Rat, Snake or Frog?

Have you ever thought about what you have eaten? I’m talking about the long table of life. One that would stretch out to who knows where and present everything you’ve ever devoured as one giant banquet. Chances are its ugly. According to Lou, mine would likely be a flat pyramid. It’s foundations thick with carbs, a second layer of meat and chicken balanced precariously on a weak bed of mortar given the sprinkling of potato chips and the oil that has likely made its way into the mix. Though of late, as most married men would attest too, vegetables and all manner of fruits have made their way on to that table.

How about the delicacies? I’ve had escargot, ostrich, kangaroo, crocodile, warthog and water buffalo. No insects, yet. I think I was served Zebra in Africa once, though can’t quite recall. I would now feel guilty admitting to it despite the fact they’re seen as sheep over there. Though I had mixed feelings when we finally arrived in the Mekong Delta. We took a slow boat down the river to see them make rice crackers, candy, popcorn all of it with no machines and even wrapped by hand. Despite the surprise of seeing it built up, (I was expecting not much more than the jungle – I’d seen Apocolypse Now), we opted to eat and sleep with a family in a homestay.

Tucked on the side of river, admittedly the turn off to it was under a giant new six lane concrete bridge, we walked through a long path covered in trees and were presented with a large thatched roof. Inside it looked more like a hostel than a traditional Vietnamese house. Reinforced by the kitchen which was large and a garden that was at least an acre. Though still really charming. Waterways divided the backyard, fish swam between the lotus leaves, Papaya, Jackfruit, Longan, and Melons were everywhere. All pretty idyllic I know. They asked us what we wanted for dinner. They could source the usual safe fare, vegetables and meats, though asked us if we wanted to shake things up. How did we feel about Rat, Snake or Frog? Having seen the river (it’s a muddy brown), we opted to double up on chicken.

When they returned from the market, Lou dove into the kitchen. I worked with kids on wrapping nuts and rice into a candy ball wrapped inside what looked like purple plasticine and was then folded into a triangled banana leaf. Delicious by the way, the kids loved it. We were served ten times the food that any normal person could eat. So allowing for the carbs and your basic meats, make that five people. They presented us with two of those meats listed in my title. I’ll include them in a picture. Yours truly ate both. I’ll let you guess. None of my family would touch it. Looks like the length of my table and the width of my pyramid continue to grow.






My top 10 ways how to find the good life in Ubud

#utopia= where being good is easier than being bad in the garden of earthly delights

I think most people struggle to remain committed to what is considered ‘good’ these days. It’s much easier, cheaper and often more fun to make what might be considered bad decisions. Big or small. It is also a common response of rolling ones eyes at those that ‘go on’ about their good choices. Their healthy eating habits, their exercise regimes, their caprese salad eating/yogi children, their eco- homes, their jobs that are saving the world while the rest of us are destroying it or (gasp) maybe worse, doing nothing much either way.

Of course we are not even allowed to use the words good or bad anymore as far as children are concerned, when surprisingly these are probably the easiest ones they understand. In my family, we are equally divided. Two of us like being good. We strive for positive affirmation. The other two, take great pleasure in knowing they are doing something naughty or not ‘allowed’. I’ll let you guess who is who.

When we booked our month in Ubud, we were drawn to it as a place where we could allow ourselves to relax, think, write and enjoy bali away from the beach crowds at least. Our experience of the place was limited to my one visit with my adventurous single mum in a beatup convertible jeep only stopping to buy mangos on the side of the road some 25 years ago.

What we experienced there in a month, I hope will positively influence our lives for years to come. All of us, in varying ways, got to live a life where making good decisions was naturally easy and beneficial to us all. It also wasn’t boring, in fact it was pretty darn thrilling.

This utopia that we found, is largely due to the people that call Ubud their home. They have been drawn to this place for years and now are the majority here. Their work, their lives and their social circles are all focused on good living. Believing what we put in, we get out. The earth, our bodies, our relationships and our children. So we better get it right. It is also fair to say that the local Balinese in this area already had a very strong commitment to this way of living, which feels incredibly incongruous to what is going on in the rest of bali, but I hope the tide is turning on that front. Not if you read the news today about a 17 year old being evacuated due to methanol poisoning. Enough said.

Most people that holiday in bali don’t make it up to Ubud, or often just for a Monkey Forest day trip. Wow do they miss out. In my small way, I’d love to share with you some things we did that contributed to our enjoyment of Bali, so that you too might take a little bit of Ubud away with you, back into your lives to reflect and consider our decisions everyday.

For those interested but don’t know the area, here’s my top 10 tips for Ubud should you venture beyond Kudeta. Book a week or even three. Get a driver for the bigger day trips as it will cost you all of $50 for the entire day and worth far more. You won’t find any of these day trips listed on boards in Kuta but the drivers in Ubud will know where to go when you ask.

For travel around central Ubud, get a motorbike or walk around town. Heaps more info if you google the names below. Oh yes, we took the kids to all of this and it was some of their utmost favourite things of our entire holiday. Book a villa to stay at on airbnb or stay at Samhita garden villas in the centre of Ubud.

1. Cleanse your soul at Tirta Empul in Tapaksiring.

It was totally amazing to dress in sarongs, make offerings and bathe our heads under the temple fountains with our kids. We prayed with the locals and washed our sins away for years to come. Pay a guide to show you how and visit Gunung Kawai on the way. Cocolily was nicknamed supercoco after flying up the 700 or so steps, gaping in awe at the massive shrine carvings in the 7m rock cliff faces and dipping her toes in the cool river beneath the drooping Bayan trees. Pack a picnic in the car or buy fruit at the local markets for this half day trip.

2. Saturday morning yoga at Radiant Alive in Ubud central.

What can be better than Yoga first thing sat morning, you in one room, your kids in another doing downward dog with world class yoga teachers. Of note they do yoga to the coolest beats, no sterile silence here.

3. The best day trip north of Ubud

Temple on Lake Bedugul, Botanic Gardens, Treetops Adventures and Unesco recognised Jatuliwih rice paddies- what more could you want in a day?
Actually this is what we did for my birthday and it was awesome. Starting in ubud and lasting 5-6 hours we toured north, first to the botanical gardens. No tourists here just locals picnicking amongst idyllic towering trees and giant colourful statues. Treetop Adventures is also based here where you strap on carribena’s, climb, balance and fly through the air. Buy the family a set of gloves and off you go. This was hands down one of the kid favourite things to do in bali and i have never seen it advertised. The kids loved climbing, clipping on and flying through the air. The staff are insanely helpful when you are stuck up a tree and you kids need help. I have a video of Scotty as Tarzan ‘swinging’ that I have threatened will make its way onto youtube one day. Seriously the funniest thing you have ever seen. Ask him for a viewing when you see him next.

4. Eat out with a clear conscious

Clear cafe in central ubud on hanoman st for cashew nut milk smoothies, coffee and incredible meals anytime of the day. Scotty tried his hardest to choose a naughty meal here and still came out on top much to my glee. No dairy, wheat or sugar here. Not that you would notice. Opens at 730am which is when you’ll be having breakfast thanks to the local roosters.

5. Heal your body with detoxes and massages at Ubud Sari.

All the spa treatments you talk about and renowned for the ones we don’t. Some fly in and fly out of this place every year for the 7 day detoxes. We shall see if I become one of them when I return home. The rest of us can be drop-in visitors for the hour or day.

6. Lunchtime salads with the illuminati of Ubud at Alchemy.

Hammocks, swings and toys for the kids out the back. Pop in for the best lunch in Ubud, and take a break from shopping or art gallery viewing nearby. They do takeaway juices for those detoxing at home. Hands down the best local people watching.

7. Yoga barn for evening drum and chanting sessions.

This place is a must visit for yogis and yes they chant.

8. Buy yourself a glorious chair to take home.

Multiarena rattan store on the road up to Tegalalang for glorious cane furniture to send home a bit of bali via Bisama shipping

9. Seek adventure on the Ayung River.

Take the more expensive Bali Adventures rafting option to get the safest steps down to the river. Outside of the rainy season, when the rivers rise, take the kids 4 and over. They will love it. Take cash so you can buy drinks from the locals that hike up and down to greet you from their make shift bars at the waters edge.

10.Experience the Live Food Lab at Green School.

A visit to green school combined with a raw food cooking class with Avara. People travel the world to send their kids to green school, where playing in mud is part of the curriculum. See the wonder for yourself. Avara is anuber school mum who has been coming to bali first as a Jewellery designer and is now co-founder of living food lab based at the green school. She often does raw food cooking classes out of the school grounds combined with a tour. Seriously hard to find venue, take a driver if you can.

If you get through that list or want to know more, I am happy to share more.