Strong Arms for Kids

Unfortunately I don't scuba dive. There are not many things that scare me, I mean, I have been skydiving, bit by a tiger, worked with all sorts of exotic animals, have jumped horses over 4 foot fences, traveled by myself to all sorts of different strange lands, including sleeping in the jungle with two Indonesian men I hardly know to search for Orangutans, but diving 60ft down below the ocean's surface with large strange, sometimes threatening creatures, scares the bijezus (sp?) out of me.  I have actually done it once, and thought it was the coolest thing in the world sitting at on the ocean floor at 5 meters down, and that was enough for me.  Now I never have to do it again.

But anyway, if you are a diver you MUST go to Labuan Bajo and go diving, but if not, there is still enough to keep you busy for a couple of days.  We stayed at a lovely hotel on top of a big hill, hence the name Golo Hilltop Hotel.  A wonderful place, with friendly, very helpful staff and a really good restaurant.  I was very impressed with their tempeh burger...I can never eat enough tempeh.  And this is the only place in the world to see the Komodo Dragon in its natural habitat, either on Rinca Island or Komodo Island.
With my friends off diving, this gave me a bit of time to explore the town and what it had to offer (well, it actually gave me a lot of time).  I hate when you are traveling and you know you should be going to the local places to eat, you know, the ones with the not-so-nice plastic tablecloths, the plastic chairs, that I am sure at one time were white but are now some greyish/ black color, and a sign out front that is impossible to understand, even though it is written in English but somehow, more times than not you end up in the restaurants geared toward the western tourists.  That is what happened to me, my first day exploring in Labuan Bajo.  I ended up going to a restaurant called The Corner (even though its not on a corner).  Now, first, you must understand my peanut obsession.  I know they are not a nut, they are a legume, but ask me what my favorite nut is, and I will tell you, the peanut.  But anyway, as much as I absolutely love peanuts and can't live without peanut butter for any extended period of time, I absolutely can't stand eating peanut sauce.  There is a dish in Indonesia called Gado-Gado thats a vegetable medley mixed with a peanut sauce.  Perfect for vegetarians.  So I thought I would give it a try again, and since this was a higher end restaurant, I thought there would be a better chance of it tasting better to me.  So I ordered it.  My first bite was gritty, my second bite was gritty and the third and so on and so on.  I tried to ignore the grittiness and everything else I didn't enjoy about the dish and did what I normally do when I don't like something, just eat as fast as I can so I can't taste it.  But then I bit down on a couple of pebbles, and just as I bit down and made a horrible face, I'm sure, and at that exact moment, I swear the entire restaurant staff was all staring at me.  They stared and whispered and stared some more.  I couldn't take it anymore, the pebble was the last straw.  Normally, I never ever send anything back, but this time I had no choice and called the waiter over.  They were very nice, but it didn't help me to get over my distaste for peanut sauce or my guilt and dissatisfaction in myself for not going to a local restaurant. 

So the next day, my friends and I went to the restaurant for lunch, which I should have went to, originally.  I couldn't decide what to order, but ended up going with the spinach in a clear broth soup.  I didn't really know what I was going to get, especially when the waitress asked if I wanted rice with it, but after living in Japan for two years, I am used to ordering food and having no idea what I was actually going to end up eating.  And, of course, I ordered a papaya juice to drink.  Papaya juice is a natural wonder.  Papaya on its own, isn't so good, but put it in juice form and its transformed into heavenly goodness.  But anyway, when my food arrived, this time I was very pleasantly surprised.  It wasn't so much of a soup, but incredibly fresh sauteed spinach mixed with garlic and red chilis, with just a small amount of broth.  It was so fresh and delicious, I had to come back the following day to have it one last time.

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