We began our journey to the ‘cultural capital’ of Bali a little slower than expected, with the traffic getting there being really bad – it took us over 2 hours! So when we arrived we were very hungry and ready to go out and see Ubud. Not before checking into our guest house, ran by a lovely family – our cheapest accommodation yet at IDR200,000 / £10 a night with a wonderful Balinese breakfast brought to us every morning.
Walking around Ubud was exactly what we’d pictured – luscious and green, very cool, artsy, with lots of organic/healthy restaurants and cafes, yoga studios and spas…Lauren’s heaven!
We decided on a restaurant called Taksu for lunch, a gorgeous garden space where Daniel had the hugest falafel pitta and Lauren had something we’d never heard of -tempe burgers, delicious!
Afterwards, we walked to the Ubud market excited to buy some sarongs! There were so many to choose from it was almost impossible, but we settled on two and paid IDR100,000 / £5.
Wandering around during the afternoon we stumbled across an art gallery, some cool shops and a coffee roasters.
Our second day began extremely early for Daniel, being collected at 5:25am to travel to Amed – a town, and diving hub, located two and a half hours drive north from Ubud.
This was to dive at Tulamben Bay on a Shipwreck called the USAT Liberty, which is one of the most popular wreck dives in the world. Once at the dive site we were told a brief history of the USAT Liberty and how it ended up on the shores of Bali.
During the Second World War, the USAT Liberty was a United States Army cargo ship en route from Australia to the Philippines with cargo but was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine on 11 January 1942 and beached in Bali at Tulamben. The Liberty stayed on the beach until 1963 when Mount Agung erupted causing the ship to slip off the beach into the sea where she now lies. To give an idea of the ships size; its length was 125m and weighed over 13,000 tons.
Daniel geared up for his first dive and made the difficulty walk across the pebbled beach into the ocean. We swam around the wreck seeing so much life and reached the depth of 20m. We were even lucky enough to see a couple of stingrays – one was out in the open and the other was hiding under a large rock. We didn’t want to get to close as we all know the story of Steve Irwin!
The second dive we actually swam through the wreck, which was incredible! During this dive we came across a Hawksbill sea turtle. As we made our way back to the beach we saw some spotted garden eels, some sweetlip fish, and loads of other fishes, too many to list. Daniel has never seen such a variety of fishes before.
Both dives were simply fantastic!
This meant Lauren experienced day to herself to explore Ubud some more – walking around, and dining on her own, which was nice but quite strange… Definitely not as exciting as Daniel’s day!
We visited Campuhan Ridge Walk, which was a beautiful lush, green area about 20 minutes away from our guest house. It was a gorgeous area that lead to a spa and restaurant, where we had drinks in our own little hut area surrounded water lily ponds and rice fields.
That evening we visited another Warung called The Fair Warung Balé, set up by the Fair Future Foundation. We had stumbled across it luckily that day and after reading into it, saw that it was a very popular place and made a booking for that evening. It is a unique social restaurant set up as a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) with 100% of profits going to free health and medical care programs in Bali. One meal eaten there equalled 2 – 3 free medical treatments for people in need. It was a really cool and quirky restaurant, promoting a great cause, with incredible food… One of the best meals we’d had in Bali!
Our day began with another amazing traditional breakfast of banana pancakes. Then we headed out early with the plan to visit a temple before it got too busy. The first temple we arrived at we couldn’t go in and the second was closed for construction work, so it wasn’t the most successful start. But it was third time lucky and we arrived at Pura Dalem, paid our IDR10,000 / 50p entrance fee, got our sarongs on and headed in. It was beautiful and interesting to walk around.
We then stumbled across a school on our walk back up the main road, we’re not sure if we should have gone in, but we did anyway. It looked like quite a impressive school, especially considering we’d seen the local children near our guest house being taught in what looked like a cornered off section of a car park building.
Next we had the most delicious ‘Açai bowls’ from Açai Queen and enjoyed them sat on a swing.
That evening we came across a vegetarian/vegan buffet restaurant – we were drawn in by the low price of IDR55,000 / £2.77 as we’d been spending a bit more on food recently, and it was a really good meal with loads of choice. We were even more excited by the garden area behind us where we saw a family of monkeys running across, seemingly being chased away angrily by some locals.
After our dinner we bought tickets for a traditional Legong Dance for IDR100,000 / £5, and arriving a bit earlier grabbed great seats on a raised section at the back. Sadly though, the dance was quite boring and very repetitive. It was great to see the costumes, traditional dancing and to hear the local music, it just dragged on a bit!
We were very excited to be going to a cooking class today with a company called Periuk Cooking School. We started the experience visiting the family’s rice fields and learnt about the irrigation system – Subak.
We then went to the class, which was actually set in the owners home where we learnt about his family traditions. He told us about living there with three generations and how they all had their own living spaces. They also had their own family temple, which he said all the houses had. It was a really impressive place with a gorgeous view at the back, where the cooking class was set.
We started by making Canang Saris, which are the daily blessing offerings. We wove the baskets out of coconut tree leaves and filled them with flowers, making sure to place a different coloured flower in each corner, and a small dried tied up leaf underneath the flowers, which represented your heart. Once finished we put them on the family’s shrine and made a wish.
Then the cooking began, we made 11 dishes in total. We began making three different sauces (Base Gede, Peanut, and Sambal Ulek), which involved mostly chopping and grinding and then this strange method of bashing all the ingredients together with large sticks.
Among other things, we made Pepes Ikan which is steamed fish wrapped in a banana leaf, chicken satay and we learnt the process of making traditional steamed rice, which was surprisingly lengthy. Lastly we made Kue Dadar Gulung which were like pancakes, filled with coconut and palm sugar and they were delicious and a great dessert!
After all the hard work the whole group sat and enjoyed the cooking altogether. We were given all the recipes to take home, which we will definitely attempt in Australia… hopefully as successfully without so much guidance from Wayan and his family!
By this point we were really getting into using the Balinese language, especially with the lady who ran our guest house. Some phrases we learnt and used:
Terima Kasih: Thank you
Sama-Sama: You’re welcome
Salamat Pagi: Good morning
Apa Kabar: How are you?
Salamat Tinggal: Goodbye
To really get into the ‘Ubud way’, Daniel joined Lauren for a traditional Balinese massage that afternoon… when they were so cheap it was hard not to do everyday (for Lauren anyway!)
This day started with the realisation that we had planned for an extra day in Ubud, thinking that we left the evening of Wednesday not the evening of Tuesday. This realisation meant that we lost a day we thought we had and also that we had to cut our tour/private driver day short, as we were flying that night. Overall though it wasn’t too bad and we still had the time to visit the two places we wanted to most – Tegalalang Rice Terrace and Tukad Cepung Waterfall.
We set off early to Tegalalang Rice Terrace and arrived around 9:15am, which we thought may still be a little busy but it wasn’t, which was great! It was stunning and completely surpassed our expectations. It was also more of a trek around than we thought and we were glad we went early to avoid doing it in the midday heat too. It was one of the best things we did in Ubud!
Then we visited Tukad Cepung Waterfall, a less known waterfall in Ubud, which was great as there weren’t too many people there when we arrived! It was fun to go in, we did get a lot wetter than planned!
So earlier than we thought, it was time to leave our wonderful guest house and Ubud. We were sad to be leaving, especially thinking we had the extra day! There was also a royal wedding on the Wednesday we were excited to see, which we had seen and heard all the preparations for in the community hall next to our guest house at 5am on the Tuesday morning.
We thought Ubud was a fantastic traditional place, with so much to do, friendly people, a great sense of community, wonderful scenery, brilliant cafes and restaurants, and a relaxed vibe. It was crazy that just around a road or off a busy main street there would be gorgeous rice fields spanning as far as the eye could see.
We would love to come back to Ubud, especially as we missed out on visiting one of the bigger temples and a traditional village on our last day and doing a yoga class. We would also love to go back because we enjoyed what we did experience so much. The culture and nature was amazing and the food is worth going back for alone!
Lauren’s favourite thing about Ubud – Tegallalang Rice Terrace
Daniel’s favourite thing about Ubud – the Balinese cooking class
So that’s it for Ubud and Bali, now to Australia…