I asked John, Sophie and Lilly to give me one word each, that – in their eyes – describes Ubud best. John came up with “arty”, Sophie with “busy” and Lilly noticed that “there were lots of shops with pretty things around”. And “touristy” comes to mind, when I think of the cultural center of Bali. After the quiet days in the North of the island with seeing hardly any travellers, it was even more striking that Ubud is attracting lots of tourists from all over the world. We all felt a bit overwhelmed by the tourists’ influx at the start, but quickly adapted to our new surroundings and started to appreciate Ubud’s bustling vibe with its varied attractions and cultural scene.
Some of our highlights:
- Finding a real culinary treasure in Warung Pondok Madu. Should you ever come past this place, try the pork ribs. They are to die for.
- Meeting “Marc the Spark” again and celebrating our “six months on the road” anniversary with him… and a surprise piece of chocolate cake.
- Visiting a family of wood carvers, learning about their simple, community-oriented and spiritual lives. We were also given the chance to make our own statue – with a lot of help from the pros.
- Being charmed by two different Legong Dance performances. Incredible, how the dancers moved their eyes, feet and fingers – sometimes in a pretty surreal way. The hypnotic music of the fabulous orchestras added to the mystical atmosphere.
- Making offerings for the gods at our hotel. Weaving the small baskets, “birds” and balls out of palm leaves looks super easy when you watch the local girls making them, but it is actually quite complicated. Fortunately, we had a very patient teacher.
- Being entertained by the cheeky monkeys of the Ubud monkey forest. The best parts were the mega cute baby monkeys, some male (I don’t actually know for sure that they were male, but considering their behaviour, they had to be male;-)) monkeys fooling around at the pool and the fairytale scenery in the gorge. In spite of slight scepticism before the visit, we really enjoyed it… until Lilly got accosted by a monkey. After that, we (the girls) slightly suffered from persecution mania.
- We felt the urge to go back to the picturesque Jatiluwih rice fields. So when the sun came out one afternoon, we started the car and drove of. 1.5 hours on busy, narrow and windy roads… and when we arrived, the grey clouds had taken over. No magnificent evening light on the rice terraces then. But still beautiful.
- Stopping for a fresh fruit juice and a wooden bowl full of dark rice with coconut milk in the Warung “Sweet Orange” – surrounded by rice fields and decorated with hundreds of coconut heads.
- Feeling the power of the water at Tegenungan waterfall.
- Running through high grass on the Campuhan Ridge in the evening light.
- Sleeping at Jani’s Place Cottage: New family room with comfy beds, tasty breakfast and a refreshing pool in the courtyard. What else do you want.
The learning curve:
- No insurance when renting a car from a local car rental company is the norm. Also:
Driving in the dark, in rain, in a car with bad windscreen wipers and poor light = not advisable.
- If you would like to get hassled in Bali, don’t miss the main buildings of the Sukawati market. The vendors literally scared us away. Good that the stalls in the surrounding streets are much more peaceful. Not sure though if peaceful is the right word to describe the atmosphere.
- The consequences of rainy season in Bali: Rough sea, impressive waterfalls, no sunsets, cooler temperatures… and rain, of course! At least once a day.