A Bali C

I managed to make it to Saigon, despite having problems with entry both in Singapore and in Ho Chi Minh; I was ready to buy a ticket back to Bali and skip Vietnam altogether! Some reminiscing of the Island of Gods follows (pictures still lacking due to probably the worst internet connection so far!)

Atmosphere: Smiles, flowers and offerings for Gods, everything is in harmony, even the chaotic traffic. No matter where you are, the Balinese are going about their daily rituals with a smile on their face.

Bikinis: No need to explain. You could probably survive only with bikinis, shorts and flip-flops. Yeah okay Buddhism too.

Canggu: Not a surprise, this one. I spent over a month in this upcoming hipster village, where life seems to stand still and days float by even if you just lied by the pool and listened to music in between surfs.

Diving: I overcome my doubts regarding breathing underwater. Bali hosts some amazing diving spots, and I will definitely return for more!

Environment: aka nature. Various yet always beautiful.

Fruits: Fruits are aplenty in Bali. Now in season are bananas, papaya, different sorts of mangos, mangosteen, snakefruit and jackfruit, just to name a few. You can also find guava, oranges and imported apples at the supermarket. My favorites are definitely papaya and mango, but I also like mangosteen and jackfruit a lot. I did have durian once, but I was a bit disappointed with the small amount I got for my money.

Gado Gado: Both hot and cold, sweet and savory, gado gado is one of my favorite Indonesian dishes. “Mix Mix” is often variable, but includes different steamed or blanched veggies like spinach, cabbage, carrots and beans. The mix also always has fried tempeh and/or fried tofu, and sometimes a boiled egg. It is served with rice and krupuk crackers if you’re lucky. What makes gado gado special is the peanut sauce that identifies the dish. I found instructions to make the sauce, maybe I’ll give it a go at home, since it is just so fulfilling with the light veggies.

Gado gado sauce, easy to make raw version too! 1 cup of peanut butter (or crushed peanuts), 1 tbsp grated ginger, 1 tbsp minced garlic, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 3 tbsp soy sauce. Add crushed red pepper and salt to taste. Mix with 1 1/2 cups hot water and devour!

Heat: Yep, it is hot. I notice it the most when going into a shop/car that has AC and then coming out. Phew! Some days the heat really hits, but when combined with a mild breeze, it is lovely. I have not needed my long sleeved shirts at all. It most definitely doesn’t feel like Christmas is coming.

Islands: Bali is the island of gods, and it is surrounded by lots of other islands. The most popular tourist destinations are Nusa Lembongan, Lombok and the Gili’s that belong to Lombok: Meno, Trawangan and Air.

Jalan: Street. Most of them not pedestrian-friendly, and are definitely not designed for handicapped. Watch where you step and you’ll be fine.

Kuta: Party hell. You can find most tourist stuff here, and some enjoy it. I preferred a quick visit once or twice just to realize how well off I was at the tranquil hoods.

Light: The sun comes up around 5.30 and and goes down around 6.30. Solid amount of sunlight every day works like magic for me. Even if I haven’t had enough sleep, I wake up with more energy.

Massages: Everywhere. Cheap. I wanted to get pampered at least once a week, but ended up getting only like 4 massages in 2 months. I’ll regret that later! From foot reflexology to Balinese and Tai massage, you can easily get your stress washed away or just get a deep relax for 1.5 hrs.

Names: I recently discovered why everyone is called Wayan, Nyoman, Ketut or Made. People are named by their order of birth, so kid #1 is Wayan, kid #2 Nyoman etc. Kid #5 id again Wayan. There are some extra names too, and the 1st girl is called “Ilo”, coincidentally “joy” in Finnish!

Other travellers: Though I did meet some lovely local people, I spent most of my time with fellow backpackers. And what a wonderful group of people did I meet and share experiences with! Mostly from Australia, but other countries too, some surfers, some not. Great talks, great trips, great surfs and lots of good new music for me.

Paradise: May it be a beach, a mountaintop, the rice fields, a jungle or a village, unless your idea of paradise includes snow, changes are Bali has it.

Quality of life: Simple things matter. People wake up at 5 am to cook, make offerings, and to go about their day. No one complains, they enjoy the simple things and take the day as it comes.

Raw food: The raw food/organic restaurants put emphasis on local, organic ingredients that have grown in rich soil. Of course in this climate and environment it is easier to grow produce than, say, in Finland, but I wish we had more of this kinds of places back home! Week or a month is nearly not enough to taste all that just Ubud has to offer.

Sun, sea, surf: All of it. Loving it.

Traffic/taxi: Crazy. Both of em. There is a logic of driving the left side of the road, but then again you can do whatever maneuvers you want as long as you don’t hit anybody. Not nearly all death-defying scooter drivers wear helmets, and some scooters have as many as 4 or 5 people on them. Insane.

The “taxi” refers to the lack of public transportation. If you’re brave enough to drive a scooter, you’re fine. If not, you’ll hear “taxi, taxi” yells at least every 2 minutes in Ubud. I do prefer walking, but sometimes the distances are just too long. Then it’s the matter or bartering the right price. Oh, my.

Ubud: Inland village/town in the center of Bali, Ubud has become the hotspot for tourists looking for the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ experience. Surrounded by rice fields, filled with raw foods cafes and yoga centers, Ubud is truly to place to seek for enlightenment and to relax. The town is very western, so don’t expect to see the “real Bali” here. Lots of massages and other pampering  available besides superb food.

Warung: Local food, cheap. Pick and mix your favorites. Delightful amount of veggies.

Yoga: Pretty much Finland-prices, I was a bit shocked how big thing yoga is. I went to a few classes, but could’v done way more if it had been more reasonably priced. Yoga retreats are aplenty with wealthy wallets.

Missing a few but that’s life.

Midsummer festivities: How to Open a Watermelon

As I have posted before, Midsummer or Summer Soltice is one of Finland’s biggest celebrations. Last year in New York I missed all the traditions: summer cottage, new potatoes, dunk people and whatnot, so this year was my opportunity to take it all back!

Guess what? I decided to stay in the city. Apparently I was not the only one, since there was (still is) a rather big city festival in Pyynikki. No summer cottage (though we do live next to a forest and have a nice view of the lake, which to me is the point of the whole thing), and no new potatoes with fish, but a lot of drunk people at the festival. It all evens out, right? The sun was shining, I even managed to  burn my back on the beach(!), and it was almost full moon, though still light outside at midnight. I “forgot” to collect 7 different flowers to dream of my future husband or the love of my life, nor did I do any other magic tricks and hocus pocus that is traditional to this feast ofthe inevitable: the days are getting shorter, and the winter is coming.

Midsummer midnight swim. Not me, though.
Midsummer midnight swim. Not me, though

With this long intro to the whole deal, I will now reveal to you how to deal with the uncomfortable situation of making a watermelon edible without a knife. A fast youtube search suggested banging your head to the fruit, which I was not that keen on trying (wonder why…) As smashing it to the ground would not have been cost-efficient, I wanted to find an alternative solution.

Battle of strenght
Battle of strength

At this point, you already have the solution. It is suggested to start off with the equipment.

The most beautiful melon
The most beautiful melon

To open a melon without a knife, you need a friend -or someone random- who just happens to carry around some nail scissors or a sewing kit. Just poke holes and cut around the whole damn thing, then start pulling with a friend. Or use karate moves on the cut line, which ever you fancy. The result is much greater than the boring triangles you get with cutting with a knife!

Getting at it
Getting at it

And as a bonus, after scooping the flesh out with your plastic forks and spoons (reserve few extra cause if you’re like me, you’re gonna break at least 4), there’s juice left for making punch drinking.

Sweet juice
Sweet juice

An idea: the left over bowls can be used as helmets, or hats.

So…that was yesterday, there still is today of everything-being-closed-and-drunk-people-wandering, we’ll see if I’ll get the courage to get out of the house and to the city! So far, I have just been devouring on chocolate sauce I made because I didn’t have enough patience to make actual chocolate. Recipe would be coming up in another post, but it’s ridiculously simple and I have no pictures of it besides my chocolatey mouth, so here goes: basically just mix melted coconut oil with cocoa powder and (raw chocolate) honey, then add some lechitin and toco (/other “superfood stuff” or just skip the powders, they’ll add creaminess and vitamins and stuff but who needs those, anyways) and bee pollen to the mix. No need to freeze, scoop it up (with sliced apple, for example) and smile!

The winter is coming, but who cares – it’s summer now!

Best of Hong Kong

Everything good ends at some point. I have now been away from Finland for almost a year, living in another continent, speaking different languages and doing many things I could or would not do in Finland. Now it’s time to say hello to Finland for a while. Here are some of my favorites from the past 4 months.

Nature.

There is much more to the city than just skyscrapers
There is much more to the city than just skyscrapers

It is unbelievable how much more there is to Hong Kong than just millions of people cramped in narrow streets between tall buildings. One can easily find amazing nature, from mountains to beaches and natural reservoirs, even in Hong Kong island!

Atmosphere.

Perfect Sunday: Relaxing at the East Island Markets
Perfect Sunday: Relaxing at the East Island Markets

By far, my most favorite place in Hong Kong was the Sunday market in Quarry Bay. The market is closed down for the summer, but will return again in September. I wish there was something like this in Finland – this farmer’s market really reminded me of New York!

Events.

Perfect Tuesday night: art, bubbly and nibbles
Perfect Tuesday night: art, bubbly and nibbles

There is always something interesting going on, whether it is an art gallery opening, birthday party or pop-up store. The only thing is to know where, when and what is happening.

Random statues.

Teddies in Heritage shopping area
Teddies in Heritage shopping area

HK is a huge shopping mall. Usually the malls have huge, quite random statues, that change almost monthly. Often the motifs of the statues are rather interesting, and worth taking a picture (or two).

Random street art.

Noodle time!
Noodle time!

Rather than ugly tags, one can encounter rather interesting pieces of art from the streets and alleyways. Tin Hau and Sheung Wan are the best bet for finding something interesting.

Fruit selection.

Sousop and something else
Sousop and something else

The amount, quality and price of fruit in Hong Kong came like a gift from heaven, after being seriously fruit-deprived in Japan. Here I have eaten tons of various fruit every day: lately especially mangos, since they are ridiculously cheap and usually sold cheaper if you buy 3 or 4. Other than mangos, I’ve been enjoying papayas, pineapple, some durian, mangosteens, dragonfruit, melons and the conventional apples, grapefruits, kiwi and oranges. Time for some Finnish berries!

Coffee culture.

Teakha in Sheung Wan
Teakha in Sheung Wan

Little coffeeshops offering top quality coffee blends and single-origin beans are popping up around the city, and there are several companies offering coffee tastings and other events. In stead of the Pacific Coffees and Starbucks in practically every corner, some of the best places to get your fix are: Coffee Academics (Causeway Bay), Coffee Corridor (Causeway Bay), Common Ground (Sheung Wan), Barista Jam (Sheung Wan), The Rabbit Hole (Wan Chai) and those moving coffee companies that frequent for example the East Island Market: 8 Grams and Moving Coffee, for example.

Food.

Delicious Chinese vegetarian cuisine, mostly with mushrooms
Delicious Chinese vegetarian cuisine, mostly with mushrooms

There is abundance of international food in Hong Kong. My favorite restaurant is Mana!, which serves organic, vegan and gluten-free wraps and salads as well as raw desserts and smoothies. Besides Mana, there are few vegetarian restaurant, and plenty of Chinese vegetarian cuisine (which is textured soy and often rather slimy to my taste). Sushi buffets are aplenty and affordable, Western food is more expensive than Asian. The Asian desserts were also rather interesting, maybe I’ll dedicate another post to that.
Mostly I cooked myself: various mushrooms and sweet potatoes were my favorites. I did try veggie dumplings on few occasions, but most Chinese restaurants had meat in their dishes even if it is not announced in the menu.

Transportation.

Back to the old times
Back to the old times

I definitely am a walker, but when you need a different means of transportation, there’s plenty to choose from. My favorite would be the Star Ferry to Kowloon side – fresh air, nice views and less crowded than the mtr. MTR is by far the fastest way of getting from A to B, but sometimes you want to relax and watch the hustle and bustle; the old-fashioned tram is perfect for that. The double-decker buses can sometimes feel like being on a theme park ride, since the drivers are rallying like on a race. The taxi isn’t a bad option, either: super cheap and easy to catch – the only problem might be the language barrier. I would not bike in Hong Kong island, but in Shatin there is even a bike route!

These are just a few things I will definitely miss from Hong Kong. I could also list the great people and sports opportunities (mYoga with it’s views to Victoria Harbor, oh man). What are your favorites?

Buddha-approved Yum-stuffed Papaya

Last Friday was Buddha’s birthday, and I was lucky to enjoy this public holiday almost completely without work. Since I haven’t posted any recipes lately, I though this sweetie would definitely be worth it – I’m sure even Buddha himself would have approved and appreciated this!

Quinoa and Mango Stuffed Papaya

– 1 ripe mango
– 1 papaya
– (cooked or sprouted) quinoa, amount depending on the size of your papaya
– coconut cream
– vanilla, cinnamon, salt according to taste

This is not quite what you are aiming for, but close
This is not quite what you are aiming for, but close

Cut the end of your papaya off, and scoop the insides out: first the seeds, then flesh (or then cut the fruit half lengthwise, and carve the flesh). Cut your mango into small pieces, and mix it with some of the papaya flesh. Combine fruits with cooked quinoa, and season according to your taste. Fill the carved papaya with the mixture, and pour some coconut cream in.

In case it’s a special occasion, i.e Buddha’s birthday, garnish your Papaya stuff with cocoa nibs, bee pollen or whatever goodies you have in hand and prefer. Another good option is to boil your quinoa in tea, it gives some extra flavor. Other fruit than mango would work too, but I like the mushy, soft textures and intense flavor of mango together with papaya. Pictured is my this morning’s breakfast with watermelon and apple – a bit more crunch, no cool stuffing involved. My papaya creation didn’t make it to picture before it was all gone. Wonder why…

Education of the day: Quinoa is super good in so many ways – complete amino acid profile, whole source of vegan protein, it’s gluten-free and hella versatile to use! If I will start posting more recipes as soon as I land back to the dear Motherland and have loads of free time (10 days, FYI), you are sure to see some quinoa stuff coming up. Try it instead of rice. Way, way better, in all possible ways. Paleo-friendly and possibly suitable for all other cool diets lifestyles you can come up with. Some more education: Buddha died supposedly due to overdosing on magical mushrooms. You gotta take which and how much shrooms to take, man!

Oooooommmm and namaste.