Asia,  Bali,  Food,  Travels

Bali Part 1: Ubud

 

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Quiet, except for the singing cicadas.  Thick air, the smell of incense heavy and slow in the steaming heat.  Green leafy trays of floral offerings along the pathways.  Orange marigolds, strung around the necks of Ganesha or placed on stone steps.  This is waking up in Ubud.

I love this “island of the gods” that is Bali and Ubud is the spiritual heart, located in the middle of the island, amidst the lush green rice fields, far from the pulsing beats of the bars at Seminyak.  This is my third trip here and I can confidently offer some suggestions for you, if you’re planning a trip.

Wander the charming streets: Jalan Hanoman and Jalan Monkey Forest are the two parallel busy commercial streets, great for a few hours of shopping.  I do plenty of damage to my credit card each time I come.  The little boutiques are full of dainty jewelry, breezy dresses made for the steamy weather, knick-knacks to decorate your house with.  When it gets hot, stop for a smoothie or fresh coconut juice.

Wander to look at the lush greenery and rice fields.  You can scooter or hire a taxi to take you to the bigger terraced rice fields such as Tegalalang.  Closer to Ubud town centre, you can walk into an area just northeast of the main strip for a quiet breakfast or lunch.  Head west on Raya Ubud and turn right up towards Sari Organik or Cafe Pomegrante, two restaurants situated right in the middle of a rice fields.  It’s a beautiful calm setting to enjoy some food.  The mixed sampler plate of 7 items at Cafe Pomegrante is delicious and a great intro to Balinese flavours.

Penestanan Stairs – Even further west off Raya Ubud, there’s a staircase that leads into a quiet area called Penestanan.  The first time I came to Ubud, we rented a villa in the middle of this area.  Every day we had to navigate through the narrow paths lined with beautiful flowers and vines, rays of golden light peeking through the coconut palms; a beautiful dream like walk.

Campuhan Ridge Walk – a short walk through a ridgeway between the rice fields and villas.  Easy and a nice escape from the busy streets of Ubud centre.

Ubud Market — located off the main road of Jalan Raya Ubud and Monkey Forest road.  great shopping, but be prepared to haggle and get extremely hot.

Massages – there are plenty of options to choose from.  I’ve tried a few different places and have had decent experiences at all of them.  This time around, I tried the Kayma Spa, right near our hotel, and have no complaints.

Monkey Forest – On my previous trips to Ubud, I’ve avoided going into the Monkey Forest park proper because I had heard horror stories of the fearless Monkeys jumping on tourists.  Even if you don’t go in, you’ll see plenty of monkeys as you near the entrance at the end of Monkey Forest road through to where it rounds into a U bend and eventually turns up to Jalan Hanoman.  This time, we paid the $80K IDR to go in.  It’s a beautiful place, green moss covers the various statues and temples, monkeys bounding around, and tarzan-style jungle vines dripping from the trees.

Yoga – no shortage of studios.  Yoga Barn is the one I’ve frequented a few times and it is a beautiful place where yogis will flock to.  The entrance is off of Jalan Raya Pengosekan Ubud, near where Hanoman splits into Monkey Forest & Raya Pengosekan.  You walk down the path and will be greeted with the coolest yoga centre.  There are multiple buildings and a cafe/restaurant that are built stepping down into a big open courtyard area.  Some of the yoga rooms are open to the outdoors, some are enclosed with glass walls looking out into jungle.  Classes can be bought on a first come first serve drop in basis, with options to buy multi class passes.  Look out for the bottles of mozzie cream floating around and be sure to cover yourself with it before you start your asanas, otherwise you might be spending more time scratching than downward dogging.  I learned my lesson after the first class.  There are also more unusual classes like acro yoga, spiritual dance, and cocao ceremonies that you can participate in.

There are many other studios sprinkled across Ubud, both off the main street and also in the quieter rice fields.

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Hungry yet after all that yoga and wandering?  Let’s EAT!!

Your hotel might already offer breakfast.  I bet jaffles are an option.  Here are some other suggestions if you want something different or for other meals…

Melting Wok – recommended by a friend of time.  Their short menu of offerings changes, but the food is delicious.  If they ask you if you want it to be spicy, know that spicy is spicy!

Drink a coconut flavoured something at Tukies coconut shop.  There are a few dotted all over Ubud and they are great for a thirst quenching beverage.  They also sell coconut butter, coconut chips, etc.  Coconuts are so delicious and versatile.

Kafe has good vibes and lots of smoothies and fresh juices.  Their salads are good too.  I love sitting on their outdoor patio area and watching the people go by.

Buddha Bowl – I had the Vietnamese style egg crepe (Ban Xeo) there and it was delicious, but deciding from their yummy menu is the hardest!

Laughing Buddha Bar – great live music and vibes.

Other places that have been recommended to me by other friends over the years include:

  • Clear Cafe
  • Warung Sopa
  • The Elephant
  • Sari Organik (close to Cafe Pomegranate and another good option for a rice-paddy-field lunch)
  • Hujan Locale
  • Locavore (higher end dining and meant to be one of the best)

Don’t be limited by these recommendations though because in my experience, most meals in Ubud are delicious.  If you see something that’s busy, chances are good that it’s good food and value.

Cooking class — something I did my first time in Bali and it was a lot of fun.  At Paon’s, they will pick you up, give you a tour of a traditional Balinese house, then you move into the kitchen and learn to make Balinese satay, urab, and more.

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