Our seventh and last day in Bali was the epitome of chill. We got a taxi to take us to Sanur, located on Bali’s southeastern coast. We’d heard so much about the famed brunch at the Fairmont there and wanted to try it out. We arrived after an hour-long drive and checked out the beach first, which was much less busy, much prettier, and much hotter than Seminyak’s.
Brunch started with a couple of deliciously refreshing passionfruit cocktails, and then we were seated. I’ll say this: the brunch wasn’t what I was expecting. The cuisine was Eurocentric (why eat scrambled eggs and blinis if you’ve traveled all the way to Indonesia?) and the crowd was rude (I saw more than one group of diners belittling the staff. Get over yourselves, dudes).
But back to the brunch.
My favorite dish was the river lobster egg omlette. It was so outstanding that I ordered another. The egg nouvelle was also good, though unfortunately the rest of the brunch buffet wasn’t memorable. As was the theme with this trip, we ended up leaving the coast early and heading back to Ubud for one last tea time and one last dip in the pool.
Saying goodbye to our hotel and to Ubud was, you know, sort of a bummer, but we were excited to head to the airport for the next leg of our trip: Japan!
Bali posed a conundrum for us. We wanted to explore as much as we could during our short stay but we also wanted to laze in the pool and enjoy a drink or two under the hot sun. First world problems, right? We spent our fifth day in Ubud finding a happy medium. After breakfast we headed into town and explored Monkey Forest road and the surrounding areas before stopping for lunch at Warung Sopa.
Warung Sopa is a casual vegan-centric cafe but it’s the fresh-squeezed juices that really stood out here. Or maybe that’s the sweltering heat speaking.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Ubud’s handicraft shops before heading back to our hotel for a sunset dip in the pool. I mean, COME ON. With this view, we couldn’t resist.
We ended our evening with a meal at Locavore on Jalan Dewisita. Our set dinner was beautifully presented and my favorite points were the beginning (piquant pickled fruits) and the end (a dessert set which included a creamy, luscious mangosteen). Just give me the Indonesian fruit, please. Locavore’s innovative and bracing cocktails were terrific, too. A note about privilege: Locavore was well above the price point of the average meal in Ubud, making it a special occasion meal but sadly beyond the reach of most people who actually live in Ubud.
Since our one trip to the beach had been a dud, we spent our next day happily sticking it out in Ubud and walking around town, exploring each side street, each rice field, each impromptu festival.
We were soon hungry and stopped at Kafe Batan Waru, our favorite restaurant in Ubud.
Soda gembira is one of Indonesia’s most popular drinks and it translates to “happy soda.” It’s sweet, strawberry-flavored, fizzy, and creamy — and faintly reminiscent of the South Asian Rooh Afza.
Next up: ayam goreng tepung, or flour-battered fried chicken served with a sweet chili sauce. This. Was. SO. GOOD. I could eat this juicy, crispy chicken every day, but I won’t, because you know, arteries.
We also had a plate of kangung tumis, or stir-fried water spinach. This was one of my favorite things to eat when I visited Vietnam, and the Indonesian rendition was just as good.
Indonesian food shares some similarities with South Asian cuisine, and murtabak is no exception. Murtabak are thin pan-fried breads stuffed with spiced meat and while it originated in Yemen, it made its way back to India, and eventually, Southeast Asia. The Indonesian version includes pickled condiments on the side, which cut perfectly through the murtabak’s richness.
We capped off our meal with Balinese urap pakis, or steamed wild fern tips served with roasted shredded coconut. Afterwards, we walked off the calories with an excursion at Ubud Palace and returned to Komaneka at Bisma for another dip in the pool.
I’ve mentioned previously how wonderful the hotel’s team was. They’re so wonderful that they knew that I really love Indonesian fruit. They invited me to go pick some rambutan with them, so off we went through the rice paddies for some fresh rambutan. It doesn’t get any fresher than this. Twenty minutes later and I was snacking on rambutan (and salak, another uniquely Southeast Asian fruit), alongside Indonesian sweets. What an experience.
I ate a lot in Bali. I mean, it was hard not to. Breakfast was overflowing, and Ubud is full of restaurants and snack stalls waiting to be sampled. On our third day, I had the mee goreng for breakfast with a fried egg on top, because, you know, breakfast.
We decided to walk to Ubud’s downtown to burn off some extra calories, making our way down Jalan Bisma until we got to the Monkey Forest.
The Monkey Forest was only mildly terrifying, and after Nishan got his photos of Ubud’s monkeys gone wild, we stopped for lunch at Ibu Oka, the pig-centric restaurant that Anthony Bourdain infamously raved about. I got the spesial, which is a little bit of everything atop rice and greens, and you know what? Sorry Bourdain, but I’m not with you on this one. This little piggy was not my vibe. Too greasy and too porky. Somebody call the harambulance.
Aftewards we stumbled over to Ubud Palace which strangely enough is also Ubud’s central pickup and taxi queuing location. We headed back to our hotel after that, eager to enjoy teatime before dipping into the pool.
The next morning after a breakfast of banana pancakes, we figured we should take a day trip to the coast. Four days into our trip and we hadn’t even visited Bali’s famed beaches.
The hour-long drive led us to Seminyak, where we stopped at Warung Sobat for their grilled lobster. Warung Sobat is about a fifteen minute walk from the beach, and although it’s a casual spot, make sure to make reservations ahead of time so they can prepare the lobster accordingly. It comes with rice and a deliciously garlicy buttery sauce, and was totally worth our carbon monoxide fume-filled taxi ride to the coast.
Things went downhill once we got to Seminyak’s coast. I won’t even include photos. The beaches were lined with inebriated spring breakers and seemingly miserable families on holidays they didn’t want to be part of. (To be fair, I’d rather be in Ubud over Seminyak too.) Dudes, lay off the Bud Light and EDM.
This was our cue to head back to Ubud. Tea time and a dip in the pool was sounding real good right about then. An hour later and we were back at Komaneka. Ah, much better.
One great thing about traveling to Asia is the reverse jet lag. Waking up with the dawn in Bali was no problem. Besides, it’s pretty easy to get up early with this view.
On our second morning, Nishan and I had an early breakfast in preparation for a day-long excursion to Mount Batur. I had the bubur ayam, or Indonesian chicken congee.
Mount Batur is an active volcano in northeast Bali and the area surrounding is lush and fertile. We stopped at the Tegalalang rice terraces along the way to take in the stunning view.
Bali’s reputation as one of the most beautiful places on earth is well deserved — but it was the inland regions, not the beach, that I was falling in love with.
We headed onwards towards a kopi luwak coffee plantation. Kopi luwak, or civet coffee, refers to the coffee that includes part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet. Keep the poop jokes to yourselves, folks. This beautiful plantation sold not only kopi luwak, but also herbal teas and locally harvested spices. We bought a bag of restorative ginger and lemongrass teas to take home.
Fortified with coffee and breakfast, we joined our guide for our day-long bike ride through the region. First up: a quiet, peaceful bamboo forest.
Despite the clouds, Bali is hot and humid, so we soon stopped for a break in Penglipuran village. After a short walk through the village, we were back on our bikes.
Our guide stopped along the way to point out the fruits that grow alongside Bali’s lush roads. My favorite was the juicy langsat fruit. Oh, if I could only bring these home with me. The fruit in Bali remains the best I’ve ever tasted in my life.
We continued our ride through rice paddies, Pura Taman Narmada Bali Raja water temple, and a Dalem temple.
Once we reached the town of Bangli we stopped for a rejuvenating Balinese lunch of bakso (meatball soup), satay, noodles, krupuk, fried tempeh, mung bean salad, and rice.
Back in Ubud, we were exhausted after our day of biking. We rewarded ourselves with a spa treatment overlooking the Campuhan River. The cherry on top was the lime-spiked fruit skewers at the end of the treatment. Delicious.
If you’re interested in a similar bike tour as ours, we toured with Bali Hai Bike Tour based in Ubud. They were fantastic.
It’s January. You know, that time of year when we’re all dreaming of a warm day at the beach under the sun. It’s been nine months since Nishan and I returned from our honeymoon, but memories of Bali run deep. We took a red eye flight to Hong Kong and after a quick lunch of duck noodle soup at the airport, we got on a plane to Denpasar, Bali’s hot and hectic airport. After an hour in a taxi, we arrived at what would be our home base for the next week: Ubud.
Our lingering jet lag meant that we woke up before sunrise, but who can complain with this view? After a delicious breakfast of rice dumplings stuffed with banana and drizzled with palm sugar syrup, we were off to explore the town of Ubud.
We wandered through Ubud Market, brimming with the most delicious fruits you can imagine — but only if you get there early enough. After nine in the morning, the market reinvents itself as a kitschy souvenir market, but still bustling.
Afterwards we stopped at Kafe Batan Waru for lunch. Batan Waru would become one of our favorite haunts during our stay. The outdoor seating, the charming street, but most of all the food made the place an easy choice. We feasted on lemper ayam (sticky rice and shredded chicken grilled in banana leaves), kangung tumis (Asian watercress with shallots, garlic, and soy sauce), and skewers of sate ayam madura. All washed down with sugary, icy cendol, of course!
It was time for our massage appointment next. Don’t get me wrong. We had no interest in the Eat, Pray, Love narrative, but we couldn’t pass up Bali without a massage. So we took the stroll down beautiful Jalan Kajeng, stopping along the way to admire Bali’s stunning stone carvings and larger-than-life architecture. We got caught in a rainstorm, which was fine, because really, anything in Bali is fine. Yes siree, you’ll find me in Bali being phased by just about nothing.
Relaxed, kneaded, and slightly sleepy, we made our way back to downtown Ubud to check out Pura Taman Saraswati. This temple honors Dewi Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and the arts, and it’s a bit incredible that the temple sits literally in downtown Ubud, just a stone’s throw away from a Starbucks.
We headed back to our hotel after that excursion, just in time for tea. If you are staying in Ubud, I cannot recommend Komaneka at Bisma enough. It it is by and far the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at, not only for the wonderfully appointed rooms and grounds, but especially for the incredible warmth of the staff. I’ll write more on that later, but for now, I’ll say that our trip in Ubud was marked by one constant: our daily excitement at what deliciously home-cooked snacks and sweets each afternoon tea would bring. It’s been almost a year and I’m still craving the lemongrass tea and irresistibly fragrant honey.