Ubud, Bali, Indonesia (2015 and 1993)
Twenty years ago I went backpacking in Asia for two months with a friend. Of course we visited Indonesia. I remember how impressed I was with Bali: the beauty of the island, the friendly mentality of the people, flowers and offerings everywhere. We made a brief visit to Ubud, but the only thing I remember was shops. We bought some souvenirs and moved on. That was how things were back then: when you travelled, you were on the move, trying to see as much as possible in the time available.
Today I am visiting Bali again. I am in Ubud and not planning to leave the village for sightseeing; I just want to practice yoga and eat healthy, tasty food. I mean to live here for three weeks. The place has changed a lot since ‘Eat, Love and Pray’. There are many health food cafe’s, yoga schools, ‘home stays’ (more like hotels) and lounge places. I consider Ubud to be a world created, away from reality, but a very convenient one. Lodging and food are plenty, diverse and cheap. The beauty is still here and the people are still amazingly friendly; service unparalleled.
A few highlights of my stay:
I stayed in Sandat Bali Ubud B&B for about US$19 per day, including a lovely breakfast, served in my room each day. Booked it via internet before I arrived, planning to switch to another place after three days. But I like it here. A quiet residential street, just around the corner of the center of Ubud, where most restaurants and shops are. The yoga school is just around the corner. After a few days I got to know all the little stalls, shops, people, dogs and chickens in the street. I found two small local restaurants where I spent most of my time. So I kept adding days to my stay until, finally I decided to stay here the entire 3 weeks.
A two week yoga plan at Radiantly Alive, one of the smaller yoga schools, is about US$70 for unlimited classes. They have ‘fligh high’ yoga where you can do all kinds of inverted poses on a kind of swing. And ‘Roll and Release’ classes where you learn to give yourself a deep tissue massage with a small plastic ball. YogaBarn, the largest Yoga school is also at walking distance, but I found it too big, almost like a factory. I did go to their famous Sunday dance, where 150 people gather at 11AM to dance, dance, dance. Amazing to see those people; young, old, all shapes and sizes, some of them obvious hippies, dancing the day away. No alcohol, no (visible) drugs, no smoking; just a natural high from the great music. An experience!
Warung Dayu is a lovely little restaurant where they serve tasty health food for US$2 per dish. Incredible. They also have cakes to die for, some days even a raw cake. Very cheap, friendly and good food.
A few doors down is Warung Sopa, a bit bigger, but also very local. Wonderful pumpkin soup, home made coconut ice cream and other food, good coffee and I taught them to make an awesome chai tea latte. A great place to hang out. Also a lot cheaper than restaurants in the next, well known, street.
I hardly left my street, but I did discover some other nice places:
Starting from the bridge at the Blanco museum there is a lovely walk along the river into the rice fields, with beautiful views.
On that side of town (Penestenan) there are many houses for rent, looking over the rice paddies.
The raw food restaurant Alchemy has the best salads, raw cakes and breakfast bar in town.
One night, when friends from Holland were visiting they took me out for dinner in the upscale Bridges restaurant, with a view of the river. The food, romantic setting and level of service here were even better than in the rest of town.
Lots of real Thai food as well: Siam Sally and Warung Siam are my favorites. The first one is a tiny bit more upscale and has live music. The second one served home cooked food at tiny prices.
I became a member of Hubud, the co-working space in Ubud, where lots of digital nomads gather. They apparently have the fastest internet in town (20MB), but with so many nomads working there, I was not really impressed. The view of the rice paddies is beautiful, but it was very hot and busy when I visited: looked like an office to me.
Across the road is Tropical View cafe, with amazing views and a nice breeze. The food here was nothing special, but the view and setting exceptional. I would rather work here than in Hubud, though I still went to Hubud in the evenings (when nobody was there) for my Skype calls.
Back in ‘my part of town’ I can recommend Soma, also a raw food restaurant in a great setting and Kafe; a more upscale health food cafe setting where you find lots of nomads with their laptops. Their food and drinks are amazing, just a bit more ‘expensive’ (It was the first time in three weeks that I spent US$10 for a snack and a fruit shake.)
I left town only once, to go to a secret, sacred waterfall, where only locals come to pray. An amazing experience; we were the only foreigners. We bathed and prayed under the waterfall and some locals were kind enough to give us some of their offerings so we would have something to offer as well. We also visited the natural hot springs at the Batur volcano. Along the lake there are many spas to choose from (they all claim to be the only hot spring, haha), but each one of them has nice facilities.
What will stay with me is the flowers, the offerings, the mindfulness of the people (‘why do you come here to practice yoga?’ they ask: for them every moment is a yoga moment…), the exceptional attention to detail.
I will definitely visit Ubud again. Next time I’ll rent a house in the rice paddies (around US$350 per month), rent a scooter for US$4 a day and stay a bit longer.
Inspired? If you have a little more to spend, look at these 21 amazing places to stay in Ubud.
More pictures? Visit my Instagram photo diary.