With so much to do and see in Ubud (see my earlier post here), the 4 days we spent there seemed rather rushed. Ubud is the artistic capital of the island, and is a hub for art galleries, smart cafes, top class restaurants and antique shops. It is also highly popular with visitors looking for something a little more sophisticated than nearby Kuta, and is a good place to stay for a few days or even a week or two.
Where to Stay
Of the 4 wonderful days we spent in Ubud, two were at Villa Semana, a collection of 10 unique villas each with their own private pool, set on the banks of the Ayung River about 4 miles southwest of central Ubud.
The entrance to the resort is breathtaking, overlooking a series of rice paddies cultivated by local farmers, leading into a meticulously maintained footpath and to the hotel's beautiful grounds. The resort has no reception area and each guest is escorted and checked into their own private villa by the staff on arrival.
The winning feature for me was that the villa opened up to our own private swimming pool (in fact all villas have their own pool) with wonderful views to the Ayung River.
|Private swimming pool in our villa at Vila Semana, overlooking the Ayung River|
|My office for the day....|
The owner, Jurg Suter, is a larger than life Swiss hotelier, with several other properties in Bali and Singapore, but who has lived all over the world including London. Given a few minutes, he will entertain you with fascinating stories of his varied career as well as anecdotes of the many A-list visitors to Ubud and Villa Semana. He is also full of useful information and advice about places to eat, stay and visit all over the island.
Service at Villa Semana was very good, and attentive, particularly by Ayu, the manageress. She arranged a car for us to hire, which was brought to the hotel on the morning of our departure for an excellent rate, and also gave advice on places to visit on our way to Amed.
Where to Eat
Ibu Oka Warung, Jalan Tegal
This tiny cafe (the original one of a chain of 3) is an institution in Ubud, drawing in locals from the whole island as well as foreigners in search of the only item on the menu - Babi Guling or Balinese roast suckling pig. This is one of the most traditional dishes of Bali, and is served throughout the island from humble road-side cafes to the more elegant fine-dining establishments. Gastronomically speaking, a visit to Bali would not be complete without sampling this delicacy.
Around 30 pigs are served each day at Ibu Oka, arriving by motorbike from the larger kitchens at Ibu Oka 3 nearby and presented in chunks in rattan bowls with rice, sausages, crispy skin, fried intestines and spicy vegetables for the grand sum of £2. For £2.65, you can order a plate of pure pork meat, or another of crispy skin. The pork is wonderfully tender and succulent, and the crackling perfectly crispy.
There are no reservations - it's first come first served, and it is best to arrive before noon to avoid the queues. The restaurant is open from 10.30 am for lunch only. The original restaurant where we ate is a very simple cafe with only 3 or 4 western-style tables, although there is more seating available where customers sit crossed-legged on the floor, which can be uncomfortable.
Ibu Oka 3 is only a five minute walk away, and offers exactly the same menu in a much larger, prettier and more comfortable venue.
Pondok Restaurant, Villa Semana Hotel
Villa Semana's restaurant overlooks the infinity pool over the Ayung river, and serves a variety of Balinese, Indonesian and Thai dishes, as well as offering a good selection of wines and even a humidor of Havana cigars at reasonable prices. Unfortunately, we didn't get to eat at the restaurant, except for the excellent breakfasts and complimentary afternoon tea served each day.
|Sweetest platter of freshly cut fruit at Villa Semana|
The coffee was excellent, as well as the platters of ripe, freshly cut, deliciously sweet tropical fruit with vanilla yoghurt we were served each morning.
Kafe Batan Waru
In the centre of Ubud on Jalan Dewi Sita, Kafe Batan Waru is a renowned and popular eatery which was highly recommended to us. We had a good meal there of traditional Balinese dishes including Urap Pakis (£1.75), a dish of steamed wild fern tips with roasted shredded coconut and Balinese spices which was delicious.
We also had Nasi Campur (£4) - a rice dish served with beef tenderloin, red chilli chicken, beef sate, long beans in Kalasan sauce, whole prawn fritter, egg and sambals. This dish is also served at breakfast, and each restaurant has its own version.
The main event was Bebek Goreng (£7) - an Ubud specialty, this was a lovely half duck, slow-simmered with spice paste and then fried crisp, and served with long-beans and sambal.
What to Do
The hotel is around 3 miles from central Ubud, and there are no other hotels, restaurants or shops nearby. This makes for an admirably tranquil stay, and one of the nicest things is to lounge by the private pool, the river, or the infinity pool. The hotel also offers a free shuttle service to and from Ubud every hour between 07.30 and 22.30, so it is very easy to get into town if you need to. There are a number of excursions on offer, including visits to nearby temples, volcanoes and rice paddy walking and cycling excursions.
Being the artistic capital of Bali, there are a number of art galleries, antique shops and boutiques selling local craft goods. Jalan Raya Sanggingan has a smattering of such shops, and is a good place to purchase tasteful Balinese artefacts including traditional Indonesian wedding head dresses, pottery and paintings were available for purchase.
Villa Semana has a charming open-air spa on the banks of the Ayung river, offering a variety of Balinese treatments. These range from a traditional 60 minute Balinese massage at £30, to the 'Angel's Realm' 150 minute treatment that includes a footbath and body massage followed by the traditional Lulur scrub made from turmeric, a coating in avocado yoghurt and finally a floral bath, at £65.
Treatments are also widely available in Ubud at substantially lower cost (around £5-10 per hour) at many spas around town. We visited the oldest one, Nur Salon on Jalan Hanoman, which is set in a traditional Balinese compound with beautiful gardens, a temple in the grounds, and screened, open-air treatment rooms. A magical place.
We had the traditional 1 hour Balinese massage followed by a hot bath (£10). We visited twice, the masseurs were excellent on both visits, and the spa surroundings were also beautiful. There are dozens of different treatments on offer.
We flew to Denpasar, Bali via Singapore, for around £600 with Singapore Airlines. Several Gulf airlines offer return flights from the UK at similar prices.
PO Box 10036
E mail: email@example.com
Rooms rates at Villa Semana range from £200 to £450 per night. This also varies according to the season. All have a private plunge pool, in addition to the main infinity pool.
Ibu Oka 3
Jalan Tegal Sari No.2
t: (0564) 976 345
Kafe Batan Waru
Jalan Dewi Sita, Ubud, Bali
t: (0361) 977 528
Jalan Hanoman 28
E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org