Ubud: Bali – aka the Love part of the EPL movie

Ignoring any PDA social etiquette, Nate and I embraced with a running hug in the middle of Cafe Wayan, a sweet little cafe in the heart of Ubud. Though we were only separated for 5 days he was busy during that time so the absence felt much longer and we were both so ready to pick back up on our travels.Ubud is a beautiful town, in the center (ish) of Bali. Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing and Julia Roberts acting made it extremely popular and it shows. It is a livable town surrounded by fields of rice patties and tropical trees. There is no shortage of shopping and eating that fill up the oval road that is the town center.
We stayed away from the town center, far enough that we needed a motorbike to get to and from town. We chose to rent a villa outside of town because we wanted a kitchen. Our plan before coming to Ubud was to live like a local as best as we could. 

Prior to arriving, I signed us up for the best cooking class on trip advisor so we could learn about the foods available to us and a few recipes.

Nate and I were both arriving into Ubud from different areas at different times. He took an uber from the airport and it took about 45 minutes and it was $190,000 R ( $17 including the surge pricing). I was coming from Lovina Beach about two and half hours away. I arranged transport though our villa and paid a driver to pick me up and take me to Ubud for $50USD. In hindsight, I should have looked into a bus to get me there for much cheaper.
Knowing that we might not both have wifi we picked a cafe to meet up at a specific time. He ended up going to our friends Danny and Kelly’s hotel to drop his bag and hang with them while he waited for me, which was a surprise so the four of us got to have lunch and hear about their travels since we last saw them in the Philippines.
It was time for us to check into our air Bnb so we took another uber to the location ($2). According to taxi drivers, Uber is not legal, but it’s hard to say whether or not that is true. It is available and it’s cheap and extremely convenient, so we used it! Our air Bnb is the pool house on the property of a larger house. It was big, clean and had a pool. Nate needed a serious nap after 20 hours of traveling and little sleep so he slept while I lazied around, did a work out, swam and did some trip and wedding research. 

I also mapped out a stretching routine that we promised to do every day in Indonesia. Both of us want to improve our flexibility, and it just feels great, so we had a plan now to accomplish our goal.
We spent the rest of the night planning our attack on Ubud, rented our motorbike and ordered delivery! One of our many vices and most favorite conveniences in NY is that you can have anything delivered, any time… Bagels, warm cookies and milk, take out, clothing.. You name it! New Yorkers get so lazy with this option and it’s delightful. We had the privilege of not only being able to have food delivered to us but good Mexican food! Mexican food is our favorite date night cuisine and it’s been a while since we had it, so it was a treat for us.

The next morning at 8:15 am our cooking class picked us up along with several other nice people of varying ages, from all over the world. 

Travel Tip: We can’t recommend enough, doing a cooking class when you travel. For the money, you get both entertainment and lots of food as well as being able to meet people and understand the local food and how to order for the rest of your travels. There are always so many options, we recommend using trip advisor and doing the best one, it’s always worth what you pay for. One of our favorite travel memories was an amazing cooking class we did in Hoi An, Vietnam, so our expectations were high!

The class was excellent. Very well run and the husband and wife team couldn’t have been more funny, welcoming, talented and just pure entertainment.

 The food we learned to cook was also excellent. 

The down side was that the market tour was weak but we got the impression that the market is just for tourists and not really where locals shop, locals shop in grocery stores. 

We left with full bellies and an arsenal of recipes. 

It was getting late in the day to begin the task of grocery shopping and since we had already eaten that exact food at the class we opted for a night out. We did some shopping in town for a beach dress, I left some shorts in the Philippines so I needed something easy to throw on over a bathing suit. $10 USD later, I had a new dress.
We met up with Danny and Kelly at their favorite restaurant in Ubud called Cafe Atman, it’s a super healthy/organic cafe. I think they ate there everyday for a week. 

It was good but not our favorite. We then went to The Laughing Buddha for their live music, which was packed. The musician singing was impressive and had a beautiful voice. It was expensive though so we didn’t stay long, drinks are about $10 each but worth staying for a drink or two for the music.

The next morning we jumped on our motor bike to the grocery store and to Cafe Wayan for a fresh loaf of bread and a banana cupcake that was our breakfast! 

We decided to spend the day at the villa so Nate could catch up on work. We ate at cafe a few blocks away from our villa and they were serving fresh caught tuna that was delicious. 

After we got back to the villa and threw some laundry in the wash, I got started on prep work for the dinner. A main sauce in a lot of Balinese meals has about 20 ingredients in it that all need to be chopped by hand and mashed up in a pestle and mortar since a food processor was not an option. Nate joined in after I got into full swing. 

The result was a weak version of chicken curry. We definitely messed something up but we knew we could try again and fix our mistake. The food tasted great the sauce was a little runny. 

On our fourth day in Ubud, we went to town for the famous Monkey Forest. We first got up, did a work out, stretched of course, made a breakfast of eggs, avocado toast and fruit and hung around the villa.

Nates job is picking up so each morning we are kind of forced to stay put so he can make phones calls before people go to sleep on the other side of the world. 

I had a hankering for a good ‘ol American meal and used Trip Advisor to find Burger Place Ubud. This cute cafe serves up an interesting menu of burgers, with imported Australian beef. It hit the spot! 

We entered the Monkey Forest after paying our entrance fee of $3USD. A reasonable charge for a beautiful shaded sanctuary with monkeys everywhere! 

The monkeys are not aggressive at all unless you have food. You can buy bananas and hold them over your head and a monkey will crawl up you and grab it faster than we inhaled our burgers.

We didn’t try it because sometimes they sit on you and enjoy the banana and their twigs and berries (if you know what I mean) are all up on you! Watching other people do it is hilariously entertaining. 

We did some shopping and looked into booking our boat ride to our next destination. 

We stopped and had a couple cold drinks before heading back “home” for another fun night trying to cook. We planned to remake the curry again but with tofu instead of chicken. It was much more successful, the sauce was still thin but we chalked that up to not having access to a food processor on the base sauce. 

We clanked bottles of bintang to a delicious and successful Balinese meal.

We woke up early with big temple plans! There is a sacred water fountain outside of Ubud proper where locals go to pray and cleanse their bodies of bad karma and negativity. We took the bike there and it was a beautiful drive, the temperature was nice and cool. It took us about 45 minutes on the bike. The temple has very strict guidelines that we were aware of before arriving after reading reviews so we could be prepared. We really wanted to do this the right way. When you arrive to the temple, they ask you to rent a sarong for a small fee. I wore mine so we only needed one for Nate. Then you walk through the temple to the actual fresh water springs. If you want to get inside the pools, you then rent a water sarong for another donations and a locker to store your clothing in. When we were paying for our rentals, a staff member asked us politely and without pressure if we would want him to provide an offering ( a Canang, that beautiful flower basket I made at my yoga retreat). I immediately said yes, knowing that locals typically offer this blessing before they dip into the pools. After we changed into our sarongs and put our stuff away, we met the lovely man outside where he handed us our Canangs. He asked us if we would like him to e plain what to do and we both said YES! We first took our blessing to the temple and prayed, than left our offering at the temple. 

Our new friend Wayan (Why-In) next explained that we could get into the water but we should skip the first spout of water (though many people unguided were doing it incorrectly) and there are two to skip that are only to wash away negativity when you have recently lost a relative. You go to each spout and perform each action in threes. 

First wipe water from your forehead down, then drink, then dunk your head underneath. This action cleanses your body inside and out. There are two fountains for wishes where you can pray and wish for something specific. Once you are out, you pray one more time and thank the Hindu god for spiritually cleansing you. 

The water was refreshing and pure with large koi fish swimming with you. Wayan took photos of us as we went through. We paid him for the offerings he made and he said the guidance was no charge, but we tipped him anyways for opening our eyes to such a beautiful ritual we would have never know how to do properly without him.

There was another temple a short motorbike away that Nate had discovered. I navigated us towards the star on the map and we ended up at a dead end next to a nice local named Made (Mah-dy). He pointed to a field of rice patties when we asked him where the temple was. We started heading down what looked like an obviously walking path when he told us it was the other way, with no path at all, literally through a rice patty. 

He told Nate that he needed a sarong and could barrow one, so he ran into his home and came back to us. 

Looking confused at the no path and no obvious temple in the distance we asked him again where the temple was and he smiled and said he could guide us because this was the back way in. Nate was pretty excited 10 minutes into the walk when this was clearly not the way tourists normally get to this temple. 

This was a hike, past a waterfall, through rice patties and down a steep hill. It was beautiful. We even ran into a pair of New Yorkers on their way back who laughed when they saw us and said only Americans would find this backwoods way of getting there! 

The temple was really beautiful, we gave Made cash and he ran up the main steps for us to buy our entrance tickets while we explored.

I hope they gave him a local price and he pocketed the rest 🙂 we took about 20 minutes to explore and purchased some bananas from a hawker. Made showed us the way back up, always offering a hand to us when it was steep or slippery.

 He kindly brought us into his village as a slight detour so we could see his son and we could wash our muddy feet off with a hose. 

We brought a water from a nearby person and gave him a tip for his much appreciated service to us. 
Unfortunately about 30 minutes after we left, we realized Nate forgot to return his sarong, so we will forever have a piece of Made but feel so guilty about it. 
It was well past lunch time and we were hungry after a full morning so we ate up our leftover chicken curry. Then we swam in the pool for the rest of the afternoon and Nate ran out to pick up tuna at the grocery store for our dinner. That evening we made our favorite dish from class which is essentially the “yellow sauce” mixed with fresh tuna chunks and a few other fresh herbal ingredients, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. It was perfectly cooked! We were so proud!

We saved our last day in Ubud to indulge a little. Our friend Jenny who has been to Ubud recommend going to the Bodyworks Spa for a couples massage and milk bath. Considering that my favorite chair massage in New York came from her recommendation, I trusted her implicitly. We booked exactly what she told us. Before leaving the villa, I cooked up more delicious steamed tuna. We jumped on our bike, loving our Balinese life so far. 

The massage was so healing and you even get to pick your scent of massage oil and they give you some to take home. They then scrub you down with a paste before soaking in a bath with floating flowers and candles full of a milky mixture that smells like what I’m confident angels smell like. The hour and half at Bodyworks was heavenly.

 Afterwards they give you delicious ginger tea and fruit in a peaceful courtyard. 

We went back to the villa afterwards to continue our day of relaxation until it was yet again time for another meal. It was our last night in Ubud so we chose to dine out at a well rated restaurant called Who’s Who. We were so pleased with the meal that we rated it on Trip Advisor while we were still sitting there! 

We rode by a piano bar but it was empty so we called it a night knowing we had a travel day ahead of us. We were taking a complete 180 from Ubud to the well know party island off the coast of Lombok called Gili T! 

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Two fun things we have learned in Bali:

  1. First names are given based on your order of birth and last names are not family related but essentially made up, so tracking family history is very difficult and you will meet people with the same name constantly. (I.e. First born Wayan, Second Made, 4th is Ketut which means unexpected and is a name that is very rare now that most families have two or less children.)
  2. We heard this gecko sound on the reg in Bali and in the Philippines and often recreate it for fun. Try it! Your partner will laugh at your efforts.

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