Smell and Drink Poop Coffee – the most expensive cuppa in the world!

It’s probably the only time when poop and expensive come in the same sentence! Coffee Luwak aka Civet Coffee is the most expensive and exotic coffee in the world! I had heard about it, but I wasn’t sure if I could muster the courage to drink it. Then I went to Bali and I thought I might as well add another ‘first’ to my travel experiences! I drank this exotic coffee and here is my experience.Fotor01031113914

Coffee plantations are not something I would highly recommend during a Bali trip, but to taste the exotic coffee luwak – a visit would be worth it!

We had a brief stopover at a coffee plantation, on our way to Ulan Danu temple in Bedugul and that’s where I tasted Coffee Luwak!

Coffee berries in the Plantation

Coffee berries in the Plantation

Luwak coffee berries

Luwak coffee berries

Luwak Coffee beans

Luwak Coffee beans

How is it exotic?

This is not just another cup of coffee; it’s exotic because it’s made from poop! People spend several dollars for a cup in the West! Spend a pretty penny for coffee made from poop? Well, the coffee beans are of a different kind as compared to your regular ones.

When the coffee berries are ripe, an animal called Asian Palm Civet eats them – thus it’s also popularly known as civet coffee. The civet eats the coffee berries and poops out the beans – which are then collected, cleaned, roasted, and grinded into coffee powder. The berries are fermented in civet’s digestive system, which gives this coffee its unique flavor and aroma.

So, it is literally poop coffee!

Sounds yucky right? I also thought the same, but nevertheless wanted to taste this exotic coffee that people rave about. There is a guide that takes you around the coffee plantation, where we saw the coffee berries, the excreted coffee beans which were being cleaned, manually roasted and grinded.

After a short tour of the coffee plantation, we arrived at the tasting area where we had our cup of Civet Coffee!

Well it looks like any other cup of coffee. But it does taste different. It has a distinct aftertaste. Although I didn’t like it so much, I would recommend it for the sheer experience of it.

Civet coffee is very affordable in Indonesia

Luwak Coffee beans

Luwak Coffee beans

Hand Roasting Process

Hand Roasting Process

Coffee luwak is a specialty of Indonesia and it has a huge market in the west. But a cup of coffee luwak in Indonesia is super-duper cheap. We paid a meagre IDR 50,000 for one 1 cup – which is about USD 6! But in the west, it’s available for as high as USD 80!

The exotic Cup of Coffee Luwak

The exotic Cup of Coffee Luwak

Also, it’s more authentic because it’s produced in Indonesia itself. When you drink it outside Indonesia, you never know whether it’s really luwak or something else, especially if it’s your first time.

There are other types of tea and coffee that we tasted – like ginseng, vanilla, coconut, hazelnut, etc. – which are complimentary.

Luwak Coffee is also sold in restaurants and cafes in other part of Bali at the same price. So if you do not have time to visit the plantation, you can have it in any of the cafes. Though you will miss out on experiencing the coffee plantation and how luwak coffee is processed.

Roasted coffee powder

Roasted coffee powder

Different types of coffee beans

Different types of coffee beans

A complimentary platter of coffee for tasting

A complimentary platter of coffee for tasting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can purchase luwak coffee as well as other types of coffee and tea at the small store outside the coffee plantation.

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One beside the lake, other amidst the sea

How can you visit Bali and not see its temples. I read somewhere, that there are more temples in Bali than houses. Although that sounds overstated, there are still quite a handful of them on this island –often dubbed as ‘home of the gods’. We visited two ancient temples – one beside the lake – Ulan Danu and the other amidst the sea – Tanah Lot!

Panorama view of Ulan Danu and Lake Bratan

Panoramic view of Ulan Danu and Lake Bratan

At some point in history, Hinduism spread across several parts of Asia, including Indonesia. Although, Indonesia is mostly Muslim dominated now, Bali has preserved its Hindu roots in the most ancient form. The basic tenets of the religion has been kept intact – the belief in the holy trinity of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.

My Bali sojourn would have been incomplete without seeing at least a few of these temples. As we were really tired after a day spent hiking on Mount Batur (you can read it in a separate post here), we decided to keep it short and simple by only visiting two major temples – Ulun Danu in the mountains and Tanah Lot in the sea – in two distinct environs!

We hired a cab to take us to these two temples, as they were far apart.

Ulun Danu or Pura Bratan in Bedugul

Ulan Danu Temple

Ulan Danu Temple

The drive was about 1 hour from Ubud. As we left the Ubud center, our window view soon turned into a country side with lush paddy fields.

The eleven tiers dedicated to Lord Shiva

The eleven tiers dedicated to Lord Shiva

Ulun Danu or more popularly known as Pura Bratan is located on the banks of Lake Bratan in Bedugul Mountain – north of Ubud. It’s the most photogenic temple in Bali! Ulun Danu is a water temple where Dewi Danu is worshipped for fertile land and good harvest, the fertile land of Bedugul is considered a blessing of the Goddess. It’s believed that 11 stories of the main temple complex are dedicated to Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati. Interestingly the temple also has a Buddha statue.

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Ulan Danu and Lake Bratan

Ulun Danu is a picturesque temple with the enormous and serene lake Bratan amidst the mountains of Bedugul. It was misty and cloudy with a cool breeze keeping us happy. I was glad I had my pullover to keep me warm.

We spent about 45 minutes clicking pictures of the beautiful temple and the lake while also enjoying the cooler climes.

Tanah Lot and the sunset

Tanah Lot Temple on the rock formation

Tanah Lot Temple on the rock formation

Our next destination was Tanah Lot, the famous sea temple in South-west Bali. We were heading there for the famous sunset. As the distances are pretty huge in Bali and we started from Bedugul, it took us about 2 and a half to 3 hours to reach Tanah Lot.

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Another of the 7 sea temples in the vicinity

The way to Tanah Lot is highly commercialized as hordes of tourists visit the temple every day and the nearby cliff area.

The Sunset at Tanah Lot

Sunset at Tanah Lot and the mighty Indian Ocean

Although the main temple is on a small rock formation, you cannot access it during high tide as sea water separates the temple from the banks. Luckily we went there during low tide and we could access the temple. However, only Balinese people are allowed inside the temple. On the temple precincts, priests put tika/tilak of rice and sandalwood on your forehead and give you flowers. You are expected to put in some money as offering in the nearby donation box. This practice is similar to how you pray in Hindu temples in India.

It’s believed that Dang Hyang Nirartha built the Tanah Lot temple on the rock formation in the 16th century with the help of some fisherman. Legend says that several poisonous sea snakes guard the temple. In fact many travel websites warn you to stay away from the walls of the temples, where they are sometimes believed to be hiding.

It is also one of 7 sea temples on Bali’s south-west coast where it is believed that one temple is visible from the other.

It’s interesting being an Indian as well as a Hindu to witness Hinduism in this faraway land – that too in a somewhat distinct form as compared to how it is practiced in India.

The sunset from the cliffs of Tanah Lot temple area was memorable. The mighty Indian Ocean was fierce and we called it a day and returned to our hotel with vivid memories of the two temples – one beside the lake and one amidst the sea!

Important Information:

  • Entrance fee to Ulan Danu is IDR 30,000 per person.
  • The tickets can be bought at the entrance of the temple.
  • The temple is open from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm every day.
  • Entrance fee to Tanah Lot isIDR 30.000 / person
  • The tickets can be bought at the entrance of the temple.

There are other temples on my wish list such as the Besakih on the slopes of Mount Agung – which is considered the most important and holy temple in Bali that withstood the Mount Agung eruptions of 1963.

Since I couldn’t see all that I wanted to, I am definitely going to revisit Bali.

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How to settle down as an expat in Singapore – Part IV

Last week I posted the part 3 of this series – that focused on how to set up your home in Singapore. Further to that, this part is dedicated to how you can make your life more convenient in Singapore – know your neighborhood, public transport – basically get going here.

Singapore is divided into estates or towns that are well equipped to cater to your daily needs. Super markets, food courts, hair salons, etc are readily available, mostly within walking distance. Let’s take a look.

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Here is a list of some of the Supermarkets and convenience stores that you can visit for your daily needs

  1. Fair Price – a regular supermarket for your daily needs – sells food items, medicines, toiletries etc.
  2. Cold Storage – a high end supermarket.
  3. Watsons – sells over the counter medicines, cosmetics etc.
  4. Guardian – another medical shop
  5. Giant – another very good supermarket
  6. Value Dollar – affordable knick-knacks sold here

Here is how you can make your life more comfortable in the island city:

  1. Purchase an EZlink card – one card for all transport – MRT (mass rapid transit), LRT (Light Rail Transit), buses as well as cabs. Although some cabs may at times not have the facility or a non-functional one. EZlink cards can be purchased at any MRT station. You can top-up the Link card at the ticketing machines in MRT stations, AXS machines as well as the ATM machines (provided you have a bank account in that particular bank).
  2. Open a Bank Account: You will need a bank account in Singapore. There are many banks – DBS, POSB, OCBC, UOB, Standard Chartered, etc. Walk into any of the branches with your EP/ DP/ IC. Work Permit holders also need to present their Passport to open an account. I took 15 minutes to open my account which was functional immediately.
  3. Hire a Maid: You can hire a part maid or a full time maid in Singapore. A part time maid will come for about 4 hours. Rates vary; mostly it’s about SGD 40 for 4-5 hours. A full time maid can also be hired as well. Make sure you hire one from a registered agency.
  4. Get a Library Membership: Singapore’s National Library is a great place to spend time. Walk into any Library for free and pick up a book/ newspaper and read. As a foreigner, you can take a 1 year membership for SGD 50+ (approximately). Walk into any of the neighborhood library and ask for a membership. After the procedure is completed, your card will be issued immediately and you can start borrowing books right away. You can borrow up to 8 books at a time. Each book is allowed to be borrowed for approximately 3 weeks’ time. Plus, you also have the convenience of dropping the borrowed books at any of the NLB drop boxes, not necessarily the one that you borrowed from. More information here http://www.nlb.gov.sg/
  5. Use the Community Centre: Each neighborhood has a community center that has different kinds of recreational courses that you can enroll. Some of the community centers also have sports facilities like Table Tennis, etc. You can book your slot in advance and use the facilities for a nominal fee. More information: https://one.pa.gov.sg/CRMSPortal/CRMSPortal.portal
  6. Use the Swimming complex: Most of the estates have a swimming complex. You will need it if you are staying in an HDB flat, as these facilities are not provided. For swimming pools access at the sports complex, bring in your EZlink card. More information: http://www.singaporeswimming.com.sg/swimming-pool

Hope you have a pleasant stay in Singapore.

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How to settle down as an expat in Singapore Part III

It has been a while I have updated this series that I started sometime ago. In the first part, I listed down the things to be taken into account while preparing to come and stay in Singapore, while the second part was primarily dedicated to finding a house – which is a major part in the settling down process.

This part will be focused on setting up your CAM00227home!

Setting up your abode again and again can be demoralizing let alone daunting, especially if you had to leave your home to settle down all over again.

Depending on whether the house you leased is semi-furnished, furnished or unfurnished, you have to draw up a list of items you would need. A few essentials would be Bed, Sofa, Dining Table Set, Extra Chairs, Dressing table, Wardrobes, Study Table, Centre Table, TV Cabinet / Table. Some of the electric appliances would be TV, Microwave, Mixer Grinder/ food processor, etc.

Home Furniture/ Home Furnishings

I would highly recommend IKEA to furnish your house. It’s not only affordable; the designs are urban and minimalistic. It is ideal for people who are always on the go. IKEA has 2 stores in Singapore – one in Tampines, another in Alexandra. The store in Tampines is pretty big and you can find everything from kitchen pots and pans to curtains, to furniture – under one roof.

A few tips of visiting IKEA –

It can be quite a task navigating the huge store. So, here are a few tips.

  1. Visit the IKEA website – and create a shopping list
  2. Take a print out of this list when you visit IKEA
  3. If you need to buy many items, you need to make multiple trips. So first make a list of all the items that you need immediately – the bare minimum.
  4. Most importantly, do not forget to carry big bags to carry your purchased items back home. IKEA doesn’t give carry bags. However, if you forget to bring in a bag, you can buy one at the cashier for 90 cents.
  5. Do not go alone. Bring along someone.
  6. Avoid weekends if possible. If you have to go on a weekend, try to reach the store by 11 am and wrap up as soon as you can.

IKEA website: http://www.ikea.com/sg/en/

For crockery/ household knick-knacks

One store that never fails to disappoint me is Diaso – a Japanese store where everything is sold for SGD 2! From plates, spoons, table mats, door mats, slippers, you can buy all the small little things that you need for your home. Daiso has many outlets including ones in Plaza Singapura Mall, Parkway Parade Mall, City Centre Mall.

Some people also love to visit Mustafa Shopping Centre in Little India. Although I find the store a ted claustrophobic, you can still make a visit. It is open 24 hours. Try to make a visit late in the night when it’s a less crowded.

For electronics/ home appliances

For electric appliances, you can check out these stores:

  1. Giant – this is a supermarket that sells fruits/ vegetables/dry goods etc. It also has a section where you can find electric appliances – both branded and some of the lesser known ones too. Giant has many outlets throughout the city. Visit website: http://www.giantsingapore.com.sg/
  2. Harvey Norman: Harvey Norman is a pure electronics shop where you can find a variety of electronic items – TVs, Microwave ovens, toasters, vacuum cleaners, etc. Visit website: http://www.harveynorman.com.sg/

Second Hand items:

If you are looking at buying second hand items, you can also look into this website – http://singapore.gumtree.sg/

My next part of this series will be on how to make your life convenient in Singapore. So keep visiting!

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Movie Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl is mysterious, outright disturbing yet deals with the ‘don’t take me for granted attitude’ in a marriage to a different level altogether.

The beautiful, successful and wealthy wife of Nick Dunne (played by Ben Affleck) – Amy Elliot Dunne (Rosamund Pike) disappears on their 5th marriage anniversary. Nick seems too cold and casual to this news, making everyone ask – what’s Nick’s role in Amy’s mysterious disappearance, if at all he has one?

The detectives, although couldn’t put charges on him, find it ted difficult to completely rule him out on all grounds of suspicion.

So ‘Finding Amy’ becomes a mission – from candle lit marches to discussions on news channels – and Nick becomes the eye of the storm as the whole story turns up to become one of America’s loved prime time news story.

With twists and turns of revelations – Amy’s pregnancy reports, Nick’s affair with his young student, financial troubles of the couple, forensic confirmations of a crime scene at Nick’s apartment, all leads to the final arrest of Nick as Amy couldn’t be found after many days.

Behind all this is the perfect plot by Amy – the writer – who frames her unfaithful husband. She of course is alive and watching all the drama from a distance and under the guise of colored hair and shabby clothes. The writer in her draws the perfect plan of her disappearance holding Nick responsible for it – her little revenge. He had made her cease to exist over the years and now it’s her turn to disappear for real and teach Nick a lesson.

So what’s next? Will Nick spend the rest of his life in prison? Will Amy make a comeback?

Well she does. Will normalcy return in the marriage? Watch it to know.

Gone Girl is a fine balance of how the cracks in a marriage both destroys it and holds it together. Betrayal, suspicion, nagging, and all the ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ war in a marriage make you ‘partners in crime’ – well truly in this case.

You must ask your spouse – What is it that you are thinking? What’s there in your head?

Cast:

Ben Affleck

Rosamund Pike

Neil Patrick Harris

Tyler Perry

Directed by David Fincher

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328 Katong Laksa – a Singapore favorite

I am not a big fan of laksa. Actually I was eating laksa at the wrong places in Singapore or maybe the not so good ones.

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A bowl of laksa along with otah

However, ‘I am not a big fan of laksa’ statement became a thing of the past when I was introduced to the sinful laksa in the famous neighborhood eatery in Katong area – 328 Katong Laksa.

Now I am a convert!

For those among you wondering what is laksa? I am copying the text form a previous post here:

Laksa is a spicy noodle soup containing coconut gravy, rice vermicelli, fish sticks, cockles and shrimps, that is garnished with laksa leaves (I’m yet to figure out whether the laksa leaves are dried coriander, basil or mint).  

Well, coming back to 328 Katong Laksa, the laksa here tastes different from all the laksa I have had before. It’s creamy, spicy (you can also add additional chili paste), and the texture of the soup makes you want for more. I also love the generous garnishing of the laksa leaves – that clearly adds a different flavor to the dish.

I also eat another side dish along with laksa here as it goes really well with it. It’s called otah – a fish cake made with spices and wrapped in banana leaf.

328 Katong Laksa has become immensely popular over the years, and has grabbed the attention of the likes of Gordon Ramsay and many others.

The downside

Otah

Otah

The place where Katong Laksa is housed cannot be called rundown, but it’s definitely nondescript. When we went there for lunch the other day, the eatery had given way to a new air-conditioned, brightly lit coffee shop.

To our great relief, the revamped place is still 328 Katong Laksa selling their famous laksa!

The laksa in the older place had 3 portions of servings that you could choose from – small, medium and large.

We used to always order the medium portion before, which was perfect for 1 person.

The renovated place has only 2 options – small and large. We ordered the large portion, thinking the small one might be way too less. But it turned out to be a ted more.

The prices have also gone up marginally. The small portion comes at SGD 5 and the large at SGD 7.

CAM00605The seating area has definitely improved with the air conditioning with some tables put outside as well.

But this time around I must admit, the taste of the laksa let me down. The taste wasn’t that great as before – it wasn’t the right consistency and tasted a little bland. I really missed the old nondescript place serving the yummy laksa.

However, I would still rate 328 Katong Laksa far better than any other shop selling laksa in Singapore.

More information at their website:  http://328katonglaksa.com.sg/  

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Korean Army Stew – the happy food

Last week I went for Korean army stew dinner. I know what’s stew of course, but army stew? I was curious and researched a bit to find out what it is about.

The legend

Kimchi salad and more

Kimchi salad and more

Korean Army stew is a dish that sprung to existence after the Korean War, when food was scarce. People gathered whatever ingredients they could get from the US army bases – from noodles, meat, ramen noodles, vegetables, spices and put them into a local thick soup flavored with gochujang (red chili paste) and kimchi.

It is said that there is no particular recipe for Korean Army Stew or what is locally called Budae Chigae (Budae means military base and Chigae means stew in Korean), but it’s yummy!

The dish is a perfect example of ‘necessity is the mother of all inventions’! Much later after the Korean War the dish is still relished by many.

Army Stew at Seoul Yummy

The Korean Army Stew

The Korean Army Stew

I am glad that I could get a taste of the Korean Army stew right here in Singapore! We went for dinner at Seoul Yummy. The chic restaurant in upmarket Clarke Quay area didn’t of course have any resemblance to the Korean War setting. But the food was delicious.

We ordered the must have on the menu Army Stew and opted for the seafood ingredients of prawns, crab, octopus, clams, noodles and vegetables, etc.

Baby octopus on my spoon!

Baby octopus in my spoon!

The stew looked similar to the Chinese steam boat. However, the soup was made of kimchi paste and red chili giving it a distinct taste and totally different from the Chinese steam boat.

The stew comes in a big pot which with all ingredients and placed on a hot plate on your table. We cooked the stew and took our individual servings. Although the restaurant’s menu says – one stew is enough for 2 persons, we shared the stew among 4 of us. The Army stew as expected was delicious and I loved every bite.

Side Dishes that are a must try

We also ordered other side dishes such as:

Tteokbokki – rice cakes in spicy sauce – very yummy! We actually reordered the same dish again!

6Potato Pancake – it was not that great, quite average.

Potato Pancake

Potato Pancake

Braised Pork Belly was superb!

Braised Pork Belly

Braised Pork Belly

They also have many starters such as radish shavings, kimchi salad, tofu in spicy sauce, that we relished.

I loved the army stew and I am definitely going to try it again!

Remember

The restaurant doesn’t take reservations after 7:30 pm.

We had to wait for about 15 minutes to get a table. But we used the waiting time to place our order. So when we got our table, the food was served within 5 minutes.

Our bill for 4 pax was SGD 100 (approximately).

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