Exploring Ubud, Bali

Ubud has always been high on my bucket-list, with expectations for a destination of peacefulness, wholesome food, and beautiful countryside scenery. We did indeed find a town full of culture and history, set amongst lush tropical rainforest and stunning bright green rice terraces. However, a word of warning: it is a relatively small town, which attracts ALOT of visitors. This leaves the main streets of town congested with car, motorbike and pedestrian traffic.

We spent 4 nights in Ubud, which I did enjoy a lot, but if you are after a quiet piece of Bali to rejuvenate yourself in, then perhaps the villages surrounding Ubud would offer a more quaint base for exploring the region.

Stay

Similar to Bali’s beaches, Ubud has an array of accommodation options that vary drastically in price. If you are travelling with a group, then hiring a villa is the best way to get better value for money (which is exactly the approach we took).

We booked 4 nights at the modern and design-savvy Aria Villas Ubud – and WOW what a property! There seemed to be about 6 one bedroom villas, a three and a four bedroom villa; each privately positioned, with lush views of the valley below.

Due to availability, we spent our first night spread across the one bedroom villas, moving to the three bedroom villa for the following 3 nights. The one bedroom villas were INCREDIBLE. The layout, design, facilities, and the size – were amazing! Each villa came equipped with a private infinity pool, outdoor lounge furniture, huge king beds, and rainfall showers located in a private garden corner adjoined to the bedroom.

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The three bedroom villa was essentially the same layout, and so still a beautiful space, but we were expecting each of the bedrooms to be similar – however there was a huge master bedroom, then two very cosy bedrooms located at the bottom of the property. It was still really nice, but i think the website could have made this clearer so we knew what to expect. This style of villa was probably much better suited to families with children, rather than a larger group of adults.

This is already a rather lengthy write up of the villa, but i must make a mention of the breakfasts included in the room rate. The menu changes daily and you get to make a selection from a huge array of options. We went all out (of course) – and each morning it was beautifully presented and delicious.

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The villa also offered complimentary welcome neck massages upon arrival, plus afternoon ice blocks for your to enjoy poolside each day. Yep it was luxurious (although this villa came in at a much higher price point compared to our Canggu villa).

See / Do

With the aim of getting away from the traffic, we went for various walking / hiking activities whilst in Ubud and it was the perfect way to get out and see the beauty of the countryside. We didn’t have a huge amount of time to explore the town of Ubud itself, so with another day or two you’d certainly get a good chance to fit in some shopping and yoga as well.

Campuan Ridge Walk: I first heard about this walk from a stunning picture on Instagram which inspired me to find out more about it. Lonely Planet actually has a really good write up of the walk in their Bali & Lombok guidebook, and provides instructions for an 8.5km loop to and from Ubud town. Its quite a long walk (about 3+ hours) but takes you past an impressive old Hindu temple, along the picturesque Campuan Ridge, past various rice paddy fields, through a cute village or two, and then along the main road back into Ubud. A great way to get up to your 10,000 steps for the day – and if you time it right, the main road home will take you past Nuri’s Warung (see below for write up) just in time for lunch!

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Mount Batur sunrise hike: It takes commitment to do a sunrise hike up a mountain in the dark, and we did question whether we were crazy for booking a tour that requires us to wake at 2am, but we had done our research and every review we read said that this was a must-do experience in Bali. I am happy to say that the reviews were spot on!!! There is a surprising number of people who all have the same idea, so go prepared knowing that you won’t be the only one watching sunrise from the summit of Mount Batur.  But for views like this, you won’t mind sharing the space.

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Departing the villa at 2:30am, it does take some time to drive out via mini bus to the mountain, so after stopping for local kopi and a fried banana breakfast, you will arrive at the starting point of the trek at about 4-4.30am. Take a torch (although guides should also offer them) and wear appropriate clothing as it is quite cool at that time of the morning. You will be hiking up in the darkness under the stars which is actually a really magical experience. Gym shoes and a good to standard level of fitness will be fine to complete the hike – although even for the fittest of our group, the final 30 minutes trying to climb up the soft black sand was pretty hard work. There will be calf burn!

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The reward is well worth your efforts – that view, and watching the sky change colour from pink, to orange, to blue is truly blissful. Once the sun is up you’ll be able to see the true beauty of the surrounding landscape; lake on one side and volcanic crater on the other.  Have your camera handy as there will be plenty of opportunities to get some stunning photos of the lake on the decent.

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Simply stunning – the walk down from Mount Batur summit

Tegalalang rice terrace: The postcard perfect rice terraces are a must see whilst in Ubud. Perfect for the photo-happy traveller, you will want to take photos from every angle as you wind your way through the various fields. It really is very pretty!! We purchased an entrance ticket from across the road before we entered (although it is still not clear to me as to whether this is required or not!), but the farmers sitting at the edge of their plot will also ask you for a ‘donation’. They won’t let you pass unless you give them something, so make sure you carry some small notes to keep the peace. I recommend arriving mid-morning to beat the crowds and the heat, and its worth noting that some parts of the path can be muddy, so choose your footwear accordingly.

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The Saraswati Temple: Located just behind the Lotus Cafe on the main road, you will find a pond filled with lotus flowers, which leads through to an ornate Hindu temple. You don’t need to be a customer of the cafe to walk through to the temple, and for such a beautiful setting I was surprised not to find huge crowds of people here.  It is free to go inside the temple, but you will need to be dressed respectfully to enter.

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Get a massage: With so many places to choose from, we decided on Ida’s Body & Soul which offer 90 minute therapeutic massages for $28. Excellent value, polite and well trained staff, and very good for those who like their massages FIRM with a focus on pressure points. This place was quite popular so you should make sure you book a time slot in advance.

Cafes

Seniman Coffee Studio: for high quality strong coffee. The coffee comes served on a paddle with a sweet biscuit and glass of water, whilst their Nitro is served over a perfectly formed giant ice-cube. We went back twice, as the coffee was damn-good!

Lazy Cats Cafe: One of THE prettiest cafe spaces I have had the pleasure of seeing. The food is super healthy and tasty, and the smoothies – simply yummo! Definitely stop by for a long relaxing lunch break.

Food

Naughty Nuri’s Warung: Famous for her BBQ pork ribs and the fame is well deserved. We went for lunch after completing a big morning walk (Campuan Ridge) and hence were ravenous. Ice-cold soft drinks, juicy tender pork ribs, chicken skewers, rice and vegetables. It hit the spot! Great quality BBQ meats and cooked to perfection.

Kebun Bistro: If you are craving a wine night, then this is an excellent spot for dinner. Really great wine selection in a lovely dimly lit and relaxed atmosphere, with some excellent French / Italian food. Great place to meet friends and have some good quality wine time.

Putu’s Wild Ginger Warung: A simple family run warung located off the main road of Ubud. The food is authentic local dishes, with very friendly service. Call in advance to book a table, as the seating space is relatively small and quite popular amongst tourists and locals. I can highly recommend the tempeh curry, and the deserts were also delicious!

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A beautiful family temple on the same street at Putu’s Wild Ginger Warung

Drinks

The Night Rooster Cocktail Bar: A cocktail bar that also offers american-asian bar snacks. A little bit naughty but super-tasty: hotdogs, pork belly in lettuce cups, duck-egg noodles, just to name a few. Creative cocktail combinations, great service, and a nice relaxing vibe.

Copper Kitchen & Bar @Bisma Eight hotel: This rooftop bar is an excellent place to come for a sunset cocktail. A little on the expensive side (hotel prices!), but a very peaceful setting to enjoy a sundowner before heading out for dinner.

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With 4 nights in Canggu and 4 nights in Ubud it was a great week in Bali. Perfect for a first time visit and as a destination to enjoy with friends or family. I can see why people get hooked on Bali, its just such an easy and relaxing destination to holiday in. I’m already dreaming up a return visit!

 

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