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 h 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?