Night 1 - We've Arrived! After we settled in to Gora Bali Villa we strolled over to Copper Kitchen + Bar and had an excellent dinner on their beautiful, contemporary rooftop. We shared a crispy scallion pancake with shredded chicken, bonito flakes, spicy peanut sauce + chili plum sauce. I had an entree of seared Baramundi with crab dumpling, smoked eggplant, fennel broth, soy + mirin caramel. For dessert a black rice + coconut pudding with caramelized banana + puffed rice. We had only been in Ubud a few hours and already I was charmed. It was nice to start of with such a great meal.
Day 1 - We found a really nice driver named Made, (mad-e - long e) he took us to a Luwak Coffee Plantation + Tegallalang Rice Terrace. I previously proclaimed my deep connection with the rice paddies. As far as the Luwak Coffee - I had read about this specialty blend and was excited we got to taste it alongside a super sampler of other flavored coffee (coconut, chocolate!) and tea (saffron, rose, ginger, ginseng, tamarind!) plus a quick and informative tour. It's a fascinating story - the Luwak is actually a jungle cat who POOPS OUT THE COFFEE BEANS. Historically the lower / working class population didn't have access to the coffee beans that they harvested for the royals but they discovered them in the poop, and the entire process of breaking down this revitalized bean makes the coffee richer, even better tasting, so it was adapted by all. Crazy, right?
We ate lunch in downtown Ubud @ Gedang Sisi Warung - my first of many Nasi Goreng! Nasi Goreng is Indonesian Fried rice, always served with a fried egg on top and chicken satay on the side. It is addictingly good. We had a romantic and probably one of my favorite dinners @ Hujan Locale noshing on crispy squid with ginger flower, lemongrass and chili jam, oxtail dumplings in a spicy chili broth, and passionfruit panna cotta.
Day 2 - Ventured around town on foot - we walked the scenic Campuan Ridge Walk that morning, visited the Monkey Forest that afternoon, then hung out at Folk Pool + Gardens for a late lunch + swimming. We had relaxing evening pedicures @ Lily Spa on JL Bisma and a disappointing dinner @ Nusantara.
The Monkey Forest is a must do! There are literally monkeys everywhere, all shapes and sizes, more monkeys than you've ever seen in one place in your life. And the forest itself is a gorgeous sweeping canopy of lush trees and old vines.
We were cautious around them. Hence the awkward "hey look I'm standing a foot away from you!" photos. They typically won't jump on you unless you offer food. I'm not scared of them per se but we were warned prior to of diseases if they scratch or bite and of them stealing from you! One jumped on me and he really didn't look nice at all!! This woman on the other hand was all about checking it off her bucket list. Pretty sure the largest monkey in the forest made himself right at home. He was super sweet and playful with her. We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the Campuan Ridge. I'd say it's another must do for the beautiful views and it only takes a couple of hours. There are a few warungs along the way to escape the heat or if you wanted to plan your walk around a meal.
Folk Cafe Pool + Gardens is located on JL Monkey Forest so it was a perfect choice for lunch and some bevies at the sunken pool bar. Pictured are Crispy Chicken Curry on brioche, vodka pineapple martini, daybeds for rent, and me enjoying some qt on a watermelon float.
We debated over a few spots for dinner and I wish we went somewhere else. Nusantara is an authentic Indonesian restaurant that gets pretty fantastic reviews. It is a sister restaurant to highly awarded Locavore, so it seems to be the case if you can't get a table at Locavore you go here. While some of the flavors were really well done, most of the dishes were off. The meats were overcooked, either chewy or dry and whatever was on that appetizer plate was terribly strange.
I so wanted to like Nusantara - the atmosphere and the staff were lovely but I could not quite grasp the authenticity of this food. We ate a lot of Indonesian food on this trip that I loved so I was confused by the disconnect!
Day 3 - We hooked up with Made again, he took us to three magical and inspiring Temples: Tirtah Empul, Gunug Kawi + Goa Gajah + then the breathtaking Tegenungan Waterfall.
Tirtah Empul means "holy water spring" - it is an important Hindu Balinese temple that houses a mountain spring which feeds purification baths and koi ponds. Bob was very happy about the Koi Fish at Tirta Empul - so many beautiful Koi. Also, how great does he look in a Sarong? I wore a long skirt out of respect and while they still required me to wear a Sarong at Tirta Empul, they did not at the latter two. Below is at Goa Gajah - "Elephant Cave".
Gunung Kawi is an ancient rock temple + funerary complex situated at the bottom of a lush green river valley. The massive shrine reliefs are carved into the face of rock cliffs on each side of the Pakerisan River. There is also a sacred Hindu temple courtyard that you can enter only in bare feet. I was so in awe here, this was definitely my favorite of the three temples.
My pictures at Tegenungan are all from afar but we walked down to explore the area and went swimming. (You can get pretty close to the falls, directly under it is roped off for safety.) Bob and I concurred "this is like an Iceland level waterfall but you can actually swim!"
Considering this wasn't even on my radar, I was thrilled Made took us here. There are a few warungs perched on the cliff with gorgeous views so we relaxed with a couple Bintangs + Coconuts before heading back to Ubud.
When you arrive off the comfy and air conditioned transfer shuttle they are quick to get you situated. Your ticket comes in the form of a necklace - I thought that was genius! The loading docks are chaotic and having your hands free to deal with bags and to jump on a boat with no loading platform - so key. And since the boat stops at multiple islands you get a color coded sticker with your destination.
It was actually a very relaxing ride. The swells of the Lombok Strait plus a James Taylor playlist lulled us right to sleep.
Travel Tips: As I've alluded - besides accommodations and major transfers we did not book anything in advance of arriving. A lot of tours marketed online in USD are majorly overpriced. It is super convenient to find a driver working for a local tourism company - there are stalls along most main streets. Made (and other drivers throughout our locations) always offered up their availability for whatever we needed during our stay along with new suggestions for where to visit. I found everyone to be incredibly patient, punctual, reliable, and they could easily customize any kind of itinerary you wanted for the day on a whim!
The airport transfers we booked through our Airbnb hosts a week or two ahead of time. When we arrived (both from the US and then again from Lombok) our drivers were waiting among hundreds of others - the first guy with a sign that said only my first name in orange bubble letters, the second actually had my last name! We found them both very easily. If your host tells you they will send a driver but you have no info on the driver or the company, not to worry. Just trust them, your driver will be there!
Essentially, I was so impressed with how easy everything was, how well everything flowed and how hospitable and knowledgeable the locals are. I always felt like we were in good hands. The Balinese are truly the best.