Bali tour part 2 – Ubud

5 days in the cultural centre of Bali

Our second stop on our Bali tour took us to the cultural epicentre of Ubud. Our hotel, The Ubud Wana Resort, was on a quiet road just south of Monkey Forest. The main town could be accessed by a cut-through which traced the east boundary of the forest. Unfortunately as this was the only way to get around the forest other than a 2 mile detour it was popular with scooters. Very popular! However this was not the only hazard. The monkeys had worked out that carrier bags equal goodies. We discovered this the first time we tried to get something from the supermarket in town back to our hotel!

Monley Forrest Ubud
This guy wanted my cheesy Wotsits and wasn’t taking no for an answer

The monkeys don’t appear to stray far from the forest, but they can be found in and around businesses on the immediate outskirts, so keep your wits about you.

Ubud Monkey
What’s your problem? These are my fizzy snakes

We were in a bar one night when no sooner had the locals had set out the offerings, and finished blessing them when a group of monkeys arrived and tore them to pieces. Anyway, enough about monkeys, there’s so much more to Ubud.

We followed a little hand written sign, set amongst the shops and restaurants in the main town, which read “Rice Fields”. We were a little sceptical at first, suspecting we had been duped by the cunning of some local entrepreneur as we followed a makeshift trail that flanked what looked like store buildings. However the trail eventually did open up into the promised rice fields and we spent the rest of the day being repeatedly awestruck by the endless beauty of Bali.

Rice Fields Ubud Bali Rice Fields Ubud Bali Rice Fields Ubud Bali

The town itself was almost as easy on the eye. Stonemasonry, floristry and carpentry are clearly flourishing trades here. Blossoming trees and flowers fight for space between temples and private properties boasting resplendent shrines and stonework.

Royal Palace Ubud
Royal Palace

Ubud Stonework

It’s not difficult to see why Ubud is so popular with people trying to find themselves. Despite my almost debilitating British reserve I must admit that on our final night, as we sat in the Bali Bohemia on open-mic night, surrounded by dreadlocks and elephant pants, listening to traditional flute music interspersed with Mongolian throat singing, I felt something.

Fortunately before I had a “moment” the next act got up to do some spoken word poetry, and the cynicism returned like a cherished friend. Phew that was close!

In Summary.

Ubud is awesome. The rice fields are breathtakingly beautiful, and the streets are abundant with ornate stonework, and flowers. It’s an absolute festival for the eyes. It also has a really nice vibe. Kind of a resort feel, but very laid back. There are some great places to eat and some really cool bars. Sure Ubud has more than it’s fair share of “Eat, pray, love” wannabes, but don’t let that deter you. Cliché spotting only adds to the fun. And did I mention the monkeys?

Have you been to Ubud? We’d love to hear about your experience. Ask us a question, or leave a comment below.

And if you want to hear more about our adventures in Bali, check out part 1 – Seminyak and the west coast.

 

 

Bali tour part 1- Seminyak and the west coast

Seminyak, Legian, and Kuta

We weren’t sure what to expect from Bali. Having always seen it as an exotic paradise, we had recently read a few negative posts. Primarily about Kuta, but also about the beaches in general. Our first stop was Seminyak where we would explore the resorts of the west coast. This is what we found.

Seminyak

Our first stop was in Seminyak. Our research had told us that this was the more refined of the main 3 west coast resorts. Boasting a wealth of dining opportunities, ranging from the most basic traditional shacks serving local fare, to high end restaurants with international menus. It has a reputation as the place to eat in Bali, and we found this to be well founded.

Seminyak is a pretty resort. There are flowers and, what we initially thought were temples, everywhere you look. We later discovered that ornate brickwork and shrines adorn residential and business properties, some more elaborate than the temples they emulate.

 

Temples and Shrines at Bali
Temples and Shrines

Offerings are everywhere. They can be found outside pretty much every doorway, to both businesses and residential properties. We also saw them on cars, and scooters. Don’t take your eyes off the pavement for a second or you’ll get a foot full of flowers and rice. You will see locals dressed in traditional costumes replenishing, and blessing them. We were later to find that this practice isn’t unique to Seminyak, it happens throughout Bali.

Balinese Offerings
Balinese Offerings

Legian

To the south Seminyak blends into the resort of Legian. We found Legian to be a little non-descript. It had the feel of a buffer zone keeping the peace between the party resort of Kuta, and the more upmarket neighbour Seminyak. That said the beach was a little better in Legian, and it was a nice enough resort to amble about in.

Legian Beach Bali
Legian Beach

Kuta

Kuta is by far the most developed resort on the island, this comes with the usual benefits and perils. We didn’t visit on an evening so cannot tell you what the party street “poppies” is like when it’s in full swing. What I can say is that their are many more touts and these are more persistent in the heart of Kuta. However once you are away from the epicentre things calm down a little, and there are some decent looking restaurants and bars with a more relaxed feel.

In summary

There is no doubt in our mind that we made the right choice in staying in Seminyak. Of the 3 main west coast it is the prettiest. It’s reasonably tout-free, and there are some excellent places to eat. That said if beaches are important to you, then the west coast resorts should not feature high on your list.

A tour of Singapore in pictures

What to see in Singapore

Singapore is a visually stunning city. The architecture is incredible. There are ornate gardens and interesting features at every turn.

For that reason, and not because I’m lazy, I’ve decided to keep the words to a minimum on this post and let the pictures do the talking.

Arab Quarter

We checked in at the Village Hotel Bugis, located on Arab Street on the edge of the Arab quarter. Despite the weird smell in the lobby, and the original 1970’s décor, the hotel wasn’t too bad.

The Arab quarter is a beautiful, and interesting area to walk around, with some great food. We ate a Turkish place the first night and the food was excellent. But don’t expect bargain bites, this is still Singapore.

Sultan Mosque
Sultan Mosque

 

Arab Quarter Singapore
Bussorah Street

Haji Lane – Arab Quarter

Haji lane, just off the pedestrianised Bussorah Street is famous for the street art. It’s also a good place to grab a beer and listen to some live music.

Haji Lane
Haji Lane

Gardens by the Bay

To fully appreciate the Gardens by the Bay you’ll need 2 visits or one well-timed one. By day to appreciate the beautifully manicured gardens and one after nightfall to enjoy the sound and light show at the Super-tree Grove.

Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay
Super-tree Grove
Super-tree Grove

The Marina

The Marina area is best appreciated at night, but it’s pretty remarkable at any time. The vista is dominated by the iconic Sands Marina hotel, but amazing architecture literally surrounds you.

Marina Bay
Marina Bay
Helix Bridge
Helix Bridge
Art Science Museum
Art Science Museum

Boat Quay & Clark Quay

Following the river inland from the Marina takes you to two of the main nightlife areas in Singapore. Boat Quay, is a beautiful area dominated by old shop houses converted to restaurants. Clark Quay is a more upbeat area with many cosmopolitan bars and restaurants, and some great live music.

Boat Quay
Boat Quay
Clark Quay
Clark Quay

Little India & Chinatown

No trip to Singapore would be complete without a visit to the historic areas of Little India & Chinatown. We were fortunate enough to visit during Deepavali (Diwali), so Little India was awash with lights and colour.

Little India
Little India
Chinatown
Chinatown

Singapore Botanic Gardens

The Botanic Gardens at Singapore is a huge sprawling area of lush greenery, it’s crowning glory being the beautiful Orchid Gardens.

sbg

Singapore Botanic Gardens
Singapore Botanic Gardens

And now for something completely different

If you’re looking for something a little different, I recommend a trip to Haw Par Villas. Also known as Tiger Palm Gardens, this the “theme park” depicts scenes from Chinese folklore. Some of the sculptures are not for the faint hearted!, and some are just plain weird.

Haw Par Villa
Haw Par Villa
Haw Par Villa
Haw Par Villa

Everywhere you look in Singapore you see something amazing. Tell us about your favourite, or ask us a question in the comments section.