Jungle, monkeys and rooftop yoga – Ubud, Bali

When I was planning my trip I always knew the main reasons for going were to fulfill my India dreams and to go and explore Australia and catch up with friends, which I’ve never had the time to do before. Malaysia was an opportunistic add on because who wouldn’t go and hang out in the paddock at an F1 Grand Prix if they had the chance? Then I began to think about what I could add on after Oz on my way home. I knew my time in Australia would be quite busy because of how much I wanted to fit in to my first trip to the Southern Hemisphere and also because I was catching up with friends so maybe a week somewhere to completely relax would be nice. Hunting around the internet I came upon Bali, an easy and cheap flight from Australia, warm weather and a new culture to experience. In particular Ubud, a week of jungle, rice terraces, market wanders and relaxing, a holiday from my holiday if you will!

Looking into hotels in Ubud became my new favourite past time, how to choose between them all? Infinity pools, suite like rooms, open air bathrooms and secluded forest locations. I honestly spent three weeks hopping from one hotel to the next online, on Instagram and on TripAdvisor. The one I kept on coming back to though? The Udaya. Relatively newly built, small with only 18 suites and six villas and with a gorgeous rooftop yoga hall. Also not nearly as expensive as you would have thought when you compare it to what you would get in Europe for the same price. This is where I ended up and I honestly couldn’t have thought of anywhere better. A 10 minute drive out of the centre of Ubud but with a free hotel shuttle, quiet pool area, the friendliest staff I’ve ever come across in a hotel and a free afternoon tea every day!

The Pool at The Udaya

across the stepping stones into my suite

I have honestly never felt so spoilt by a hotel and so refreshed upon leaving somewhere but with a pool like that its difficult not to feel refreshed. I got up at 6am and established such a gorgeous yoga practice every morning which I was determined to continue when I got home….cold, misty UK mornings definitely make it harder!

Morning yoga views

Hotel aside, Ubud was exactly what I needed it to be, the buzz of a new culture, but not too frantic, a few sights to easily wander around in the morning, good food and an amazing place to relax. I had one full day at the hotel but other than that the other four that I was there I went out and about exploring.

The Monkey Forest was my first stop on morning one, a strange mix of jungle, monkey sanctuary and temple complex but great for a wander around. I got there at about 9.30 which wasn’t too busy and the day hadn’t warmed up too much. Plenty of monkeys milling around, including one who took a liking to my shoulder and some gorgeous moss covered temples and statues. I could tell how used I’d got to monkeys being around in India because I wasn’t phased wandering through groups of them here, just remembering not to lock eyes or bare my teeth!

Morning market and shop wandering happened after the monkeys and Ubud is great for shopping. I wouldn’t necessarily rate the market that highly, I definitely had better market shopping in India, a lot of the products from one to stall to the next are exactly the same mass produced things but its still good. The shops along the Monkey Forest road and the main high street of Ubud are great though with a lot of Indonesian or Bali based designers selling their clothes and accessories. I particularly fell in love with Blood + Bone which is great for summer basics such as playsuits and sundresses, perfect things to buy on holiday that don’t look too much like they’ve been bought abroad.

One evening whilst in Ubud I also went to the traditional dance show at the Ubud Palace. I’d been to a similar culture evening in Udaipur while in India so knew the format of snippets of different traditional dance and the costumes were beautiful but lets just say, a little Balinese music goes a long way. It’s not going to creep into my day to day life like Shiva Shambo has from my time in India! It was a lovely way to spend an evening though and to experience some of the Balinese culture.

detail from the Ubud Palace

The main reason for me choosing Ubud over one of the coastal resorts on Bali though was that I wanted to experience the jungle and rice terraces that surround it. On seperate days I visited both the Campuhan Ridge and also the Tegalalang Rice Terraces. Both of these were as beautiful as Instagram will lead you to believe but I would definitely recommend doing them both either first thing in the morning or towards the end of the day. Not only will you be more likely to be able to get photos without other people in them but also you are less likely to sweat out your life while stood taking photos in the midday sun.

Campuhan Ridge Walk

I walked the whole length of the ridge from Ubud up to the little village at the top of the hill and it is a gorgeous walk with plenty of little cafes for a drink towards the top of the hill. There’s also some nice artisan’s shops up there so well worth the walk if you’re looking for something more unique to take home from Ubud.

Rice Terraces

I loved visiting the Rice Terraces but be warned not only is there an entrance fee but there are various other stations along the paths set up by locals who will demand donations. I had no problem with this and just donated a small note but there are a lot of them so it’s worth being prepared.

I mainly ate at the hotel while I was in Ubud as I was heading to bed early and normally spending my afternoons by the pool but there were two places I had lunch which I can’t not mention. I’d had a recommendation from a fellow yogi with a wandering soul for the Yellow Flower Cafe which is hidden to the west of the centre of Ubud near the start of the Campuhan Ridge Walk but so so worth hunting out. I had the most incredible avocado on toast in this gorgeous open air, family run place and journalled away for a good couple of hours. Hidden down a tiny little path surrounded by jungle plants its feels like a fairy tale when you find it.

the view

The other place I would wholeheartedly recommend is in the centre of Ubud, Warung Biah Biah. Normally packed in the evening you can get a table quite easily during the day and its’s so cheap but with a menu filled with authentic delicious Balinese food. I had three small plates to myself as lunch including the best spicy spinach and chicken satay I’ve ever had. So delicious and for the equivalent of £5.

I’ve alluded on here to my previous day job, fabric buying in the fashion industry, so I also couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a morning creating my own batik design with a local artist. I found the Deking Bali Art Class through TripAdvisor and honestly couldn’t recommend Deking more. The class was a small group and between 10am and lunch time we were patiently guided through the technique of batik, applying the wax to resist the dye, creating our own colour ways and then watching Deking apply the final indigo dye. All while sat in a gorgeous traditional Balinese garden eating freshly fried banana fritters! So much nicer to take a design home that you’ve done yourself than all the mass produced ‘batik’ on the market.

my finished batik

Although I didn’t do that much while I was in Ubud the pace of life and energy was infectious. Everyone was very friendly and I was lucky enough to be there over the festival of Galungan which celebrates the victory of dharma over adharma and marks the time when the ancestral spirits visit the Earth. In essence a festival delebrating the triumph of good over evil. This meant that every single shop, restaurant and house was decorated including the erection of penjor’s outside every building. These are huge bamboo poles decorated with ornate leaf plaiting, lanterns and coloured adornments. There’s also incense burning outside every building meaning the streets are beautifully perfumed and all the locals in traditional dress. I love being somewhere during a religious festival, even more so when it’s one which is not related to what I grew up in. The energy and love which is shown to family, religion and nature here with offerings being left out every morning without fail is so inspiring. There’s still very much a body, mind and soul connection to the earth which has been lost in the more western culture and this is what I loved most about Ubud. The connection between the three most powerful things we have at our disposal, body, mind and soul.

offerings from nature

penjor lining the streets

the offerings left daily outside all buildings

Ubud was the perfect place for me to reflect on everything that I’d experienced, thought about and seen on my travels. I switched off and processed everything, beginning to think about the next chapter of my life. It’s always slightly sad that in the western world we feel we have to get away from everything to focus on ourselves but its taking yourself away from the day to day life that we find stressful which does the most good. I’ve definitely used this time away to focus on what is important to me and am so excited to create this new life for myself focused around yoga, creating a safe space for others and self love.

Watch this space!

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