Technically day 1 is July 5th, when we arrive in Bali. However after traveling for 18+ hours, we hired a private transfer from the airport (Ngurah Rai International) direct to our accommodation in Ubud. Once checked into our accommodation, we grabbed a quick dinner at the first restaurant we saw and then off to bed.
We are stayed all 5 nights at Sania’s House Bungalows right in the center of Ubud. We wanted to be in the middle of it all, to acclimatize and absorb as much of “Bali’s cultural centre” as we could. I will write more about our Bali accommodation in a separate post.
First official day in Bali! Despite being tired, I awoke with the roosters announcing the morning, around 6am. Sunrise at 0630. After showers, we plotted out our plan for the day.
Rice Fields walk
We decided to take a stroll through Ubud’s rice fields. Being our first day, we were still acclimatizing to the time change, the weather and the culture. We chose not to walk the popular Campuhan Ridge, but optioned for a similar walk among Kajeng rice fields. We started well before midday as the temperature + humidity was a little overwhelmingly. There was fortunately plenty of shade from palm trees lining the path. There were a handful of other travelers on the walk, but between us soaking in the views and snapping photos, they proceeded much quicker, leaving us alone on the path again.
We passed numerous luxury guesthouses, situated among the rice fields, and farmers working hard. We also met a very friendly grandma who opened us a young coconut to drink, gave us each a banana and just chatted away in broken English. She tried to teach us some Balinese and Indonesian. Unfortunately only a few words stuck. It was the perfect way to center, adjust and prepare ourselves for the throngs of visitors at our next stops.
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, a very popular visitor stop. I had mixed feelings about the whole place. Firstly, I had read and been warned that the monkeys can be aggressive and like to jump on you, sometimes stealing your belongings. Secondly, as much as I wanted to see monkeys up-close and personal, I want a more organic experience. Most of these monkeys are no longer interested in the banana you give them because they’ve had countless others, or on the flip side, are expecting a banana and get a little exploratory when you don’t deliver.
Don’t get me wrong, I am glad we went, the experience was better once we wandered away from the crowds a bit. We saw some infants with mum, some monkeying around in the trees (showing off their agility) and some social bath time.
Aside from the monkeys, Monkey Forest is worth a visit for the stone carvings alone. Also make sure to check out Monkey Forest Road. There are many excellent restaurants and shops to explore.
After such a walking-focused day and jet-lag starting to wear us down, we decided to treat ourselves with a foot massage. We popped into one of the spas near the Yoga Barn. It was the perfect way to remind us that vacation has begun! Not to mention the price, I believe it was about 8 Canadian Dollars. If only foot massages were so affordable at home.
If you have never been to a market in Asia or South America, be prepared for your senses to be jostling to stand out the most. It is a feast for your eyes, with colourful fabrics, intricate carvings and unique fruits. A test on your hearing to filter the various price offers, coaxing into stalls, scooter horns and roosters calling. Bartering is a practiced skill. It took us a few times to feel confident in the prices we asked for, and bold enough to walk away. The best tip we received was to start your price at half their original offer, then work your way up to an agreeable price. I had to constantly check myself for squabbling over 10,000 Indonesian Rupiah, which equates to roughly 1 Canadian Dollar. Not a big deal to me in the grand scheme of things.
The size of the market could have you wandering for hours, but with such sensory overload, we found it best to split our shopping up over the few days.
Sadly it started to rain quite hard in the afternoon, which is very atypical for Bali this time of year (July). We hadn’t even thought of rain when planning our trip and many of our activities and plans entailed being outside. Generally we don’t mind the rain too much, being Vancouverites, however this was heavy rain and we were not prepared for it. We spent the afternoon checking out some of the food and coffee spots. I will detail these in another post, found here.
Another day of heavy rain. We booked the tour through our accommodation and were eager to go, regardless of the weather. Temples were high on our “must see in Bali list.” The tour consisted of the most touristy temples near Ubud – Goa Gajah, Pura Titra Empul and Gunung Kawi. It also included a stop at a coffee plantation, lunch with views of lake and Mount Batur and finishing at Tegallalang Rice Terraces. We didn’t have the greatest of days…
- The driver was not a guide. He shared no information, even when others asked and offered a tip
- The price of entry to the temples was not included
- The weather impaired views of Lake and Mount Batur
- The lunch was buffet style and meant for mass tourist visits
Had the weather not been so terrible, and we not so soaked through, the above would have been manage-able, but it all just compounded. Looking back now, it’s funny. Another experience to remember, to share and remind myself that as a traveler you always have to be flexible, even though if you are inherently a bit of a control freak…like myself.
We did get some pretty cool photos though, and my GoPro came in very handy because we weren’t at all worried about it getting wet. Also a fair warning when purchasing rain gear – we thought we bought the umbrella (as seen above), but turns out we only rented it…the seller ran down the street as we were leaving.
Ah the rain stopped! Not a bright and sun-shiny day, but it was dry and that was all that mattered. We booked a cooking class the previous day, because the weather forecast was still for rain. For the morning, we made plans with one of Kelsie’s friends from her previous trip. Her and her husband picked us up, drove us to a market, a nearby waterfall (as we had planned to go on a jungle/waterfall trek but didn’t due to the weather) and then to their home to meet the rest of the family and enjoy a fresh young coconut.
Sukawati Art Market
Sukawati Art Market is most distinguished and long-standing art market. This market is a 30 minute drive from Ubud. It is 2 floors and quite compact. Though offering many similar products as found in the Ubud market, I liked this market better – perhaps I was just more accustomed to the environment and practice, but the vendors seemed more relaxed, it wasn’t nearly as busy with buyers and more variety.
If you prefer fixed price shopping, a little west there is another street block with shops that sell carvings and other artwork for a fixed price. The quality was good and the prices still reasonable.
After the market, Kelsie’s friends took us to Blangsinga Waterfall. We accessed the area at the river before the falls. You can also enter the area from below the falls, but we were told it was more expensive. Our entry was 10,000 IDR. There were stairs from the river before the falls to below the falls, so you could see it from both angles. We were more than happy checking out the stone mounds people had made along the river, some definitely would have taken time and patience to find the perfect stone and perfect balance. You can tell the area has some spiritual significance. The falls are 12.5 meters high. I believe you can swim below the falls, if the water levels are high enough. A nice quick stop if you are in the area.
We booked a cooking class with Paon Bali. It was the number 1 rated on Google and now we know why! They send a driver to pick you up, great you with a delicious and refreshing welcome drink. The kitchen area is undercover, but open so you can see the jungle around you. Puspa is the head cook – she details every ingredient and alternatives if you cannot find such at home. You work as a team to prep the meal, everyone does a little chopping, a little dicing, and a little sauce pounding in a giant pestal and mortar. You and your partner take turns cooking each dish – which is then added to everyone else’s dish. Any mistakes are easily covered up. Aside from having fun cooking, the food is delicious! A little recipe book is prepared for you to take home. Highly recommend!
I have never attended a cooking class before, but now I am curious to attend more in places like Italy….YUM!
We departed Ubud in the morning and headed for some serious rest, relaxation and beach time on Gili Air. We caught the ferry from Padang Bai with Gili Gili Fast Boats. Fortunately, the ferry ticket included hotel pick-up from select locations, central Ubud being one of them. We booked our ferries ahead of time via Gili Bookings.
Expect to see my Gili Air post on August 18th!
What was your favourite experience in Ubud? Share with me in the comments below!