What I Miss About Ubud, Bali

Remembering my three weeks in Ubud, Bali, makes my heart hurt a little. Because I kind of wish I could stay forever.

Something about Bali just got under my skin; from the daily Hindu offerings to the the eerie, repetitive rhythm of the gamelan to the ornate family compounds. Out of all the places I’ve been Bali was one of the most culturally unique.

Here are all the reasons I couldn’t help but adore Bali.

Banana pancake breakfasts at my homestay.

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At every homestay in Ubud the family will prepare you a daily breakfast. Most include pandan pancakes (or eggs with toast), a fruit plate of freshly cut fruit (with lime to dress) and a choice of tea or coffee.

It felt so luxurious to wake up to a breakfast delivered to my door.

 

The Balinese.

Are there any people lovelier than the Balinese? Everyone I met in Bali, from my homestay family to the hotel baristas at the Alaya was so welcoming, greeting me with the rolling trill of their r’s and their wide smiles. I also love how all the men call you “dahling”.

While I was there I noticed I met a lot of people named Wayan. I soon learned this is because the Balinese have a unique naming system; the first child is named Wayan, the second Made, the third Nyoman and the fourth Ketut.

One thing that always made Balinese laugh was when I said, “If I were Balinese I would be Wayan!” as I’m the first-born in my family.

 

Work-lunches at the Alaya.

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I spent nearly every lunch at the Alaya, an adorable boutique hotel in Ubud, catching up on work and sipping perfectly frothed lattes.

Also I spent one night at the Alaya, which was possibly the best splurge of my life.

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The offerings.

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When I first arrived in Bali, I was baffled by the beautiful offerings left out in the street. Had I just missed a festival? Was there some kind of celebration in the works?

It turns out these offerings are called “canang sari“, and the Balinese leave them out every day as an offering to the gods. The offerings are little baskets woven from palm or banana leaves and are filled with flowers, crackers, rice, incense and other goodies.

(I would often see macaques munching on the offerings in the street. But everyone seemed pretty blasé about it.)

IMG_1356                                                     A monkey eating an offering on Mount Batur.

IMG_1224                                                   An offering on the hood of a car on Monkey Forest Road…

IMG_1494                                                          Constructing offerings at the water temple.

Every morning at my homestay a sarong-clad woman would carry a tray full of offerings, delicately placing the baskets all over the family compound (Balinese: banjar) and lighting incense.

And whenever I walked around Ubud I would hear the sound of a broom scratching the concrete- Is it just me or are the Balinese always sweeping?

Doing a bit of sight-seeing.

I compressed most of my sight-seeing into about eight hours by hiring a cab driver for the day. (Sorry guys- I kind of hate sight-seeing.)

All in all I saw three main sites: Pura Tirta Empul, Gunung Kawi and a coffee plantation where I tried Kopi Luwak- also known as “civet poo coffee.” When we returned to Ubud in the evening we also saw the Kecak Fire & Trance Dance.

IMG_1489                                               Visiting Pura Tirta Empul, built around 962 A.D.

IMG_1472                                  Worshippers bathing in the holy water before entering the temple

IMG_1415                                                         The beautiful Gunung Kawi, an 11th century temple complex. Beware of the stairs but enjoy the views of the rice paddies!

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IMG_1454                  The infamous coffee. Also palm sugar is everywhere in Bali and is crazy delicious.

IMG_1519                                                                              The fire and trance dance.

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And at the end a man dressed as a horse ran around these hot coals made of burnt coconuts. Ouch?

But as far as sight-seeing goes, Bali does it very well.

World-class yoga. Everyday.

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During my three weeks in Ubud I did tons of yoga. I’ll write more on this soon, but my DIY yoga retreat really changed me as a person as clichéd as it sounds.

In my three weeks in Ubud I fell in love with yin yoga, attempted inversions under the guidance of yoga legend Les Leventhal, finally learned crow, tried capoeira and Tibetan bowl meditation and discovered an ardent love for yoga I want to pursue further. Pas mal.

Eating a crazy healthy diet.

IMG_1781                                                                My beloved Meg’s Big Bowl salad.

The food in Ubud is seasonal, delicious, veggie-friendly and mostly vegetarian. I miss looking at a menu and knowing I could order anything I want. Sigh.

The rice paddies.

So Balinese, right?

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And to be fair… what I don’t miss.

Terrible sidewalks. Roosters crowing through the night. Monkeys.

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IMG_1745                                                                   Not my thing.

But these inconveniences are small when you’re living in such a spectacularly beautiful and special place.

Thank you Bali, for the memories. I promise to come back someday.

Bali Dancing LR

Have you ever visited Bali?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

56 thoughts on “What I Miss About Ubud, Bali”

  1. Pas Mal at all! I love a free breakfast. It’s great that you found a place and connected so deeply with it. So is someday going to be soon?

  2. We are in Ubud now and in Bali for 3 weeks. We agree it is an amazing place. Going to check out your splurge hotel…maybe we will do the same!

  3. Bali is a destination I would so love to visit although I must admit seeing the pictures of all the monkeys slightly creeped me out! I think my favorite part of any tropical destination is always the fresh fruit especially the fact that it’s cheap and just so plentiful.

  4. Bali has a special place in my heart. What an incredible island. Ubud wasn’t my favorite place on Bali but I liked it nonetheless. Also not a fan of all the monkeys!

  5. I’ve been to Bali a few years ago and still can’t stop recalling those incredible memories and feelings! It has indeed something special!
    The fact that one of my best fiends is there in this very moment doesn’t make me feel better ;)
    The thing I miss the most is probably driving the scooter around the island!
    Freedom, nice temperatures, and frangipani. What more could you ask?
    Except banana pancakes, obviously.. :D

  6. Bali looks magical! Beautiful flowers, good coffee, and fresh veggie food? It definitely sounds like a place that I wouldn’t want to leave either!
    And I love that little info about the Balinese names — I remember Liz Gilbert writing about it too :)

  7. I loved reading this beautifully-photographed post about a part of the world I know close to nothing about. Now I feel much more informed about Bali/Indonesia! I’m interested to hear your reflections on yoga.

  8. I first visited Bali 25 years ago and felt like a landed in paradise. Love at first sight!
    In Ubud I stayed in a tiny hotel across Monkey Forest and had banana pancakes for breakfast, just like you did.
    I saw the Trance Dance and several other dances and was impressed and intrigued. The whole culture and religion (animism, buddhism) fascinated me.
    Five years ago I revisited. A lot has changed, but I still love Bali.
    So yes, I totally get your feelings about this beautiful island!

  9. Oh this makes me homesick! I lived in Indonesia for 3 years and ended up visiting Bali 12 times during that period. Have gone back a few times since. Love all of the things you mentioned and am now tempted to do a DIY yoga retreat too!

  10. Bali looks amazing! I would absolutely love to go there. It’s reading posts like this that reminds me why I’m in savings mode. (Already feeling pleased that I didn’t succumb to buying that latte this morning…)

    Thanks so much for sharing :-)

  11. The way you describe Bali makes me want to go even more than I already did! What homestay did you stay at? Do you mind sharing how much it was? Was the food as affordable as Thailand?

  12. I’m planning to go to Bali this summer and I’m so excited already! :) I can’t quite explain it, but there’s just something about Bali that draws me to it, even before I learned more about this island. And now, I’m planning to follow that calling and I would love to read more about your experience there! :)

  13. I loved Ubud and this brings back so many great memories! It was definitely a place I could see myself spending an extended amount of time in – getting healthy, relaxing, getting work done. Sounds especially appealing at the moment from the depths of a wet English winter!

  14. I’m a sucker for a rice paddy. They’re so beautiful. I’ve never been interested in Bali only because everybody I know has been there but your constant mentions of Yoga has me curious now both on Bali and treating my frail body to more yoga.

    p.s Nice site redesign :)

  15. Hey Ashley- I found your blog via Sarah at Yes and Yes! I have been interested in Bali for a long time now and your post just convinced me I need to begin saving up! Those pictures just look incredible. I have looked at some yoga retreats there and it’s so expensive…I like your idea of a DIY yoga retreat :)

  16. Somehow I never made it to Bali when I was living in Shanghai. After gazing at all these beautiful images, I am kicking myself soundly. But one always needs to save something for next time…or so I tell myself :-)

  17. Yes, yes, and yes. I miss all of those things about Bali, especially the people. They are just about the kindest I’ve met so far, they really humbled me. I hope to go back again some day

  18. Yes, I’ve visited Bali although the last time I was there was in 1999! We’re going there again this summer! I absolutely loved Bali. I spent a month there and it was brilliant: the food, the beautiful scenery, the religion and culture but most importantly, the people and it’s history, music, dance and craft.
    I absolutely abhor monkeys though. In fact, it was in Bali that I developed a fear and terrible dislike as a monkey climbed my back, pulled my hair and started swinging on my head and wouldn’t let go. I wasn’t even in the forest, I was in the car park and no food was involved! Very traumatic :(

    • I don’t think I did go to the health store but I definitely saw it. Isn’t Ubud the best? :) And I’m actually in Venice at present and will be in Europe for the next 6 weeks. Then I head to India! :)

  19. Loved this post Ashley, thank you. I’m heading to Bali tomorrow and I cannot wait. I’m slightly terrified of monkeys so I can completely understand why you are happy you don’t have to deal with them anymore ;) haha. Happy travels!! x

  20. I´m kinda sad I never made it to Bali now. Everything about those days sound perfect and I´d love that kind of routine. I also hate monkeys. They seem sneaky, untrustworthy and mean. I stay far away!! I also have a deep ingrained fear of birds, so I would have hated the roosters too. Ew.

  21. Hey Ashley, did you book your homestays in advance online or go there and try get a better deal directly? Thanks :)

  22. Fantastic photos! I am flying to Bali this September and this post got me very excited for all the beautiful places I will soon be seeing. My aunt actually went to Bali years ago and loved it so much she stayed there to open a yoga studio!

    I would love to hear more about your trip–such as if Ubud is the best place to stay? What is the easiest way to get around (i.e. hiring a driver, cabs or trying to arrange tours?), etc.

    • That’s awesome you’ll be in Bali, I miss it! Honestly there are many places to do yoga- if I could go back I would probably go to Canggu because it’s on the water. The easiest way to get around if you want to see a lot of sites for the day is by hiring a driver- that’s what I did and it was only like $10 each.

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