Arriving in Ubud was definitely a surprise. After taking backroads through towns, villages and cities, I was caught off guard when I got to a sign that welcomed me to Ubud. I thought I still had several more kilometers to go. I should have known however, as I kept passing tons of artist and woodcrafter shops. That should have been my first clue I was closer than I thought.
Once there, I sought out a place to stay. Based on someone I know who previously stayed in Ubud, I went first to the Khrisna Guesthouse (sometimes referred to as the Krisna Guesthouse as well). They only had one room (out of six) available for one night. It was more than I'm used to spending, close to $20 USD / night, but I decided to splurge. They did have hot water. I mean, taking a hot shower every once in a while has got to be worth a little extra money, right?
The extra money was definitely worth it. I had a private balcony overlooking thick palms, banana trees other unknown named trees, bamboo and a small creek I could hear. There was black tea every day between 4 and 5 as well as great breakfasts every morning. The owner was really nice and the day manager was very friendly, accommodating and went out of his way to make sure I was doing what I wanted to do. It turned out that the room available for one night didn't mean that another room freed up the next morning. So I was able to switch rooms to another room that was available for 3 nights, though my new room didn't have as great of a second floor balcony, I was fine with that.
With the switch made, I decided to head off to someplace I'd been looking forward to for years: Ibu Oka's suckling pig. If you've seen Anthony Bourdain go to Indonesia, you've seen what I ate. Tony went to the same exact place in Ubud and enjoyed Ibu Oka's Babi Guling Spesial (the special suckling pig, or the best meat). At this Ubud institution, they take a suckling pig, fill the inside with spices and sauce, close it back up, put a big piece of bamboo through it and rotisserie it for several hours while carefully rubbing it's skin with coconut milk. Being a bit of a pig roast connoisseur (I have cooked three whole pigs ranging from 40 pound suckling to a 109 pound delicious monster), I was eagerly looking forward to seeing how the experts did their pig.
I didn't seen anyone order any other dish, and knew that I didn't have to either. One Babi Guling Spesial ordered! I wish that I had asked someone to take a picture of my grin when I saw the food coming to my table, but truthfully, that was the last thing on my mind. The only reason I have a picture of it before I ate most of it, was that I've gotten into the habit of taking food pictures when I travel. Thanks for that reflex. The dish is superb. The crispy skin is full of flavor, the meat is juicy, the blood sausage is spicy, the other parts I don't know the names of were flavorful and amazing... this instantly became my new favorite meal in Indonesia.
Ibu Oka completely made me realize how bad Joe and I have screwed up the last two pigs we did by not getting the skin crispy. Having crispy skin adds so much more finish to a dish. I also know that the next pig has to work some coconut milk into the recipe somewhere. And some Indonesian spices. And some perfectly cooked rice. Damn, I just ate a full breakfast, but already I'm hungry again writing this. I was in Ubud 5 days, and I ate there for lunch 3 of those days. It was good. If you go to Bali, you have to go to Ubud, at least for lunch.