These flowers are part of the Hindu tradition
These flowers are part of the Hindu tradition
Yummy Nasi Tumpeng: a little bit of everything
Friend noodles with egg and above: tempeh
Last but not least: the amazing Gado Gado
Ubud is great. It's in the middle of many beautiful rice fields, there are many yoga schools and even more restaurants with healthy tasteful food. It grows heaps in popularity in the last years. Want to know why? Read on!
The first time I was there, it was pretty busy. A lot of scooters everywhere, most locals but also quite some tourists. This was in 2015. 1,5 year later, out of high season, it was crazy busy. Like really. Many streets were fully blocked with cars and scooters, nowhere to go. A local friend of me told me that in high season the streets get stuck in traffic kilometers before you drive into Ubud. So you're warned ;) But still, it's a nice and special place. It has something else, a place in the mountains instead of at the ocean like many other (popular) places in Indonesia.
To get around
Ubud is to me a good place to get around with a scooter. The center is easy and good to walk, but to get around it's a lot of fun to have your own vehicle and in Indonesia, what's better than a scooter? Google Maps will get you anywhere, you don't need any touristic tour or a guide. But if you're a little scared to drive yourself it might be a good idea to get a friendly local to drive you around.
But I was my own guide and my own driver and also, I had the luck to meet Rama. He is a guy from Spain who made good money back home and decided to spend the rest of his life chilling out in Bali. He had a lot of good tips for me and now it's my time to share some of them with you :)
"Yes, it's rice again. But they know how to handle the rice"
First of all, the food in Indonesia is really good. Yes, it's rice again, but they know how to handle the rice. You can get it steamed but also fried (nasi) but lot's of different veggies and for me something new: tempeh. Something like tofu but to me with a little more taste. Everywhere you'll be, you find restaurants. Big ones, small ones. A growing amount of fancy ones but still, most are crappy with plastic chairs and dirty sticky tables. You'll see displayed food and you don't know how long it has been there. I like to eat at these kind of restaurants that they call a warung. For me traveling is a lot about getting into the culture and food is especially in Asia a big part of it. And I guess I am lucky to not get sick from food quickly. I was just always sure I washed my hands properly (it's super handy always to have these antibacterial gel with you) and to check out if there are more people (locals) eating. Really, they also don't like diarrhea. So, let's go with the tips about Ubud's warungs:
When I just arrived, I met Rama at 9 Warung. This place is really great when you like a chill vibe, cheap and vegetarian food and a few cats. Note: all these cats have been rescued from the streets. 9 Warung is a place where there is typical Indonesian food in a buffet. Get yourself some nice food (don't forget to keep some space in your tummy for dessert) and when you're finished you put the money in a glass on the table. Prices are written beside the dishes and have a range between 3.000 and 10.000 rupiah. So, that's not expensive. You wash the plates yourself and say thank you (Terima kasih) and goodbye (Sampai jumpa).
My to other favorite places are:
Dewa Warung: very popular spot in the middle of town. Very cheap and tasteful food. Besides this, I like it a lot because you all sit around big tables, so it's an easy way to make new friends. Please don't forget to order an avocado smoothy when it's in season: they are delicious and after this experience, you want one every day.
Dayu's Warung: Where the others are super cheap, this one is a little more expensive but it's more than worth it. The food is really healthy, they don't put any MSG in it, most of it is glutenfree, vegan and vegetarian. Besides all these amazing meals they also have healthy smoothies, cookies and cakes. Don't order too much of these last two, you think you can eat it all but because they make it with pure cacao, you're pretty full after a bite. Good one to share ;)
And now I have to admit something to you. I am adventurous and like to do things differently but every time I'm back in Ubud... I always go back to one of these places. Believe me, I tried others, but they were not as tasteful, very touristic or overprices and then I regretted I just didn't go back to one of these star places ;)
So that was all about the food. Now let's continue with yoga. Ubud is very popular for its yoga, there are many schools and The Yoga Barn will be the most popular. I've never been inside but I've heard you should even go to have a look at how beautiful it is with all the green and nice people. Well, I found my own beautiful but more unique and local place:
Ashram Munivara. This is the most valuable advice Rama gave me. This Ashram is 10 minutes driving distance from Ubud, in the middle of the ricefield: it is a meditation on its self. The classes are super good and 1,5 hour long for only (please don't fall off your chair) 35.000 rupia. That's about 2 euro and as far as I can remember about 10.000 rp to rent a mat. To compare with Yoga Barn: it's 130.000 rp and I have the feeling there is not any local you will support with that money.
Besides yoga classes (check the times of their classes on their website, url underneath) there are New- and Full moon ceremonies and I bet they're a special thing to experience. Just check out before what to wear because I can remember they said something about white clothes.
Something else you might want to know: where did I sleep? Well, just as usual I stayed in a cheap hostel. I look at Hostelworld and check out the best price – rating combination and listen to the advice from other travelers where to stay. It's how I arrived at The Happy Mango Tree hostel. It's a nice place. Good places to relax, friendly staff, good food, nice view on ricefield and not right in the center but still very near. It's the same owner as The Lodge hostel where is a pool you can use as well.
Once when this hostel was all fully booked I stayed across the street: at Puji Hostel Ubud: it's a really great place, especially when you just got from an intensive plain trip and like to relax: there is a pool and a view on the rice fields and with the sun in your face that's really not so bad :)
On every island they have their own language, but overall they all understand the lingua franca: Bahasa Indonesia. In some countries, like Vietnam, I would be like: nah, don't even bother to speak some words, it's too difficult and in every town they have a different accent and won't understand you anyway. That's not the way it is with Bahasa Indonesia.
It's really easy to remember and pronounce their words. It's really worth it to put a little energy in learning these common sentences (think about how cool it would be someone from, let's say the other side of the world, will try to say something in your weird language);
Hello: hai or halo (I'm sure you can handle these ones ;) )
How are you: Apa kabar
Good: Baik (pronounce like 'bike')
Thank you: Terima kasih
You're welcome: Sama sama
Goodbye: formal it's selamat tingal, but I had way more fun by saying sampai jumpa
Last thing I want to tell you is about the island Bali in general. It's a big difference with the other Indonesian islands. Indonesia is the biggest Islamitic country in the world, 87% is Muslim but... in Bali is 85% Hindu. Don't worry, I won't tell you all about their history, but I think it's something important to know because religious is very important in Indonesia (actually everywhere in Asia). You'll see many temples everywhere where you really have to respect their clothing rules: no shoulders or knees visible. Many times they will have sarongs to give or rent you. You'll also see a lot of rituals and little kind of bowls made with leaves (see picture above) where they offer flowers, coins, incense and even cigarettes. Sometimes you'll even find them in the middle of the doorway, it's to protect them from the bad. Better don't step on them :P
*** Travelers to travelers tip: in case you consider to go to the lovely Kuta on the neighbor island Lombok, think about taking the plain. In Ubud there are many organizations that offer taxi to the boat and then an other taxi to Kuta. Been there, done that. Twice. Till I broke my feet in Kuta and didn't have much of an other option to take go back by air. It turns out to be much easier and maybe even cheaper. Even last minutes flights are really not that expensive and it saves you almost a day traveling in hobbling busses / taxi's / boats
Ashram / yoga classes near Ubud; https://ashrammunivara.org/yoga-classes/