I’m sitting here in Chicago writing this post about Ubud, Bali and just as I looked outside, I got a little depressed. Also, The Mister Project literally just hollered from the office, “Oh man, their breakfast with prawns and rice looks so good!”. I thought he was talking about Stax on Taylor Street because we have no food and need to find some, but no, he was talking about the hotel menu where we stayed in Bali. It’s not that we don’t love our home city, it’s just that at the moment, we love Bali a little more. I didn’t know when we decided to go to Bali to end our other side of the planet adventure that I would love it so much. It turns out that I love it so much I cried when we left, but more about that later. Basically, Bali is beautiful. The people, the food, the ambiance, the jungle of Ubud, the street merchants, the statues, truly everything about Ubud is beautiful. Here’s a peek at one of my absolutely favorite places I have ever been and why I love it there so much. There is not a doubt in my mind we will be going back one day, as Bali now holds a very special place in my heart.
As we drove and walked thru the streets of Ubud, which is in central Bali, I couldn’t keep my eyeballs in one spot because I was so obsessed with the super detailed and ornate statues all over the place. In front of almost every house, temple, store and hotel were these massive stone statues. They are everywhere and handmade and crafted in Ubud by the insanely talented people who live there. As we left for the airport, we passed about thirty spots where these statues were sold and I had to do everything in my control to not make our driver pull over so I can buy one to put in front of our house in Little Italy. Uggghhhh, I want one so much! One day.
I love fruit! Just like I found in Australia, I found more exotic fruit I’ve never heard of in Bali and ate it every day we were there. From mangosteen to “snake skin” fruit from palm trees, these peculiar little fruits were delicious and so refreshing. Now I just need to figure out how to get my hands them here in Chicago…any ideas???
So many people told us we had to check out The Monkey Forest while we were in Ubud. Now, being someone who has been utterly obsessed with monkeys since I was five or so, this was a must. We’re not talking a zoo here, these little fellas aren’t held in cages, they are running wild and free all over the place. We were told there are about 700 monkeys in Monkey Forest of all ages, we saw some geezer monkeys and some as young as two weeks old. They were so frigging cute and cheeky, anyone that goes to Ubud needs to go to the forest and visit these tiny apes.
Speaking of furry animals…did you know they make poo coffee in Bali? No there isn’t a typo there, they actually make coffee from the poo of a luwak. What is a luwak you ask? Well, it’s like a hybrid of a racoon and a cat. And apparently they’re freakin mean! As we were told by our sweet guide, the luwaks find the best of the best coffee beans, proceed to suck on them, then swallow them and overtime, poop them out. Then some brave soul goes and digs thru the poop to obtain the coffee beans, cleans them, de-shells them, cleans them again and then grounds them. I drank my whole dang cup because poo coffee is damn good! Right below is luwak poo filled with coffee beans, of course, before it’s been cleaned. Looking back at this photo, it’s a little hard to believe we actually drank it, but…when in Rome!
So, we’ve covered monkeys and poo coffee, it’s only natural we move onto wieners. Bali has wooden wieners all over the place. Sister Nicole would have been in heaven! Anywhere they sell beautifully carved Buddhas, you bet you’ll find a boat load of wieners right next to them. According to some research I did, the penis is thought to bring good luck in the Hindu religion. You better believe I brought home tons of bottle openers for family and friends – wouldn’t want to not spread the good vibes.
Yoga is a pretty big deal in Ubud and according to heaps of my yoga friends, Yoga Barn is too. We decided to see what all the positive buzz was about and I can confirm that Yoga Barn is actually awesome. I was worried that it may be too yogi, but not at all. We took a yin and a gentle yoga class to prepare for the long flights home and both teachers were incredible. Such friendly, sweet teachers, willing and wanting to help. I love that they kept it on a level that was both informative and diverse, but at the same time on a level that all could understand and learn from. Their cafe is delicious as well. I had an ayurvedic, ginger smoothie (helps aid digestion) and a huge, green salad. Basically, what they say is true, if you go to Ubud…go to Yoga Barn.
Bali’s domestic beer, Bali Hai, is delicious and tastes like heaven after a very long walk on a very hot day. Bingtang isn’t bad option either. That is all. Cheers!
The island of Bali is predominately Hindu while the rest of Indonesia is of the Muslim faith. This was a specific part of Ubud I was obsessed with. I really love learning the principles and stories of the Hindu religion and just can’t get enough of their statues and depictions of their gods. Everyday the people of Bali wake up and prepare offerings and gifts to be given to the higher deities. Often it is a little hand made box created out of palm tree leaves then filled with the most beautifully vibrant flowers and treats. Throw in a little burning incense and the gods shall be pleased! It’s really such a wonderful way to begin the day by showing some love and giving some thanks to the universe.
While in Ubud I had a traveling first…I cried when I said goodbye to the staff of Komaneka Bisma. We have stayed in some very lovely, well run hotels throughout our traveling adventures, but never, ever, ever have I ever been so in love with the staff of a hotel before that I literally shed a couple tears upon departure as they sent us off to the airport. Tourism is really huge for the people of Bali so they really strive to make your stay and experience extraordinary. However, isn’t that everyone’s goal in the hospitality biz? One would hope, but the beautiful people of Bali go far above and beyond the call of duty, they make you feel like family, they make you feel like you are at home. Each evening we would come home from exploring to find the bed turned down, Balinese pajamas on the bed for us to sleep in accompanied some nights with a Balinese bedtime story or a personal note from the people of Komenaka. I decided to set up a special dinner for Anthony’s birthday on the property to celebrate his 36th. They made his birthday so special, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to top it. At one point, about ten staff members came singing Happy Birthday from a floor above with a delicious chocolate cake and candles for him to blow out. As they arrived at the table they surrounded us and like the paparazzi, someone in front with an iPad snapping a photo of us with our Balinese family. Then one by one, they shook his hand saying, “Happy Birthday Bapak Anthony!”. Being far away from our family, they sure made us feel loved. Each day they would serve tea and treats along with very tasty ayurvedic drinks. Also eager to teach their guests about their traditions, they had a young woman teaching us how to make offerings as well as a young man showing anyone willing to learn how to make wood carvings. I gave it a go realizing quickly how hard of work wood carving really is. He carved my name, Ibu Lauren, in my turtle and happily sent me on my way. When it came time to relax, the spa and pool were the place to be. Overlooking the jungle, the pool was a vastly different view than the beaches we came from. It was secluded, private and stunning. As hard as it was, it was eventually time to leave. As we said our goodbyes, one of the desk agents came up to me, “Ibu Lauren, this is for you”, and handed me a little gift bag. Inside was the framed photo they snapped of us on Anthony’s birthday along with two handmade boxes with more treats. And this is when I cried. They walked us to our car and waved to us the entire way up the driveway. I will never forget that goodbye nor cannot wait to get back there soon. I told them I’d see them in two years. LOL. Honeymooners and travelers eager to see Bali, this is where you want to stay. Trust me.
On our second night we went out to see Lelong and Barong dancers in the town center of Ubud. Culturally, this was one of my favorite experiences of the entire trip. I have seen hints of this dance on TV and in travel magazines, but I definitely didn’t know what to expect. Being both vibrant and borderline a little creepy, this dance is not to be missed if you find your way in Bali.
While the Mister Project was planning this adventure, he reached out to some friends and one in particular told us about a guide named Putu. Being wise and listening to our friend, we hired Putu to show us around a bit and help get us to and from the airport. Here is another prime example why I love Bali so much….the people! Putu welcomed us at the airport at 1:30am with a huge smile and eager to get us to our hotel for some rest. The next day he swooped us up in Seminyak to take us to Ubud. Having Putu as a trusted guide to show us Ubud was the best decision we could have made. He is Balinese, so of course he is incredibly educational and informative on all things Bali. He knows all the right places, photo opps and excellent tips for travelers in Bali. When we go back to Bali, Putu at Stone Bali Tour will most definitely be our go to guy. Every city needs a Putu. When you find your way to Bali, give this guy a call, he’ll make your trip better than your expected.
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