Our first stop in Bali was in Ubud, a small and quiet(ish) town amidst the mountains north of the hustle and bustle of the city center. It is rich in Balinese history and culture – it is hard to walk a couple blocks without seeing a temple, palace, art gallery or traditional Balinese dance performance.
This was a wonderful place to start out our trip and wean off our jet lag, since there is plenty to do during the day and not much to do at night. We started by visiting the market and loading up on breezy dresses, turquoise jewelry and harem pants – a backpackers wet dream. The next day we visited the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, where we got to see voracious monkeys that inhabit this nature reserve and Hindu temple complex. I personally didn’t get too close to the monkeys in fear of getting rabies, but a lot of people bought bananas to get the monkeys to climb up to their heads (which makes for a great photo op).
The next day we did a cooking class, which I would definitely recommend doing! We started by going to the market around 8:30am and were explained what kinds of food and spices we would be using during the class. We were then taken to a small plantation where they were growing ginger, turmeric, vanilla, chillies and coffee beans. We had a tea and coffee tasting, with 6-8 samples of each and different natural flavors like coconut coffee/tea, saffron tea, ginseng tea and spiced chocolate coffee. Our third stop was a beautiful village with a huge rice field that’s divided between the different families in the village. We did all the actual cooking and eating out in the open with a breathtaking view on the field and village. After a food coma afternoon we found a free yoga class in the evening (this was unrelated to our morning’s indulgences during the cooking class) and ended the night at a quasi-karaoke reggae bar.
On our third day we walked around Ubud (along the Ridge Walk) to see some rice fields. We walked along the electrifying green fields and stopped at a cafe to admire the view.
Our last day was an adventurous one – we climbed to the summit of Mount Batur at 1,700 meters! The day started at 2am where we got picked up from our hostel and brought to the base of the volcano. After a surprisingly delicious banana crepe and coffee we started our ascend in the pitch dark. We must have been at least 100 people climbing, although the group from our hostel was around 12-15 people. The first hour wasn’t too difficult and it was really spectacular to see the stars glowing against the dark sheet of the sky in the middle of the night. The second part of the hike was steeper and more difficult, especially the parts that were very sandy and slippery. Once we got to the very top, the difficult climb was the last thing on my mind and we watched the village below disappear as fog and clouds rose with the sun. As we climbed down we saw the tomatoes and chillies growing by the path in the light of day, and I felt a real sense of accomplishment that was soon taken over by a wave of utter exhaustion.
The next day we were off to Kuta and looking forward to some beach and party times to counter Ubud’s chill and laid back vibes. We found a taxi that would take us to the beautiful rice terraces of Tegalalang on our way to Kuta, and thus ended our first atop in Bali.
Next stop, Kuta!
Mellow Yellow rating: 💛💛💛💛💛
Travelers tips: Ubud is the perfect place to go to if you want to get away from the swarms of tourists that come to Bali just to see the beaches of Kuta. Our cab from Denpasar airport to the hostel cost 300,000 IDR (when you leave the airport cross the street and get a Bluebird taxi and ask for the metered fare). We stayed at In Da Lodge Hostel, stupid name but really good hostel with good tours (essentially same prices you would pay in town). The free yoga class is at Yoga Barn every Friday at 6pm. Also, try Dadar Gulung. Your taste buds will thank you.