Ah, Ubud. A tropical, land-locked vacation destination teeming with Balinese culture, a buzzing market place, hippies, health conscious restaurants, monkeys and the near constant hum of people asking, "taxi?! Maaassage?! How much?!"
As we wrap up our wonderful 8 days spent in beautiful Ubud, Bali, I feel inclined to reflect on our adventures of the past week and to share them with you all.
We made it to Ubud during midday of last week, and were eager to find a solid homestay with a pool near the market for less than $30/night.
(We sound needy, I know, but this is actually a totally doable request). We stumbled across "Sania's", a beautiful, stone garden enclosed oasis run by a very sweet, kind family just off the main market road. Private terraced fan rooms with elaborate stone work and surrounding lush vegetation , breakfast included at our private table and a pool with fountains all for $25/night, we had hit gold and knew we would thoroughly enjoy our stay in Ubud.
The past week, we have eaten at a variety of restaurants, a few of which have been strictly vegan or vegetarian and have provided colourful, tasty meals that are good for both soul and tummy. One of my favourite spots is a cute little cafe with
a roof top terrace, small pillows and tables to sit cross legged at and a totally vegan//gluten free menu, called "Raw Seeds of Life". We've enjoyed a few meals there now, and I can honestly say their coconut/walnut Italian bruschetta, Oreo cheese cake and "loveliving" juice are all to die for!!
It may seem like a small thing, but not having to explain your own painful death should the restaurant contaminate your food with gluten or dairy (or msg for that matter, nasty stuff) as a celiac and just being able to order whatever you want on a menu (and not get sick after) is a really big deal. Like a REALLY big deal. If you are in Ubud with dietary restrictions (or you appreciate good food), go to this place. Daily.
Vegan//GF Mocha cheesecake (Cheesecake is made from cashews, lemon juice, cacao, Palm sugar, coffee extract and love)
(Vegan//GF Italian Bruschetta with coconut and walnut baguette.)
One of the best parts about Ubud is that you can experience Balinese culture in full at a variety of venues. We visited the Puri Lukisan Museum of fine arts one rainy afternoon and ogled at the intensely detailed black and white images of Hindu traditional stories and the evolution of Balinese art throughout the last century.
Brandon and I were able to take in a traditional Balinese dance performance at the temple and although our seats weren't the best, it was a really neat experience overall. There was a blessing and an offering of flowers, rice, banana leaf and water (one of my favourite parts about daily Balinese culture) before two lithe, beautifully dressed and decorated dancers started to move in sync to the traditional tinkling of Balinese drums and cymbals, eyes closed and fingers flexing and bending to the music.
One of the most entertaining aspects about the evening spent watching men and women perform traditional dance, was the differentiating facial expressions. Eyes wide open with a look of fear quickly shifts to a curved smile and daring eyes and then back again, making you feel perplexed and mesmerized at the emotions of the dance. It's all very beautiful and I would highly suggest attending one.
The monkey forest sanctuary in Ubud is a wonderful experience. For $2 you can buy a bunch of bananas to feed the monkeys, who roam free range through the paths and trees and aren't afraid of stealing your water bottle or cashews. In fact I suggest surrendering all food as soon as any approach you. A mad monkey is a bad monkey, so beware.
A woman offered to help a monkey onto my shoulders and fed him a small banana as he sat, smugly, eating the treat. She took a few photos and then offered Brandon the same opportunity. The monkey crawled onto Brandon's shoulder, snatched the banana and then swiftly returned to sit on my shoulder, as though nothing had happened. We had a good chuckle about that one, even though Brandon's ego was mildly wounded.
There are many rice fields in and around Ubud and walking through the paths is a peaceful and relaxing activity. The terraces are expertly and meticulously laid and the rice plants shoot up from a muddy, soupy field as white, heron looking birds stroll through them, hunting frogs and claiming their domain. Palm trees surround everything and there are small villas and farms laid about the land. Coconut shells hang on string between palms to dry and locals scooter past on the crumbling road, smiling acknowledgment or saying "hello".
We have certainly had our fair share of lounging this past week, even though we have also sought out culture and landscape. Poolside lounging, finishing books, eating, drinking mojitos, yoga on the terrace and strolling through the shops (trying to get a good deal), has all been very enjoyable. But, naturally, we also love to adventure, so today we were able to meet that hunger in full.
Mount Batur is an active volcano here in Bali, about 1,700 meters above sea level. It takes around 1 hour to get to it from Ubud and there are tours daily for about $30. The catch? You leave your homestay or hotel at 2:30am and begin the supposedly beginner (it was tough) hike up the steep, ashy stoned mountain at 3:30am. The humidity kicks in really quickly and we were lucky enough to get rained on as we made our way up the winding path (if you can call jutting rocks and pebbled piles at a 70 degree angle a path at all).
Flash lights in hand, we hiked the 1.5 hrs to the first crater and were relieved momentarily by the cool winds atop the hill. Unfortunately it was quite foggy, so we were unable to experience the spectacular views of the sunrise we had hoped. That being said, it was still very beautiful and we were able to view the crater, lava cave and place our hands over steam from the earth. Our guide, Suli, was a champ and taught me Balinese while we hiked. Overall, it was an awesome experience and definitely a challenging one so early in the morning.
We returned back to "Sania's" around 9am, ordered breakfast and ate in silence, exhausted after our early morning adventure. We decided to take team naps and reconnect later in the day for dinner. We woke late in the afternoon, went back for more delicious vegan treats (this time, vegan lasagna and mocha cheese cake, and our fave "loveliving" green juice blend of kale, apple, parsley, lime and fennel).
This is our last evening in Ubud, as Brandon and I are adventuring to the Bukit Peninsula tomorrow and then onto the Philippines on Thursday. I think a round of mojitos and some steaming plates of Nasi Goreng (local Balinese rice dish) are in order. Ubud, you've been lovely.
On to the next adventure we go.