City Secrets | Ubud, Bali

Today?s Ubud, Bali City Guide comes from the well-traveled Kate Challis, an interior designer and stylist and author of the blog Urban Kaleidoscope. She lives between Melbourne, Australia, and Ubud, Bali, with her husband and three-year-old son. When she is not blogging, chasing her son around the house or helping clients transform their homes, she can be found on her yoga mat. Today Kate shares the beautiful shops, restaurants and wonders that make Ubud her second home.

Ubud is the cultural heart of the magical island of Bali. Surrounded by rice fields, it?s a mecca for yogis, writers and a place for rest, relaxation and holistic living. For anyone who has been to Ubud, it is not surprising that this is where Elizabeth Gilbert found inner peace and love in her internationally acclaimed memoir Eat, Pray, Love. There is a world of beauty to explore in Ubud, whether you find it in the streets and temples and the smiles of the locals or gazing across rice fields and eating a wonderful meal made of fresh local ingredients. It is a deeply spiritual place that inspires quietness and reflection, which is why Ubud is now my second home.

 

 

It?s easy to find your way around Ubud, as there are really only four main streets. Nevertheless, I have customised this Google Map, which has everything signposted.

 

Eat

Alchemy: The latest addition to the Ubud health scene is this juice bar, raw food cafe and health store. It?s become a mecca for raw foodies with offerings including Almond Feta, Cumin Biscuits and Kale Chips. Even if you are not a raw-food devotee, it?s still worth visiting for the juices on offer. Jln Penestanan Kelod, 0361 971 981

Bridges Bali: It?s not just the stunning views of the Campuhan River, comprehensive wine list, stellar service and romantic atmosphere that makes Bridges a must when you are in Ubud, but also the exceptional menu. Head chef Nicholas Lazzaroni produces visually stunning and delicious food. For a romantic dinner in Ubud, this is the place to go. Jln. Campuhan, 0361 97 0095

Casa Luna: An Ubud institution on the main street of the town. Owned and run by an Australian-Balinese couple, Casa Luna has a relaxed raj-style atmosphere with swirling ceiling fans above, marble-topped tables and teak chairs. Famous for its bakery and the menu consisting of both Balinese and Mediterranean food. Jln Raya, 0361 977 409

Clear Cafe: If you are searching for some healthy Western alternatives, head straight here. With its soaring cathedral-like-ceiling, menu full of tantalizing elixirs and variety of raw, vegan, vegetarian and carnivore food, it?s the perfect place to sit and relax for a while. If you turn up with a child, the staff will supply toys, paper and pencils. The little shop at the front sells treats and raw cookies. Jln Hanoman 8, 0361 88 9437

Kafe: Almost legendary in status. If you sit long enough, you?ll bump into pretty much the entire expat community. Great food, snacks and juices, which are healthy and delicious. Jln Hanoman 44b, 0361 970 992

Kue: This bakery sells organic European-style cakes, breads including sourdough and rye as well as divine chocolates. Afternoon tea is served every day at their cafe. They have two locations: one in Jln Raya, 0361 975 249 and a brand new smaller cafe in Jln Penestanan Kelod.

Mozaic: This award-winning restaurant is consistently included in international best-restaurant lists. Serving an eight-course degustation menu with optional wine, the dining room is in a candle-lit palm garden. Jln Sanggingan, 0361 197 5768

Sari Organik: A 15-minute walk through the rice fields and you end up at Sari Organic, an organic permaculture farm with an open-air restaurant serving refreshing drinks and mouth-watering breakfasts and lunches. The Raw Thai Soup and the Babaganoush served with freshly made pita bread and salad are worth the trip. 0361 780 1839

Seniman Kopi: They are serious about their coffee here. Single-sourced Indonesian beans are on offer, and coffee is made using the syphon technique, regarded by coffee connoisseurs as the superior way to extract flavours. Not surprisingly, Seniman attracts coffee lovers from all over the world. With your coffee you get a glass of water and complimentary Balinese cake. Antiquities and found objects from Java and Bali, which are for sale, decorate the space. Jln Sriwedari, 0361 972085

Siam Sally: Atmospheric Thai restaurant on the south side of Ubud, near the Monkey Forest. The authentic dishes include a Vegan Curry with a sauce made from ground cashews and coconut (to die for). For meat eaters, the Roast Duck Curry with Lychee and the Pandanus Chicken served with a tamarind dipping sauce are musts. For dessert, it is pass up the Siam Sundae (coconut ice cream with black sesame seeds, coconut cream and toasted coconut). Jln Hanoman, Pengosekan, Ubud, 0361 980777

Warung Sopa: A humble cafe with simple, freshly made wholesome food. It is one of my favourite places to eat in Ubud. Their main offering is nasi campur, and you get to chose which morsels of deliciousness you want with your rice: banana flower curry, bitter gourd sitr-fry and the best tofu I have ever eaten. Jl Sugriwa 36, 0361 276589

Organic Farmers? Markets can be found in Ubud most days of the week. You have to go when they open at 9am, as only half an hour later most of the produce has been snaffled by those in the know. Saturday at Pizza Bagus, Jln Hanoman; Sunday at Sisi Bag Shop, Jln Nyuh Kuning; Tuesday at Warung Alami, Jln Penestanan Kelod; Wednesday at Arma Museum Jln Hanoman.

 

 

Retreat

Iman Spa: A Balinese-owned and run massage centre famous for its intuitive massage. The spa itself is humble and spotlessly clean, with its main focus being on healing. Iman also offers a home service where a therapist will visit you at your hotel or villa with their own massage table. Treatments from $15. Jln Sri Wedari, 0812 3600 9610

Cantika Spa: A stylish cluster of massage and beauty huts set in the middle of the rice fields. A wonderful place for relaxing beauty treatments and gentle massage and offering homemade beauty products. It?s a 10-minute walk through the rice fields on the way to Sari Organik. Jln Penestanan, 0361 970 135

Como Shambhala Estate: This the ultimate wellness resort. Each of the residences was designed using local stone, wood and traditional Balinese elements, and the buildings nestle into the jungle of the 23-acre site. With its international award-winning spa, resident yoga and pilates instructors, Ayurvedic doctor and nutritionist, this place is the ultimate in rejuvenation and relaxation. This sort of luxury does not come cheap, costing $500?$3500 per night. 0361 978 888

The main places for yoga in Ubud are The Yoga Barn: Jln Raya Pengosekan, 0361 971 236;Taksu Yoga: Jln Goutama Selatan 0361 971 490; and Radiantly Alive Yoga: Jln Jembawan 3, 0361 978 055

 

 

 

Shop 

The market in central Ubud is famous for shopping. It is filled with products you can buy all over the island and most of Southeast Asia. I rarely, if ever, go there. Here is a list of my favourite places to shop in Ubud that sell charming and mostly locally made items.

Bali Spirit: There are a number of shops in Ubud selling yoga clothing, books and accessories. This is by far the best, stocked with a range of funky gear for men, women and kids. Jln Hanoman, 0361 970992

Blue Stone Botanicals: Handmade Balinese and Javanese essential oils, balms, soaps and lotions in simple, elegant packaging. Jl Dewi Sita, Ubud

Confiture Michele: Scrumptious homemade jams. Based on French recipes made by a local woman. Jams are made from both traditional and tropical fruits. They are all low sugar and without a doubt the best you can buy in Ubud. Flavours include Mango, Guava, Tamarillo with Chilli and Strawberry. My absolute favourite is the Spicy Soursop. cnr Dewi Sita/Jln Gootama

Ganesha Bookshop: Often overshadowed by its bigger competitor, Periplus (which has two branches in Ubud and several in Kuta and at the airport), this bookshop has a great range of secondhand books and the best collection of new books for Indophiles and Bali-philes. They also coordinate a programme whereby you can buy books to donate to local schools. cnr Jln. Raya and Jl. Jembawan, Ubud, 0361 970320 

Island Style: Worth visiting for the stunning beaten metal (bronze and copper) bowls and lights from Java. Jl Hanoman, 0361 2727756

Kado: Offers beautifully handmade papers, cards and stationery. Jln Dewi Sita, 0361 886 3338

Koku: Natural handmade soaps and bath salts that are beautifully packaged. Scents include white jasmine, tuberose, vanilla and minty green, and are all made with coconut oil. Divine. Jln Dewi Sita, 0361-971905

MilenaZU Mesh Jewellery: Lovely earrings, bangles and necklaces made out of woven mesh. Jln Monkey Forest, 0361 971430

Nava: Handcrafted wooden spoons and serving cutlery. Elegant, modern designs. Jln Dewi Sita 6D, 081 2390 6251

Sisi + Nu Crochet: Stylish and simple handmade bags, with crocheted and patchwork bags on offer. I bought a little blue and white dotted one there for $18, and people think it is vintage Sonia Rykiel. They also make cloth toys and children?s clothing. Jln Hanoman, 0361 872 0545

Jln Hanoman has a number of small jewellery shops selling simple handmade bracelets, bangles and necklaces. The nicest are Studio Perak, Toko Bead and *Asterik, where you can select the silver beads and trinkets yourself. Jl Hanoman no. 22, 0361 7491770

Warang Wayan: Sweet handmade leather ballerina flats for toddlers and beautifully crafted wooden spoons and bowls. Jln Hanoman, 0361 7429981

 

 

Sleep

Ubud and its surrounds are famous for their resorts. You can find accommodations for every budget, from $2000 or more per night down to $10. Here is my selection of the best:

The stunning enclave of houses known as Desa Bulan (Moon Village) is only five minutes from the increasingly maddening crowds of Ubud and surrounded by rice fields. Three of the villas are for rent: River Moon VillaHarvest Moon Villa and New Moon. Each is different, but all are superbly outfitted and decorated in a minimal white tropical style embracing indoor-outdoor living. Open patios and terraces and stunning rice-field views. Perfect for the independent traveller who likes the aesthetics of some of the finest hotels in Asia but wants a more affordable price tag. Disclaimer: I own River Moon, so I am totally biased! Villas from $150 per night. Jln Jineng, Lodtunduh

Honeymoon Guesthouses: An enchanting small hotel in the heart of Ubud. The rooms are decorated in Balinese style, and they have an air of simple luxury. The shared pool is set in a lush tropical garden, and the friendly staff is helpful and efficient. $50?$80 per night. Jln Bisma, 0361 973 282

Uma Ubud: An elegant and stylish yet low-key resort that is part of the Como Shambhala group. Each room is stunningly beautiful, and the cocktail bar by the pool is one of the nicest places for a drink on the island. Room rates between $260?$555. Jln Sanggingan, 0361 197 2448

 

photos courtesy of Kate Challis

 

Events

Ubud Writers? Festival is an annual festival held in October in Ubud. Since the inaugural event in 2004, the festival has featured the work of more than 1,100 artists from over 100 countries. Unlike many writer?s festivals, this is truly an international event.

Bali Spirit Festival is an annual festival of yoga, dance and music held in March that attracts participants from all over the world for a week of holistic fun.

  

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