Though Ubud wasn’t the first place we visited, it has to be the first place I write about simply because it felt so much like home, and I can’t get it out of my head.
Day 1: Arrival in Ubud
We were driven to Ubud from Canggu, where we had been practically living in beach clubs, lazily passing each day promising to immerse ourselves in culture once we arrived in the jungle.
Our driver, Dolpin, promised to show us some Balinese dancing on the way up to Ubud. The dancing turned out to be some sort of traditional play, extremely oriental with lions and tigers made from the most intricate costumes. It was certainly not what we expected, especially due to the numerous phallic references and imagery which even the children in the audience would have understood. Each to their own, I suppose!
Our next stop was a coffee plantation where we were able to try 12 different coffees and teas for free. Unlike the touristy areas of Seminyak and Canggu, there was no feeling of being pushed to purchase, a feeling replaced by the knowledge that the locals were simply proud to show us their customs. The final coffee was Luwak coffee – the most expensive coffee in the world because each bean passes through a Luwak (civet cat) and comes out in their poo! The sexual references continued here, as numerous times our driver encouraged me to take an aphrodisiac tea home to my boyfriend! Sorry Dom, all you got was poo coffee…
Day 2: spa!
The next day, we convinced ourselves that what we really needed before climbing Mount Batur the following night was a spa day. We’d been recommended Jaens Spa, and apart from getting to know each other a little better than we intended (read on…), it didn’t disappoint! For just under £40, we were able to get a full body massage and scrub, rose petal bath, foot scrub, Indian head massage, hair crème bath and a lunch!
On arrival, the masseuse asked us “Miss Molly and Miss Katherine, is it okay if you share a ——“, “Yes!” we exclaimed before she finished, assuming she said share a room. It was all too late when we realised that what she’d asked us to share was actually the rose petal bath. Fabulous. Stripping down into only disposable underwear, we couldn’t stop laughing at the situation. The full body massage was incredible, except lets just say their boundaries are a little more ‘flexible’ than England.
I’m still horrified to admit that next Katherine and I found ourselves stood side by side, naked except for the pants, having yoghurt, yes yoghurt, slathered all over our bodies. All over. All we could do was stare straight ahead and await what we knew must be next: the rose petal bath.
Night 2/Day 3: Mount Batur
1:30am the next morning I prayed for rain. You can’t climb Mount Batur in the rain. Of course, none came and by 1:45am we wished we were still being covered in yoghurt. We waited on a street corner to be picked up by a taxi driver Katherine found on the internet, who was supposedly taking us to climb the volcano. After collecting Issy, we drove and drove in the darkness for over an hour and a half. No GPS, no idea where we were going and, of course, no English speaking driver. Eventually, we turned down a dirt track that was so uneven I felt like we were dune bashing in Dubai again. From the dirt track we pulled into an empty car park – empty apart from about eight Balinese man who were stood waiting. Oh god, we all winced, what the hell were we doing?
Our driver got out of the car, instructing “you stay here” and went to speak to the men for what felt like an eternity. In this time, each of us accepted that this was most-likely the end, and were surprisingly cheery about the situation due to how ridiculous it was. No idea where we were or how we would get out of this. “If this is how it ends”, Issy said, “at least we don’t have to climb the volcano”. At long last, our driver opened the door and asked “toilet?” We all agreed: an excuse to get out of the car. We were led into a closed restaurant and sat on a bench, while the Balinese men spoke amongst themselves, apparently plotting our murder. It was then that we looked around the room and noticed that covering the walls, on the floor and stacked up against the walls, were abstract paintings of naked women.
At this point, we so didn’t want to climb the volcano that we decided that if being painted naked was our fate, we were fine with that.
Of course, we were proved once again that Balinese people are better than the British in every way when Seedy (incorrect spelling I’m sure, but an ironic name) approached us and introduced himself as our guide, handing us a torch each. In England I’m sure we’d have had a different fate! It turns out that Seedy climbs the 1717m volcano EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Can you imagine? An hour and a half later and 1717m up, he went straight to make us hot chocolate, without even a breather.
We felt doubly guilty for doubting the men when turned out that the reason we were there alone at the start was because our guide wanted us to have the best sunrise. We were the first to the top. Looking down at where we had come from, it was like looking at a string of fairy lights as torches made their way up the mountain. We had about an hour and a half to wait for sunrise and the higher the sun got, the more Dickheads With Drones (DWD) and girls requiring 4248359374 Instagram photos arrived. I can’t lie, we spent most of the time discreetly swearing at the DWD’s drones.
PSA: if you’re going to climb Mount Batur, despite and as a result of my previous anecdote, I would hugely recommend asking your driver and guide to be there to begin the hike at 2:30am. Any later and you’ll be surrounded by other tourists. The climb is extremely tough, but it was so much better doing it in a small group than constantly being over taken!
Day 4: Tegalalang Rice Fields, Tegenungan Waterfall and Pura Tirta Empul (Water Temple)
Our legs were in agony the next day, so we were thankful we’d booked a driver for the day to take us to various attractions. For just £5 each between 5 of us, our driver took us wherever we wanted to go, and waited as long as was needed.
Little did we know, climbing around Tegalalang rice fields at midday and on no breakfast would be twice as hard as Mount Batur. While Tegalalang is a hugely popular tourist attraction, it is also the place of farm work for many, so we tried to be as respectful as possible. The terraces are built into the hill to make the most out of the steep land, which meant a hell of a lot of steps. Sweat was pouring off us as we sang High School Musical as a means of getting us through. “I’d rather be climbing Mount Batur”.
Next was the Tegenungan waterfall and we were thrilled (note heavy sarcasm) on arrival to see a sign reading ‘Waterfall: 162 steps’. 162 STEEP STEPS. Trying to tell ourselves it was bum day yet again, we headed down. Though it was worth seeing, you couldn’t do more than stand in the water as it was so dangerous and a lot of people have died there.
Thankfully, the Pura Tirta Empul (Hindu Water Temple) had no steps. Locals and tourists alike donned bright green water saris with red belts and queued up to get into the water.
Each bath was carved from stone in ornate designs with faces. The water was freezing, but this was a relief from the heat. Dodging huge fish, we filed to each tap and dosed our face and hair in the holy water, about 12 times in 12 taps. It was truly special to see locals treasuring each drop of water they submerged themselves in, and made me wonder what they thought of tourists like me being there.
Ubud was my favourite area of Bali. I fell in love with the market, which was the best market we went to in Bali. We stayed there for four nights but I could have stayed a lot longer. Not that we missed out on doing anything, but Ubud lifesuited me. Early morning hikes on the Campuhan Ridge Walk; late night walks home stuffed with Mie Goreng and Bintang. Our homestay, the local library, was the icing on the cake of a fully Balinese experience.*
*For advice on places to stay in Ubud, read my accommodation blog here!
** For any driver recommendations, feel free to contact me!