A guide to Ubud
Ubud is often described as Bali’s cultural hub and over the years has become increasingly popular amongst tourists due to its feature in the movie ‘Eat. Pray. Love’. Located in the mountains, the environment is lush with rainforest and rice fields making it a peaceful setting for health retreats, yoga studios and spas that can be found in the region. Ubud is also a great location for shopping with a thriving crafts and art scene and not to mention food, with cuisine options from all parts of the world to satisfy all cravings.
Where to stay:
Luxury hotels are everywhere in Bali and during our time we were lucky enough to enjoy a few particularly special stays. In Ubud, we stayed at two hotels, one of which was the Purist Villas and Spa and the second was the Fivelements. The Purist has 17 uniquely designed villas, most of which have their own private pool and are hidden away behind the tropical palm trees. Every need can be tended to at the hotel by their super friendly staff, with a number of facilities and services on offer. This includes a restaurant, spa, bicycle hire and transport that can be organised to the main town, which is only a few short minutes away. Additionally, breakfast was included during our stay so in the morning we would make a call to the restaurant to place our order that was delivered right to our private balcony. It was delicious and healthy and we felt very spoilt. Despite the hotel being established relatively recently, sustainability has been an important focus since the its inception and throughout construction, working alongside Mr. Piet van Zyl, a pioneer when it comes to sustainable hospitality. Under his guise, a plot of land adjacent to the hotel has been purchased with the aim to develop a permaculture and sustainability program, and a waste and recycling initiative is also underway. Watch this space!
The second stay in Ubud was at the Fivelements. This was a little bit further out of town, but the drive to get there was beautiful set amongst the rice fields without the craziness of Bali traffic. The hotel operates as a wellness retreat with an array of healing rituals, yoga and spa treatments available. In fact, even on their bath ritual list there are 5 different options, each with their own selection of flowers and essential oils to meet the individual’s unique needs. I opted for the hibiscus flower bath, which included cinnamon, hibiscus flowers and a special bath oil which I can confirm was heaven and made my skin smell amazing. Sustainability is also at the core of the hotels agenda with three main focus areas that promote personal wellness, social harmony and having a net positive impact. This is translated into a number of different initiatives, programs and developments at the hotel, which are so extensive that they are hard to summarise! Some of these include the fact that the restaurant serves only raw, vegan and vegetarian food, they support sustainable forms of transport such as bike riding, public transport and electric cars, they collect and use rainwater, they offer locally sourced drinking water, have installed energy efficient lighting and appliances and have minimised waste through recycling, treating waste water and processing organic waste.
Where to eat:
You won’t struggle to find great food in Ubud but just in case you need some help, here are some of the best places that we discovered.
Melting Wok Warung:
Although we managed to sneak into Melting Wok without a booking we were very lucky and watched many visitors get turned away so make sure you do yourself a favour and make a booking if you can – it's a favourite in the area for a reason. The restaurant menu is limited with only a few items including rice, curries and some desert items, but man do they do them well! Super tasty, cheap and authentic!
Watercress is the perfect place for a good coffee and delicious, super healthy meals. The restaurant is really chilled out with a downstairs and upstairs area that are always buzzing, the food is made fresh using locally sourced and organic ingredients and eco tablewear is also used, such as bamboo straws in an attempt to minimise impact. I ate the eggs but the Acai Bowls and Corn Fritters also looked amazing, you really can’t go wrong here!
I am still disappointed that I didn't manage to try Locavore on this trip to Bali, however I know it is highly recommended! As the name suggests, the restaurant prides itself on its use of locally sourced ingredients, which are used to create fine dining dishes with menus catering to both meat and non-meat eaters alike. The restaurant also has a sister restaurant called Locavore to Go if you prefer a less formal setting.
What to do:
No trip to Ubud is complete without a visit to the amazing rice fields, with one of the most popular amongst tourists being the Tegalalang Rice Terrace. Be assured you will get some amazing photos here and will have the opportunity to walk among the terraces if you would like to, it just will incur a small donation collected by the locals of around 5,000 rupiah for one person. If you like walking, the Campuhan Ridge Walk is also beautiful, particularly at sunset. It is a really peaceful walk with a paved track so is easy to follow (once you find it) and will not disappoint with its views of the green Balinese landscape.
Shopping is also great in Ubud with lots of stalls, markets and shops around. I stumbled across a shop called Asterisk that also has a second store called Mani if you are interested in purchasing some really beautiful silver jewellery. Asterisk is located on J.L Hanoman Street near Bodyworks and Mani is on J.L Monkey Forest Road.
Finally, make sure you indulge in some pampering when in Ubud, be it some massages or a yoga class. Why not drop into the Yoga Barn with over 15 classes and workshops a day to choose from!