Goodbye Indonesia, Hello Thailand

Rice terraces
Enjoying our tea and coffee in front of expansive rice terraces in the background

With mixed emotions, we left Indonesia today. It definitely seemed like a long trip in one sense but not long enough in the other. We dealt with a general lack of structure with regards to trip planning and transportation, some really long journeys for a country whose size we vastly underestimated, dramatically lower standards of food preparation leading to food poisoning, and a vastly different culture. Sometimes this led us to spend more time getting from point A to point B without always enjoying the journey.  We were, however, treated to some once in a lifetime experiences and views, of which hiking up to the lip of a volcano, seeing an ancient temple at sunrise, seeing Komodo dragons in the wild, and white water rafting for the first time (not too shabby a view either!) were our favorites.  I know Doug for one will likely never come back to Indonesia due to the traumas of food prep there, but I do hope we return one day, perhaps if anything to see the orangutans of Sumatra or Lombok or the Gili islands.

Before leaving Indonesia behind, we did have a last hurrah the morning that we left.  One of the things I really wanted to do was to do a rice paddy walk, and although we didn’t have time to actually walk through them, our driver was kind enough to make a few stops before taking us to the airport.  We took a side trip to the town of Tegallalang, known for its rice terraces.  There’s no major difference between a rice paddy and rice terrace, except the former is flat and the latter is built into the side of volcanoes.  The ashen soil makes for very fertile land, so farmers found value with planting their crops alongside volcanic hills, although the price they pay is a more challenging upkeep.

Went out on a limb to order black forbidden rice porridge (interesting but good) while Doug got a tasty shake
Streets of Ubud
During our visit, Bali had just observed a Hindu tradition that involved hanging these decorations on every street for weeks following the actual ceremony

Following the terraces, we stopped at Bali Pulina, a coffee plantation that also specialized in agro tourism with educating tourists about the various agriculture the island of Bali sustained.  Here, they grew vanilla, nutmeg, pineapple, brown rice, ginger, cloves, eggplants, cinnamon, coconut, ginseng, cocoa, coffee beans, and chili plants, but the real star of the show was the Luwak, otherwise known as civet cat.  The Luwak coffee is among the most expensive in the world at $150/bag (also featured in Bucket List, apparently), so who would’ve guessed that its differentiating factor is that it’s made as a byproduct of this civet cat.  These little guys love eating the cherry of coffee beans, but can’t fully digest them.  The actual bean stays intact and goes through a fermentation process inside the Luwak’s stomach, and is then harvested when it comes out the other end.  And we were concerned about food prep before today!  However, the beans are still inside their shell, so after thoroughly cleaning these beans, they’re sun dried and shelled before roasting them over a first for an hour.  We of course had no choice but to sample civet cat poop coffee, and it was quite the treat.  Very smooth and quite subtle, and certainly didn’t taste like poop!  We also sampled lemon tea, ginger tea, ginger coffee, ginseng coffee, chocolate coffee, hot cocoa, vanilla coffee, and Balinese coffee, all harvested with the plants they have at their front door.  Everything was delicious, so we made sure to bring our favorites, the lemon tea and vanilla coffee, back with us along with a small jar of Luwak coffee for Doug’s brother Scott (time will tell whether we can convince him to drink it!).

Coffee Bean
Step one: grow coffee
Civet Cat
Step 2: pet civet cat eats coffee cherry. Note scary looking teeth.
Step 3: after failure to fully digest coffee cherry, pet civet cat poops out untouched bean. Mmm, tasty…
Step 4: after drying out and then cleaning pooped out beans in the sun, beans are dry roasted over an open fire
Ground beans
Step 5: after 45-60 minutes of roasting, beans are ground with a mortar and pestle (Doug hard at work!)
Luwak Coffee
Final product!
Tea & Coffee sampler
An array of teas and coffee for us to sample. From left to right: lemon tea, ginger tea, ginger coffee, ginseng coffee, chocolate coffee, hot chocolate, vanilla coffee, Bali coffee (v. strong), and front and center, the Luwak coffee


Finally, we were off to the airport as originally planned – of course we try to maximize every minute we have everywhere.  Back to navigating this crazy airport, and of course we find that the place is surrounded by police after a terrorist threat from a few days ago (reassuring, considering we were there a few days ago).  After a slight delay, we were back off to Singapore, where we’d then connect on a separate flight to Koh Samui.  Since our flight was delayed, our 5 hour layover got cut to 3.5, so we couldn’t go out to see the city again.  No biggie, we passed the time with a snack in the cactus garden and a Tiger beer (the trauma of that spoiled Bintang has since wore off for Doug).

We were airborne yet again by 8:10pm, taking Bangkok Airways to Koh Samui.  Bangkok Air positions themselves as the “boutique airline in Asia” and their intro video on the flight was hilarious.  It started as a music video with the flight attendants dancing in the form of the macarena (different song though), and then cut to the Thai captain who was clearly lip “synching” his speech in a deep American accent.  We couldn’t stop cracking up…For a 1.5 hour flight, they sure packed it in with a full meal, so that was a nice surprise although we were stuffed from just having eaten!

We arrived at 8:55pm (gained an hour in the process) and took the taxi to our hotel about 20 minutes away in Mae Nam.  Since it was late, and the town looked dead, we just enjoyed our room and the beers that came with it, and started our next leg of trip planning.

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