Nestled up in central foothills of Bali, Ubud has become a popular tourist area because of it arts&craft reputation in the town itself and then the stunning and secluded resorts dotted around the area, often overlooking scenes of rice terraces and lush tropical valleys.
Ubud town itself is now a bustling and thriving centre with an eclectic mix of craft shops, café’s, cosmopolitan restaurants and tourist attractions such as the famous Monkey Forrest at one end of the street. Here you can get ‘up close and personal’ with the families of monkeys that reside here. A word of caution though, if you buy a whole bunch of bananas from one of the stalls, don’t expect to get away with offering one out and then walking off! I’ve seen one tourist attempt to hide a stash in his rucksack and the local population did not leave him alone until he had handed out every last one. These monkeys know the game!
The moment you travel outside of the town you are into the countryside and the roads wind through amazing scenery and you get a real sense of the local communities. It’s here that you’ll find many retreats and villa’s tucked away, all designed to give you that full ‘tropical hideaway’ paradise experience.
Viceroy Bali is one such resort which consists of 25 villas overlooking a river gorge and offering a sublime combination of contemporary design mixed with traditional Balinese architecture. Typical of such places there is an on-site spa and beauty centre capable of giving you the full pampering experience.
For me, this type of place is the best of both worlds as often these villa resorts will have a shuttle service into Ubud so you can dip into the hustle and bustle and then retreat back into the countryside to unwind and relax in utter peace and serenity.
If you’re lucky (and so inclined), these resorts may have bicycles to loan so you can go off and explore the local area by yourself. I found there was no nicer way to start the day than an early morning cycle through the local villages where the locals always have a smile and a cheery ‘hello’. You’re also likely to find some hidden cafes which can serve up the most amazing fruit juice drinks you’ll ever see & taste.
Being a majority Hindu area there are shrines and temples galore. In the small towns it’s not uncommon for every 3rd house to have it’s own temple in the back garden which makes for an amazing site. For the larger temples they are usually very accommodating and sight-seeing around these is not a problem as long as you just remember to take your shoes off.
Whilst the roads in/out of Ubud (and most of the island) are single carriageway, taxi services are cheap and you can also hire drivers for a day typically for about $50 USD who will take you to where you want. There are obviously many attractions across Bali including stunning waterfalls, coastal monasteries and amazing rice terraces. In fact, probably the most famous rice terrace is actually in the area of Ubud and is well worth a visit. Tegalalang Rice Terrace is currently rated as the 8 out of 126 best sights in Ubud and I can see why. Viewed from the street or one of the many cafes, the views over this valley are just jaw dropping and make for some amazing holiday snaps.
Back to the resorts though, having experienced a few I can attest that they all pretty much want to make you feel like a million dollars. Generally, nothing is too much trouble and it’s the extra touches these places go to that make you remember them. Having a chef come and cook a private BBQ on your veranda overlooking the valley is not something I’ll forgot for a while. Having to get out of the infinity pool because it’s time for your afternoon hourly massage before drinks on the terrace is also something I don’t think I could tire of.
On the subject of cuisine, this is something the Balinese do very well. Not just their own traditional cooking but also Malaysian, Indian, Chinese and others. I’ve usually been spoiled for choice but will always start a stay with a local recommendation…I’ve never been disappointed! Places such as The Royal Pita Maha resort offer 4 restaurants covering local, worldwide and then a fusion of these.
Having last been to Bali in April 2016 I can conclude that it still lives up to it’s reputation as one of the world’s premiere luxury holiday destination. And whilst the beach resorts of Kuta and Seminyak are idyllic, it’s the tranquil inland regions that appeal more for a luxury break.