Well, today marks one week since we jumped on that Emirates plane and began our two month trip around the world. As many of you know by now, Dave and I got married last December and decided that our first year of marriage would be spent having a ‘Year of the Holiday’, and basically just one big honeymoon.
We have been to some incredible places already this year, but really we have been gearing up for the main event, a two month trip taking in Bali, Australia and Thailand.
Our first stop was the beautiful cultural town, or more specifically district, of Ubud in Bali. Apart from my Eat, Pray, Love notions about what Ubud would be like, and some stories from friends who have been here before, I really didn’t know what to expect but it wasn’t long before I fell for its charm.
Ubud is rough and ready in many ways, but to me, that’s what makes it so beautiful. Luscious, vast green fields, paired with palm trees sprawled along road sides, make it every inch the tropical countryside you imagine it to be. It is beautiful; it is warm (in both senses of the word); it is friendly; it is spiritual.
We arrived late last Friday night to our hotel, Uma by Como Ubud, a paradise hideaway in the middle of what can only be described as the mountains. Again, luscious greenery accompanied by the sounds of many birds and insects, made us feel very much part of the tropical surrounds.
Our hotel was the perfect place for a bit of rest and relaxation, but close enough to the town so we could explore as we wanted.
I could talk for days about all the things we did, and probably bore you half to death, so instead I will share my highlights with you all:
Every morning our hotel ran a free yoga class from 7.30-8.30am to start the day off in a calm, spiritual way. Overlooking the hills surrounding the hotel, it is easy to feel at peace and settle your mind for the day ahead.
Unfortunately I didn’t get quite as much yoga in as I would have liked, but we only had five days here and had a lot to pack in. I would say however, if you’re looking for a yoga and meditation retreat style holiday, then Ubud is the place for you.
Hindu is the main religion, but Buddhism is also widely practiced as well as varying forms of meditation.
The rice paddies are something that really have to be seen to be appreciated. Yes, I had seen many pictures of them before I left for our trip, but nothing quite prepares you for their expanse.
We visited Tegallang rice terrace, which like all rice terraces, is made using a unique Balinese irrigation system, and produces four different kinds of rice.
The layers of terraces are so perfectly landscaped, you can only imagine the time and effort that went into creating them, but apart from being obviously practical, they are incredibly beautiful to look at too.
A really popular thing to do is hire bicycles and cycle through the paddie fields, and I think it would be a great way of seeing them up close. However, if like us you’re short on time then don’t worry because a quick walk through will give you just as great an experience.
Casa Luna is a restaurant located in the centre of Ubud town, and was recommended to us by my Sister who had been before.
If you read some of my earlier travel posts, you’ll know that one thing I was very much looking forward to trying out in Bali was some local Jamu. For those of you who don’t know, Jamu is a type of herbal medicine that is believed to have healing properties for both mind and body. It comes in many forms, but one form it comes in is in a healthy juice.
As soon as I saw it on the menu in Casa Luna I knew I had to try so I ordered it, not quite knowing what to expect. I was told their Jamu was a combination of Tumeric, Lime and Honey, full of antioxidants and apparently good for fighting cancer and healing the liver.
So being the good sport that I am I took a big gulp, and tried not to wince as I swallowed. The flavour was let’s say, unique, and I only managed to consume half the glass before I had to give up.
I convinced myself that half was still good enough though and was happy with my Jamu experience. I don’t think I’ll be having it again though! Lime and honey absolutely, but the amount of Tumeric was just a little much for me. Ah well, when in Rome as the saying goes…
I’m not a big one for markets, especially in 33 degree heat, but the Ubud market is famous for both its products and haggling so I couldn’t wait to pay a visit and see what it was like. And it didn’t disappoint.
It was everything you imagine a bustling market to be; busy, overcrowded, and loud, but at the same time had a calmness about it in a way that I find hard to describe. Like everything in Bali, it somehow manages to be peaceful and crazy at the same time.
As we wandered through the streets admiring everything from bright silk scarves to beaded necklaces and copious amounts of incense, we soaked it all up and enjoyed haggling with locals as we did some shopping.
It’s not a huge market so you wouldn’t need more than a few hours to cover it all, and is definitely worth a stop during any trip to Ubud.
I didn’t know what to expect when visiting the Elephant Cave (Goa Gojah), a Hindu Temple dating back to the 11th century. Goa Gojah is essentially a holy place where locals and tourists alike come to give offerings to the Gods and practice spiritual meditation.
The temple has many stone statues of Buddhas and Gods, which all surround the actual Elephant Cave. The cave itself has a scary looking face at the entrance and is said to be an Elephant’s face based on the face of Ganesh, a Hindu lord worshipped by all who visit.
The temple is quite a peaceful and extraordinary place to visit, though bustling with tourists and locals alike, it has managed to keep a calm and still atmosphere, and the burning smell of incense makes you feel like you are in a different place and time.
I asked our tour guide if locals get annoyed with all the tourists visiting holy places such as these, but his immediate response was that Hinduism is for everyone, Ganesh is for everyone, Sing Ken Ken! (meaning, no worries!).
And that for me, just sums up Ubud right there. It’s the people that makes it so special. They are happy, they are always smiling, they are friendly, they are chatty; quite simply, they are as charming as the town they live in.
It is a special kind of a place. I remember when I went to India for the first time, I was young and had never been anywhere like it before, the initial culture shock took some getting used to. But by the time I was leaving, I had become accustomed to the local way of living and didn’t want to leave. That is how I feel about Ubud.
I can see why so many people pack up and move here to lead a yoga and meditation filled spiritual life, it certainly is peaceful.
But that’s not for everyone and although sad to say goodbye to Ubud, I’m now excited for the next stop on our adventure.