Adventures living as expats.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


The first stop on our 11 night Thailand trip was Phuket and it far exceeded our expectations. Phuket can be compared to Cancun in Mexico - gorgeous beaches, plenty of bars to party at, endless tourist trinkets, and attractions like a wave machine for surfing. We opted to stay near Kata beach which is further south of the major tourist areas. We spent our time there relaxing on the beach, enjoying affordable drinks (what a relief after almost 6 months in Jakarta), sampling some fantastic Thai food, and doing the tourist walk as my dad likes to call it.

Boats at Kata beach
Karon beach, we drank beer and coconuts all day, with only a break for some green curry
Small Thai restaurant with a million Baht view

We took a wonderful cooking class and learned tom yum soup (so spicy!), larb (chicken salad), and panang curry (of course my favorite). Since we've moved to Asia, I've developed a serious addiction to curry and have even started bringing it to parties. This will be a great addition to the recipe book, and I'll post the recipe soon!

We all cleaned our plates
Jeff looking tough with his butterfly helmet
We visited the Big Budda
These monks were so friendly and willing to pose for pictures
Sunset on the beach our last night
Our next stop is Khao Lak which is a quieter area north of Phuket that has easy access to some of Thailand's best snorkeling.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Orphan's Christmas

Although Christmas was very quiet this year, Jeff and I still had a very festive holiday.  We opened presents on Christmas Eve, which is typical for my family and honestly we just didn't have the willpower to wait any longer.  All of our gifts were very travel themed - new camera for Jessie, underwater camera case for Jeff, snorkels, and snorkel masks - perfect for our upcoming trip to Thailand. 
Our mini tree and gift pile
Jeff loves his new snorkel, he had enough Christmas enthusiasm to count for a few people!
Perfect fit
Jeff testing out the new underwater camera case while I test the new camera
We spent Christmas morning playing with our new toys.  I took random photos at our favorite coffee shop.
Jeff's model pose
We're definitely addicted to these delicious cappuccinos
Deep in contemplation
Next we hopped into the pool for some snorkeling and photo ops.

I hope we don't scare all the fish away with this look.
After all the fun in the pool, we drove through the flooded streets of Jakarta to join Mia and Dillan's Orphan's Christmas party.  They had a beautiful tree, Brendan's spiked eggnog, mulled wine, delicious turkey, and mass quantities of holiday side dishes and desserts.   We stuffed ourselves full of food and drink and left feeling that it was as perfect as Christmas can possibly be if you have to spend it away from family and friends back home.  Next we're off to Thailand for 10 days and hope we'll have some great photos to share in the next post.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Almost Christmas

It's been a little hard getting into the Holiday mood given the 90F weather. In the frantic packing and sorting before our move, it seemed logical to put the Christmas decorations in storage, oops. Luckily Les lent us hers while she's back in the States. Last weekend we decked ourselves out with holiday gear and headed to Adelle's place for her annual Holiday bash. Jeff made Apple Pie Infused Vodka and I made the new Gagatko signature drink, The Ginny Ginger (recipe follows).


  • 2 fresh squeezed limes
  • 1 jigger gin (Saffire is good)
  • Ginger ale
  • 3 large ice cubes

  1. Add the lime juice, gin, and ice to a shaker and shake away.
  2. Poor into a glass, top off with ginge ale, stir, and enjoy.
Somehow I talked Jeff into wearing this blinking hat
Les is like family here in Jakarta


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Making an Apartment our Home

The last few weeks have been quite hectic. I've started a new job and love being back in the workplace. Cooking classes, day trips, yoga in the mornings, experimenting in the kitchen, bahasa (language) lessons, pedicures, and travel planning were fantastic, but they started to loose their glimmer after a few months. I missed having a challenge, and ended up finding many at my new job. Probably my biggest hurdle has been adjusting to a different working culture where the pace of work and urgency are different than the high paced electronics manufacturing I was used to.

Jeff and I have slowly been decorating our apartment, and we're at a stage now where we can relax and enjoy the space. We've put up new art.

Here's our new couch (Savanah), pillows, coffee table (Koi Kemang), and rug.

We had so much trouble finding a tv stand that would fit our stereo. Luckily one of the great things about Jakarta is that custom made furniture is roughly the same price as pre-made so we had this made at Puri Artha, a local store that sells to Crate and Barrel.

Scroates and Mardi Gras (our kitties) used to shred our plants, so we were excited to get these large house plants and not worry about making the kitties sick.

Our new home has come so far since we first moved in and it's such a nice feeling to be settled in!

Before picture

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fish with Coriander Masala and Thanksgiving in Jakarta

I have to admit to my first break down in Jakarta - I started crying in a Taxi....on Thanksgiving eve.  While walking to catch the taxi to meet Jeff, I misjudged a muddy puddle and managed to soak myself and my favorite shoes.  The real mishap came when the taxi driver claimed we got cut-off causing us to miss the turn on Jl. Jendral Sudirman, one of the busiest streets in Jakarta (not sure how you get cut-off at 1 MPH).  On Sudirman you can't make a simple U-Turn, instead it requires a 45 minute loop that takes you back to the beginning of the  business district.  After about 1.5 hrs in the taxi, I just couldn't help thinking that I'd rather be chasing my niece around and just couldn't stop the tears.  Once the cab driver realized I was sobbing in the back, he had no idea what to do and opted to apologize continually for the next 10 minutes until I finally met up with Jeff.  In total the commute was 2.5 hours to get to our final turkey dinner destination, which was less than 6 miles away.  Luckily there was still plenty of sangria, Guinness marinated turkey, and pumpkin pie to be had (thanks Janice).

On a completely separate and more positive topic, I took an Indian cooking class about a month ago.  We made naan, potato fritters, and fish with coriander masala - which was definitely the tastiest in my opinion and I would definitely order this in a restaurant.   

  • 1 kg red snapper fillet - washed, dried, and cut in bite size pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 cm ginger
  • 3 mild red chilis (seeds removed)
  • 4 Tbsp cilantro
  • 2 t coriander
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 t turmeric powder
  • 1/2 t black mustard seed
  • 1/2 t fenugreek seed
  • 2 t salt
  • 3 T lime juice
  • 3 T oil
  • 1 large onion minced
  • 3 tomatoes chopped
  • 1/2 t garam masala
  • 1/2 cup water or stock
  • cilantro for garnish

  1. Grind garlic, ginger, chilies, cilantro, coriander, sugar, mustard, fenugreek, salt, lime juice, and turmeric in a food processor until smooth.  Add a little water if needed.
  2. Heat oil, fry onions until golden brown.
  3. Add paste and fry until liquid dries up.
  4. Add tomatoes and fry for a minute then add garam masala and water (or stock).  Bring to low boil.
  5. Add fish and cook for 7-10 minutes.  Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Anyer Embassy Cottage

Jeff had a 4 day weekend last week so of course we made a break for it and escaped Jakarta.  We went with a group out to Anyer, which is a small beach town that's not too far.  We've met a lively group of Aussie's in the last few months and were lucky enough to got a prestigious invite to join the fun times at the Aussie Embassy Cottage.  The accents and Aussie sayings kept us thoroughly entertained, just to mention a few:

  • chokkie bikkie - chocolate cookie (my personal favorite)
  • ranggie - redhead (short for orangutang)
  • togs/bathers -swim suit
  • mossie - mosquito
  • loo paper - tp

We spent the weekend relaxing in the pool and drinking coconuts.

Jeff got to spread his love for beersby with our Aussie pals and work on his game - look out Tav!

We did a lot of relaxing on the deck.  Here's the view from my lounge chair.

We also spoiled ourselves with massages, seafood barbecue, exploring along the beach, and good Australian wine.

With Thanksgiving and Holiday season here, it's getting a little tough being away from family.  Really small, insignificant things are wearing on me - like why is it normal to add water to soap dispensers instead of soap?    Why is there always water sprayed everywhere in the bathrooms?  Why does it take days to get my phone fixed when it is just a billing issue?  Why isn't there pre-made pie dough in Indonesia?  Yep I think I officially have one of those culture shock stages I read about.  We miss everyone and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sunda Kelapa and House Guests!

We had our first house guests last weekend!  We met Monette and Raphael on our Flores trip and invited them to see the beautiful Jakarta.  Jeff did a great job selling the city - hyping up the cheap massage, street food, and luxurious Pakubuwono pool.

First on our list was getting our apartment guest ready.  The owners have refused to move out any of their crappy furniture.  Not wanting to look like hoarders, Jeff had to strategically hide extra mattresses, couches, and broken entertainment stands throughout the apartment.  In the end it worked out great though.

On Saturday we laid low at the pool and took M & R to Bersih Sehat (our favorite cheap massage locale).  We also went out to dinner at Koi and shared the Krakatau, a flaming mountain of meringue, for dessert.

On Sunday we headed out early for North Jakarta where we visited Sunda Kelapa, a historical port of Jakarta where you can see traditional wooden sailboats.  We also stopped by a fishing dock, but were politely asked to leave by a task force of polisi, but we couldn't figure out why.

Next we headed to Kota or Old Town Jakarta where we enjoyed some refreshments at Cafe Batavia.  We walked around a bit in the central square.  You can rent colorful bikes there that all come with matching hats.

On their last night in town, Leslie joined us for wine and homecooked Indonesian food including the Gado-Gado and Ayam Rendang I learned in Indonesian cooking class.  It was so much fun having guests and Monette and Raphael said they would give Hotel Gagatko 5 stars.  We've got the room ready so who's next?  Homecooking included. :-)

Marine Ball

It's been quite some time since an update; I just couldn't top that red curry.  Two weekends ago, Jeff and I headed to our first ball - The Marine Ball.  I didn't realize how much fun it is to get dressed up.  Jeff had a suit made and he looked so handsome!

As expected in Jakarta, the traffic nearly stopped moving about a half mile away from the venue.  So we dashed through the streets in our heels and suits and luckily made it with time to spare.  The food at the ball was delicious, there was free flow drinks, and we had a table full of friends that were a blast.  We didn't stay seated long though since we danced the night away, including Gangnam Style (not just once, but yes twice and full of enthusiasm).

General G
I can't wait for the next ball!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gaeng Ped Gai - Red Chicken Curry

The finale of the Thai cooking class was red chicken curry and it turned out to be my favorite dish.  When I made it last night, Jeff heartily agreed.  I thought that we would have a ton left over, but it was so good we couldn't help going back for seconds and thirds.  I made the curry paste in the morning and left in the fridge until I was ready to cook.

  • 600 gram chicken - cut into slices
  • 3 small eggplant or 1 big eggplant - cut into bite size pieces and soaked in salted water for 30 mins.
  • 2 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t sugar
  • 3 mild red chillies - sliced diagonally
  • 1 cup basil
Curry Paste Ingredients:
  • 10 mild red chilies - seeded and roughly chopped
  • 3 shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1" galangal - chopped
  • 1" ginger - chopped
  • 2 stalks lemon grass - chopped
  • 2 cilantro roots - chopped
  • 1/2 t ground pepper
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t fish paste
  • 1/2 t turmeric powder
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 2 T oil
  1. Combine all the curry paste ingredients (except oil) in food processor or blender and process into a paste.
  2. Heat oil in wok and stir fry curry paste for 4 minutes.  Add chicken and stir fry 3 minutes.  
  3. Add eggplant, coconut milk, fish sauce, salt, and sugar and simmer until chicken is cooked and eggplant is tender ~ 10 mins.
  4. Add chili slices and basil and stir for another minute.  Serve with rice.
Here's the version we made in class

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Labuan Bajo, Flores - Dirty 30 Part 2

For the second portion of our trip we returned by slow boat to Lebuan Bajo.  Although the secluded island was fantastic, we were ready for some lunch choices other than Nasi Goreng (fried rice) or Mie Goreng (fried noodles).  First up on the list was hitting up a spa for a 1.5 hour massage for Rp. 140K (around $15).  When I make a top 10 list for living in Indonesia, cheap massages will be one of the top contenders.  

Later on we had drinks and enjoyed the sunset at Paradise Bar, which came highly recommended by some friends.  Unfortunately there was no wine to be had, so I tried some sweetened Arak that the water claimed I would like.  It didn't quite satisfy the craving and even Jeff couldn't even drink it, but the view was amazing.  There were several photographers taking pictures with their fancy DSLR cameras that made me really miss our S100, but Jeff's ole faithful Canon did the trick pretty well.   

For dinner we headed to a great Mediterranean restaurant where we stuffed ourselves full of carpaccio, sesame crusted king fish, homemade pasta with pumpkin filling, and tiramisu.  After dinner we strapped on our helmets and hopped on our rented motorbike.  As we were making the turn to head uphill to our hotel, we were cut off by a car that then immediately slowed almost to a stop.  To get going again on the steep incline, Jeff downshifted but somehow put it in neutral instead of first.  Before I knew it we were rolling quickly backwards down the hill headed for a ditch on one side and a car on the other.  I bailed off the side, keeping all limbs intact, while Jeff managed to get the bike stopped before colliding with anything.  Lesson learned: While traveling in Asia look out for the bules (westerners) on motorbikes.

The next day we had a packed itinerary with a visit first to Mirror Cave where we saw stalactites and stalagmites, fossilized coral, flying fox bats, and some crab spiders (eeek).

Next we hiked to Ruteng Waterfall and swam in the cool water below.  We weren't expecting a rigorous hike so both of us wore flip flops, but it was absolutely worth the effort to get there.

On our last evening we went to a romantic dinner and tried out an ojek (motorbike taxi).  All in all it was the best birthday trip I could have hoped for and we were sad to leave beautiful Flores.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Kinawa, Komodo, Rinca Islands - Dirty 30 part 1

Jeff planned THE BEST EVER birthday trip for my dirty 30 this year.  We set off last week for our 6 day trip to Flores, an Indonesian island east of Java.  We flew into Lebuan Bajo which is launching point for going to Komodo National Park, home to the Komodo dragons.  Since the park and surrounding water has been protected from destructive fishing, the coral and marine life are pristine and extremely diverse.  

After we arrived, we took a boat to our bungalows on the small Kinawa Island.  There are maybe 20 bungalows and 1 restaurant on the island.  We arrived and had a beautiful but unsteady walk to the beach along the rickety dock.  The water was incredibly clear and there was a bunch of sea urchins waiting below to add a little excitement to the walk.
Hati-hati (careful)
Our first night was a bit of a bummer after a long day of travel.  The restaurant ran out of chicken, fish, and pizza so we had white rice with soggy veggies and a plate of bland pasta.  They did have cold Bintang though which was a relief.  Next, our fancy new camera broke (after a little googling we discovered that there is a recall for the specific problem).  Luckily Jeff threw in his trusty old point and shoot that's managed to survive a lot of abuse including a dive from bleachers onto concrete.  Finally, in the middle of the night Jeff had a huge cockroach (I mean literally 1.5 inches long) fall on top of him.  It turns out mosquito netting is great to keep little bugs out, but makes a perfect ladder for giant roaches.  Well Jeff completely smashed the guy and one of his friends and we were never bothered again.  Guess they learned their lesson.

Our last pictures before the dreaded "Lens Error"
The rest of the trip only got better and better.  We spent the next 2 days boating, exploring, and snorkeling.  We saw Rinca Island and spotted about a dozen Komodo dragons.  They are ugly and scary, but so fascinating to watch.  It was the time of year that the mama dragons are guarding their eggs so we got to see a few nests.

Next up, tons of snorkeling!  We were so lucky to see a squid, octopus, puffer fish, stingray, turtle, lion fish, and sea snake.  The squid was swimming around and changing colors with the different coral.  Sometimes he was really dark, other times blue, and could even disguise himself with spots.  The turtle was just cruising around, and had a large fish following him everywhere rubbing against his shell.  Maybe he was cleaning him off?  The grand finale of the trip was Manta Point where we saw about 8 manta rays.  They were so big and majestic.  Watching them swim was incredible because they would barely move their "wing" fins, but they were swimming along pretty fast up-current.  I would kick with my fins as hard as I could and still not keep up.  

We also went to the famous Pink Beach on Komodo Island.  The red coral just offshore has turned the sand pinkish.  

The Kinawa part of the trip was fantastic, but after 3 nights I was getting a little island fever (and was seriously craving a glass of wine).  For the second part of the trip we headed to Lebuan Bajo, for now here are the pics of the trip.