It’s been four months since I returned from Bali and I still think about it pretty frequently. It’s a destination like nothing I’ve ever visited before and I have so much to share. Before I headed out, I couldn’t do enough research. I read article after article and watched every youtube video there is avalialbe for tips and facts about what to do, wear, see and think. So here’s me giving my two cents from my trip, which can hopefully help some people out there who are planning their first venture to the paradise islands.
Our trip was twelve days long, we began in Ubud, had a one night stop in Nusa Penida and back to the mainland to finish our trip in Seminyak. Whilst there we also visited Canggu, Uluwatu and Lovina. We packed each day out as much as we could and saw an abundance of beautiful things. That being said, we saw a small percentage of what the island has to offer, which is why if your travels are based around exploration and seeing as much as possible, organisation is key because with the short days, you need to keep on schedule. We could have easily spent another seven full days there and done something different each day but we were limited and I’m pretty darn happy with what we covered.
I’m going to follow my resort review with my first location based post, where our trip started, in Ubud. I’m breaking the posts down as there is just way too much to say in just one post. Keep tuned for Seminyak and Nusa Penida.
Ubud is the heart and soul of Bali and for me, was what it was truly all about. Ubud is within the nature, you have rice paddies, terraces and rainforest surrounding you. Ubud is also the heart of the art and traditional crafts markets, with delights on every corner and colourful hand made lanterns adorning the streets, you’d be hard pushed to not be totally inspired here. Ubud, despite being very busy around the main town and having a bustling market, has a very relaxed and somewhat spiritual vibe. It can make the least zen people feel zen, you can’t help but get into the spirit of strolling the streets, meandering through the rice paddies and staring in awe at the flowers that grow around.
Wherever you’re staying in Ubud, good food will be on your doorstep. You have an abundance of choice, local cuisine, street food or if you’re terrified of Bali Belly like me, there’s a lot of westernised cuisine mainly based around vegan ideals. Majority of the villas around offer superb evening meals or you can venture a little bit outside of your hotel and onto the bustling streets of Ubud. Be sure to either head in early or book, it’s very busy at dinner time. I’ll list a couple of my favourite stops..
Watercress, Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
We stumbled upon Watercress when heading back from the Monkey Forest and it immediately caught our eye. Watercress serves breakfast, lunch and dinner but we took a seat at lunch time. The food was absolutely delicious – I had the mango salad with chicken and a side of paprika chips. I can still remember the taste of those chips – incredible! The pricing is very standard for this style of food in Bali, the restaurant also has air conditioning and wifi.
Milk & Madu, Jl. Suweta No.3, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
Milk & Madu is opposite where our shuttle bus would drop us off so we spotted this place early and wanted to try it. We came here for lunch after being up super early for a little expedition which I discuss later. We were pretty sleepy and weary but this pepped us up for the afternoon. I went for a Mexican bowl and acaii bowl and I ate everything. Great menu, great food.
Casa Luna Restaurant – Jl. Raya Ubud, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
For our first evening meal we wandered the streets for a while looking for something semi authentic. We stopped off at Casa Luna and we shared several small plates and it was delicious. I’m glad we tried something a little more Asian but I still played it safe and went for dumplings and rolls. There’s an abundance of places like this on the streets, just wander along and pick one!
There’s a lot to see in Ubud, you really don’t have to venture far to see amazing nature or cultural sights. I have broken this down into what to see and day trips, essentially just places you can walk to and places I would advise getting a driver for.
Ubud Traditional Art Market
One of the things I was most excited about when planning my trip to Ubud, was the art and craft markets. I genuinely had a shopping list before I went based on photos of the markets and what other people had bought. The market is huge, there’s an outside section or an inside section which is two floors. As with any market, there’s an abundance of the same stuff so worth slowly checking it out, eyeing up some bits and coming back through once you’ve gathered the pricing. Wicker bags, macramé and wooden bowls were everywhere and to be honest, I was in my element. I think I went to the market about five times and if I had had more space in my suitcase, I’d have bought more. It is cheap, the wicker bags which cost £30 – £60 over here are around £10 there and you can pick up a lot of trinkets with a fiver. Bartering does work, they recommend you go in a third of the original price and work up to half. I don’t know how true that is, sometimes I went low and got it and other times I just wanted to item and thought the price was fair. At the end of the day, the goods are cheap regardless so see bartering more as a bit of fun than trying to reduce the sellers profit. Some of my favourite things I bought are my large macramé hanging, woven jewellery box and cows skull.
The Sacred Monkey Forest
Ah the Monkey Forest. Something you definitely want to do but also kind of don’t want to do. To get to the Monkey Forest you just head straight down through Ubud and it’s at the bottom of the road, you’ll start to see monkeys before you see the signs. You pay to enter and the forest itself is large so it’s a good few hours to stroll around. Other than the monkeys, there’s nothing else to see, to forest is quite dark and doesn’t offer a lot of excitement but it’s nice that it’s untouched and not full of commercialised things. It is full of monkeys, it’s defnintly not a case of ‘I hope we see one’. The forest has staff scattered through, but they tend to be young lads sat on the benches on their phones, they don’t pay a lot of attention to your safety but according to the signs, as long as you don’t look them in the eye or offer them food, you’re okay! Definintly go with as little belongings as possible, we were lucky and they didn’t steal anything but the place is littered with destroye sunglasses and water bottles which they’ve taken off you. Once they have it, you’re not getting it back. I had a rucksack and turned it around so they couldn’t unzip it, because they do do that! You can get quite close to them before they attack but if you sit down, they’ll probably come jumping over. If you’re a bit nervous just stick to the track and keep with a crowd, they’re very used to people so they’re only after trying to get food, there’s no malicious intentions there.
The Campaghun Ridge Walk
The Campaghun Ridge Walk was something I found on instagram. There wasn’t too much talk of it on the blog posts I had read but I was curious to see it and after the hotel staff told is it was only down the road, we added it to the itenary. It’s essentially a ridge across the forest, the views are beautiful but all the locals advised us that it gets very hot there in the day so it’s always best to go in the morning. We went late afternoon and it was very hot, there’s some sections which are quite steep but there is shade under the trees as you walk along, just be sure to take water. I imagine at sunset, the photography opportunity there is incredible. The ridge is totally free to walk across.
Tegallalang Rice Terrace
The rice fields are an absolute must. There’s plenty of them to explore but we only fitted in one to the itenary and I don’t regret not seeing more. We headed along the roadside and down into the rice paddies. There’s pathways through but you do sometimes have to do a little bum shuffle down or a big step up but nothing you won’t manage. We walked right up to the top so we could stop off in the shade, it is very hot and humid around the paddies, water and shade is a big must have. Expect to find beggars on your way round. Little children trying to sell you postards and stop offs not allowing you through unless you donate. There’s plenty of photo oppurtunities along the rice paddies and you will stumble upon locals working there which is the best thing.
The Bali Swing
The Bali Swing is a very popular thing to do, and there isn’t just one, they’re dotted all over the place. Our driver took us to this one as it was en route to the rice paddies. You enter through the car park and are given a slightly odd tour and lesson about the ‘cat poo coffee’ which they’re very proud of and you eventually reach the swinging zone. There’s several to choose from and a relatively hefty queue to wait in but you just chill out and they call your number. I wasn’t scared to do the swing, until I tried to get on. Your’re very precarious, there’s nothing stopping you going flying into the depths of the forest. They hook you on to this swing and you have to clamber on backwards, watch a few people go first and try and figure out how to do it, it’s more difficult that it looks. Two Balinese men push you out and you just swing for about 5 minutes. They allow you to turn around and swing both forwards and backwards, if you’re scared of heights go backwards. I don’t have a fear and I was shaking like a leaf once I was up there when swinging out forwards. It’s worth doing as it’s a fun story to tell but it’s an hour of your day, go early, get a photo and don’t make a day of it.
Elephant Safari Park & Lodge
I knew I wanted to see some elephants whilst in Bali but it is hard to do so without the knowledge of where they’re treated nicely and where they’re not. I did as much research as I could and we opted for Elephant Safari Park & Lodge. There’s a lot of offering for riding elephants in Bali, you can’t miss it and although I adore these creatures and would love nothing more than to be up close and personal, I know its cruel so we didn’t do it. We headed to the sancurary to check it out and the elephants were roaming free, they were barriered off from the public but they had no ropes or chains on them holding them still. There was a big water pool where the elephants were splashing and bathing, they seemed very full of life. You could get a photo taken with the younger elehants, which we did. They swapped them around every couple of minutes so no elephant was stood ‘performing’ too long which I appreciated. The staff here were amazing, you can pay for a professional photo but the guard took my camera and started snapping me and my friend like he was paparazzi, they turned out prettu good photos! The sanctuary was quite pricey to get in to, but if the money goes back in to helping the elephants, I’m happy to pay.
Similar to the rice terraces, there’s a whole lot of waterfalls to offer but we just opted for one and was satisfied. We did the Elephants, Ridge Walk and Waterfall in one day and it worked out really well. We went to Tegenungan Waterfall, it was a hot day so getting down to the waterfall was a real treat. There’s a slightly dodgey walk down, again a lot of dust and water just means mud, and you get down to the water where there’s an opening full of people swimming and posing with the waterfall and many different sculptures around to make the area quite attractive. I didn’t go in the waterfall myself as I didn’t bring swimwear but plenty of people were. You can’t go right under the waterfall as it’s too dangerous so it’s roped off. If you want a quiet afternoon by a waterfall and properly climb along it, you’d have to venture out yourselves and you’ll find one in the wilderness.
Lovina Dolphin Sunrise Tour
I still stand by that this day was one of the most surreal I have ever encountered. We set our alarms for 2am and was due to be picked up from or hotel at 2:30am. We sat outside the hotel, pitch black and wild dogs running around thinking will someone actuaslly come? Shortly after a car pulls up and a very friendly Balinese man esocurts us to the car, provides us with water, bread rolls and tells us we can go to sleep, there’s a long jounrney ahead. I think it was the fact we were so tired and confused that we put so much trust in the man. Several hours later and a few naps in the back of the car, we had arrived at an opening. It was still dark outside and the driver told us we were early so to keep sleeping and he’ll wake us up when they’re ready. It still felt a little odd but we went with it. A few moments later, more cars pulled up with tourists in so we felt calmer. We were lead to a boat on the waterfront, thinking they would put several of us on the boats and head out. We were on this boat privately, just the two of us and the driver – a private dolphin tour – what? Crazy! We set sail out to sea, the air was warm and everything was so calm, it was like an actual dream. The driver pointed to the front and we looked up to see the sun rising infront of us, above the water and shining a bright red. It was incredible. That was enough, seeing the sun rising like that, so large in front of us and out on the water in the warm air, you couldn’t write it. Once the sun had risen, the dolphin searching began. The drivers sailed you around looking for the schools of dolphins and eventually they started playing. Loads of dolphins, playing around the boats and leaping past, it was like an actual movie. I could not believe it but my camera battery died whilst out to sea but it meant I paid full attention on the dolphins and its something I won’t ever forget. People in other boats started jumping off and swimming around, we hadn’t thought of that and didn’t come prepared with swimwear so headed back to shore and got back in the car to return to Ubud. We arrived back about midday but had already done so much! Definitly a highlight and something I would recommend everyone do. It was a long drive but as it was so early we had no problem falling asleep, if you are based South for your whole trip then perhaps the travelling time to get there would spoil the excitement.
I hope you found this post helpful if you’re heading to Ubud. I would happily head back there tomorrow and I do hope to visit again one day. It has a feeling about it that you cannot explain until you experience it. It is a must see on anyones Bali itinerary and would strongly suggest having as much time here as you can offer.
Next guide coming up will be Nusa Penida Island!