Having lived in Bali for a few weeks now, I’ve been getting messages from friends about what do when they visit. My first post is about Ubud and the surrounding area, things to check out and what’s better to skip, etc. I had a few excursions courtesy of Hotel Villa Ubud. This was my second time to Ubud so I felt a bit more knowledgeable about attractions.
Balinese Cooking Class
If you want to immerse yourself in Balinese culture I highly recommend a Balinese cooking class. The villa organised for me to meet Canting Cooking Class instructor, Lena, near a local market. Each morning before the cooking begins in Balinese Hindu culture a daily offering or the Canang Sari is prepared and placed in front of the home. This is to praise the g-ds, bless the home and to appease the demons. The ingredients to create the daily offering are all found in the village markets. They could be as simple as a single frangipani placed on the steps or a more intricate palm leaf square basket full of flower petals. Each flower color symbolises a different g-d and the direction where they lay – North, South, East, and West. Pandan leaf is shredded, placed on top and incense is inserted. Once they are lit and rotated clockwise three times, the prayer begins.
Next we learned the key ingredients in Balinese cooking. Did you know that Bali has five types of ginger? We were shown them individually and what each one is best used for when cooking. Some are more sweet than others. Lena also explained to us the process for growing rice — a main ingredient of their diet. As you know rice paddies decorate many of the villages throughout Bali. It takes time to plant, harvest, separate and dry out the rice because the grow time is different for each kind. Around Bali you can find white, black, and red rice which all reach maturity over a specific number of months. White is the fastest and most popular, so many people grow it.
We each received a chopping board and paired up with a partner to begin our main dish ingredient. Basic sauce. It is a Bali staple and it’s in everything. Seriously. Every single dish has some sort of the basic sauce incorporated in it. We worked with mortar and pestle, table top stoves, and our hands to combine ingredients and marinades. We cooked for about three hours making all different kinds of dishes. From salads, to tofu based entrees, to even steaming meat in banana leaves.
Preparing and cooking your own food really makes you appreciate the ingredients available and the time it takes to prepare everything. We were very hungry by the time we finished. My favorites were the Tempe, Tuna Satay, and Green Pancakes.
The whole surrounding area is filled with temples or Pura; open air places of worship. They are all constructed according to the Trimandala concept – 3 Zones. The outer zone – connecting the temple to the outer realm (usually a garden or field), the middle zone – where activities and ceremonies take place, and the holy zone. This is the most sacred and sometimes only meant for g-ds and relics. My lovely tour guide, Kendra accompanied me for the day explaining all the history.
**Sarongs are provided at each temple entrance and mandatory for all visitors.**
2. Tirta Empul – The water palace. This temple is known for the holy water. It is built around a bubbling spring dedicated to the g-d of water, Vishnu. Visitors can go into a bath and cleanse with the holy water so bring a swimsuit. Ladies** also carry a clip or hair tie. In order to enter one part of this temple you must pull your hair back because it is a religious zone. Kendra explained that this temple was found on the largest natural spring in 962AD. There are 13 spouts but visitors can only use the first 11. The last two remain for funerary rites. At the end you can visit the Coy Pond. These were some of the biggest coy fish I have ever seen!
(Kendra was so good at taking some of these photos, right?)
3. Tanah Lot (Closer to Canggu, Bali) – This temple honors the sea g-d, Baruna. It is one of Bali’s most important landmarks. You can see a bit of the temple from the shore and in low tide can cross to reach the island and walk around the perimeter. A high priest from the Majapahit Kingdom came to the area to spread Hinduism and found the area. Authorities try to preserve the iconic spot as a landmark today.
**All the temples cost about 15,000 IDR ( $1.50AUD or $1.07 USD)
I visited the Monkey Forest twice since visiting Bali. It’s a fun little place if you are keen to see monkeys everywhere! Beware because they can be aggressive and they like to steal things. (Do not enter with jewellery, sunglasses, any lose items, etc.) You are not supposed to provoke them or look them directly in the eye. Many tourists try to make friends with them and blow kisses. It’s to just observe from afar or if you are adventurous you can have them climb on you. There are staff around to help. You’ve got to do it for the photos right? The little baby ones are so cute!
Need to pick up some souvenirs? This is definitely the place. The hotel shuttle dropped us off a few blocks from the entrance and the market was very easy to find. Simply follow the tourists. Its fun to walk through and see the rows and rows of stalls. It feels like it goes on for ages. Anything and everything you could imagine. You can barter here so make sure to get a good price.
Feeling peckish? My friend and I went on a hunt for this cafe. It was recommended to us by the hotel as a great spot for smoothie bowls. A little hidden gem you have to go down the first aisle of the market, then turn right and follow the path down what looks like a scooter parking lot. But that’s exactly where the cafe is! Who doesn’t love a good smoothie bowl? They were so intricately designed we almost didn’t want to eat them. 🙂
Mt Batur Trek
My new friend staying at the hotel had the opportunity to do this and said it was beautiful and provided a few tips. Wear long pants and warm clothes. It is quite cold and steep to climb and when you descend you may notice small rockfalls so it’s best to cover your legs in order to avoid scrapes. The trek begins about 2 a.m. in order to make sunrise. So be prepared to rise and shine!
Jatiluwih Rice Paddies
This is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The iconic rice paddies. Definitely spend a meal here and take a walk through them. They’re bigger and more vast than Tegalalang and if you want to see true rice paddies, this is your place. Filled with 600 hectares of sprawling and tiered rice fields. There’s a small entry fee but it’s worth it.
The famous swing in the rice paddies. I had the opportunity to do this and I wont say whether it’s worth it or not, it’s up to you but you have to pay $35 to swing and stand in line waiting behind everyone else. I was surprised at how high the swing actually goes! Its more entertaining to see how they get the swing so high.
I should have done more research before attending this place. The elephants here do walk around free during the day and you can feed them lots of delicious foods. HOWEVER, the workers ride them to make them do tricks and they are chained up at night so I would not recommend visiting this place. It is for tourism and I wish I never went. If you want to see elephants in their natural habitat free and happy, go to Thailand.
This is the famous “poop” coffee. The civet cat ingests the coffee cherries and passes the seeds which are then ground up into coffee. It is very expensive and has a bitter taste. Do your research first. Some places the civet cats are caged up and others are hanging free. Tanah Lot has two civet cats that lay around the stall and are free to roam.