Friday, July 8, 2016

Travel Hacks

Can't bring water into the airport... 
Bring an empty water bottle. Fill it up after security, you will never be thirsty (or broke) again if flight is delayed or you have to overnight it :) also good way to cut down on plastics!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Where To Buy Fresh Fish & Eat It Too | Bali, Jimbaran Indonesia

Behold the Kedonganan Fish Market in Jimbaran Bay, Bali, Indonesia.

At the north end of Jimbaran Bay you'll find the Kendonganan Fish Market hidden away between the lines of scooters parked out front and the fishing boats anchored just off the beach. Inside you will find many stalls selling some very fresh fish at non negotiable and very reasonable prices.

Standards like snapper, grouper, tuna, mackerel, sardines, along with mahi mahi, barracuda, parot fish and groupers etc can be bought whole by weight at laughable prices compared what you would pay most anywhere else, including the all the high priced and dubious restaurants all along the beach.

You can also buy fresh crab, clams, lobster, shrimps, and coquelles and I'm sure some more exotic items. I didn't see sea turtles and please don't ever buy them either.

I paid $4 for a 2kg mahi mahi and $12-$15 for half a Kilo of fresh king shrimp and about $2 for half a Kilo of clams.

Check out my post about how to buy fresh fish and then it's just a matter of picking out your favorite.

Then you just go to one of three charcoal powered grills flanking the market and pay 20000 IRD ($1)/ Kilo of food and they will clean, grill and serve it to you with their special sauce and rice.

I tried 2 of the three so far. The one just across the street is great, they make their own tomato sauce on site with fresh tomatoes and peppers and have an amazing salsa too. They'll sell you a Bintang beer here too.

The other place just next to the market charges the same but I'm not sure where they make their sauce. It's a good sauce too and they had some extra salsas that were delicious too. They wont sell you a beer but you are free to grab one from the store across the street (same price) and enjoy it on site.

I didn't try the third one, but I intend to! It is on the beach-side so what a great place to chill and watch the sunset, the fishing boats and the planes landing!

Check out a list of my favorite fish markets from around the world!

How To Buy Fresh Fish & Seafood

Like all food, fish should be fresh. The best place to get it is either off the boat or at the fish market, both to be found at the harbor, mornings tend to be best. Fresh fish is not more expensive than old fish. You can pay a ton of money at a restaurant and get something old or go down the street to where the boats are, poke your head into a hole in the wall and have the freshest fish at a great price!

How to tell Fresh Fish from Old Fish?

Smell. If it smells fishy don't buy it. Fresh fish should smell mild, like the ocean and not fishy. Don't be shy, stick your face in there and take a wiff, if it smells clean, it's good!

Flies. Okay, there will be flies at the fish markets, but they will concentrate around the smellier, older fish.

Eyes. Fresh fish have fresh eyes, bright clear and protruding rather than dull, hazy and sunken in. If it is blood shot and the blood is a rich, fresh red, it's good. If the blood looks brown, it's old. The blood just indicates the hook or whatever punctured it near the eyes and shouldn't be an issue otherwise.

Scales & Gills. Scales should be moist and shiny. Gills should be red or pink and still a bit slimy if it looks matte, brown and dry, it's old. Feel free to lift the gills of your fish, the fishmonger will respect you as someone who knows good fish!

No Ice.  Don't worry if your fish isn't iced. If it meets the criteria above, it just means it is so fresh, your fishmonger hasn't had time to get it on ice yet.

Shellfish

Clams & Mussels. Again flies are a great sign to indicate if they are too old. Less flies, the better and fresher!

Clams & Mussels should look wet but that is not accurate enough. They should also look different. Most should be closed but it's a good sign if some are opening up or sticking their foot. If the clam is open, tap it and wait a 30 seconds, if it clams up, it's still alive! If it doesn't close, discard it.

If any of your clams or mussels didn't open while cooking, throw them away. They were DOA and inedible.

Oysters. Buy Oysters alive. They should smell mild, like the sea. When shucked, the juice inside should be clear. If it's milky, it's old.

Scallops. Although difficult to find, scallops should only be bought in the shell, live. Otherwise there's no telling how fresh they are. Never buy unfrozen scallops in brine, on ice if out of their shells.

Shrimp. Shrimp is difficult to find unfrozen, so unless it is live, it was probably thawed. So unless you are certain, best to buy frozen shrimp. Ohterwise, the more translucent and put together, the better. If the eyes are still glossy and dark, then it is fresh, buy and enjoy! SHrimp is never pink when uncooked, it is every other color but... if your shrimp is ink, it has been cooked so don't cook it again.

Crab
 & Lobster. If it's moving, it's alive, great time to buy. Not worth eating dead crab and lobster.


When to buy? I still stick to the rule to never buy shellfish from May - August.


Where to buy?

Boat.
If you're lucky enough to catch the fisherman coming in, strike up a conversation and cut a deal

"Ahoy! You caught anything?" Many fishermen will display it proudly.
"Can I get a couple lobsters/ mahimahi/ sardines from you?" If so, score! You can probably negotiate a good deal.

Fish Market:
Most likely there will be a fish market right at the harbor. From past experience, prices tend to be pretty straight forward and product is fresh. No one wants to deal with stinky old fish so you shouldnt worry too much about freshness. Unless it is clearly a tourism-dominated stall, reputations are important at these kinds of markets, which ensures freshness.

My ever-growing list of quality fish markets or harbors where you can score a good catch!


Friday, September 18, 2015

Gili Trawangan SCUBA Diving | Rec

Trawangan Dive Center is a big box opp but even in these unfriendly places you can find a local Dive Master who knows the terrain underwater, so always ask for the local guide. 

The rentals at Trawangan Dive Center sucks ass. 

They won't match people based on skill, won't ask, don't care, just take your money and, "Have A Nice Day." 

I usually avoid the Big Box Dive Centers cuz I just want to relax and enjoy the dive, watch the ocean and not the clock.

They also charge you for water, which is deplorable! Plastic bottles are ruining the waters and instead of offering fresh water for refills, they charge a nominal fee and won't just give you a cup to splash the salt out of your mouth. Place wreaks of stingy. 

The staff is interested about the $$ and the ol' "A Bad Day Diving Is Better Than A Good Day At The Office" is notably missing from behind the desk and attitude of the employees. 

So why did we dive here? Because Liz is an awesome dive guide! We saw sharks, giant lobsters, hawkbill turtles, plenty of fish and several shark nests. The foreign dive masters don't know where to look...

Dove Shark's Point & Sunset Reef. Shark's is slightly more advanced and Sunset is chill. Shark's was better but Sunset seems like it would be more consistent and predictable. 

Contact Liz at +62 823 39447772 or send and email to: info@tarwangandive.com and put Attn Liz in the Subject field. 

Dives: 490,000 IDR =/= $34
1 time environmental tax: 50,000 IDR
Suggested Dive Master Tip = 50,000


Surf Gerupuk, Lombok Island, Indonesia | Rec

Lii is an excellent surf instructor or just a guy to hire to babysit you on your first day. He's a local from Gerupuk beach so he knows the terrain, where the less crowded spots are, and wont be throwing garbage into the water like many others do. You have to hire a boat from Gerupuk village to get to the surf approx 100,000 Rupees/ boat. ($8)

Contact him here: https://www.facebook.com/surf.lii

His Uncle, Bass, runs a little surf shop tucked away from the main drag and his prices, equipment and attitude is chill. He has to pay the bills jut like everyone else but he's not the type to be digging through your pockets to do it, unlike my experience with guides from Kuta.

Surfing here is awesome year round, ut December - February would be the rainy season, but for Indonesia, it's still pretty dry.

Conditions are great, early mornings at high tide are best for beginners. Low tide the waves get faster and more powerful and pretty consistent.

Crowds can be hit and miss but there are plenty of other spots outside "Inside," the most popular, again a local guide will come in handy here. Early bird gets the worm and if you stay in Gerupuk, you can get wet before the crowds from Kuta arrive.

I paid 400,000 Rupee for a shitty "guide" from Kuta who took me to spot in the afternoon, threw me in the water and let me get pummeled by waves. Avoid the Kuta Surf Shops and just get a local at whatever beach you want to surf, you're better off.

In Gerupuk, I came across Lii through his uncle Bass because I was looking for an instructor for my friend Pepe who never surfed. We paid 200,000 Rupee/ person including boards, rash guards, Lii & the boat ride out as well as a chill vibe, good attitudes and a lot of laughter. It was just the two of us too and we surfed several different breaks in the bay. Next day I paid 300,000 for rental, boat & Lii to babysit me  (no lifeguards and arms were crazy soar) and he took me to a spot where it was just us plus Ty (homeboy from Cali who paddled out 1km to save the $10 boat ride -we gave him a ride back though) so was just the three of us chillin and surfin while Inside waves were being battled over...

If you don't want to pay a babysitter, the boat shouldn't cost more than 100,000 rupees/ boat. Not worth bartering over $2 because you want that guy to like you in case you want to move around the bay to find surf or get your ass rescued if you aren't very good lol.

Food wasn't good in Gerupuk but I'm sure when it's Lobster season it'll be better cuz there a bunch of lobster traps in the bay.

Vibe is a small surf village with Kuta kids coming in to tout for your money. Keep your $ local though and if you want to get away from Kuta and you love to surf, best just to make this your base camp.

From Kuta to Gerupuk: 7.5km roads are bumpy but ride is scenic

Act Local

For the most fun and adventure, best to use a local guide. I find thins to be especially true for SCUBA Diving. A local island Dive Master will know where that shark nest is or where the sea turtle is hanging out. Their equipment may not be the shiniest, but you will be the happiest one surfacing :)

Staying at a homestay, couchsurfing or a locally-owned boutique outfit will not only give you a more personalized experience, but you never know how extensive the family is and the who's who ... someone's brother or uncle may be the person you are looking for!

I guess the only exception to this would be if you are getting instruction, where the primary purpose isn't adventure but learning. In that case hire the guy that speaks your language and understands your culture better. 

Pack Light & Go Far

Either you're traveling to a place where the stuff you are packing was made or you are going to a place where shopping has become a recreational activity, or both. You probably don't need whatever it is you will be lugging around.

No need to pack much on your journey. Pack another bag so you can carry home the stuff you acquired during your travel.

Good place to find temporary solutions are thrift shops. Traveling to a cold climate place? Hit up the thrift shop, Charity Shop (UK/ Ireland/ Scotland) to find some cheap secondhand goods. Right now I'm wearing a merino wool sweater made in Australia that I bought for $12.00 is a Seattle Goodwill, tag was still on it. In Bristol I was freezing my ass off and bought Scottish Cashmere sweater and a vintage fleece-lined denim jacket both for around £15. The jacket is about $100 on Etsy :)

Bishop has a great secondhand camping & rock climbing store that has some excellent deals.

I'll be compiling some good secondhand shops in a new blog so stay tuned!