The next day I headed towards the central foothills of Bali. I drove along the magnificent and very convenient Bali Mandara Toll Road, a 13km bridge road over the water that stretches across the Gulf of Benoa, preventing traffic jams in the Jalan By Pass Ngurah Rai, which was the only connection to the south of the airport and to the Sanur and hills areas. A mere IDR 11,000 (about 1 US$) saved me a long traffic queue, and projected my Toyota to the plains first, with their stunning palms, frangipanis and amazing vegetation, an area where artisans work the stones and the wood, carving them magnificently; and later to the terraced rice paddies, small farms and dense forest that surround the town of Ubud. Considered to be the artistic and spiritual center of Bali, with the times Ubud has engulfed 13 of the villages that surrounded it, becoming a town of 0ver 30000 people. Ubud is also home to the world-known BaliSpirit Festival !
I checked myself in at the SenS Hotel & Spa – www.senshotelsresorts.com -, a boutique hotel in downtown Ubud, located within walking distance to the major attractions in town. It was indeed a great choice, as it was convenient, comfortable and indulgent at the same time, and a great value for money. BOOK A DISCOUNTED ROOM AT SENS HOTEL AND SPA, CLICK HERE !
I spent the afternoon checking out the hundreds of stalls at the Ubud market and the myriad of boutique shops, art galleries, restaurants and coffee shops that dot the area around the Hanuman Road, and I had a great time with primates at the very popular Monkey Forest – entrance fee IDR 40,000 (about 3.50 US$) – http://www.monkeyforestubud.com – a spiritual and conversation center for Ubud, submerged in 12.5 hectares of dense forest that 186 species of trees and around 700 monkeys call home.
I then enjoyed an evening Balinese dance performance – a must-do in Ubud including a Legong and Barong – 90 minutes show – entrance IDR 100,000 (about 8 US$) – at the Ubud Royal Palace, one of the most prominent places in Ubud, located right on the main road.
I ended my long day with a yummy dinner of Indonesian favourite food at Yonne Café and Bar, SenS Hotel & Spa poolside signature elegant restaurant, which serves up international favourites and the best of Balinese and Asian cuisine prepared in a vibrant show kitchen. At Yonne Café you have the choice to eat in air-conditioned comfort or al fresco, and it is opened 24 hours!
The second day in Ubud took me to a very interested Bali eco educational cycling tour with Bali Eco Cycling – www.baliecocycling.com – a company providing authentic eco-educational cycling tours since 1999. I loved the passion both owners Komang and wife and the guides put in their mission to please discerning Bali visitors. Their full-day downhill tour allowed me to escape the Ubud hustle and to discover the magic of rural Bali, as well as to have an amazing day out in the nature. The first stop was at the mesmerizing rice terraces of Tegallagang. We then had breakfast at the family restaurant in a terrace overlooking Kintamani village, active volcano Mount Batur, Mount Agung and Lake Batur was a plus!
After a nice shower and a swim and relaxation time at SenS Hotel & Spa swimming pool area, I went out for a stroll and along the way, right on the main road, I was drawn by a consistent knocking, like a door shutting in the wind: Bang Bang Bang… I followed the noise and entered Oka Kartini Bed & Breakfast, where a traditional shadow puppet performance was underway. A shadow puppet show is one of the Balinese traditional favourites of visitors to Ubud, and I was lucky it was Sunday, since performances only run three times a week: Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, starting at 8 pm – 1 hour show – entrance IDR 100,000 (about 8 US$). I was a bit late, and also did not understand a word since the story is told in Sanskrit, but I still enjoyed the theatre feel, the action and the humor.
I have read online comments of people who found the performance expensive, or boring. Well, the group of talented artists work for a full hour, reciting and playing and moving the puppets, and these expert artists do their best to present this traditional art form in a digestible way to tourists, so, still a good value, and a nice way to spend a cultural hour while in Ubud.
Dinner was once again at Yonne Café and Bar, SenS Hotel & Spa signature restaurant, where this time I dined on a great pizza 4 stagioni washed down by a beer, a special offer at IDR 100,000 (about 8 US$) NET!
I had a drink and enjoyed live music at the Bali Bohemia – www.balibohemia.com – located at the south entrance of Monkey Forest, then returned to the hotel. Bed came as a relief, after two days of no stop activities in Ubud.
TO BE CONTINUED… STAY TUNED !
A drive around Bali – Part 5 – the North coast
A drive around Bali – Part 6 – the West coast
The Toyota Agya was kindly supplied by Echo Bali Car Rental