Our first visit to Ubud, and we were travelling with friends who had arranged our 4 night stay at a lovely little resort about 20 min drive out of the centre of town. Bhanuswari Resort sits among rice fields and is furnished with restaurant, spa, two pools and extremely helpful and friendly staff. There is a choice of accommodation from standard rooms to villas, but we were very content in a deluxe room with huge bed, large bathroom (with bath), fridge, TV, balcony and the all-important air-conditioner.
We woke early on our first morning, after a blissful night’s sleep, not long after sunrise. From our second floor balcony we were greeted with the sight of a line of ducks marching through the terraced rice fields, casting long shadows with their graceful necks, waddling in time to their squawk-quacks. Delightful creatures, almost tempting to have as a pet – shame they poo so much, and so often, and so messily!
There was a range of food available onsite in the patio dining area to suit most tastes. I had mainly the Indonesian and Italian options, and they were all very good – the peanut sauce for the gado gado was delicious!
The location out of town might present some problems for those wishing to be in the middle of the action of Ubud, but with the onsite spa (which we utilised daily!), the dining room, the pools and the lovely setting, we found that it was the perfect place to relax and unwind. There are drivers on beck and call to take you into Ubud and pick you up when you are ready to return. They will arrange tours of the local area or shopping trips in the surrounding villages specialising in jewellery, art, wood and stone carvings. The owner, Nyoman, took personal care with our party of 5, driving us to a few shops in the jewellery village and ensuring that we were well looked after. He was also delightful company, never running out of conversation, and had wonderful knowledge of his community and island of Bali.
While we were staying at Bhanuswari, the king of Ubud got married, which made traffic in and out of the town a nightmare…but the palace looked fantastic with the many floral offerings and signage wishing blessings on the royal couple. There were processions and traditional music playing live in the pagodas at the palace, which continued for some days after the wedding, accompanying the looped footage of the actual wedding ceremony that played continuously on big TVs in the courtyard.
Having received many recommendations from experienced Ubud visitors, we enjoyed a few meals at the restaurants in the town. The highlights for me included Kebun, Kafe Batan Waru and Lamak Restaurant.
Lamak was empty when we arrived for a lunch, but the food was lovely, the cocktails as they should be, and the service friendly. It also had one of the funkiest bathrooms I’ve visited – all multi-coloured tiles and fancy doors. One carnivore in the group was particularly impressed with the coconut-coated chicken breast with asparagus, and us vegos really like the bean-filled pancake/wraps, as well as the layered goat’s cheese and vegetable stack, with arugula and sundried tomato pesto.
Another winner for lunch was at Kebun – a lovely little bistro with a French Colonial feel. It had a fantastic range of vegetarian food on offer, as well as a very revitalising drink called a ‘lime mint refresher.’ Our choices from the extensive range were: Moroccan vegetable tagine, root vegetables, chickpeas, cinnamon and couscous; and a Mediterranean salad with grilled haloumi, chickpea tabouli, caramelised onion and balsamic glaze (accompanied by a crisp dry white wine, of course!).
On our final evening in Ubud we were audience at ‘the best fire dance in Ubud’ – personally chauffeured by Nyoman. It really was a fascinating spectacle, the continuous chanting was incredibly mesmeric and took amazing skill. And, of course, the fire dance itself had a compelling combination of fear and theatricality, that we were completely enthralled. One dampener on the performance was a rude man playing on his phone in front of us for quite some time. A man sitting further along the bench said something to him, and the ignoramus made it quite clear that if it bothered the complainant, then he should move – so he did. What an arse.
After our cultural experience we asked Nyoman to take us to a nice restaurant that he would recommend – ironically, it was one that we had shortlisted – Kafe Batan Waru. It was yet another winner: the place was buzzing, had exemplary service, great food, and really good cocktails! This place had the most extensive vegetarian menus we had encountered in our time in Bali – even broken into different meals of the day and specific cuisines – so everyone was happy.
The next day we flew home, in that awesome crowd that only appears at the end of the school holidays. And so ends our first visit to Bali, and we will definitely return – not only is it a good choice economically, but the people are delightful and the food is delicious!