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Bali (part 1) – doing the most on borrowed time!

Is there a single word in the English language which describes missing a place you’ve never been to? Portuguese has Saudade, a kind of melancholic yearning for an absent thing that may never return, but that’s not quite the same as this. I felt it for Havana, Marrakech, Shanghai and Bangkok. The feeling is palpable: nostalgia and a sense of urgency. Spiritual? Maybe.

My own Saudade resulted in me booking a plane ticket to Bali a couple of weeks later. You don’t wait for these things to pass; you act on it.


Ubud

Sunday 29th 

After 6 hours from London to Qatar, then a further 8 hours to Bali, my friend and I landed in Ngurah Rai International Airport 5:40pm local time. Wayan (owner of our B&B) kindly greeted us with a sign and was gracious not to recoil at my 14 hour body odour. First time I’ve ever felt economy class was a bad decision [my mate trotted off to her surprise upgrade…]

Dinner that evening consisted of a Balinese speciality: crispy duck (pescetarian diet temporarily out the window) and toiletary shopping. Nothing sexy and exciting. Tired and ready to go to our place in Ubud. Traveller’s delirium couldn’t mask my deep sense of gratitude for being there, though. I was in Bali and I was determined to make the most of my short time here.

Monday 30th 

Morning

Our first full day in Ubud. Continental breakfast eaten on a balcony overlooking the plush green fields facing the back of the property and a chance to see our new digs in the daylight…

Breathtaking. The property sits in a village called Mas: three properties in a compound, a gallery and a mini shrine.

We  were dropped off to the centre of Ubud for shopping shortly after. We had no real idea of the value of market items, but we later discovered most things like necklaces and tops could be haggled to RP15,000–RP30,000 without offending the shop owner.

Boutiques, temples and the heavy aroma of incense. Strolling lead to peckishness (naturally), which lead us to Clear Cafe; a beautiful art décor restaurant with traditional floor seating, an impressive water feature on the ground floor, bamboo flooring and a fireman pole (as you do). Clear Cafe attracts a lot of expats/yogis and expat yogis with its extensive organic/raw food options and traditional/international cuisine. I opted for  tuna satay with sambal (spicy mixed pepper sauce and veg), boiled rice and peanut sauce priced at RP60,000. Decent portion size. Absolutely delicious.

Price: ££

Ambience: very chill and family friendly. Shoes must be taken off.

Afternoon/Evening

We spotted Rembulan spa post-tummy fattening and both ridiculously giddy after a few rounds on the fireman’s pole. We booked an hour traditional massage for RP90,000 (less than a fiver) with the option to throw in an extra 30 minutes and a mani/pedi for RP200,000. I can’t account for the last 45 minutes of my time sprawled out naked and vulnerable in the presence of my masseuse  – sleep inducing hands from the heavens, she had – but I left light and airy. Definitely one of the lower priced massage shops in the area, which totally didn’t take away from the warm customer service we received. Recommended.

Later, curiosity had us keen to see what [tourist] Ubud night life was saying. Wayan mentioned a reggae bar frequented by expats. First impressions? Cruise ship reggae and tons of aussie expats. A definite vibe – although not my cup of tea –  but cool if you wanted to meet other backpackers and relive a tame night out in Koh Phi Phi.

Clear Cafe: Jalan Hanoman No. 8, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia

Rembulan Spa: Hanoman No.1 Ubud, phone (0361) 976694, 087 861 866 339

Bamboo bar and restaurant: Dewisita street, Ubud 80571


Tuesday 31st 

Morning

Silk scarf making + temple tour sounded appealing in theory, but we weren’t too concerned with being the main attractions – tourists gawping at their first ‘negro’ sighting/following us to record on the sly got very old – the overcrowding didn’t help [this was in the temple, mind]. It’s a shame, as the silk pieces were exquisite and we could tell a lot of time and care had been put into it. It was lovely being able to see it being done in person, though. RP250,000 in total.

 

Afternoonimg_69052

Word on the [expat] streets was Yoga Barn was the health spot in Ubud. You have to ask around for the location, as the venue is hidden behind a nondescript alley off the main road, but it’s beautiful (and gave me some home interior ideas). It’s part guest house and vegan restaurant, part holistic metropolis, offering ayuvedic treatments, meditation, colonics and yoga. We opted for a mixed ability vinyasa flow in the evening. Note: classes get booked up quickly, so get there fast. Also, we heard a wonderful black woman named Nadine teaches Gentle Yoga on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 11:30–12:30, but didn’t manage to book. Do go. Supporting sisters reverses ageing.

Evening

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Jambali Cafe – Taken on Samsung Galaxy S6

A wonderful black queen by the name of Michele set up the first and only Jamaican restaurant in the whole of Ubud.

Service was impeccable.

Michele greeted us personally, asked how we found her and treated us to sorrel sorbet with bread & butter pudding on the house (black women are angels of the most high). I opted for plantain and aoili sauce for starters, followed by escoveitch with rice & peas and a portion of fish fritters for Wayan. My mate is unable to communicate when good food hits her, so her 20 minute silence spoke volumes. I can’t recommend Jambali Cafe enough.

Yoga barn: Pengosekan, behind Siam Sally restaurant. £££ (RP 130,000 – RP150,000 per class on average), but membership available.

Michele’s Jambali cafePenestanan Kelod. Phone: +62 81 246 588 938


Wednesday 1st  

Morning

Despite monsoon level rain showers, we were determined to do a cycle tour [I wanted my paddy fields and mountains, dammit!] Wayan contacted a local tour group by the name of Bali Breeze tourslead by the wonderful I Ketut Galung.

The day consisted of an early morning mini bus pick-up – stopping for 3–4 more groups along the way (really lovely bunch, they are). A 30 – 40 minute drive up to a cafe on a mountain for crepes, omelette, tea and instructions for the day. We took a short drive to a coffee plantation, a small history of the Balinese coffee making process and then was served an attractive spread of both coffee and tea to try.  A mad dash to the mini bus – as the rain was ridiculous  – with the option to start the tour from the plantation, or stay on to the official starting point in the local village (where we’d be supplied helmets, water and a rain mack).

Despite the rain, the experience was other worldly. We were trailed by the mini bus holding our belongings, and lead by I Ketut Galang and a young man who joined us later. I won’t patronise you with cringey cliches, but it seriously felt like something out of a movie: Plush green paddy fields, temples, valleys, vast mountainous areas and large village animals going about their business. GoPro held out the entire time.

Afternoon

Our tour ended with a vegetarian lunch buffet and a barong dance performance lead by the cycle tour owner’s daughter and her nervous age mates. The sweetest thing ever. Highlight of my entire day.

Cycle tour address/tour info: Lanyahan, Banjar, Gentong, Tegallang, Ubud, Gianyar 80561    Price RP300,000 (but other group members haggled it down for less). Total cycle time: 2 hours

Evening

The night lead us to Sawah Indah restaurant for dinner, and we didn’t know much to expect apart from ‘it’s set out from busy central Ubud and perched on a paddy field’, but this does it a disservice. Words fail me, but ‘stunning’ and ‘otherworldly’ do a decent enough job. And the food? My main consisted of tongue tingling, sweet/sour chilli marinated monkfish presented in a bamboo container [delightfully dramatic], while my mate opted for a Sawah Indah speciality – a crispy duck spread. The stray cats and torrential rain did little to dampen our experience. No pics, because it’s not everyday bring-my-DSLR, and my phone camera is shit at night.

Go. You. Must.

Sawah Indah restaurantRaya Goa Gajah Peliatan (Ubud)


Thursday 2nd

A beach day was due. Wayan warned us that the rain wouldn’t go on sabbatical just for us, but we only had a few days left, so we were going. Seminyak wasn’t my first choice, due its close proximity to Kuta; a place with a very seedy reputation [Bali doesn’t play around with the death penalty, and with Kuta being well-known for illicit substances passing through many hands, I wasn’t trying to play around and have someone plant something on me to be spiteful.  No ma’am] But it was only an hour away, and we wanted to sunbathe, be carefree and have our Bo Dereck moment. There would surely be chilled parts for us to potter around in. It would have been a shame to dismiss an entire region based on hearsay; not my style…

First impressions, though? Not a very good one. The beach was filthy. Beers cans and miscellaneous trash just strewn along the shore. Such an embarrassment on behalf of us tourists. A disgrace, in fact. We made our way back to the centre to potter around. A bit more western restaurants than I would like, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. We poked our head in a couple of boutiques before deciding we’d rather eat a meal and then go back to Ubud. We spent a total of 2 hours in Seminyak. Wayan was right about the rain.

Lunch

Food solves a plethora of woes. Warung Bale-bali to the rescue. Two crispy duck mains, with a side of veg and sambal. Padang banana fritters coated with palm sugar and two scoops of vanilla and cappuccino ice-cream for dessert. A foodie’s dream.

Dinner

Taco casa with a new arrival we befriended at Wayan’s place. Her suggestion (but could have done with some rice and fried tempeh). My main: crispy shrimp taco (ordered a small, but it was a decent portion) and a margarita jug to share with the girls. Fyi: tell them to add a bit of sweetener, as it was on the bitter side.

Warung Bale-bali: Kunti 1 No 4 BB – seminyak bali (tel)  0361 732731, email: warungbalebali@yahoo.com

Taco Casa: Jalan Pengosekan (South end of Ubud)


Friday 3rd   

The end was nearing. This was my mate’s last day, as she had to get back to Qatar a day earlier to prepare for teaching. Today would be a day of wandering: drinking in every bit of Ubud. I really wished I came here for a month to really sit with these feelings.

We strolled to the cluster of market areas near Ubud palace (near monkey forest road), where we brought honey scented incense, Mangosteen tea, boutique items and miscellaneous figurines to take a bit of Ubud with us on our way back home.

Dinner

Dinner for one at a local restaurant near Wayan’s place. Simple, tasty and cheap. As night drew, I went for a little stroll. Bought some street food (deep fried tempeh) and attempted the walk back home. But the way Balinese stray dogs are set up? A quick call to Wayan, because rabies isn’t my portion…

Can’t believe it’s my last night here…


Saturday 4th 

At this point I felt confident of the route from Wayan’s place to central Ubud, but Wayan’s father (a talented wood craftsman) clocked me leaving the property and jolted to his feet and insisted he take me.

‘Where are you going? I’ll take you. No problem.’ – sweet guy looking out for my safety.

My first stop was Monkey Forest followed by a short moped ride (RP30,000) to Yoga Barn for a final treatment to see me off. Acupressure (RP125,000): 45 minute treatment followed by a warm tea. I could have stayed in that chair for remainder of the day.

The perfect end to a short, but sweet stay in Bali. I’ll be back, but for much longer next time.

Monkey Forest: Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar (note: the monkeys are boisterous and light fingered, so be mindful of your belongings!) RP 40,000

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Heads Up!

  • Bali is 8 hours ahead of the UK (2 hours behind Australia)
  • Wayan, our host, offered a free taxi service, provided we gave him notice and did so before 11pm. He’s also arranged a local tour arrangement
  • Sticking to local restaurants will reduce your spending significantly (average meal RP30,000)
  • When visiting any temple, you must wear a sarong
  • Beckon with your hand in a downwards motion
  • Hand things with your right hand
  • Common names: Wayan (first born); Ketut (fourth born)
  • Suksma – thank you

Additional information

When to go: Bali is generally stunning. If, however, you wanted to avoid the rainy season (which is pretty relentless) I would travel between April and September. Expect it to be busier than low season.

Getting there: Qatar airways with a two hour layover in Doha.  [LHR – Qatar (6 hours), Qatar – Bali (8 hours)]. If feasible, upgrade at least one of your flights – travelling for 15 hours pummelled me. Total cost: £360

Staying there: Amrit House (which provides a free taxi service before 11pm and continental breakfast). One of the best holiday properties I’ve stayed in, hands down. Clean, beautiful and comfortable. Note: You will be expected to pay for airport pick-up/drop-off, as it is a considerable distance from the property.)

Bookings: Skyscanner for flights, a Nomadness Tribe member for accommodation heads up and Wayan for local tours.

Transport: Local buses are non existent in Ubud. Taxis and mopeds are cheap (RP20,000 – RP30,000 for moped). It might be more cost-effective to rent a moped for the duration of your stay, if you’re craving a bit more independence.

Spending: £300 (but could have easily been £200 if we were eating strictly local): food, eating out, tours and entertainment.

Vaccinations: There was no clear requirement for South Bali. Look up the relevant travel advice for more details.

My Essentials: Lonely Planet guide and a GoPro Hero 5 session cam.

 Links/Addresses

Clear Cafe: Jalan Hanoman No. 8, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia

Bamboo bar and restaurant: Dewisita street, Ubud 80571

Michele’s Jambali cafePenestanan Kelod. Phone: +62 81 246 588 938

Sawah Indah restaurantRaya Goa Gajah Peliatan – Ubud 

Warung Bale-bali: Kunti 1 No 4 BB – seminyak bali (tel)  0361 732731, email: warungbalebali@yahoo.com

Taco CasaJalan Pengosekan (South end of Ubud)

Amrit House (our B&B) [click here for the direct booking link for the property]

Yoga barnPengosekan, behind Siam Sally restaurant.

Rembulan Spa: Hanoman No.1 Ubud, phone (0361) 976694, 087 861 866 339 

Cycle tour address/tour infoLanyahan, Banjar, Gentong, Tegallang, Ubud, Gianyar 80561  

Monkey Forest: Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar

 

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