Blissing out in Ubud, Bali
Leaving Singapore, I flew directly to Bali and in doing so reached a major travel milestone. Indonesia was the 20th foreign country I had traveled to! While Singapore had been a very short visit, I feel lucky that I have spent significant amounts of time in most of the countries whose stamps I have in my passport. Indonesia would be no exception.
Uncharacteristically, I’m going to break chronological order when it comes to the six weeks I spent in this country. My main purpose in coming to Indonesia was to do my Divemaster course and so I don’t want to overwhelm my non-diving readers with too much scuba content! Hence the slight shakeup. So, I’m actually starting my Indonesia coverage by writing about my final week in Indo — my week of bliss in Bali.
Ubud is known to many as Elizabeth Gilbert’s (or her film surrogate, Julia Roberts’) final stop on her Eat, Pray, Love trip. This rice field surrounded town, often referred to as the cultural heart of Bali, was high on my list of places to visit in Indonesia. After five weeks of hard work, hard partying, and questionable sanitation standards in my cheap apartment in Gili Trawangan, I was ready for some peace and tranquility.
Ubud would deliver it in spades.
I actually saw very little of what Ubud has to offer, thanks to the unbelievable temptation to stay put in the fantastic hotel I was reviewing — when you see it tomorrow you’ll understand. But when I was able to pull myself away from my plush digs, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Ubud really does live up to the hype.
I arrived on my own, but soon met up with some good friends from Thailand, who I hadn’t seen in months. The thing about having spent so many years traveling to Southeast Asia is you develop a strong network of fellow Asia-addicts, and thus you’re never really alone for long. We rented motorbikes and spent a map-less morning in search of perfect rice terraces and fresh coconuts. While I think I’ve been forever spoiled by the beauty of Batad, I couldn’t help but smile when I looked out at this view.
I spent another blissful day not walking more than five minutes from my hotel, as it was so conveniently located amongst Ubud’s many spas and it’s most beloved yoga studio. At The Yoga Barn, which I could see from my hotel room door, I tried my first ever acro-yoga class. I had been incredibly nervous about going without a partner — hello, you have to touch strangers while wearing spandex — but I repeated to myself my favorite maxim about doing one thing every day that scares you.
In the end I loved it — the studio, the people, the practice — and walked away with a massive smile and a new dedication to find acro yoga classes whenever possible in my travels. Yoga Barn is pricey, but I highly recommend it for the experience.
My second stop of the day was an indulgent afternoon at Zen Spa, just a stone’s throw away from Yoga Barn. Here, I signed up for a massage, a body scrub, and a manicure and pedicure. I absolutely adored the tranquil setting and the affordable prices. Unfortunately I can’t say these were the best treatments I’ve ever had in my life. Next time I’m in Ubud I’ll probably try somewhere new, but at 270,000 rupiah (around $27) for the entire indulgent afternoon I can’t really complain.
For my last night in Ubud I was joined by Anders, who hopped on a boat to meet me as soon as he finished teaching a course. Our time was pretty limited, but we did manage to sneak in one outing before heading down to Nusa Dua for some beach time. A mere ten minute walk from our hotel was the place I’ve been dying to visit since I read No Touch Monkey! so many years ago — The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary.
For a mere 20,000 rupiah (or around $2), we entered the shady jungle that houses three holy temples, hordes of camera toting tourists, and a resident population of cheeky macaques. I’ve had a healthy appreciation for how bold these monkeys can be every since I had my lens cap stolen from right off my Canon in Lopburi last year. These bullies are not afraid to jump right on you to gain access to your wallet, snacks, or other valuables. (Yes, my snacks are valuable — aren’t yours?)
During our visit the temples themselves were closed for an upcoming religious ceremony, but didn’t mind a bit. I was just as happy taking photographs and enjoying the Tomb Raider reminiscent grounds. This was the Ubud that I had pictured in my mind — lush and remote and deliciously green.
My time in Ubud was short — far too short to explore the museums, galleries and artistic community, or to take a bike tour through the countryside, or experience one of the famous evening dance performances. But I was able to experience a little bit of the magic that makes this place so famous. I left feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, and seduced by the heart of Bali. There’s no question — I’ll be back.
Have you ever been to Ubud? If not, have you been dying to since watching Eat, Pray Love, like I was?
I love the photo of the baby monkey playing with the anklet!
Yeah, they will latch on to anything! Good thing I remembered not to wear dangly earrings for once!
Excellent pics of the monkeys! The one nursing is my favorite. Great moment to capture.
Thanks Nadia! There were so many babies running around, it must have been monkey forest springtime. Hope you are well!
Love this post and the gorgeous photos! You have become my favorite travel blogger and every post gets me more excited for my upcoming adventures!
I’m about to start my SEA trip in September. I’m going to be traveling solo and don’t really have any set plans. I’m going to just buy a one-way ticket out and figure it out from there.
I was thinking of starting in Bali – what are your thoughts on this for a first stop?
Also, any tips for airlines/sites for booking flights from the States?
Hey Rachel! Thank you so much, I really appreciate your kind words! And congratulations on your big adventure. I haven’t spent too much time in Bali (just a week, and four days of it was at a resort), but I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be a good first stop. Bangkok is a bit easier to get to, though, and cheaper. So I might recommend flying to Bangkok and working your way south towards Kuala Lumpur or Singapore and then catching a cheap regional flight to Bali from there. Bali is very pricey to fly to directly from the US! Best of luck!
Yay! I love Ubud, and Im glad you discovered its magic during your short stay. I did the bike tour from kintamani to ubud which was pretty cool, and the ganung kawi temple a motorbike ride away is absolutely other worldly! Love your photos, preparing to be very jealous of your luxury digs!
You know I love bike tours, so that’s the one thing I was a bit sad I didn’t get to. But honestly I loved my few days of laziness… I have to remind myself sometimes that bikes will always be there 🙂
Dreamy!! It was relaxing just looking at these photos. You didn’t find Ubud too touristy? Can’t wait to see the hotel photos!
Well, I was definitely surprised when we pulled into town and there were big Billabong and Ripcurl outlet stores! But I was a little bit away from the main strip so I didn’t feel all the hustle and bustle. Oh, and also I wasn’t there in high season. I’m sure come August I might feel differently.
Every traveler should have some down time. Those sure are cheeky little buggers.
And I definitely deserved it after my Divemaster course! What a crazy five weeks that was.
I had no idea that the monkey forest in Ubud had such cool carvings throughout it! I had been reading reports recently about how aggressive and “bitey” (for lack of a better word) the monkeys there are, so Tony & I were thinking of nixing it as we’ve already seen SO MANY MONKEYS elsewhere in Asia (including some very well behaved ones at a monkey park in Japan). But now, those carvings have me rethinking it…
I keep hearing so many mixed things about Bali. Some people seem to hate it because it is so touristy, but whenever I see pictures, I can’t help but think it looks gorgeous. We fly there at the end of July, so we’re going to spend at least a few days poking around the island, and will likely base ourselves in Ubud in order to do so. I doubt we’ll be able to afford a stay at whatever luxe joint you finagled for yourself, but I’m looking forward to seeing pictures of it so I can vicariously vacation through you! 😀
Personally, I’m not really usually bothered by “touristy” places. Okay, granted I’ve never had a single desire to go to Koh Phi Phi due to that exact adjective, but you could argue there are just as many tourists in Bangkok and I love that place! And places like Vegas and Koh Pha Ngan — they are kind of fun because of the crowds rather than in spite of them, you know? I guess I’m not really sure what my point is, other than the fact that I don’t always find the presence of other tourists to be a deterrent to my enjoyment, you know? 🙂
We are at Nusa Lembongan at the moment and we’re looking for a over the top fancy place to stay in Ubud for next week. Can’t wait to read the hotel review!
In my opinion it’s an amazing deal too — post is up now, check it out 🙂
Happy to read that you are enjoying Bali. If you are looking for a good spa experience head to Pertenin Spa, they are really good. Just as Cantika Alami (2) in the middle of the rice fields. Hope you have time to enjoy one of them since the one you tried wasn’t all that good. Looking forward to your review of the place you stayed at!
Thanks Monico for the suggestions! I’ll look them up next time I’m in Ubud.
This place looks like so much fun you get to really interact with the monkeys!
Well, if by “interact” you mean, “run shrieking when the monkey start to pace towards you and lunge at you,” then yes! I definitely interacted with the monkeys 🙂
Aww, that monkey trying to steal the ankle bracelet is so cute. I have been dying to visit Ubud, but heard a lot of bad things about it recently-too touristy, overpriced etc. I still want to go-that’s the price you sometimes have to pay to visit a beautiful destination like this.
Exactly! A place this beautiful is going to be either (A) super expensive, (B) super hard to get to or (C) super crowded. Take your pick!
Great shots, simply beautiful scenery and those little monkeys – oh they have the cult of personality. So cute and so treacherous – I’ve had them steal bananas right from my finger tips. 😀
I wouldn’t dare bring a banana into a monkey forest — you are brave indeed! 🙂
Yoga and spas in Bali- sounds perfect and blissful to me!
I am loving this insight into Indonesia in your pictures- they are beautiful! I really love the new way you have them set out in the post as well.
I’ve just stumbled across your blog as I’m doing some research for an upcoming trip to Bali. Beautiful and inspiring writings and photos! Thank you for sharing.
I’m wondering if you can offer me some insight/ suggestions.
I’ve never traveled outside of the US by myself before. I am going to Ubud to take part in a training but plan to spend some time there own my own before or after the training as well.
As far as getting to Bali… do you recommend flying into another area first because it is less expensive? Where would you suggest that is easy to navigate/ welcoming to tourists? A SAFE place where it might be fun to stay a night or two.. and then make my way to Bali? Any tips would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Jacquelynn, Congratulations on your exciting upcoming trip! Unfortunately I don’t know how much help I can be. While I’ve spent three months in Indonesia my scope was limited… I never ventured outside Bali, Lombok, and the Gilis. I always flew directly into Bali, though I would buy my international ticket to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore and then buy a flight to Bali with a local low cost carrier like Tiger Air (much cheaper that way!) I definitely recommend you make it to the Gilis at some point… the beaches are unreal.
Wow traveling in 20 countries was amazing! You really have the best in life. I am looking forward for my next vacation in Bali next year after experiencing what Singapore has to offer last month is great and also Malaysia and now the Philippines. I like to learn surfing there in Bali.
Thanks SarahCris! I too would love to learn to surf in Bali — a good reason to go back!
Thanks you so much for this amazing post Alex… It gives me more idea about Ubud and now I fixed up my mind to go there in my nest holiday treat. Hope I can visit that Forest Sanctuary too.
Ubud is the perfect getaway. I can’t wait to return someday. Enjoy your trip, Marah!
We are planning a trip to Ubud, Bali for a wedding (so fab), and wanted to know if you had any recommendations for other travel bloggers that have spent more time there? Had a look at the hotel you stayed but it’s already fully booked! So dissapointing as I used your advice when we went to Thailand last year and all the accomodation we stayed in was awesome! So I trust your judgement 🙂
Love your blog, so exciting to see it doing so well over the last couple of years!
That makes me so happy to hear Jes! (Not that Alaya was full, but that you enjoyed my other recommendations.) Hm, I think that The Travel Lush — there’s a link in my sidebar as she’s one of my Featured Bloggers — should have some recommendations there as she’s been living in Indo! Hope that helps!
great report on a unique Balinese city. We just came back from Indonesia and also spent some nights in Ubud. As we stayed in the middle of some rice fields, we found this ´peace and tranquility´ that you described. But we believe that you have to leave the touristic parts, especially the main road to find those spots. Ubud is amazing, but you have to find your own, personal Ubud within this city 🙂 Maybe you would like to read our report and experiences abou Ubud 🙂
I miss Ubud! Hope my path winds back through there soon <3
ha! I love your question at the end. I spent 10 days in Bali, then immediately downloaded Eat, Pray, Love to re-watch it.
Ha ha — I love that movie, and I don’t care that so many people love to hate it 😛