After the luxury of our first six days on the south coast of the island, we headed inland to Ubud, the cultural centre of Bali. It is a bustling place with loads to do, and the home of the island’s arts and crafts makers.
We stayed in a very nice hotel right in the centre of Ubud.
The service, room and location was impeccable. However, if I was going back to Ubud I would probably stay a bit further out simply because I now know how many amazing hotels there are with incredible views of the lush, jungle-like valleys. So Tip: 1 If you are looking for hotel in Ubud have a look at the ones on the edge of the valleys and go for one with an infinity bath overlooking the lush green landscape. Check out here to see what I mean. you can still quickly and easily get in to the centre of Ubud.
We used our central location to our advantage, testing out the local restaurants….
And soaking up some of the rich culture.
I didn’t talk much about Bali’s culture in my last Bali post, but it is very spiritual and every day is steeped in tradition even now. Much of the 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia are Muslim, but Bali is predominantly Hindu. The Balinese are so gentle, caring and nothing is too much. Balinese life is immersed in religion and you’ll really see and feel it in Ubud. The most apparent being the offerings that are absolutely everywhere.
Creating these offerings form a cornerstone of many Balinese’s daily routines. From making the palm leaf holder, filling them with rice, flowers, and other delights and ceremoniously placing them, lighting incense and sprinkling them with holy water, which they do at least tree times a day.
We also watched a Legong dance, which was fascinating. The dancers could even make their eyes move as part of the dance (sorry about the blurry photos, I didn’t have a great camera with me and this is the best I could get in the low light). Tip 2: If you go to a dance like this, arrive early to get the best seats. We arrived with 10mins to spare and were right at the back straining to see.
One day, we gingerly ventured into the Sacred Monkey Forest.
Monkeys are everywhere!
You can buy bananas to give them, but I was pretty terrified of them coming anywhere near me. These pictures are actually a trick of perspective. I wasn’t even close to touching that monkey! If you are like me, here’s my tip 3: Don’t have any bags on you, food on you or anything that a monkey might think looks interesting as they will wrangle it off you and run away to investigate it. I saw it happen, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I mean, these guys look pretty cute….
Or maybe not…
And would you want this chap coming near you?
No, I didn’t think so!
The forest is very beautiful place though, and has a calmness about it.
Months before we booked our flights to Bali, I saw the most amazing dining table in an interiors magazine. A bit of research later and I found out it was teak root from Bali. When we booked our flights, I knew I wanted to go see the furniture on offer. Mr B was not so keen, but luckily I managed to convince him. On the outsets of Ubud are many creative villages where they make furniture and our hotel organised us a driver for the afternoon. He drove us to one “factory” after another, and in the baking heat, Mr B and I where blown over by the beauty of their craftsmanship.
Great big hunks of tropical oak were smoothed and shaped to create striking pieces – our favourites were the dining tables.
It wasn’t long before we found ourself getting giddy with excitement that we’d found “the one”, splashing it with water to see what the colour would be when varnished, drawing on the final shape we’d like it to be in chalk, and writing our name on it to seal the deal.
Tip 4: If you don’t want to leave Bali with a table that you have to build a new room to fit, don’t go and look at the furniture villages! Tip 5: If you do, and you are amazed by the very reasonable prices, even after you factor in the four months shipping – please in your head double the freight charge. When your lovely table arrives in the UK, you will be faced with several rather large bills to get it the remarkably shorter distance to your house.
Tip 6: If you go as far as getting it to your house, arrange for ten of the strongest men you know to be ready for action. These things weigh a lot.
The very next day we left Ubud, heading north to Lovina. There were a few things we wanted to see on the way. Tip 7: Many taxi drivers are happy to give you a guided tour along with a lift (pre-arrange if you are going long distance, obviously). As I mentioned in my last post, taxis are cheap so don’t be afraid to do this.
Grinding coffee beans
The beautiful Mount Batur, Bali’s active volcano.
We stopped in Lovina for two nights. From what I saw, I wasn’t particularly impressed to be honest but if you like very quiet then it might be for you. The big draw to Lovina is that you can go dolphin watching. Which we did, or head to the north east, – which we didn’t have time to do. To see dolphins, we woke up horrifically early – at around 5am to be ready for the boat. Now, I have gone dolphin watching before in Australia, aboard a great big, fancy pants boat equipped with bar, soft seating, toilet and all the comforts you could dream of.
So I was a bit surprised when this rocked up to the hotel’s beach out of the dark.
Tip 8: Don’t expect a yacht. The surprise, teamed with the early morning, almost finished me off.
It was on this ‘vessel’ that we slowly – propelled by what I can only describe as a hair dryer’s motor- moved away from the safety of the shore and into the dark of the night.
I can assure you I didn’t feel as smiley as Mr W. But as the sun rose, all my complaints were forgotten and I was treated to the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen in my life. To be honest, I’ve not been awake to see that many so I don’t have many to compare it to but this was undeniably spectacular.
And we were indeed graced by the presence of dolphins, who leaped and flipped to our delight, then swum under the water only to jump out a distance away again.
Tip 9: Be prepared to see more ‘boats’ than dolphins, who will chase towards them en-masse as soon as they surface, unquestionably chasing them away.
We headed back to the shore, even too early for breakfast, spending a very quiet last day by the pool, and enjoying the glorious sunset to complete a full solar circle.
When you are out enjoying the balmy evenings and beautiful sunsets, don’t forget to wear plenty of mosquito repellent. Tip 10: I’ll let you in on a little secret. Avon’s Skin so Soft is a regular, cheap, lovely smelling moisturiser. And it has the wonderful and powerful side effect of repelling insects! You’ll never need to stink of citronella again. Buy some before you go here.