Coming to Bali and not visiting the cultural heart of the island would be a shame, so after our beach days in Sanur, we hired a driver to take the three of us to a little ‘resort’ just outside of Ubud. Sayan Terrace couldn’t have been more picturesque – nestled on the Sayan ridge overlooking Ayung river, you could spend all day staring at the misty jungle and volcano peaks, listening to the river and the various animal sounds from their charming restaurant. One thing I was not prepared for, was just how close we would be to the animals – like mosquitos, frogs, geckos, flies and spiders. The warm, moist climate is heaven for bugs and Sayan Terrace definitely embraced outdoor living design. Even when you were ‘inside’ you still felt like your were outside. It was more like glamping than resort living.
On our first afternoon we went for a walk around the center of town (a five-minute drive from the resort). The sidewalks were narry and busy, but we weren’t the only people attempting to push a stroller, so that was encouraging. The Royal Palace is located at one of the main intersections so we decided to have a look around while we were there. The property was divided into many different little courtyards making it feel very intimate. It wasn’t built on the grand scale of other royal palaces but it was beautiful to see and, like many eastern temples and palaces, the atmosphere was pleasantly tranquil
Shopping wasn’t high on my list, but I was surprised to find many tempting shops. Like in any tourist area, you need to be able to see past the stores selling the mass-manufactured souvenirs and Polo knock-offs. Hand-carved wood furniture and ornaments, beautiful textiles (especially ikat fabric), ceramics, straw and rattan accessories, and all kinds of decorative housewares are Bali’s specialties. When we were driving around outside Ubud on another day, our driver took us through a number of different villages, each with their own special trade. His village’s specialty was stone carving – immediately evident because the street was lined with sculptures and tombstones.
I picked up an ikat table runner and blanket – both navy with white, mustard and magenta accent colours. We also brought home a woven tray, milk jug and some candles from a store that sold really beautiful high-quality cotton clothes in modern, bright prints – it’s killing me that I don’t remember the name of the store. While it’s tempting to see how cheaply you can score a new tablecloth for, the higher-end shops still offer incredible value along with excellent quality and probably a fairer pay for the person who made it. If you can, check out Threads of Life.
Shopping aside, one thing you CAN’T MISS when you go to Ubud is Karsa Spa. Seriously, I don’t think I’ll ever have as good an experience – and I mean the whole experience, not just the massage. The setting, the cafe, the little cabanas with the stone bathtubs and floating petals, the outdoor showers, the perfectly fragrant and not too strong incense, the lily ponds, the quiet warmth and expertise of the staff, I could go on and on. It’s an ideal way to finish up a walk along the Campuhan Ridge walk.
Of course, we had to visit the Tegallalang Rice Terraces, even though it was a bit hot for bub who was riding in the carrier the whole time. Thankfully, our very hospitable driver/guide would fan him occasionally and he really loved that. We only walked enough to get the views and the photos we wanted – it was just too much in the heat to do a longer walk. We also noticed that many people were slipping in the mud but luckily we were wearing shoes, not flip flops.
I was so happy that we were able to catch a Balinese dance performance – albeit unexpectedly! Because of our baby’s bed time, venturing out at night to catch a performance in town wasn’t ideal, but one afternoon we decided to wander over to our neighbours, the Four Seasons, because, well, we felt like a break from our campsite resort and the cocktail bar sounding promising. Wouldn’t ya know, it turned out the hotel schedules regular dance performances, right there in the giant atrium lobby. The setting was incredible and we felt like VIPs since there weren’t nearly as many people as there would have been at a public performance. The costumes, the dancers’ grace, the petals flying through the air, the music – it was magical.
On one of our last days in Ubud we visited Gunung Kawi, an 11th century temple and funeral complex. There is a long walk down a hillside to get to it, but it was so worth it. The scale of the stone carvings is mesmerizing and it wasn’t overrun with tourists like I had expected so it’s really kind of peaceful once you’re there – it was a lovely spot for the three of us to have a picnic lunch and fresh coconut.
Bali – we will back!