Lombok: A Trip South to a Very Different Kuta Beach

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DC and I had a rental car and we took it down south to the very sleepy Kuta Beach. We passed by lots of gentle-eyed buffaloes grazing along the road…

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… and ogled at the cute, lighter-coloured calves obliviously munching away.

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At a cafe, there was a sleepy dog that epitomised the laidback atmosphere of the beach. It lay on the trademark peppercorn sand of Kuta Beach.

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Look closely at the sand and you’ll see that the little granules are round, like miniature white peppercorns.

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We later went for a walk along the beach and found more of the peppercorn sand.

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It wasn’t a fantastic white beach, not quite even up to the (not that great) standard of Kuta Beach in Bali. But there were still great views and it was a lovely walk just before the rain started coming in.

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We walked up to a rock outcrop partway out of the beach and found some slightly macabre sights, like the remnants of a heron, perhaps…

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… and the lifelike remnants of a crab’s moult.

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Luckily, there was still some life out here, as evidenced by this cute little lizard skulking its way stealthily along the rocks.

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It was then time to make the bumpy, pot-holed trip back to Mataram. We took respite from the bad road conditions by stopping at a Sasak village to have a look round. The Sasak are the indigenous people of Lombok. They are mainly Muslim and traditionally live in huts with packed-mud floors and roofs thatched with the local long grass, alang-alang. The huts in which they lived I felt were rather nondescript, and the only structure of interest was the bale, or storage shed. Its characteristic structure is the symbol of Lombok and is replicated in concrete and wood all over the main city.

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What’s a village without chickens? This cute little chick was poking around the village grounds with its brothers and sisters, learning how to fend for itself.

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And having had our fill of sleepy beach and equally sleepy village life, we headed back to Mataram. Ibu Rosa at Villa Sayang recommended Restaurant Taliwang, a local place serving up Lombok specialties. I started off with a jumbo-sized coconut drink with honey. It was really good and such a godsend because Lombok food is very spicy!

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We ordered a whole array of dishes like deep-fried tempeh (I couldn’t get enough of it), deep-fried squid, grilled gurami and vegetable soup. All of this was accompanied by copious amounts of the fiery chilli sauce made with local belacan, a kind of fermented prawn paste.

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Belacan, the smelly delight, really came into its own when turned into the local delicacy, kangkung pelecing. Here, toasted grated coconut is piled on top of toasted peanuts, and boiled beansprouts and kangkung. The kangkung is a more tender, heart-shaped leaved version of the Singaporean kangkong. Toasted belacan is worked into a spicy sauce of chilli and tomato (and probably other secret ingredients) and then poured on top of the mound of veggies. The result? An in-your-face explosion of sour, sweet, spicy and fishy that hits the taste buds with a one-two (POW!) blow. Amazing. This is one dish that I have to attempt to recreate soon.

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Rumah Makan Taliwang I
No. 20 Jalan Ade Irma Suryani
Mataram, Lombok
(Ask at Villa Sayang for exact directions)

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June in Thailand: Farm Animals at a Karen Village

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There was the usual assortment of cute farm animals at the village: goats complete with nursing kids…

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… lively little piglets running all over the place…

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… in complete contrast with their lazy parents conserving energy in a heap.

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The hens teaching their chicks to scratch around for food in the dirt were really cute too.

Surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be any animals doing work in the village. The only mechanical work being done was by some children threshing the rice. How strange!

April in The Philippines: Jeepneys

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Jeepneys are the quintessential way of getting around in The Philippines. Traditionally, they’re etrofitted ex-American army trucks painted all hues of colours except subtle. Most looked totally pimped out and a lot of times the gangsta look was contrasted with lots of devoutly Catholic imagery on the inside. The sides were normally painted with the route it plied and you’d normally climb in, call out your destination and pay your fare to the conductor. The jeepney is one of those vehicles that is never full. More and more and more and more people pile in and if there isn’t space on the inside, the conductor would hang on to the back of the jeepney. If there still isn’t space, it’s last in stay out as the last few guys would have to hang on for dear life together with the conductor.

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I never quite got the hang of these jeepneys as I’d never really know where I was going and it was far easier just taking a taxi, especially with my big dive bag.

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The ones in the picture below are strictly speaking buses, not jeepneys but they’re really cool anyway. These are long distances buses at the northern Cebu bus terminal. All sorts get on the bus. Omar and I had an amusing time trying to take a video of a pair of cardboard boxes with holes in them. One cheeped a lot and the other crowed at intervals. The problem was that the video was long and tiresome and Murphy’s law struck: no crowing at all until a good boring minute was over. It was my first rooster on public transport!

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August in China: A Village Market

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We were delighted that our visit coincided with market day. The market comes round to this corner of town every eight days, so it was a lovely bit of fortune we had. There were lots of villagers from all over coming here to stock up on necessities and buy and sell livestock.

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Bird flu or not, I was delighted to find a makeshift stall selling chicks and ducklings. Some of these chicks were so energetic that they managed to hop up onto the wire mesh in an attempted escape. The stallholder would simply toss them gently back to join its brothers and sisters.

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There were lots of ducklings of various ages on sale. Some were just a few days old and the older ones about a week or so old.

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They were packed into rattan carriers for transport back so they could be fattened nicely back on the ponds.

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The fruit stall was very popular. There were plenty milling around tasting the watermelon, bananas and grapes. I loved the grapes there. They were like none I’ve tasted before. These were huge, round and bursting with wine flavour. Sure, they had seeds and tough skins that had to be peeled or spat out, but the extra tannins only added to the tart, yet honeyed muscat flavour. I still dream of those grapes. Even the over-priced Japanese grapes couldn’t compare to these.

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Of course, we had to do more than just buy fruit. We ended up buying a live chicken for dinner! The stallholder was taken aback that these silly tourists would buy a chicken. Ours cost us the princely sum of ¥17.40.

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We carried it thus trussed-up all the way back. Willy happily toted it most of the way, basking in the astonished double-takes of passing villagers. It made a slightly tough but absolutely delicious dinner.

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