual dish.

    The flavors of bali

    John crushes the spices

    Timbungan Ayam is a clear chicken soup with cassava leaves and fried shallots.  We ground the flavors of chili, shallot, galangal, lemongrass, nutmeg, lime leaves and shrimp paste into a mash that was then combined with chopped fresh chicken and cassava and cooked on the open flame stove top.  It was a delicious broth and one of my favorite flavors of the day.

    The flavors of bali

    Me preparing the soup

    Bergedel Tagung is a fried corn fritter.  In the ulekan we ground the flavors of Bali of nutmeg, chili, garlic and shrimp paste.  We then took the fresh corn off the cobb, mixed it with the spices and an egg and cooked the fritters (about the size of a fifty cent piece) in corn oil.  Crunchy and delicious.

    The flavors of bali

    Carole wraps the fish in banana leaf

    Pepes Ikan Laut is a fish dish smothered in a Balinese paste then wrapped in banana leaf and grilled.  In the ulekan we had our toughest ingredients to grind including shallots, garlic, turmeric, ginger, aromatic ginger, candle nut (like macadamia) nutmeg, tomato, shrimp paste, chile and salt & pepper.  First mixed with coconut oil into a paste, this mixture was smeared all over chunks of fresh fish.  The banana leaves were laid out in two layers with one large bay leaf in the center.  The fish was

    The flavors of Bali

    Fish on the grill

    spooned evenly on four banana leaves which were wrapped and folded and secured with a bamboo toothpick before being laid in a hot pan on an open flame for grilling.  When it was time to eat we opened the banana leaf envelope to find the chunks had fused together into an aromatic and juicy fish surprise.

    Be Siap Sere Bawang is a chicken dish with a strong lemongrass flavor.  We began by grinding the spices of shrimp paste, chili, turmeric, salt & pepper into a paste.  The cooked chicken was

    The flavors of bali

    Everybody crushing spices

    shredded into pieces and mixed with the spices, sliced lemongrass and sliced shallots then quickly sauted to soften the lemongrass.  Probably my least favorite of all the dishes just because of the too strong flavor of lemongrass.

    Urap Campur is like a side vegetable dish.  It can be made with most any green vegetable such as cassava, cabbage or long bean.  For our cooking class we used local ferns.  The ferns were

    The flavors of bali

    Top Ferns and fish in banana leaf  Bottom lemongrass chicken & cornfritters


    blanched and water squeezed out before we arrived.  The ferns were mixed together with grated coconut, cooked local red beans, fried shallot, juice of the kaffir lime and salt and pepper.

    Bubur Campur was our dessert a mix of local fruits including jackfruit, banana, pandan, mangosteen and sweet potato.  We boiled the fruit in water with palm sugar syrup for sweetener, a bit of starch for thickening and coconut milk for flavor.  It was served in a bowl and we all agreed it would have been better served over vanilla ice cream.

    The flavors of bali

    Successful team

    We have really enjoyed our time in Bali and getting to know the Flavors of Bali.  As in so many cultures the Balinese enjoy what is local and seasonal in their simple but delicious everyday foods.  And we enjoyed experiencing it first hand.  The Flavors of Bali.  Fabulous.

    Check out our other posts about our time in the beautiful island of Bali.

    This post includes affiliate links and we may be compensated if you purchase these books.  Any money earned here goes back to the maintenance costs of this .  Thank you.


    Fabulous Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – Before We Were Yours

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Book Review

    Book Review Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate

    Here we find two families, seemingly unrelated based on economic wealth and political status in present day South Carolina.  But history tells a different story and Wingate writes a beautiful tale of families lost and found.

    Using the true life tragedy of stolen babies and children in the 1930’s at the Tennessee Children’s Society, Before We Were Yours is a fictional story that begins in the deep Tennessee back water and ends in a high-powered South Carolina political family.

    Before We Were Yours, follows the lives of one family and the eldest daughter Rill.  When her mother is rushed to the hospital to deliver twins in 1939, Rill is left on their river boat to care for the rest of the children.  Soon a “policeman” arrives and tells Rill their mother is waiting for them at the hospital.  This is of course not true and the men steal all five children in the night and take them to the Tennessee Children’s Society.  They will never see their parents again.

    Some of the children will not survive the horrors of the Tennessee Children’s Society.  Other’s  eventually are adopted, their names changed and histories altered.  Only Rill is old enough to remember the life they had together on the river.

    Fast forward to present day South Carolina, where Avery Stafford is born to wealth and privilege, following her parents and grandparents paths into politics and always doing what is expected of her in the old southern family of Stafford.

    Avery meets an old women named Mae and her life takes a big turn as she unwittingly begins to unravel a mystery about her family – one that could ruin both her father’s and her political careers- the truth of where they came from.  A long dark hidden secret of a happy family Before We Were Yours.

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Four stars for Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours

    This post contains affiliate links and I may be compensated if you purchase a book.  Any money earned goes back to pay for the maintenance costs of this blog.

    Read last week’s review of Sing Unburied Sing here..

    Fab Asia Travel

    Finding an Oasis at Puri Lumbung Cottages

    Munduk Bali Indonesia

    Location: Munduk, Bali, Indonesia

    We veered off our normal routine of staying in Airbnb’s these past few days. I am so glad we did, taking a chance on a little resort I read about in Lonely Planet, and finding an oasis in Puri Lumbung Cottages.

    Finding an oasis

    Mount Batur on our wat

    I could spend a month here.

    We are high (800 meters or 2500 feet) in the Bali mountains north and west of Ubud. We had a wonderful (but steep and winding) drive from

    Finding an oasis

    Temple Pura Ulun Danu

    Ubud to Munduk and saw many beautiful views in lush green terraced rice fields, lakes, volcanoes and temples.

    The weather here is cool and comfortable. Mornings are sunny and afternoons usually bring a

    Finding an oasis

    The view


    This hotel has been a wonderful experience. We have a spectacular view overlooking the valley with the Java Sea (Pacific Ocean) in the distance about 7 miles away.  I love sitting on our balcony and watching the changing colors and cloud formations throughout the day – fabulous.

    Finding an oasis

    Beautiful gardens

    Finding an oasis at the Puri  Lumbung cottages was our lucky break.  With our friends John and Carole we paid $650 USD and here is what we got;

    • 2 beautiful cottages with bedroom, bath and balcony set in the rice fields overlooking the valley.  The cottages are historic rice barns
      Finding an oasis

      Our cottage

      that have been converted into cottages. The price included three nights.

    • Breakfast served in the restaurant each morning. Sometimes a buffet and sometimes ala carte, we enjoyed American style as well as Indonesian and Balinese style breakfast.
    • Guided trek to the local waterfall. We enjoyed this on our first morning and it was a tough
      Finding an oasis

      Waterfall trek

      and steep three mile hike. Very invigorating and boy did we work up a sweat.

    • Massage in the spa.  Our price included one massage for each of us, but since Arne doesn’t like massages I got two! Boy did that feel good after the hike!
    • Afternoon tea served on our balcony each
      Finding an oasis

      The village market

      day at three o’clock.

    • Guided trip to the local market followed by a cooking class for the four of us.  Here we learned to make a feast of local dishes using local ingredients. We then ate everything we
      Finding an oasis

      Our cooking class

      cooked and were so stuffed we didnt even need dinner.

    All of this included in the price.  Dinner was not included, but we ate dinner in the restaurant only one night and only spent $25 including drinks.

    So finding an oasis in Puri Lumbung cottages has been a special treat.  The staff is so friendly.

    Finding an oasis

    A “road” in the village

    Always smiling and happy. The hotel was started back in the 1940’s as a way to give the local people jobs.  Still today the friendly locals from the tiny village of Munduk work here.  Everyone from the receptionist to our trek guides.  The gardeners keep the grounds pristine.  The chef creates delicious food.  The housekeepers are excellent.  The massage therapist amazing. We have no complaints.

    Oh and the view. Bonus.

    Finding an oasis

    Afternoon tea

    Our Bali experience has been wonderful overall, but we will always remember our special time at the hidden Puri Lumbung (translation Rice Palace) where we relaxed and found some of the Bali of old – a bit lost in time where hospitality is king. It was our lucky day finding an oasis in Puri

    Finding an oasis

    Beautiful gardens

    Lumbung cottages.

    Matur Suksma (thank you very much)!


    Everything Else Fabulous  --  Fab Asia Travel

    Silver Jewelry Making Class in Ubud

    In the heart of the Bali Art Scene

    Location: Ubud Bali Indonesia

    I’ve purchased a charm in every country I’ve been to except one. There is no charm on my bracelet from Bangladesh. But here in Bali Indonesia there are lots of options to buy silver jewelry. But for the first time I decided to try something new – I signed up to take a silver jewelry making class in the heart of the Bali Art Scene, Ubud at the Craft Workshop.

    Silver Jewelry Making class

    We began by drawing on a piece of silver

    I spent three hours and less than $30 to create my own one of a kind charm. To be honest, it might be a little too big for the charm bracelet. But I like it anyway and I had a fascinating experience learning this craft.

    Silver jewelry making class

    Cutting the shape

    With eight other students I learned how to cut and shape the silver, file it and imprint it and clean it. I learned how to solder and mold and buff and shine. Most students attempted more difficult projects than mine, with varying degrees of success. Two women actually brought gemstones to class to have set in rings. Those were my favorite pieces of the day. More elaborate than. what I attempted.

    Silver jewelry making class

    Adding a second layer of silver

    Mine is very simple, and a bit amateurish. But I am, clearly an amateur. So no matter. I really enjoyed the experience, in an artisans studio, in the middle of a rice field. My little silver lotus blossom charm will be a happy memory of my

    Silver jewelry making class

    Polishing and shining

    time in Ubud.

    At the end of the class our jewelry instructor presented me with a little silver band.  He had seen me admiring the ring one of the other women made.  So he quickly formed a pinky ring for me.  Thoughtful.  A perfect memory

    Silver jewelry making class

    Gem stone rings


    Next time you are in Ubud go in search of the old school artisans, hidden amongst the hustle and bustle that now is Ubud.  But you can still find the artists.  They are

    Silver jewelry making class

    With our instuctor

    there, still working like the old days.  You’ll enjoy an afternoon if you pursue silver jewelry making class in Ubud – in the heart of the Bali art scene.

    Silver jewelry making

    My new lotus blossom charm

    Fabulous Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Book Review

    Book Review Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward ⭐⭐⭐⭐

    Winner of numerous awards, Ward (Salvage the Bones 2011) puts the reader in her latest novel deep in rural Gulf Coast USA. Here you find JoJo, a young-boy, nearly a man, trying to find where he fits in the world.

    His black mother Leonie, drug abuser and selfish women with no maternal instincts, is no help to him. His white father, in jail with demons of his own  can’t be a role model.

    JoJo looks to his grandparents Pop and Mam, each with their own mysteries, but both who love him.

    Unusual family, unusual boy, JoJo struggles to love and be loved and understand the mysteries that surround and plague him. A story of coming of age, race, family, ghosts and magical beliefs in the mystical Deep South- Sing Unburied Sing is a lyrical story that will capture your heart.

    Four stars for Sing Unburied Sing.

    This blog contains affiliate links and we will be compensated if you purchase a book.  Any money earned goes back to maintaining this blog.

    Read our review from last week of Willa Cather’s My Antonia 

    Fab Oceania Travel

    Six Amazing Things Not to Miss in Sydney Australia

    My New Favorite City

    Location: Sydney Australia

    I usually prefer our more rural destinations more than our city destinations.  And yet – Suddenly Sydney.  I’m gobsmacked.  I wish I had the time to stay longer, but we used our time well, and discovered six amazing things not to miss in Sydney Australia.

    The Sydney Opera House – When visiting Sydney the Opera House will always top any list, as it does in our six Amazing Things not to miss in Sydney Australia.  At first glance I thought, “Huh – it’s not as white as I was expecting.”  At second blush I was enamored.  Wow.  When you are inside, you realize what a marvel of architecture and engineering is.  You don’t need to know anything about architecture or engineering to see clearly what an impressive

    Sydney Australia

    Sydney Opera House

    specimen it is.

    We booked a tour ahead on line, although we could have walked up that day and got on a tour.  We are here in the “shoulder” season, so at other times of

    Sydney Australia

    Interior of the Opera House

    the year these two-hour tours fill fast.  Our tour guide Lyn was incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the history, construction and current state of one of the most iconic buildings in the world.  I loved the tour and would do it again in a heart beat.

    We learned that the multiple theaters within the building are home to several resident companies, as well as an ever revolving schedule of visiting shows and artists.  While in Sydney we actually saw an outdoor opera, just across the bay looking back at the Opera House.  This seasonal show happens each March and April and it was a beautiful location to watch La Boheme outdoors with the lights of Sydney in the background.

    Sydney Australia

    The view from the outdoor opera

    We also got tickets to attend a dance/circus performance (think Cirque de Soleil on a small-scale) inside one of the theaters.  The multiple theaters in the opera house can seat anywhere from 200 to 2000 people, depending on the theatre, the show and the configuration.

    The Sydney Harbour Bridge – built in 1932 this bridge towers over the harbour with it’s beautiful

    Sydney Australia

    Sydney Harbour Bridge

    arched structure.  The bridge is the worlds largest (but not longest) steel arch bridge with 6 million hand driven rivets.  You can drive across, walk across, cycle across or take a boat and look at it from underneath.  There is also a museum in the top of one of the Pylons.  Although there is no lift, it’s worth the 200 steps and the $8.50 to see the view.

    But – the most amazing thing about the Sydney

    Sydney Australia

    On top of the bridge

    Harbour Bridge is you can walk to the top as part of the Sydney Bridge Clilmb.

    First let me tell you, it’s very EXPENSIVE.  Choke.  But I talked my husband into it, even though this is the kind of tourist activity he despises.  But, in hindsight, he loved it.  And once you spend the

    Sydney Australia

    Our tour group

    nearly four hours it takes from start to finish doing the bridge climb, the price no longer seems so high.  You are completely outfitted (remove all your clothing and wear the gear they provide), you are connected at all times to the bridge with a tether guide cable, you have a radio and headset that you use to listen to your guide.  You learn about construction, history, people – but most of all, you have the most amazing view you will ever see.  Particularly if you are lucky enough to enjoy the climb on a sunny and calm day like the day we went.  They climb rain or shine, and only stop the tours if the wind is 80km per hour.  You also get one heck of a work out.

    It’s difficult to describe this experience, but I sure am glad we did it.  Once in a lifetime.

    The Rocks and Circular Quay – the hub of

    Sydney Australia

    The view from Circular Quay

    Sydney’s tourism activity is The Rocks and Circular Quay.  Here is where you find the Sydney Opera House, the Cruise Ship Terminal, The Ferry Terminals, the Harbor Tour Boat Terminal, the Sydney Harbour Bridge as well as many restaurants, bars and shops.  It’s a very hopping place with outdoor seating, views that go for miles and a happening vibe.

    Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk – we had exceptional weather the day we did this four mile one way walk along the Pacific Coast, but honestly it would be spectacular no matter the weather.  We

    Sydney Australia

    Coogee to Bondi

    took an Uber from our condo in Rushcutter’s Bay to Coogee (mid-day $17) and after a lovely cappuccino at Little Jack Horner we started the walk.  This meandering, paved and well-marked path is very popular with locals and visitors alike.  It is often touted as one of the most beautiful shoreline walks in the world.  And I have to agree.  I took so many photos – the turquoise blue water, the crashing waves, the cliffs and sandstone outcroppings.  Beautiful.  Easy.  A must do.

    Manly Ferry and Manly Beach – on our last day in Sydney we rode one of the many Sydney City Ferry boats to the popular destination of Manly – a small suburb of Sydney.  Manly now is a tourist destination with many shops and restaurants, but we headed straight to Manly Beach for a bit of

    Sydney Australia

    Sydney City Ferry

    R&R.  Manly is a surfer’s beach and much of the beach is off-limits to swimming due to high surf and strong undertow.  But areas on both ends of the beach are safe for swimming and lifeguards are on duty making sure everyone has a good time. A beautiful spot and a great place to work on your tan, watch the surfers and enjoy the Pacific views.

    Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney – Last but not least in our list of six Amazing Things not to miss in SYdney Australia. During our time in Sydney we were staying in an Airbnb in Rushcutter’s Bay, about two miles from Circular

    Sydney Australia

    Royal Botanic Gardens

    Quay.  There is metro and bus service, Uber and cabs, but since we really enjoy walking, we walked into town each day.  And each day we took a different path through Sydney’s stunning Botanical Gardens.  First let me say, this city is awash in green space.  Lovely pocket parks and grand expansive parks seem to be around every corner. But the 200-year-old Royal Botanic Gardens was my favorite.  We have visited many botanical gardens around the world.  I don’t believe we have visited any that were both FREE and so well manicured and presented.  Clearly a favorite for locals for the beautiful lawns to play and relax, the forested hills, the blooming flowers, the abundant bird life and

    Sydney Australia

    Royal Botanic Gardens

    the waterfront views.  All of this, a public park, free for the taking.  One of my most favorite things we discovered in Sydney.

    So there are my six amazing things not to miss in Sydney Australia.  I know I will need to return to this beautiful place, and find six, 12 or a hundred more amazing things.  And hopefully, it won’t be too long until I do.

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    Want to read more of our blogs about Australia?  Click here for more.




    Fab South America Travel

    Wild Whitewater Memories

    Location: Chile

    If you follow my blog closely, you are aware of the overriding theme of adventure; particularly my desire in My Fabulous Fifties to never be afraid to try things.

    And the day we rafted the whitewater of the gorgeous Rio Petrohue outside of Puerto Vasa in central Chile was a testament to that mantra.

    From Puerto Mont we traveled by van about an hour to the lakeside town of Puerto Varas, a beautiful town settled in 1854 by German immigrants on the shores of the huge (338 square miles) Lake Llanquihue. Though the day was overcast it was warmish and comfortable.

    I have river-rafted before, but it’s been about 15 years. I was younger and thinner and, well, younger. Yesterday in the van on the way to the river trip I said to my husband, “I don’t plan on getting wet”. He smiled at me. He knew. The river had its own plans.

    Whitewater rafting

    In the washing machine

    Our guides were fantastic, funny and well informed ( http://kokayak.clWe dressed in skin tight and less than flattering wet-suites. As I pulled on my neoprene garment that presented me as a large black and red sausage I took note of the other guests in our group. My husband and I were definitely the oldest (important note for future reference), with another couple from England closely behind us in age. There was a single woman, from the U.S., probably in her mid-forties and a bit larger than I am, and then the rest of the group of 16 was made up by twenty and thirty-something’s from China, Germany, France, and various other countries.

    Whitewater rafting

    Good advice

    After a brief safety instruction we settled into our two rafts along the beautiful river that flows out of a high lake in the Andes behind the active volcano of Mount Osorno (a perfect Mount Fuji looking cone) and the dormant Mount Tronador at more than 11,000 feet it resembled Mount Rainier and is a hikers paradise. The terrain of the area is covered in black volcanic ash and the river is lined with a variety of deciduous trees ranging from bamboo to beech as well as gigantic gunera.

    We maneuvered the raft out into the river and within the first three minutes we were completely soaked from the first set of rapids. Exciting and exhilarating and as I said, the river had other ideas about my staying dry. It wasn’t cold, thanks to the sausage suit, and we were all laughing and trying to catch our breath after the first rapid.

    I was stationed in the back of the boat and on the second set of rapids I popped off my seat and went flying into the woman in front of me, but managed to stay in the boat. As we maneuvered through the river it became easier to read the rapids and be more prepared for what was coming. At a couple of really mean looking areas of whitewater our guide had us all get down on the floor of the boat and hang on – and luckily for that, as we were completely engulfed in the washing machine of the river. We came up sputtering and laughing and disoriented; but still in the raft.

    Whitewater rafting

    Still smiling!

    We slowed and pulled the rafts into a calm area and we all got out and hiked up to a rocky outcropping, where the guides announced we were going to all jump off the cliff and into the river one by one so they could take our photo. Guests younger and fitter than I declined. Not me. Fabulously Fifty went flying off the cliff in her red and black sausage suite, hitting the water with a big splash and a big smile. Fabulous.

    Back in the boat, switching positions, we flowed down the river. We continued to be beat-up by the rapids, but always coming out soaked and happy. In the calmer spots our guide gave us some history and talked about the geography, flora and fauna. He talked about Chile, the food, the wine and much more. It was wonderful.

    Approaching the final set of smaller rapids he announced that anyone who wanted to jump over board and ride the rapids feet first down in the water was welcome to do it here. Everyone looked around at each other – who would volunteer? Guess who?

    Myself and my husband and two of the twenty-somethings jumped in and were swept up in the whirlpool. Perhaps because I have a high body fat content (nice way of saying it) I was quickly carried off ahead of the others. I was pounded in the face over and over by the rapids and had a moment of panic, as I was unable to get a breath between poundings.

    Whitewater rafting

    Fashion Statement

    It was over quickly and I hadn’t even had a chance to see what any of the other guests had done as I was swept down stream. Next thing I knew I was the only one left in the water and the raft was heading to pick me up. My darling husband somehow hoisted me up and into the raft where I lay panting and gasping. I announced to everyone in the boat “I sure hope someone got a picture because that was never going to happen again.” Everyone laughed at my expense and it was fabulous.

    These are the experiences that make life memorable. Those who didn’t get out of the boat to ride the rapids will have the memory of watching me do it. But I will have the experience of it. Worth a thousand times more.

    Put me in the middle of the action until they cart me away. Let me set an example. Let me never be afraid to look silly, have fun, and come up sputtering on the other side. There is no other way to live in My Fabulous Fifties.

    Go. Be. Fabulous.

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