and my travels!
It's been a week; a week of much fun, of sun, in which my heart has been won. It's been a week of enjoyment and of basking family closeness. It's been a week of endless chuckling cum watching episodes of HIMYM (how I met your mother), a week of National Geographic's Do-or-Die, a week of television (instead of soaking up the sun).
My week in Bali, Indonesia (can you believe I believed that Bali was in Thailand for the past 13 years of my existence?!) has slipped through the silvers of spacings between my fingers so swiftly as though it was sand. It's been one where I've done much - adventured, ventured out and up, been kneaded, needed my DVDs despite the seemingly endless list of television programmes available, absorbed-information-like-a-sponge, and more. I've received much too - much good food, good service, and good, clean toilets.
the Breakfast Buffet
I'm starting with breakfast, since one's day is always, always started with breakfast. If there's one thing which beckons to me more aggressively than anything in this whole wide world, it's BUFFET BREAKFASTS. I'm drawn to this spread of food, and this attraction's magnetic. I'm lured, hooked, trapped by this dazzling, aromatic array of food; though I know which select sections I'd probably head to.
We arise in the mornings, me first, to the sound of the sprinkler system, the rhythmic gunshots of water splashing upon the grass downstairs. I wait. Quite impatiently, as I sit by the balcony and tap my sandaled foot whilst taking greedy gulps of sea breeze. I'm still impatient as we traverse the 4 stories down to the restaurant, foot still beating the ground in tap tap tap.
Aha! I spot the sweets section, where pastries, pancakes and other carb-laden foods are clustered. But I resist. Slowly, I stroll amidst the long tables, laden with bowls of rice, noodles, salad etc. My gaze travels along the long line of chefs cooking teppanyaki-style. Eggs, noodles, crepes. Crepes! I'm fascinated, mesmerised by the chef who whips up his two turners and begins spreading the batter on the crepe maker. He wields his turners like a swordsman does his swords - with expert precision and skill. It's not long, less than a minute, before the crepe is transformed into a golden, burnished, paper-thin perfect circle, folded and plopped onto a waiting plate. The next plate is mine. My hands are outstretched, bearing an empty plate awaiting a raisin-almond crepe later drizzled with vanilla sauce. Later, as I bite into it, it crackles as it tears, it's crisp layers giving way to the tines of the fork. Of course, raisin/almond makes for a delightful combination, but I would prefer fresh fruit, if you please. So the next (and following) days' crepes contain sliced banana, custom-sliced by yours truly.
My eyes have seen much, my ears heard much, my tongue tasted much. For six days, I've been faced with the view of the ocean, the sky impossibly blue and the silhouettes of coconut trees cast across the ground. The sighs and roars the waves emit resound in my ears, an endless lullaby. And for my stay, I've been stuffed on grilled seafood, blackened and crisp, along with not-spicy-chilli and coconuts.
It's been a refreshing relief, to be able to inhale deeply and feel the cold oxygenated air gush into my lungs and fill the self, free of pollutants and the tainting of carbon dioxide. I experienced the salty splashes of sea against my face along with the gush of the winds as they run their fingers through my hair (later tangling it so badly I later seemed to have a bramble bush atop my head). But, really, it was worth every moment of it. To be reckless and free as I rode the water ski and hit the turbulent waves with spray flying, or making 180-degree turns at full speed and careening across the unmarked roads of the waters. I admit, it was that special something I yearned for: being uncaring and living in the moment itself, without having a care for anything.
And I've been immersed in rich, vibrant culture - one which is very much alive despite centuries of existence. The spirit of Bali is one which lives on in the hearts and souls of people, apparent in their Batik art, carvings and everyday life. The narrow streets which we traverse, whilst giving me claustrophobia, are dotted with home temples, and algae-carpeted walls which lend a certain charm to the slow pace of life here.
They are a gentle bunch too, the people. They cast a welcoming net over Bali, greet you with smiles and hands in the Namaste position and a few speak some queerly accented mandarin as well, much to our amusement.
The following is an excerpt from my travel journal:
"The water collides with the shore, a splash resonating into the night breeze. It transforms into white foam, roiling and churning unto itself. It's alive. The tide is a living thing, and the sea winds which accompanies it rummages through my locks, already tangled and dried by itself previously. And every time I wish to catch hold of some of it, it withdraws, before reappearing."
But now that I'm back, with skin peeling off my nose and a longing for that chocolate massage I had, I tell you, it's good to be home. The salty taste of dim sum and Chinese cuisine is incomparable to the number of gado-gados and crepes. It's the familiar taste and textures which will linger in the tastebuds despite the copious amounts of other foods shovelled into the gob of one. It's the taste of home.
I've returned from this voyage into the world with knowledge, so valuable - far more precious that what fills the pages of textbooks. After all, this is the real world! It's life, in raw format. It's not algebra or some complex chemical formula; it's what happens in the everyday! It's an understanding of what happens and of people, of nature, of myself.
Now that I'm home after that week of disconnection, I've got a newly-fully-stocked fridge, after emptying it prior to the trip, and fresh bread. To my surprise, the hotel did not have French toast, despite the variety on display. Neither did it have peanut butter in the assortment of spreads on the table, bottled up in dainty little jars. Less needs to be said for tahini.
I've come home, had my bowl of oatmeal yesterday to soothe the stomach after a week of consuming excess, and now, it's time for French toast, as that loaf of bread sits in wait on the dining table. But I want something new, I tell myself, not run-off-the-mill French toast. I want something interesting, something to intrigue the tastebuds! And here I have it - Sesame French Toast.
For a long time, sesame has played a part in my life as a garnish and filling for paus. And recently, I've discovered tahini, an extra-creamy yet slightly bitter nut butter which I've grown to love with oatmeal and fruits, especially peaches. It's slathered upon bread here, one white and the other black. These sesame sandwiches are soaked in the egg mixture and boy! do they absorb it fast. Thirdly, they're cooked to a golden crisp outside after being coated in sesame seeds, and the insides, while cooked, are a light yellow - the colour of sunshine. While possessing a certain amount of crunch, they're extra-fluffy and pillow-y too, a stark contrast to that perfect exterior, with sufficient creamy butter to go round. Be sure to check that your teeth are clean afterwards.
Sesame French Toast
2 slices bread
3 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. maple syrup
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp. tahini, a.k.a sesame butter (white / black is your choice ; I used both)
1 tbsp. sesame seeds (again, white / black is your choice ; I used both)
1. Whisk egg, milk, maple syrup and salt well, till a pale yellow mixture is formed.
2. Slice bread into 2 pieces each, diagonally.
3. Spread 1 tbsp. of tahini onto two half-slices of bread and sandwich.
4. Soak sandwiches into egg mix, around a minute or so on each side.
5. Spread sesame seeds onto a plate and place soaked sandwiches onto plate, ensuring that side is evenly coated with seeds.
6. Cook in a pan over medium-low heat for 3-4 mins on each side, or until golden and crisp. Serve and enjoy.