On first impression you may think the artistic and cultural capital of Bali is small. You could easily be mistaken into believing the town consists of just a few intersecting streets full of shops and restaurants. While there is some truth in this, Ubud has grown over the years as it keeps pace with its international reputation.
Culture, tradition, art, music, and dance have all remained in tact . Ubud is a town of royalty and even its dialect is a version of Balinese that commands respect in the highest order.
Being captivated by all the activity that is the towns center is part of the experience. You could spend days wandering the streets and lanes of Monkey Forest, Hanoman, Raya, and Bisma.
To do so you would certainly be kept busy, well fed, and entertained.
By setting horizons a little further out what you will find is a quieter, more stunning, more impressive Ubud. The kind of Bali we all imagine before setting out from familiar shores.
Waking up early, if possible, is a good idea when traveling as so many opportunities await in the youthful hours of every day. What starts out as a short walk to soak in the sounds of a waking town becomes a day of trekking that re-invigorates an already enthusiastic respect for this royal stronghold atop an island.
Ubud is surrounded by villages that offer an important insight into Bali life and culture. Walking is a great way to soak this up and even though cycling is also a very enjoyable way to go about the journey, believe me…
You will be walking alongside and pushing that bike a fair amount of the time.
Rivers cut through the undulating land creating gorges with steep entrance and exit points. The exhilaration of coasting your two wheeled cruiser past rice fields flanked by palm trees is offset when you find yourself at a 45 degree angle pushing the same bicycle out the other side; sweat dripping from you as if your forehead were a faucet.
If you walk, what awaits you is a trek through brilliant green terraced paddies, past rivers, streams, rapids, and canyons. The spectacular terrain makes viewing many of these areas impossible by any other means.
The point is that Ubud offers a lot; naturally. Experience Monkey Forest, the market, and the restaurants around the center but if time permits do yourself a favor and strap on a good pair of walking shoes and take to the hills.
As with the end of most days I return to Ubud famished.
The Balina Lagoon may not be the fanciest restaurant in town and it may not be anywhere near a body of water but, this aside, the food is authentic and incredibly tasty.
The Balina Lagoon has been in existence since 1994 which considering the rate of change in and around Bali this pretty much makes it an institution.
The restaurant is located down a tiny lane and the sign at the entrance is a big red wooden bloated fish with a fork and knife criss-crossed along its dorsal fin. The furniture is typical Balinese style bamboo and the walls are adorned with either circular or heart shaped mirrors…and for some reason framed dresser drawer knobs.
The table cloths are also a bamboo pattern keeping them in concert with the furniture. The walls are pale green, keeping it out of concert with the deep red ceiling. It goes nicely with the fish sign though.
The background music right now is Julio Englesius signing “All the Girls I used to Love”.
As a child I have had lodeh many times. I began tonight’s meal with this typical spicy soup. As today had worn on, a sniffle I had inadvertently come into contact with began to dig in and made me feel lousy. I figured lodeh may just be the answer so I got it with extra spice and let it rip on my sniffer.
By the time I was done, any bugs I had in my system were out. Swimming for freedom through my forehead.
Main course was Beef Rendang. I wasn’t looking for any kind of remedy from this dish; just a tasty dinner of Indonesian comfort food. Rendang is cooked in a variety of ways and depending on where you are and whose mother is cooking it the end result can be vastly different. I have had Rendang in a stew format and I have it cut so fine it was more like a beef paste. This time it came as three large chunks of beef covered in vegetables with a small side of rice.
I leave this lagoon full, happy, free of a cold, and sporting a glistening forehead.
As I write this my mouth is watering. Memories of beef, tender and flavorful, flooding back directly to my taste buds.
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