Monday, April 27, 2015

Alaska in April

Alaska in April- no crowds, hardly a soul in sight for miles at times. Tranquil and serene- none of that hectic schedule in LA. It's a different experience from the tropical islands that we usually go to on spring breaks. Did a loop road trip from Anchorage to Fairbanks via Glennallen and back to Anchorage bypassing the Denali National Park. Graced with gorgeous snow covered landscape that I've not seen since my days in Montana. Weather was cold but still bearable for us to do dog mushing, ice fishing and glacier tours. Best of all, the aurora borealis sightings right out of our cabin in Fairbanks was amazing. To the naked eye, it's like watching white lights dancing across the sky but on photos captured by the cameras, it's out of this world. The greens, purples, and blues were just spectacular. We were blessed to be entertained by aurora  2 out of the 3 nights we were there.

On the way to Whittier, we had to drive thru the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel for 2.5 miles- the longest one way highway tunnel in America. Took us about 10 min to go from one end to the other at 25 miles per hr.

Glacier tour on a chartered boat out of Whittier in Blackstone Bay was quite awesome. Cold and rainy but calm waters. Loved the blues and whites of the Blackstone glacier.

                                        Elegant natural art piece, who knows how old it is.

Was tempted to take the planet walk in downtown Anchorage but just did not have enough time.
Matanuska Glacier, supposedly this is accessible by cars but we didn't look into it. Took a picture from a distance and visited Glacier View Elementary School nearby.
Dog sledding with Black Spruce Adventures. 7 dogs and 2 sleds on an 8 mile sunset run. My son was sitting in the front sled while I was manning the tag sled behind. Very fun until I was thrown off the sled as the dogs were charging ahead around a sharp corner. Banged my head in the snow, bruised my nose, and had sore shoulders for the 2 next days. Totally memorable experience.
First time ice fishing in a hut on a lake in Fairbanks. A bit of raw shrimp for bait and an itty bitty fishing pole. Quite boring honestly, sat there for 3 hours wriggling the pole every so often hoping to hook a fish. Came away with 7 fishes at the end.
                  One of the rainbow trouts that I caught. Made for good fried fish dinner.
Aurora dancing across the sky right in front of our cabin. Considered ourselves very lucky as the aurora forecasts were not good for the days we were there. In fact, aurora showed up around 11:20 each night and we were able to take photos for about 45 minutes before it faded away.

                           The abandoned igloo hotel on the way from Fairbanks to Anchorage.

  Blue sky, white clouds, rain in the distance and snow on the ground- mother nature at work.
                              Sunset at Anchorage- mesmerizing layers of colors.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ubud, Bali

Ubud is a place I wouldn't mind visiting again. It's busy but still full of local culture. We had a delightful cooking class at the Laka Leke restaurant. Enjoyed a side trip to the Agung Rai Museum of Arts (ARMA)- small museum with arts collection depicting the history of Bali. It is attached to a nice resort situated in the middle of rice fields. Ubud is a great place to come for Balinese wood carvings. We liked their wood dining tables but shipping back to the US would be too much of a hassle. A quick visit to a coffee luwak plantation was disappointing. Too commercialized for my taste.
Ingredients for our Balinese cooking class. Staples include ginger, shallots, garlic, galangal, turmeric, candle nuts, coriander seeds, nutmeg, coconut, lemon grass, chilies, limes, cinnamon sticks, banana leaves, etc. Learned how to chop and grind the different ingredients using their traditional mortar and pestle..

Chicken sate lilit paste

 Sate lilit paste wrapped around a stalk of lemongrass

Sayur urap (blanched vegetable salad).

Shredded grilled chicken mixed with spices and chilies. Wrap it in a piece of lettuce and pop it in your mouth for a flavor explosion.

Tossing the sayur urap with shredded coconut.

Banana leaf wrapped shrimp and fish paste- similar to "otak otak".

Fried banana with shredded coconut and syrup. Sweet and warm. What's not to like? One of the street food that I miss from back home.

Our lunch spread. Best meal of our trip.

Huge life like rice field painting on display at ARMA. Imagine standing at the bottom of the painting looking up. Couldn't stop staring at it.

One of the many relaxing outdoor pavilions at ARMA, next to the rice fields. Their free coffee that came with the admission ticket was pretty bad. Other than that, great place to lounge the afternoon away.

The disappointing coffee luwak. 

Jimbaran Bay at sunset. Heard of Bali's amazing sunset for a while now. Unfortunately, no such luck for us as it was rainy season, Can't catch a beautiful sunset with rainy and overcast sky. Maybe, next time.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Bali Island

If it wasn't for a friend's wedding, we would never had visited Bali Island this past November. I must say I was pleasantly surprised. More genuine, down to earth and less commercialized compared to Phuket Island.
With the start of the rainy season, we were drenched daily from the heavy downpour during the 5 days we were there. Fortunately, our driver always had an umbrella ready for us before we step out of the car. Didn't realize Bali is such a huge island. Took us at least 45 minutes of driving just to go anywhere.
Went to Jati Luwih rice terraces, Taman Arun Temple, a live cock fight match, Tanah Lot Temple, Agung Rai Museum of Arts, Jimbaran Bay, a cooking class and did the flying fish and underwater ocean walk. Flying fish was not as fun as I had anticipated. Laying flat on our backs in the flying raft provided little views while up in the air for 10 seconds or so. Can't beat parasailing for that matter. Ocean walk was quite fun but scary even though we were only 20 feet underwater. The underwater currents tend to pull us one way or another, so we stayed put at one spot holding on to the railings provided. It was nice getting up close to the fishes or rather they were getting into our faces. It felt like we were the ones in an aquarium and the fishes were watching us through our helmets.

View from our villa on Ketewel Beach- Mt Agung on the right and the distant Mt Batur to the left. 

Green moss on rocks by the beach.

Fisherman spreading out his fishing net ready to cast into the ocean. My husband was able to buy 3 good sized fresh catch from a local fisherman on the beach for US$10. Made for a very tasty breakfast and lunch.
We had grilled fish for breakfast and this was steamed fish with tofu for lunch in addition to the curry fish below. Very good eats. Compliments to the chefs at our villa.  Every morning, the chefs would make us breakfast to order and we were fed well with noodles, rice, pastry, eggs, sausages, bacon, fresh local fruits, freshly squeezed juices and coffee. We skipped lunch most day as we were still full by then.

Beachfront Puri Kamadewa at Anapuri Villas- Bali's hospitality at its best. Amazing place to stay albeit a little isolated. Top notch service, beautiful grounds, private, tranquil, great place to unwind and be pampered.

The grand bed in the up stairs master bedroom. Airy, quiet and best of all, I didn't encounter any mosquitoes at all. Behind this wall is a huge bathroom with rainforest showerheads and a full body shower system that I love.
Fantastic place to soak and lounge. 
Infinity lap pool and hot tub to swim or sit and relax.
One of the many temples on the way to Taman Arun Temple.

Taman Arun Temple- can't remember why I chose this temple to visit out of so many temples in Bali. It has a small botanical garden and an art gallery. We came across statues of a cock fighting ring here and my husband who had never been to a live cock fighting game decided he just had to see one that day. Thanks to our driver, 30 minutes later, we were at a real live match. I've no idea where the exact location was. We each paid a small entrance fee of US$0.25.  We were the only non locals. No females, either. Very bloody and gruesome as the cocks had sharp blades attached to one of their feet and they fought to kill.
Taman Arun Temple grounds
Jati Luwih rice terraces. Had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the rice terraces. Nice views but average food.
On the other hand, Gianyar's Babi Guling roadside stall- so good. Not the most sanitary but can't forget the tender meat and crispy skin with the added spicy sour vegetable sauce.

On the way to the Tanah Lot Temple, we had a durian and mangosteen feast by the roadside. The king of fruits were sweet and slightly bitter with a drunken aroma.
The queen of fruits-very sweet. Couldn't stop eating them.

Tanah Lot temple- crowded even though it was drizzling that day. Can't get a photo without someone's head in it. With the overcast, there was no sunset to be had and the temple looked dreary in every photo that I took. Too bad.