Five Days in Ubud (Bali)
Day One (Thursday)
The last time I'd been to Bali, twenty years ago, Ngurah Rai airport
was a giant tin shed, now it's still small — tiny by Heathrow
or even Sydney standards — but it's very shiny and modern.
We arrived around 1.30pm, got through immigration quickly and after a
wait for our baggage were met by a driver from our hotel and whisked
up to Ubud. The building boom along the roads has been such that we
barely saw a paddyfield on the entire journey!
After settling in and having a shower, we had an early dinner in a
little corner warung where the lane from our hotel reaches the road.
(Bali is three hours behind Sydney, so this didn't feel early.) Then we
walked up the road to the entrance to the Monkey Forest, which had just
shut, said hello to some of the monkeys wandering outside, and walked back.
the ricefields facing our room
Our hotel, Alam
is actually in the village of Nyuh Kuning, just south of Ubud.
It combines modern mod-cons — wifi, air-conditioning, a pool,
and so forth — with the traditional Balinese way of doing
things — everything is made of stone, there are regular offerings
everywhere, and so forth.
The layout is spacious, with just eleven rooms (only three of which
were occupied on our first night) on quite a large site. It feels like
an oasis, calm and quiet and right away from everything: our room had
views out across a deep gullied stream onto ricefields where people
were harvesting and threshing rice, and it was far enough away from the
road that the only noise from outside was the distant tinkling of the
children in the primary school practicing gamelan. (Being out of town
does mean a bit of a walk, but a free shuttle is provided to and from
destinations in Ubud.)
feeding fish with Ayu
Our bedroom was big, fitting a single bed for Helen and a large double
bed for us, with room to move about in. The bathroom was huge, with
an open-air shower from which we could look out over the ricefields, a
bathtub, a toilet, and a sink, all in half-separated areas of their own.
And there was a porch area outside the room with a little table where we
could have had breakfast served if it hadn't been east-facing and too hot.
(I found it nice sitting there early in the morning, waiting for the
others to wake up and watching and listening to the dawn.)
The staff were really friendly, without ever being at all intrusive.
Helen was a bit shy at first but Ayu eventually had her feeding fish and
paddling in the pool. And when we went around with a torch looking for
animals in the dark — snails and crabs and frogs and geckos —
Helen wanted to rush off and tell Nik all about our discoveries.
Day Two (Friday)
The Monkey Forest and Monkey Forest Rd. Legong Dance.
It was really hot — according to a few people, hotter than it had
been for the previous week — and all we managed was the walk from
our hotel into Ubud and back. This took us through the Monkey Forest
(where we lost our insect repellent to a monkey that was too quick, and
some monkeys got a bit aggressive towards Camilla when she bumped one)
and up Monkey Forest Rd to Ubud Palace. We fitted in some shopping,
a lot of stops for cold drinks, lunch in Cafe Wayan, and an entirely
unplanned and fortuitous meet-up with our friend Adrienne Vukovic,
who just happened to be in Ubud.
vined gully in the Monkey Forest
knick-knacks for sale in Ubud market
There was an unexpected but pleasant dearth of hard-selling touts
— the vendors in the market called out quite politely, and even
the people sitting with "taxi" signs along Monkey Forest Rd seemed quite
lackadaisical — so there's perhaps some kind of control on that.
The traffic was terrible, though, and we just weren't used to the heat.
Legong dance at Peliatan
We came back through the Monkey Forest (Camilla was a bit nervous,
especially as she was carrying some fruit she'd brought, but there were
no problems) then had a swim back in our hotel. In the evening we got
a car out to Peliatan (another village pretty much swallowed by Ubud's
sprawl) for an evening peformance of gamelan and Legong dance. That was
really rather impressive and, thanks to a late afternoon nap, Helen sat
through the hour and a half quite well — she got restless about
forty minutes in, but perked up for the more dramatic scenes in the
barong "operetta" at the end. (And it clearly made an impact, given her
subsequent interest in the Legong dance
Our first warung meal was ok, but probably the worst meal we had during
our stay, with the food improving from there and ranging from good
to excellent. The hotel breakfasts were really nice: fruit salad,
fresh fruit juice, and a choice of banana or other pancakes, omelettes,
and jaffles (as well as a Balinese rice breakfast option we never got
around to trying). And we had some great duck, satay, and so forth.
crispy duck lunch at Cafe Wayan
Day Three (Saturday)
A day tour: rice paddies, temples, views.
Pretty much the whole day was taken up by a tour, in a private car
organised by the hotel (for 700k rupiah plus tip). We visited some rice
terraces (small ones by a main road), the Gunung Kawi and Holy Water
temples, a viewpoint over Batur and the main caldera, and a bamboo forest
and traditional village.
worshippers at Gunung Kawi
carved temples at Gunung Kawi
recovering from the steps coming back
Holy Water temple offerings
Holy Water temple bathers
This all went off reasonably well, apart from a short tantrum from Helen
when she was woken in the bamboo forest from a nap cut short too soon.
She managed most of the walking down and up at the rice terraces and
temples — not big climbs (200 steps from Gunung Kawi), but hard
in 30+ temperatures.
All told, we made very few concessions to Helen on the trip. If we had
been travelling without her, we could easily have had exactly the same
itinerary, only moving a bit faster and seeing a bit more. Looking at
some of our peers (and the advice I got on Bali from my cousin), a lot
of parents clearly tilt their travel plans far more towards their children.
Getting around was slow in places like Ubud, where there was motor traffic
nearby and the pavements were uneven, making it impossible to do the
"run fifty metres, get distracted for a bit, walk a bit, run some more"
stop-start that often keeps Helen going. But she was happy running
around our hotel, the bird park, and even some of the temples we visited
Day Four (Sunday)
Bird Park and Birthday.
They day started off well. The hotel made a lovely flower arrangement
and a banana-pancake cake with candles for Helen's birthday (despite
being busy decorating everything to celebrate the anniversary of the
first Alam hotel). But, perhaps overexcited by the occasion, we then had
over an hour of tantrum trying to get her dressed and into the car for a
trip to the Bali Bird Park. That was pretty impressive, and surprisingly
uncrowded for a Sunday, presumably a result of the exorbitant entry price
(it's as expensive as the London Zoo or Taronga Zoo).
decorating the hotel
at the Bali Bird Park
the adjacent reptile park
In the afternoon we just had a swim then walked through the Monkey Forest
again to have dinner in town, again at Cafe Wayan.
That evening we went exploring the grounds of the hotel with torches,
looking for animals: snails, crabs, geckos, frogs.
frog at night
Day Five (Monday)
The Neka Art Museum. Jimbaran sunset.
Rangda repelling swordsmen, Neka Museum
a last fill of our waterbottles
Before we left Ubud we fitted in a visit to the Neka Art Museum, which was
rather good. Helen liked the traditional pieces but got restless fairly
quickly after that. So we whizzed through the bulk of the collection
(mostly "contemporary" works from the 60s and 70s) and then had lunch in
a warung across the road before being picked up by the hotel's courtesy
We had already packed, so we were soon en route back south, for a final
night in Jimbaran, just south of the airport (in preparation for an early
flight back to London the next day). Our stay there helped reinforce
just how nice our Ubud accommodation had been... there was nothing wrong
with the Jimbaran hotel — maybe the room was a bit small —
it just seemed rather soulless.
We had a nice seafood dinner sitting at a table on the beach watching
the sunset, but apart from that Jimbaran seems to have only one real
attraction — the beach. Which would be lovely, except that it's
absolutely full of garbage.
sunset over beach dining
Day Six (Tuesday)
a Red-Crested Monger?
Garuda had given us a toy rhino on the flight to Bali and Camilla had
bought a Red-Crested Turaco in the Bird Park shop (Helen invented the name
"Red-Crested Monger" somehow, but the closest I could find using Google
images was a Red-Crested Turaco), so the soft toys were clearly winning.
Helen and I made a valiant attempt to catch up at the last minute by
blowing our last rupiah in the Periplus bookshop at the airport, picking
up Gecko's Complaint (my choice) and Tari: the Little Balinese
Dancer (Helen's choice, highly recommended).
Garuda settled this competition rather decisively, however, by giving
Helen two small finger puppets on the flight home.
The total cost for our Bali stay
was about 18.000k rupiah
(about US$1350), of which the larger components were accommodation
(~8.000k), transport (~2.000k), entry to the bird park (~1.100k) and
other attractions (~500k), with most of the rest going on food (dinner
on the last night in Jimbaran was 700k, and several other meals were
300k to 400k) and shopping.
There are much cheaper options, at least for accommodation and food.
We could easily have spent longer in Bali, and I'd rather
like to go back
. Just in Ubud, there are at least three
other museums and a variety of other kinds of music and dance
(angklung, kecak, and so forth). And I didn't even make it to the Ganesha Bookshop
! There are
plenty of options for other day tours (Bedugul, Besakih, Tanah Lot).
There's the Bali Zoo, elephant rides, and other attractions of that kind.
And I could climb Gunung Agung...