Salamat Datang! I’m back from two week in Bali and, whilst I have yet to cook anything, I am serious blogging withdrawal so I thought I would give you a brief catch up on the trip. There were many hours of pool and beachside lazing so I did a LOT of reading. So, I thought I would do a combined what we did / what I read post and also let you know the…ahem…science behind how I choose my holiday reads!
Stop #1 – Ubud
Our first stop was Ubud in central Bali. Unlike the rest of Indonesia which is Muslim, the Balinese are largely Buddhists. They are deeply spiritual and part of their spirituality involves putting out offerings for the Gods each day. Offerings on the ground ward off evil spirits, offerings above the ground attract the good spirits. Sometimes you will also see an offering with a cookie or a cigarette or a glass of arak in it. These are the ancestor offerings and contain the respective ancestor’s favourite things!
They also adorn their statues of the Gods with fresh flowers each day!
I did a Balinese cooking class at Ketut’s Place which was awesome! The class was in an open kitchen overlooking rice paddies and a garden where most of the vegetables we used were grown. Ketut was also a fabulous host, knowledgeable and incredibly funny! I can’t wait to get back into cooking so I can show you some of what I learned! Incidentally, there are only four names in Bali. The first child is always called Wayan, the second is Made, the third child is Nyoman and the fourth child is Ketut. If a family has more than four children, it starts all over again with child #5 being called Wayan.
We did a trip to the Ubud Monkey Forest. Now these guys take the term cheeky monkey to a whole new level – if it isn’t bolted down, they will steal it – hats, sunglasses, cameras are all fair game! We sat down for a little rest at one point and the Fussiest Eater in the World had a monkey rifling through his pockets! Another baby monkey held out what was his prize possession for us to look at – it was a diamond earring. So brazen!
Ubud was lovely, a lovely place to chill out. The cooking class was amazing and I would recommend that to anyone. Food highlight was eating at The 3 Monkeys on the Monkey Forest Road. The downside/s were that it was a little rainy and the villa we stayed in happened to be next to a chicken farm. I don’t know if you’ve ever lived next to a chicken farm but the roosters start crowing at around 3am and do not STFU. Afternoon naps became a thing!
Holiday Reading Habit #1 – The Re-Read/s
I have an annual book cull where I get rid of all the books I have read that I didn’t enjoy (so many this year, it has been a really BAD year for reading for me). Then I do a sweep of my main bookshelves and pull out anything that I look at and think “Now…what was that about again?” and these go onto a holding shelf where they become the basis for the holiday re-read. The holiday re-read is ruthless. It is a case of love it or leave it. Literally. Leave it in the hotel or ideally, swap it for something better in the hotel book exchange!
I had two re-reads in this years picks and OMFG…if anything could convince you of how varied my reading tastes are, have a look at these. Lets start with:
allmenarebastards.com by Allison Rushby
I read this cover to cover on the plane. And had time to spare. Which should tell you everything you need to know. It’s a light, frothy piece of chick lit about a girl who sets up a website called allmenarebastards.com which, quelle surprise, goes viral and how she finds true love despite her man hatin’ ways. It made the 6 hour plane trip to Bali go by relatively quickly but the main character really annoyed me. I also found myself wondering why this had made the re-read shelf and was not dispatched to a better place, i.e. the local charity shop in the first instance.
Verdict: Left it on a jet plane.
The Raw-Shark Texts by Stephen Hall
I bought this when it first came out in 2007 and remember being not entirely taken with it. Obviously not enough to discard it but I remember thinking it was a bit too clever-clever, a little too fond of it’s own high concepts and wordplays (for an example…name the Raw-Shark Texts is a play on words on the Rorschach Tests administered by psychiatrists). I chose it because about a week before I left I was listening to some old booky podcasts and heard it being reviewed favourably on on Hear…Read This. This was enough to get me to pull it off the shelf for another go.
I don’t even know where to begin with this. A man wakes up one morning with no recollection of who he is. Turns out he is Eric Sanderson v 2. Through letters from the original Eric Sanderson he learns that he lost the love of his life, Clio in a diving accident in Greece. Eric and his cat called Ian embark on a quest to find Dr Trey Fidourus who may hold the clue to Eric’s past. Eric’s nemesis in this quest is a Ludovician, a gigantic thought shark who, before it kills you, destroys your memories.
It is a really clever book and I enjoyed reading this a lot more this time and felt that I either understood, or was not as irritated by, the wordplays and stylistic concepts as I was the first time round. I also enjoyed the story which is all about the power of words and memory and loss a lot more than I did the first time round. However, I felt that reading this twice was enough and it did not make the journey home with me.
It was also quite unnerving lying on a beach and reading about a (thought) shark. All the more so when I slipped on a rock on Lembongan island and cut my knee open. The only place to wash it was in the sea and the entire time I kept thinking of how sharks can smell a drop of blood in about a billion parts of water and expected to be attacked any second!
Verdict: Left (somewhat reluctantly) in Sanur. Standout character – Ian the cat.
Stop #2 – Legian
Ummm…if my photos are anything to go by I didn’t carpe diem at all in Legian. It would seem the opposite – all my photos are of night times, bars, cocktails, restaurants…and the Fussiest Eater in the World getting up close and personal at a drag show! It was much busier than Ubud with better weather and thankfully no roosters! In amongst all the tourist tat there here is some good shopping to be had in in Legian and it’s neighbour Seminyak. I bought two lovely leather handbags for a fraction of the cost back home. If you do want the tourist stuff, be prepared to barter hard.
Holiday Reading Habit #2 – Personal Development
I like to use our winter holiday as a time of reflection and planning for the “year” ahead. My birthday is mid August so I tend to set my annual goals each year to start from September. Our winter break is a great time for reflection on the year gone by and what to aim for in the coming 12 months. To that end, I like to get a bit of my personal development reading in during this time. This is also my time to plan for the blog and I had a super ( at least I think so) idea for a new segment. Stay tuned for that.
This year I read:
Radical Self Love by Gala Darling
I think I would have loved this book had I read it in my 20’s when I totally lacked confidence in myself. Having someone say that it is ok to be yourself, however offbeat or oddball that self if would have been very empowering. Now, that I am an old curmudgeon, I didn’t find anything in here that I hadn’t heard before. Having said that, I think there are times we could all use a little boost and I think this will be a book I turn back to in those times to get some motivation or see myself out of a low patch. And having said THAT, I found her talk of tapping as a way to relieve everything from eating disorders to childhood traumas to be way too out there for me. Does anyone do this? I had not even heard of it before reading this and it sounds highly spurious. Please correct me if I am wrong!
Verdict: A real pick and mix. Some parts I will definitely refer back to, some parts (the tapping) were not for me.
Let it Out by Katie Dalebout
I used to be a frequent listener to Katie’s podcast, The Wellness Wonderland but I gave it up because it got a bit too woo-woo for me. There is a bit of that in Let it Out but I feel that the great journalling tips contained in here far outweigh the flakiness quotient. I have not finished this yet but, as a sporadic journaller who wants to be a regular journaller, this contains some great ideas!
Verdict: Definite keeper!
Stop #3 – Sanur
On the way to the beach resort of Sanur we drove to Tanah Lot, one of Bali’s most beautiful temples:
And we did a day trip to Lembongan Island…tropical paradise!
(Except for when you fall over over and cut your knee on a rock so are a bit too scared to swim in case a shark gets you!)
Holiday Reading Habit #3 – The One You’ve Been Wanting To Read for Ages
I took The Goldfinch with me. Did not even open it. Very disappointed with myself as that is a big and heavy book to be carrying around for no reason!
Holiday Reading Habit #4 – The Book Set in the Place You are At
Epic fail. Did not even think of a book set in Bali to read. BUT had an awesome idea for a book set in Bali to write. Then again I was rather cocktail fuelled at the time. Lets see. If it’s still burbling away in there by NANOWRIMO, maybe I’ll have a crack at writing it!
Holiday Reading Habit #5 – The Total Surprise
This is usually something I pick up on my travels but this time was something I had with me.
I finished Gala Darling by the pool and could not be bothered to walk back to the hotel room to get The Goldfinch. And here’s my Gala Darlingesque tip for the young and impressionable. ALWAYS walk back to the hotel room to get the book you really want to read. Because otherwise you will flick on your Kindle to something like The Good Girl which you have already started and didn’t particularly enjoy but hey, its there and there’s no point in starting anything new when you have The Goldfinch waiting in your hotel room.
Maybe I have read too many of the Gone Girlesque books that have come onto the market since the original but this story of a kidnapping did not grab me at all.
Verdict: Should have walked back to the hotel room to pick up The Goldfinch
However, I read it here so life was not all bad!
Back soon with some cooking!
And tell me how do you choose your holiday reads?