Ubud and seminyak, bali, indonesia
Melburnian's revel in the vibrancy generated where modernity and traditionalism meet, we appreciate authenticity and simplicity, we are enriched by multiculturalism. For these reasons I can see why so many have an affinity with Bali and given we are oft-times insular and solemn, the generous and fun-loving nature of Balinese culture is a balm to the soul. The Bali countryside is incredibly varied and travellers should absolutely spend as much time out exploring the island as enjoying all the markets have to offer. I split my time evenly between Ubud and Seminyak which I think was a good balance, Ubud was an excellent base to explore the more central regions of Bali and from Seminyak the markets, restaurants, and coastal towns.
Many spots that I visited were by recommendation but my go-to resource for the trip was The Bali Bible, absolutely the app to take with you. Of course, the truly authentic food and community experiences were had exploring the countryside and can't be found on any website that I can link to!
Admittedly this restaurant is watered-down Indonesian for Westerners rather than traditional fare but the food is so, so good. Right in the middle of it all, Warung Ocha is perfect for pre, mid or post shopping breaks. Warung Ocha's distinctive Red Verandah was the backdrop for a beautiful traditional Balinese ceremony for our last lunch in Seminyak.
Seminyak is central to many of the best restaurants in the area. By the beach, Gado Gado is set half under cover, half under the stars and is certainly one of the most exciting places to eat. It is a dressy affair, offering indulgent degustation and matched wine menus.
An easy day trip from Seminyak, visiting Nusa Lembongan should be at the top of any to-do list for Bali. Described as what Bali was like 40 years ago, Lembongan has an 'untouched', raw feeling with its unpaved roads and simple beachfront. Lembongan is an excellent spot for snorkelling, fishing, surfing and watersports. Tours of the island can be easily arranged on arrival and resort accommodation is plentiful should you want to stay longer than the day.
The Jatiluwih Green Land is a 19,500 ha world heritage protected site. The Rice Terraces date back to the 9th century and are of great significance in traditional Balinese culture. My driver dropped me at one end of the terraces and allowed me time to wander through the various levels. The green landscape and coolness of the wet fields are so inviting and soothing.
When in Ubud there is the temptation to keep heading east to the volcano - which is amazing to be sure - but the vistas as you explore the north west are even more dramatic amongst the mountains. Viewing Bali's commitment to conservation at the Kebun Raya Botanical Gardens is a cultural and ecological feast.
My dinner at Kafe was one of those moments when travelling that make you feel truly alive and for that alone I am fond. The restaurant was also the best that I encountered in my short stay. It perfectly projected a calm, relaxed atmosphere and I understand it is well-liked amongst the yoga retreat set that frequent the region. Their menu offers fresh, organic, tasty fare and I recommend heading there for dinner and nabbing a spot on the verandah of the top floor to engage in some people watching. A very comfortable spot for lone travellers and I noted during the day it was packed to the rafters with families and all sorts.
For a fancy night out in Ubud it is worth the trek to the top of the hill for Indus, especially if you cut through the Monkey Forest on your way! Offering a modern Indonesian menu, dishes are beautifully presented. The restaurant is open air, set above the Tjampuhan River; aim to arrive mid-dusk so you can take in the spectacular views.
Sometimes accommodation does really matter. I lucked out with booking the Sandat room at Kebun Indah, part of the Alam Indah group of properties. A gorgeous room that fulfills all your tropical decor fantasies, I practically had the pool all to myself and breakfast and afternoon tea delivered daily. Staff were very friendly and the site was secure. Set amongst a rice field and close to a creek bed, Kebun Indah is located in what I would call the quiet end of town but still only a short walk to restaurants, shops and the Monkey Forest.