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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What to do in Ubud, Bali on a Weekend

The two most popular areas of Bali are (1) Kuta which is famous for its beaches, and (2) Ubud, which is Bali’s arts and crafts hub.  

Last June, I went to Bali with my high school friends and we decided to stay in Ubud over Kuta because no one didn't feel like going to the beach.    Personally, I find our local beaches beautiful already so when traveling overseas, I rarely try the beach unless we’ve a lot of time to spare.

The first time I’ve heard of Ubud was from the book Eat, Pray and Love.  I haven’t actually seen the movie so all my impressions of Ubud are solely based on my thoughts as I was reading the book.   But nope, our trip to Ubud wasn’t for eat, pray and love. It’s more eat, sleep and eat. Haha…

One of my friends booked a private villa in Ubud via Airbnb.  It’s a nice private villa called Villa Iman 1.  It has a private pool, 2 bedrooms, an open kitchen and a spacious living room.  Here are some photos of the villa from Agoda.

The villa is as pretty as the photos from the travel site.  I just didn't use the photos I took because by the time I thought of taking photos, our stuff was all over the place. Haha...

The only caveat is it’s way inside a village and you’ll have to walk because the road could only accommodate motorcycles.  To get there, you’ll pass by scenic ricefields like these -  

I grew up in Pampanga so these are common scenes for me. Haha...

In front and at the back of our villa are also ricefields.  Here’s the view from our bedroom window.  :)

My advice – private villas are great to stay in especially if you’re a big group.   However, if you have big luggages or if you have plans of staying up late at night, choose a villa with a good location that isn't too far to walk from the main road.  Also, if your villa is too far from the main road, there's a big chance you'll be lazy to go out the moment you’re in the villa.  Take it from us.  Haha... 

In our village, there are also lot of other private villas for rent.  Here's one with a beautiful Balinese door.

You'll also spot some art galleries.  Here's one called Villa Rita. 

We also spotted a villa where we saw some paintings-in-progress  - it could be they hold art classes there or maybe there's an artist staying in that villa.

Now on what we did while in Ubud - as I said, it was mostly food trip because apparently, no one (out of us 5) researched except on what foods to try.  Wahaha... 

Outside the villa, we spent most of our time in Ubud's main intersection where all roads leading to it are dotted with restaurants and stores.  Ubud Market and Ubud Palace are also located right at the intersection. 

Here are some discoveries during our walk:

Arang Cafe was the first restaurant we tried in Ubud - it's also right there at the intersection (beside the tourism office) so you won't miss it.

 Check out what we had -

Fruity Black & White Salad
Slipper Lobster Fiddlehead Fern
Prawn and Shrimp Green Nasi Goreng
Sate Pentol
Sate Bebek 
Everything was beautifully-plated and all dishes were yum! For me, it was our best meal in Ubud. :)

How much was our bill? 913,000 Rupiah. Couldn't get used to a lot of zeroes. I always get confused whenever we pay.  Haha... Anyway, Rp913,000 is about USD70 or Php3,200. 

The Starbucks in Ubud is the most unique Starbucks I've ever seen.  Check these out - 

From what I read, the locals want to preserve the character of Ubud that's why you won't see the usual flashy Western fastfood joints.  Starbucks respected this when it occupied an old temple stockroom and preserved the local vibe.

Check out the toilet door at the Starbucks building - an intricately-sculptured Balinese door. :)

BTW, while sipping your cup of coffee, you'll also get to enjoy this scenic view -

There's a temple right behind Starbucks and based on my research, it's called Taman Saraswati.  Saraswati is the Goddess of Knowledge, Literature and Art.


Beside Starbucks, there's also another restaurant called Lotus Cafe.  We also had a meal here.  Here are some of the dishes we tried.

Assorted Balinese and Indonesian delicacies
Crisp wonton
Smoked Duck
Bebek (duck) is a popular delicacy in Indonesia.  I think we ordered duck every meal but I loved this smoked duck the most. 

During our walk, we would also stop whenever we see something that looks interesting like these -

This is Cafe Bliss and the store promotes the raw food movement.  So these are uncooked, unprocessed foods.  They are a selection of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, etc.  Among those that I tried, I loved the Mango Banana Passion Fruit Roll Up and the Greenola Energy Bar the best.
Greenola Energy Bar
The Greenolar Energy bar is made from dates, shredded coconut, spirulina, moringga, almonds, goji berry, sea salt.  So healthy, right?  A pack of 2 bars costs Rp30,000 (USD2.50 or Php112).   

While paying for my bill at the counter, spotted these reusable glass straws with brush cleaner. Great gift item for shake drinkers.

Along the main road, you'll also spot a lot of establishments offering fish foot spa. But nope, we didn't try this.  We opted for a massage instead.

You'll also see a number of temples.  I was curious to know why temples are so near each other.  Too bad, we didn't have any tour guide. But I tried googling and one site shares that Bali has over 10,000 temples and shrines though there was no explanation why. 

You'll also notice some flower offerings placed in statues - whether in temples or at the entrance of houses and establishments.

The offerings are placed in a small tray made from a leaf and they could include flowers, a biscuit, cooked rice, slice of fruit/fish/meat, nuts, etc.  The one above even has a candy.  From what I read, each object has a symbolism and even the colors have meanings.   The daily offerings serve as gifts of gratitude to the gods or appeasement to negative spirits. 

Traditionally, there's usually one at home who is assigned to do the offerings daily (usually the Balinese women).  But as more Balinese women join the workforce, ready made offerings could also now be bought at the market.

Speaking of the market, here are some of the things you could buy at the Ubud market.   

The woven baskets with nets would make nice gifts for moms (to keep off flies from food) but they are just too bulky to bring.   Since I didn't want to hand-carry something bulky, I had to get a more compact pasalubong for my mom. Haha...

Colorful glass coasters
 There's also a lot of batik clothing, sarong, malong, shawls...
If you love to cook, you may want to get some herbs too. My friend said the vanilla sticks and cardamoms are great buys since they are expensive back in Manila. 

Shopping in Ubud market is a bit tricky though.  I thought being able to bargain 50% off is already a good deal but I found out that some vendors quote 3x the real price!  In short, if you've bought something already, don't try asking the price from other stores so you won't feel bad if you got ripped off. :)

While at the market, please also don't forget to buy some Snakefruit.  This is locally called "Salak" and it's endemic to Indonesia. It tastes like durian but without the strong smell. :)

During our last night in Bali, we also had dinner at Amanusa. It was too dark to see the beautiful beach view though.

Anyway, I would love to go back to Bali.  Next time, I would probably join a biking tour to explore more areas in Ubud, attend a yoga class to burn calories (so I can eat more! Haha...), sign up for an art class or cooking class and maybe, even go see Kehtut! Haha...  After all, the word "Ubud” originated from “Ubad” which is ancient Balinese for medicine.  :)

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