The Best Crispy Duck in Ubud, Bali

Bebek Bengil, or Dirty Duck Diner, is by far the most delicious thing I ate while I was in Bali. The beautiful restaurant was located just a short walk from Monkey Forest, and definitely worth a visit. Who wouldn’t want to eat this?

I would pay you up to a million dollars to bring me this right now.

… and this?

& delicious dessert
Obviously I ordered dessert too.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, having not eaten crispy duck before, but was wonderfully surprised and glad I had such a delicious experience with this Balinese specialty.

And that’s all I have to say about that.


How to Have the Best Day in Bali

Our day was planned by Bali Adventure Tours which I would recommend, as it was by far my favourite day in Indonesia! We were picked up and returned to our hotel, as well as chauffeured around for the day. It was quite ideal. Bonus was the great tour guide we had which I discuss at the end of this post! So, without further ado, here is how to spend the best day in Bali (and for only US$150/person)!!

In the morning: Go to the Elephant Safari Park
This park is the one where Eat, Pray, Love was filmed. Pictures of Julia Roberts and her family framed the walls, as did photos of many other celebrities. However what made this park great was not all the celebrity guests, but rather the one-on-one approach with visitors to the elephants and staff. We were given a tour of the park, including a look at the new baby elephants, the first to be born in the park. We were given a history of the elephants, as most had tragic back stories involving being shot at or having lost a mother. We were then taken to feed the elephants while waiting for our turn for a ride. When our turn came, I was quite impressed. The ride is a genuine safari ride. It lasts about 30-45 minutes (thinking back now I can’t remember exactly how long, but I remember thinking it was wonderfully long!) and you are taken through an “elephant only” zone, surrounded by trees and nature – and the odd rouge kid on a bike. Each staff member is assigned an elephant, to work one on one with, and rides with you, perched on the elephant’s trunk, and guides you through. Our guide was wonderful and funny and told us more about each elephant in the park. When we returned from the ride, we were taken to watch a show where the elephants performed. I was slightly nervous to see this (and was overall nervous to go to the park at all – fearful I would find poorly treated animals) but the show was fun: elephants doing slam dunks (an easy task for them), or painting with their tusks. The babies are brought around so we can all “ohh” and “aww” at their cuteness. The whole park had a great feel. Nothing was hidden away, all the animals were always in sight and it was easy to tell they were being properly treated. Definitely worth a visit if you love elephants or are curious to learn more about them! The park also has its own accommodations if you wish to stay and have a more hands on experience. If not, it is easily accessible from the other areas of Ubud.

Silly elephant
Elephants can paint.

riding the elephant
Elephant ride!

In the afternoon: Go White Water Rafting. If possible, stay in raft.
After our enjoyable morning with elephants, we were taken for lunch and then to go white water rafting. Fear of death aside, Katie and I were excited to being going on this adventure. We were (un)fortunate enough to be put right at the front of the small boat, which allowed maximum danger as well as breathtaking views. We saw monkey’s and giant lizards, swam and bathed in a waterfall, raced other boats and Katie’s life was saved by a Dutchman sitting behind us. The scenery was beautiful and allowed us to see a natural side of Bali we would have completely missed had it not been for this adventure. Truly amazing.

ready to raftKatie as we head down to start water rafting!

Bonus: get a tour from a local who will take you around his village and show you the ways of his life.

Tour by a Local
Getting a tour of the local housing

I loved our driver because he just wouldn’t stop talking. He was fascinating. He wanted to tell us all the ways of the Balinese people, and we wanted to hear it. He was saying so much that I couldn’t keep up, as I sat in the back seat scribbling notes in my spare pages of my agenda – unfortunately the only paper I had on me at the time. He told us about how important rice is to the Balinese people, something I can relate to here in Japan. The people from Bali have four different names for rice (a signifier of its value). They wake each morning and make rice that they will eat throughout the day; Japan is the same. Unlike Japan, however, Balinese use coconut oil in all of their cooking. What it lacks in healthiness it more than makes up for in pure deliciousness. He spoke of the different temples we would find in each town, each representing a different God and requiring different offerings. He spoke of the cremation ceremonies, and his thoughts on death. Most people in Bali in Hindu (his guess was 97%), which is unique in Indonesia. The rest of the country is Muslim. (Sidenote: Indonesia is mainly Muslim, with 82% of the population identifying Muslim as their main religion. In Bali, however, the majority is Hindu. We didn’t realize how much religion affected their daily life in both religions until the day we moved to the Gili Islands – and into Muslims territory. More on that later.) The Hindu believe in reincarnation, he told us. He stressed the importance of raising a family with proper values. He said, “my son will become my father” – a quote that stuck with me throughout the entire trip. If he raises his son poorly, his son will grow up uneducated, poor, and thus he will be reborn into a family less off that is desired. If he raises his son properly, with education and the desire to be driven, his son will be prosperous and thus he will be born into a well off lifestyle. Karma plays a strong role in their daily lives and hearing about his beliefs first hand was a great experience.

That was a long one, guys. Thanks for reading!

Until next time,
xo R

An Unexpected Love Affair with Singapore

I stayed in Singapore for a few days on either end of my trip to Indonesia. I arrived early (and I mean early) Sunday morning. Fortunately, a great friend of mine, Fernn, lives in Singapore and her wonderful family was so accommodating and helpful to Katie & I. They picked us up in the airport and gave us the guest room, where we crashed after a long day and a half of travelling from our homes in Japan.

Fernn & her sister took us around Singapore to show us all the sights, and of course, the famous MERLIONS. The things that surprised me most were about the city-state were:

1. Singapore’s architecture. The city has a beautiful cityscape. Each building seems to be specifically designed with beauty in mind. Plus, there are merlions. Enough said.

Merlion in the City
Merlions take vacations too dontcha know…

2. Another thing that surprised me (I knew very little about Singapore before my arrival) was that Singapore has no natural fresh water supply, so it has to have a well functioning dam and rain water reservoir.

3. Singapore has two types of housing, if I understood correctly: private vs subsidized. In order to qualify for subsidized housing (and private housing is very expensive), you must meet certain requirements such as: be married (Singapore has the lowest total fertility rate in the world), or be within a certain age range, or with a certain income. Subsidized buildings also fulfill a specific racial mixture. Which leads me to my next point…

4. Singapore has such a diverse population! Perhaps it was partly because I was coming from Japan, where foreigners are so obvious, but in Singapore, no one is an outcast. The foreign population is huge and despite being small in area, and with a population of 5.1 million, Singapore has 4 official languages. Forty percent of Singapore’s residents were foreigners, as of 2009. No matter who you are, you fit in in Singapore.

The Singaporean Cityscape
Singapore is grand!

Definitely a place I would like to return to, and worth a visit if you’ve never gone! Especially with its cheap airlines to other places around Asia and Australia, Singapore should be next on your list of places to visit! Be sure to check out all my Singapore photos here!

Stories from Indonesia coming up next. Stay tuned,