18 October 2022

A Month In Bali (1) - Ubud

After lockdowns ended I went on a bit of an odessey! First I went to Majorca for five days to get a bit of autumn sun, then in December I travelled to Iceland for four days, a trip that had been on my bucket list for a long time. Then in February I went to Madeira with a group of friends, which was strange for me because I'm so used to solo travel, but it was good to have company for once! Portugal again had been high on my list since a trip to Lisbon a few years ago, so in March I visited Southern Portugal, Lisbon again and Porto and can highly recommend it! I knew that I wanted to step out of my comfort zone (Europe) and had been seeing lots of gorgeous posts of Bali for ages. So I waited to find a reasonably priced flight (or flights shall we say), took a deep breath and clicked "buy ticket." Gulp. 

Rainbow lighting on Scoot - probably the best thing about it (sorry)

I used Go To Gate App to buy the flights but didn't know which airline I was going on until they sent the itinerary. I was like, who the hell is Scoot! I did some research and found out that they're a low cost airline with routes in Asia as well as flights from the UK to Asia. No wonder the flights were pretty cheap (£500 return for six flights). As a nervous flyer I freaked out a bit at the itinerary (London to Bangkok - Bamgkok to Singapore, layover in Singapore then another flight from Singapore to Denpasar, Bali). Collectively 17 hours to get there, the same coming back. But I was so determined to see the beauty of the island that I pushed through. The first longer flight was overnight and I can't sleep on planes so that was fun! We refuelled in Bangkok and flew another two hours to Singapore. I decided to stay in the airport lounge because I was worried if I left the airport I might miss the super early flight. This was a mistake because people are coming in and out all night and I found it impossible to sleep. There was unlimited food too which kept distracting me. The flight to Denpasar left around 6am and was very turbulent. At one point it felt like someone had smacked the place and it lurched to one side, I screamed and the guy behind me kept snoring! In terms of Scoot, it's like flying budget airline long haul, which isn't the best but does the job. Don't buy the in flight wifi because it lasted about ten seconds. I would avoid the food as well as it isn't worth the price and just take your own. 

After the epic journey I was so relieved to land, sleep and explore. My first stop was Ubud - many people choose to start their trip in Seminyak which is closer to the aiport, but I decided to go further north and end the trip nearer the airport. Ubud is known as the arts and culture capital of Bali and a hub for all things wellness (if you love yoga this is place to be). I'd read about homestays before the trip and knew that I wanted to stay in them instead of hotels. They are family residences with separate areas for guests and amazing value (£30 to £40 a week). 

In Ubud I stayed Gusti Nyoman Homestay which is pretty central, just up a side street of the main drag. The son came to pick me up at the airport and then we drove around fifteen miles to Ubud, but as the there's so much traffic it took around an hour. I was massively jetlagged but so excited about being in Indonesia and couldn't stop staring at the many statues that lined the roads (these are placed at the gate of most homes for good luck) and the ridiculous number of motorbikes weaving in and out of traffic. We arrived at the homestay and it was as lovely as the photos on booking.com depicted - lots of palm trees, a secluded pool and gazebo area and a big room with a balcony - heaven! At most homestays breakfast is included so I alternated between banana pancakes and fruit most of the time. It was lovely to wake up to breakfast on the balcony, with a cacaphony of birds in the background. Warning - there are so many roosters and they are LOUD, and start crowing at about 4am so take earplugs! There was also other animal sounds that I couldn't identify (it turned out to be frogs), not to mention all of the bizarre bugs and insects that kept turning up in my rooms, some of which were absolutely terrifying! At many homestays they will also book tours for you which can make life easier but it is worth shopping around (there are tour stalls in most places) and remember you can try and negotiate the price down with most things in Bali. The thing is most things are so much cheaper than the UK so it's not massively necessary, only if you feel like you're being ripped off. This can happen quite a lot but I reminded myself that they had suffered massively from not having tourists during COVID. 

I slept a lot on my first day and then on the second day walked around to get my bearings. One of the first things I noticed where the beautiful offerings that were literally everywhere; on pavements, in cars, on shop counters, in the temples. They are made with a banana leaf and filled with rice and sweets, alongside incense which I ended up buying and bringing back because it smelled so good. I spent a lot of time getting massages which were ridiculously cheap at around £5 for an hour (I ended up paying more because I felt so guilty)! On my street there was a great pizza place called Pizza Cult and traditional family owned warungs serving up the ever popular Mie Goreng and Nasi Goreng, which was around 50p per plate. 

Ubud is a great place to do tours as it is pretty central and not far from a lot of the main sites. Bali is home to many stunning waterfalls and should definitely be on your to-do list. You can hire a driver to take you around a number of sights in one day as the sites aren't too far apart. Next I'll list where I visited so you can make your own itinerary. Often it's best to hire a driver through your accommodation and agree a price beforehand.

Monkey Forest Ubud

Super touristy but a must do. It never gets old seeing monkeys in Bali and the nearby islands of Lombok and Nusa Penida! Spend some time wondering around the lush forest but expect your peace to be totally disturbed by naughty monkeys! Put all of your things away securely - as I walked in a monkey grabbed some hand sanitiser from a man's belt and proceeded to drink it whilst a group of visitors were screaming at it to drop it! They especially like sunglasses, bags and even flip flops. The babies are so cute but don't get too close as the mamas are super protective! I especially enjoyed them playing in a pool and splashing around. I was apprehensive about getting my photo taken with a monkey on my head but as long as they're distracted with food it's ok! 

Adult ticket: IDR 100,000 

Child ticket: IDR 80000

Royal Palace

Experience traditional Balinese dance in the centre of Ubud. The Palace itself is amazing with monkeys, frogs and golden flowers carved into the stone. My taxi driver also happened to play an instrument in the performances and invited me along. The dancing, costumes and music were so impressive and it was a great way to learn about Balinese culture. 

Performances are at 7.30pm very night and cost IDR 100,000 per ticket. 

You can book taxi drivers to take you around multiple sites in one day if you don't want to hire a scooter. I visited the Rice Terrace, three waterfalls and Tirta Empul Temple in one day for around IDR 500,000. Ask around to get a good price. At most waterfalls and temples there are plenty of places serving food and drinks, just be careful not to get ripped off! 

Tegallalang Rice Terrace 

A must visit but expect to spend some cash! Experience the lush green rice terraces alongside instagrammable look out points and  thrilling swings and rides! The Terrace is part of a UNESCO world heritage site and a great example of the tradiational subak irrigation system. Put aside a couple of hours to walk around and hike down to the bottom if you can, but remember to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen! There are photo points around the site, including the Love Bali sign and wicker heart seats with great views. I decided to brave it and try the Extreme Swing which isn't as scary as it sounds! You get great views over the terraces and a big adrenaline rush! (You can also pay a bit extra to have photos taken during it, which is worth it. There's a couples swing there too). I also had a go at the Air Bike where you can cycle across a rope over the terraces which was pretty fun. There are a lot of photogenic statues scattered around the terraces too so don't forget to get some shots with them. You can try and buy Luwak coffee there, which is produced using cute Luwak animals and you'll see them in cages. Please don't buy the coffee/tasting experience including it or fund this practice as the poor creatures are caged up their whole lives for the beans. Please click here to sign a petition to try and stop this. 

Entrance fee: IDR 15,000

Extreme Swing: IDR 150,000

Tukad Cepung Waterfall

This stunning cave waterfall is a little different from others in Bali and is famous for the amazing rays that shine through from the top of the falls. It takes about fifteen minutes to reach and involves a bit of a hike; visit in the morning to get the most chance of catching the lightfor magical photos! 

Entrance fee: IDR 15,000

Tibumana Waterfall

Visit here if swimming in a waterfall is on your bucket list. It boasts a stunning plunge pool and is a great place to cool down and relax if you have a busy day sightseeing. It's about a ten minute walk over bamboo bridges to reach it. Stand under the falls to help ease any aches and pains. It wasn't too crowded and is about an hour's drive from Ubud. 

Entrance fee: IDR 15,000

Kanto Lampo Waterfall

The falls here have that fairylike quality as they cascade down the rocks and looks amazing in photos. There's also a small pool you can dip in (I just went down to look at this one). It's a fifteen minute hike down to the falls and it can get quite slippy so wear appropriate shoes. 

Entrance fee: IDR 20,000

Tirta Empul Temple

Tirta Empul is a must if you're interested in visiting Balinese temples. Founded in the 9th century, this sacred water temple has a number of holy springs. Participate in the Melukat ritual where it's believed that if you cleanse under a row of waterspouts you receive blessings and purification. I meditated for a while in the inner courtyard and marvelled at the number of koi carp swimming in the pools there. To enter temples tourists need to wear sarongs which are provided by the temple. 

Entrance fee: IDR 50,000

Cooking Class - Periuk Bali

I totally loved this cooking class and have been using the delicious recipes a lot since I came home. I got picked up from my accommodation quite early by minibus and a group of us were taken to the venue. I met some lovely people from all over the world. We learned about the ingredients and typical dishes, and then had a trip to the market to find out more about the traditional Balinese products. After seeing many offerings (canang sari) in the streets I was pleased to be shown how to make one. We all prepared the ingredients together and were then shown how to make a Balinese spice paste. I opted for the vegetarian menu and prepared tofe and tempeh satay and a vegetable salad before sitting down for a feast with my group. Don't miss this if you want to learn more about the amazing Balinese cuisine!  

Ticket price: IDR 350,000

As you can see there is a lot to do in Ubud! 

In the next post I share what happened in Gili T and Lombok, two islands off the coast of Bali! 

Thamks for reading!

Debbie x   

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