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Starbucks, Same Same but the Same

Most, not all, of my collection of Starbucks mugs. if anyone has more, I would be surprised.

Starbucks. It seems every civilized place on the planet has at least one.

On any continent they are all exactly alike. The only difference is the décor on the mugs. I consider them collectibles. I have no more room on the shelves in my kitchen for them, but I still buy one wherever I go. In fact, I am a bit annoyed if the city I am in (Nairobi, Kathmandu) does not have a Starbucks. Before I travel, I Google the location of the Starbucks in the destination city. Not only do I want to add to my collection, I want to be able to get a good cup of coffee.

The same people who stood in line in front of me in Macau or London stand in line in front of me everywhere else. They all order just about the same thing. The session goes something like this.

“I’ll have a half latte, half mocha, half cappuccino with half cream and make it only half hot please.”

The barista is usually a college educated person who majored in something like Ancient Sri Lankan philosophy. They dutifully perform the chemistry experiment needed to serve the person in front of me. Meanwhile I select my souvenir mug. Then the overly picky customer sends back the coffee because it is too hot, I chat her up.

“Hey, didn’t we meet at Starbucks in Macau?”

“Oh yes we did! I remember the mocha there was very bitter.”

She shuffles away, happy with her lukewarm creation, and I step up to the counter.

Here is how my order goes.

“I’ll have a small black coffee

“Will that be mocha or a cappuccino?


“Fresh cream from Sumatran sacred goats in that sir?”

“Black, a small black coffee”

“A grande then”

“No. Didn’t you learn anything at Harvard? Grande means big, large, and bigger than small. I want, again, now listen hard, A SMALL BLACK COFEE”

“Do you want Columbian, Kenyan, Costa Rican or our house blend?”

“If it is black, hot and you don’t ask another question, I don’t care.”

A brief roll of the eyes that say “I should have gone to grad school” is followed by “Yes sir, that will be (Insert too high a price in any currency here).”

But this is just my problem. I’m glad I did not graduate into this economy, so I still tip them.

The coffee they serve is always good, even without milk from sacred yaks. When I was in Bali, I asked for Kopi Luwak, which is made from beans that have passed through the digestive track of a type of cat, then shat, cleaned and roasted. This is the best coffee I have ever had, and a product of Bali, but not available at Starbucks in Bali.

Kenyan coffee is excellent, and Starbucks sells it all over the world, but there is no Starbucks in Kenya. Maybe milk from the sacred Zebra is not available.

The Starbucks at Trafalgar Square in London was packed when I was there, mostly with tourists glad to get something other than tea or Nescafe.

Starbucks cafes are a great place to blog from. Usually the wifi is free, not always. They have comfy seats. People can spend hours in one. I know, I have.

So fellow travelers, if you ever want to meet up with me in some foreign country, I’ll met you at Starbucks!

Green logo used from 1987-2010, still being us...

The three most prevalent logos I find traveling are Coca Cola, McDonalds, and this one!

Bali Hai

I have neglected my responsibility to show you some of the beauty and cool stuff about Bali. Sorry. We have been planning our next jaunt and it has consumed my time, imagination and dreams.  But I must finish posting about Bali before I move on, so here goes.

Bali Hai beer. A good way to start your vacation.

Bali has beautiful countryside to look at. These rice terraces are all over the hills. Bali also has long stretches of white sand beaches. I am trying to stay positive with this post, but behind me when I took this picture is a long line of traffic and hundreds of hawkers and junk stores. Plus the beaches are covered with sunburned Russians. Our tour guide described Russians as "loud, vodka drinking louts who do not tip."

Bali's highest point is this volcano called Gunung Batur. The drive up to it, while crowded with people like us (damn tourists), is quite beautiful.

Bali has always had crafts people. They have beautiful weavings. They carve wood for you to buy. But my favorite, and probably the most evocative art craft in Bali is Batik. They make all types of clothing, including unfortunately shirts. I bought more than I will ever need. Anyone want a 2X sized batik shirt? This photo os of a woman applying wax to the design already drawn on the silk. Then they dye it, and do it over again for every color. This is time consuming and labor intensive. Yet, at least in Bali, the shirts are not that expensive.

The food in Bali is really quite wonderful. The seafood in particular (duh, it IS an island). I loved the way they served this rice side dish with the banana leaf dunce cap.

The best place we visited in Bali was this producer of Kopi Luwak. If you ever go to Bali, go here.

This is why you should visit this place. This is Kopi Luwak, which crudely translates into coffee from the shit of the Luwak. The luwak is a cat like animal that feasts on ripe coffee beans. The digestive process of the cat leaves the beans intact, yet secretes any hint of acidity in the coffee. The locals find the cat shit, then they remove the beans and roast them like any other coffee bean. The result is the best coffee this reporter has ever drank, and I have had Costa Rican Terra Zu, Jamaican Blue Mountain, you name it. I love good coffee. This tradition came from colonial edicts that prohibited the locals from harvesting beans for their own use, so they started harvesting the cat shit. When the Dutch ruling class tasted what the locals were drinking, it became a craze. Now it sells for US$1000 a pound in New York. Restaurants charge US$90 a cup for it.

Keeping with weird tradition of showing you what the restroom signs look like...I am glad they used the words or I could not have figured it out.

Could you?

The very weirdest thing I found in Bali was in the men's room of the lobby in our hotel. Take a good look. Too weird anywhere, especially in the men's room.

Well folks, that is it for our trip to Bali. Overall we enjoyed it, but like I said in the previous post, it is not worth the effort or cost to get there. (It took us 26 hours to get home,from the hotel lobby to our living room and cost way too much money). Bali never considered sustainable tourism in their plans, and it is too late now.

Thanks for reading. Tell a friend. Make a comment. Share with your FB people. Please.

Next post…London!

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