This is going to start off with my lessons learned about where to stay in Ubud. Ubud can be incredibly beautiful. It can also be hellish. (Ubud (r); Ubud (l)).
Even before we came here, I prevaricated about where to stay. We were originally booked into the Om Ham Retreat to the north of Ubud. It’s linked to the ashram of Guru Ketut Asana, though I can’t claim this is why we were here; it just looked good on Airbnb. It’s a beautiful hotel with some of the nicest staff we’ve come across in Bali (and that’s saying something!). We had a great couple of days here, relaxing amongst the rice fields. On the first night, there was a full moon party at which the staff did traditional dancing. Everyday there was kundalini tantra yoga – we did one class. Probably not my favourite form, but it was well taught. The only downside was the distance from Ubud and you couldn’t pop into town easily.
I’d had a bit of a panic about the distance before we even left the UK and ended up changing our booking at Om Ham ahead of time and booked into a place in Ubud itself. Central Ubud is nothing like the the Bali fantasies. It’s choked with traffic and you feel like you’ve spent a day in central London. We had one night here at the Onion Collective, but after a night of reacting to something (animals?) in the room and witnessing a snake-lizard stand-off in the bathroom, we moved out to Cahaya Ubud Villa.
This was perfect. 10 mins from the town centre, but in the middle of rice fields and along a track populated with yoga studios, organic restaurants and spas. It’s incredibly beautiful and appeals to my introvert tendencies.
We haven’t done a great deal whilst we’re here. It’s the perfect place just to wander. We walked the Camphuan Ridge and attempted a walk along the Sungai Ayung Valley but were thwarted by locals charging fees. I was perfectly comfortable with the concept of this in principle – everyone should be entitled to access the tourist economy – but when the starting rate was IRD 150,000 (£9ish), it felt a bit more like extortion than anything else. Whilst we could bargain down, we felt that we wouldn’t get anywhere close to an acceptable rate and set a tone for what we might experience further down the path.
I didn’t feel entirely comfortable not paying; we’re far wealthier than the lady at the gate could ever be and the money could have a real impact on her life (and meet real need). She also sounded increasingly desperate as she realised we’d walk away. But, it didn’t feel right either, when the starting rate was so high and made us feel a little vulnerable. As a westerner, we’re used to a right to access the outdoors, but I understand why it can’t be taken for granted here.
For future travel purposes, the photo below the Four Seasons is very close to where this photo was taken at the top of the Sungai Ayung Valley and looks amazing. If we ever decide we want to spend half our travel budget on one night, this is the place to do it…
I attempted to overcome my dislike of stranger-touch by a massage at Yuga Spa. Lovely spa, lovely therapists, beautiful location, but I don’t think massages will ever be my thing.
We also did a vinyasa session at Yoga Barn. It’s a phenomenal set up in a massive complex with multiple studios, accommodation and a cafe. The classes are big (60 ish?) so you don’t get any personal attention as you might in a smaller class and, even though we did a L1 class, a basic knowledge was assumed. It worked for me though and I liked the place.
As a minor nod to culture, we visited the Royal Palace. S’ok.