The Bali Diaries: Ubud Edition
I’ve been to over 40 countries (not that I’m actually counting…), and my favorite place that I can’t get enough of is: Bali, Indonesia. I’ve been there twice, am planning to go back for a month in August and will hopefully end up retiring there one day.
Now, Bali isn’t for everyone. It’s certainly not for people who read Eat, Pray, Love and have this romantic idea of an unspoiled island of self discovery. Reality check: Bali is third world. It’s dirty and polluted with both plastic and hoards of people/cars/scooters; but I still think that it’s one of the most wonderful places on the planet.
- Healthy way of being and focus on wellness: spas, fresh ingredients and general absence of chemical additives/fillers in food.
- Luxury at a discount: live it up in Bali for a fraction of what you would pay for the same experience in Europe.
To share my love of the island and my recommendations, I will be writing about different areas in Bali throughout the year. Hopefully you’ll fall in love, too.
General Bali Guidelines
The flight to Bali is a long one unless you’re already in Asia. Typically, flights to Denpasar, Bali (DPS) connect through Dubai (Emirates), Taipei (Eva Air) or Singapore (Singapore Air). They are all the same, so pick a flight route that makes the most sense for you or with the best opportunity for a fun-filled layover.
If you’re only flying to Asia to go to Bali, you better be going for at least 2 weeks. August is my favorite time to go (high season) but I don’t think there’s really a bad time to go.
If you only have 3-5 days, I would split my time between Ubud and Seminyak or Canggu:
- Ubud is jungle and yoga and the best organic vegan food you’ve ever had (3 day minimum).
- Seminyak has good shopping, beaches and a ton of great restaurants (2 days).
- Canggu is up and coming – huge expat community, more of a younger, hipster crowd (1-2 days).
If you have longer, tack on one or more of these stops:
- Nusa Lembongan / Nusa Penida – at least 2 days, take the fast ferry from Sanur (1 hour)
- The Gillis (technically Lombok) – at least 3 days, take the fast ferry (2.5-4 hours)
- Uluwatu / Nusa Dua – at least 2 days but you can take a car to get there
In terms of accommodation in Bali, you need to remember that Bali is tropical. There are lots of mosquitos, spiders and other miscellaneous creatures. Staying in a villa that is half open/closed is magical, but be prepared to have frogs in your bathroom and lizards popping onto your bed at night. If you’re down to deal with that, start scouring AirBnB for amazing deals on beautiful homes/villas. If not, you might want to stick to hotels – and there are plenty of them! I went the villa route for my first trip and my mother wanted to kill me when something resembling a tarantula wandered off the rice paddies into her bedroom. Consider yourself warned.
Drivers are cheap to hire – don’t be dumb and rent a scooter. There’s always traffic and people are crazy on those scooters. It’s just always seemed like a bad idea to me – but, again – godspeed.
Bali isn’t French Polynesia – the beaches aren’t amazing but that’s not why people go to Bali. Beaches are better in Nusa Lembongan/Penida and the Gillis. Nusa Dua and Uluwatu are acceptable, as well. But you’ll be underwhelmed in Seminyak/Kuta (although – good places to learn to surf right off the beach).
Bali is in the Pacific Ring of Fire; as such, there are regular earthquakes on the island. Earthquakes can trigger tsunamis and volcano explosions. On my first trip, we didn’t experience any earthquakes. On my second trip, I experienced 2.
Drink lots of Jamu (turmeric, lime, ginger…maybe something else). It’s an acquired taste but it’s amazing for you.
You cannot go to Bali and miss Ubud. It’s like going to Egypt and not seeing the pyramids. While there is a central Ubud town, the surrounding areas of Gianyar are sprawling and filled with hidden treasures to discover (hence, while you’ll really want to find a great driver to chauffeur you around like the queen/king that you were meant to be).
Where to sleep?
- Desa Bulan – Honeymoon Villa – This is the villa I reference above with the giant spider. Beautiful views of the rice paddies, but also far from the town – you need a driver to get to and from which you can easily hire. You can have people come cook for you here and the villa manager can arrange tours and other things.
- Hanging Gardens of Bali
- Bisma Eight
- Viceroy Bali
Where to eat?
- Mozaic – fine dining in the jungle
- Room 4 Dessert – 21 courses of desserts, featured on Chef’s Table (Netflix)
- Jungle Fish Bar – pool club and restaurant where you can spend the day when you’re done with yoga and temples
What to do?
- Karsa Spa – the best spa I’ve ever been to! Book in advance. You will definitely need a driver to get there. Get all the treatments – you can spend a whole day there and it’s less than $100.
- Lots of yoga – Taksu Yoga, The Yoga Barn
- Sacred Monkey Forrest – this is in the town; you can go walk through by yourself and then wander into the town to do whatever. I recommend going early in the morning so it’s less chaotic. Hold onto your sunglasses and other colorful belongings as you’ll likely be robbed…by a monkey.
- Hire a driver to do a full day tour and hit:
- Hike Mount Batur – if you want to get up at 4:30am and do this….you’re more ambitious than I am….but I hear it’s amazing.