There are so many things I love about Bali, and so much passions about sharing the beauty, uniqueness and magnificence of this island where I have been living for more than 13 years now, to you, my dearest readers. Bali is world wide known for its rich and vibrant cultures, its sophisticated art forms, its extravagant religious ceremonies, its idyllic beaches, perfect summer weather, and eventually its friendly people. Many visitors also come to Bali to try the delightful cuisine, from the world class international food to the exotic fragrant local dishes, from the most elegant fine dining restaurant to the simplest warung eatery. The island has become one of Indonesia’s main culinary destinations.
Ubud. They call it a little town, an art village, the cultural heart of Bali, best city in Asia (voted by Conde Nast Traveler in 2009), Eat Pray Love movie shooting location. Whether you opt Ubud for your holiday in Bali or just for a weekend getaway for Bali expats and locals living in the island like me, this town remains one of the main destinations in the island.
Here are my 3 things in Ubud I love :
Ubud managed to keep its identity and integrity among the continuously expanding Bali with the unstoppable built luxury resorts and hotels, and other trendy clubs that mostly happening in Seminyak and Kuta. Even among the existing upmarket hotels such as Four Seasons, Como Shambhala, Aman Resorts, Alila that stretch along Sayan and Kedewatan village, you can still breath the strong cultural atmosphere here in Ubud. Like in any particular day, you could find yourself sipping your hot espresso and eating gluten-free cupcake and grilled panini next to a village Odalan ceremony right in front of your eyes where you are sitting at an open style mini cafe with a free wifi, browsing the world wide web on your iPad. It’s a harmonious collision between a tradition and today’s lifestyle. In Ubud you are part of its life, not the spectators, more than just visitors, nicely blended I should say. People come to Ubud to learn about the natural medicine and healing or learn to paint from the local painters, to meditate and yoga, in brief, to experience the real Bali.
Are there traffic jam and tourist chaos scenes in Ubud? Yes there are! Specially if you make yourself stuck between Ubud market, Suckling pig Ibu Oka, smoked duck Bebek Bengil. Monkey Forest, and shops on Hanoman streets (try to park your car here – it’s hopeless..), but still you would love Ubud and this town will always be your little getaway.
Who could escape a culinary journey when one is in Ubud without (again) suckling pig Ibu Oka, the pork ribs of Naughty Nuri, the balinese cooking class at Cafe Luna, the Michelin cuisine of Mozaic Restaurant. The old style and legendary cafes and restaurants still attract the loyal visitors while the newly built petit bistro, bakery, coffee shops with free wifi belongs to expat europeans or Jakartans are trackable on some location-based social networking website for smartphones on the Where-to-eat recommendations.
My all time favourites : Nasi Ayam Kedewatan or Mardika (they are next to each other) which is the famous balinese spicy chicken rice, and Ibu Rai Restaurant offering Asian & western dishes with its crispy Pizza Margherita and crunchy mouth watery Vietnamese Roll… My new Ubud craving : Localista Cafe located on jl. Suweta, next to Rio Helmi Photo Gallery (yes, yes…near the famous suckling pig Ibu Oka) with its signature and yummiest cupcakes I’ve ever tasted in my entire whole life. Relatively new, this place has fast become a buzz for Ubud lover. Try their carrot cake, dragon fruit, lime and vanilla, strawberry cheesecake, tiramisu, mulberry, caramel (I could go on..), mamma mia!
Green green grass of town
Bali for me has the most colourful nature and landscape than any other provinces in Indonesia. When in Seminyak, Kuta, Uluwatu the pristine blue water of white sandy beaches will take your breath away, then the Jimbaran Bay has one of the best sunsets in the island bursting the orange sky. But staying in Ubud means living in serene green surroundings with magnificent green rice terraces, lush gardens and hills, more rice fields, banyan trees. Imagine waking up in the morning and listening to the river flows beneath your hanging-on-a-steep-hill villa, you might be staying in one of the beautiful homey villas overlooking Petanu, Ayung, or Campuan rivers..
Writer Elizabeth Gilbert has found Ubud as her sanctuary of Love marking its place on Eat,Pray,Love story. I have these three above reasons to love Ubud…
Every year people in Bali are looking forward for this Balinese biggest day called Nyepi, marking a new year of 1933 of the Saka Hindu era which began in 78 A.D (what would my great grand children do in Balinese New Year Caka 2011?!). It is a 24 hours of total silence : no light, no sound, no work, no traveling, no entertainment, nothing but meditation & fasting for the true believer of hinduism. One day before that, they call it Pengerupukan Day, a parade and festival of Ogoh Ogoh is held and this once a year festival is not to be missed if you are in Bali during the month of March! The date for Nyepi actually changes every year, following the night of the new moon whenever it occurs around March/April each year. This year Nyepi fell on March 5th, 2011.
No Indo kids love to go to museum just for fun activity or for ‘art appreciation’ school extracurricular. I remember going to Archeology Museum in Bandung, West Java when I was in Elementary school for school assignment. Between noting the history of these fossil skeletons and starring at one cool ‘dude’ I had a crush on, at that age, I prefer do the last one..Museum is dusty, boring, scary, echoing…
But you will not feel that way when you are in this beautiful ARMA Museum in Ubud. It’s not just A museum. It’s the place for visual and performing arts on a beautiful landscape, so gorgeous that you can’t stop posing like a model every time you see a beautiful spot and background, just like I did, and for Benny, it’s the photography momento great spot too. I have a best friend living in Bandung, the capital of West Java, named Arma too, and she asked me what kind of place ARMA Museum is in Bali, naming it with her nick name 🙂 Hmm….Java tourists should explore Ubud more than it’s Bebek Bengil or Suckling pig Ibu Oka..
Bart and I really love to go to a big cultural or sports event as an photography occasion for him, and as a cultural experience for me. Bali is not only about hang out with friends and icy cold beers (although it’s also very nice!), sun bathing on the white sand beach. Ceremony such as ‘Ngaben‘ (Balinese cremation) is very often one of the main tourist attraction, specially when a royal family died, it must be HUGE!.
But one special thing about watching the parade of Pesta Kesenian Bali or Bali Arts Festival Opening is you got to witness the BEAUTY of Balinese dance, costume and musical performance…from all the regency of the island. It’s soo.. gorgeously colorful! and I never stop wowwing everytime I see this dance group performing. Balinese people are surely one of the biggest ethnic group in Indonesia who still pride themselves preserving their traditional culture, ie. dance, music, costume, food.