We stayed in two very different accommodations in Bali. The first was a 4* hotel in Seminyak, complete with swimming pool, flat screen TV, wifi etc. It was a standard hotel, a bit shabby in places but served good food, so all in all but we couldn’t really complain at £18 per night.
However while hotels are much more affordable in many places in South East Asia, they all have that same standard ‘format’… You check in, take the lift to your standard box shaped room with bland pictures on the wall and matching curtains, arrange your stuff, check out the TV channels, have access to the pool, you then pop in the bar and put your drinks on your room etc… You could be anywhere in the world doing this.
After 4 nights we were ready for Ubud….
Our second and for us our most enjoyable stay in Bali was the experience of staying in one of 3 rooms owned by a lovely Balinese family. This we felt was the real Bali… The room was basic but exceptionally clean. No mod cons (apart from wifi) and a super-comfy bed. The family had a tiny shop selling locally produced body and skin products.
Kadek (the owner) acted as a guide and took us out for a day in his car. He took us trekking through rice terraces (above), we visited two very different temples, a coffee place and a traditional hand carving wood place. And to a lunch restaurant with an impressive panoramic view of Mount Batur and Lake Batur. As Kadek was born in Ubud and has always lived there he gave us a fascinating insight into the history of the area and had extensive knowledge of local traditions and beliefs.
While busy it is well worth staying in Ubud. The streets are lined with high quality cafes and restaurants and shops with many offering organic food and catering especially catering for vegetarians and vegans. The cafes are teeming with hippies, ex-pats and travel bloggers.
The people of Ubud have been able to retain a strong Balinese culture which, like the chaotic traffic, seems to intertwine seemlessly with the endless stream of tourists. There are many artisan craft shops selling all manner of paintings, sculptures, wood carvings and natural skin products.
The name ‘Ubud’ comes from the Balinese word ‘ubad’ which means medicine. For hundreds of years, people have come to Ubud in search of both spiritual and physical healing.
Our traditional accommodation was located in the centre of Ubud. The family gave us freshly prepared fruit, coffee and Balinese bread for breakfast. It was made from rice with a slightly chewy and doughy texture and was fairly sweet but not overly (as the sweet taste also came from the brown sugar coconut on top). It is shallow fried and served warm.
The vast majority of Balinese people are Hindu and they make daily offerings (called Canang sari) which are placed in little shrines outside their homes, shops and hotels and even in their cars. The offerings are made of palm leaves and filled with flowers, incense and sometimes rice.
As mentioned we had our second coffee tasting experience within the last week or so (the first was in Australia). We went to a coffee farm where we were shown around the gardens and given samples of some delicious local coffees and teas including coconut coffee, ginger tea etc (as above).