Our first stop in Bali was Ubud (pronounced “oobood”) – the cultural center of the island. It was incredibly green, and jam-packed with artisans and massage parlors on every corner. The Ubud market was especially intense – and this is after several cities with markets much larger than this one! Let’s just say the local vendors know their products and are trying their best to convince you to buy them at top dollar prices. Good thing our friend N told us to start negotiating with a counter price of at least 50 percent of the starting price.
The highly anticipated cooking class with Paon Bali did not disappoint! The founder, Puspa, is very welcoming and gives you an insight into her theory of cleanliness by emphasizing “no Bali belly, honey” (for insight into Bali Belly, see our Koh Lanta, Thailand post – similar ailment!) We made quite a few Balinese dishes, including Tempe (a fermented soybean cake) and Gado Gado (steamed vegetables and hard boiled egg with tofu and tempe). Our favorite part was the homemade peanut sauce – which we ground ourselves with a traditional mortar and pestle!
Our hotel in Ubud was beautiful – the Greenfield Hotel had lush grounds, a wonderful pool area and spacious rooms. We even had our own balcony overlooking the rice fields. The best part about the Greenfield was that they offered a shuttle to and from downtown, which meant you didn’t have to acknowledge the incessant barrage of “taxi? taxi? taxi?”
from all the drivers waiting on every corner (I had to convince John we didn’t actually have to respond to every single question).
The sunsets over the rice fields were very special… we thoroughly enjoyed watching them from the hotel pool.
The Tegenungan Waterfall in Ubud was a worthwhile venture out – there were excellent views from the cafe up above!
Our most entertaining Ubud activity was unequivocally the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. The “sacred” and “sanctuary” descriptors were definitely in question once John decided to purchase bananas to feed the monkeys. It was almost as if they could tell he was going for his wallet – they pounced on him before he could even give the money to the vendor! We read too many reviews about the monkeys biting people so we were a bit fearful of them. Luckily they did not bite us (and it helps that we didn’t tease them with the bananas like some of the other -ahem- Americans and Brits we saw). If you haven’t seen the hilarious video of John with the monkeys, click here.
We were thrilled that Uber operates in Ubud. However, because Uber is threatening their business, the aggressive cab drivers make it very dangerous for the drivers, so they pick you up around the corner from the tourist hot spots. We were fortunate to meet a very cool driver who we convinced to take us around to several spots over our few days in Bali. On our way to Padangbai he even took us to a restaurant we had never heard of called The Sayan House, which ended up giving us an epic view of the Bali jungle! If you are in Bali and anywhere near this place, you must stop. It’s incredible.
We were very happy to visit Ubud, but it felt like the tourist spots, vendors and taxi drivers had overtaken the charming aspects of the now not-so-quaint town. We might recommend our friends and family spend no more than 2 or 3 days here, while budgeting more time in the coastal towns for diving and relaxation.
Next stop: the Bali coast!