Top 10 Things to do in Ubud, Bali


Ubud, Bali 2014© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Magical Ubud.  The cultural center of Bali, rich with artists, non-conformists, health enthusiasts, yogis, spiritual seekers, wanderers, eccentrics, mystics, gurus and everything in between. There’s no denying that since Elizabeth Gilbert penned “that book” (as the locals refer to her bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love), the streets have become a bit more chaotic. But don’t let the increased attention dissuade you from visiting.  The bewitching power of Ubud is very much alive.  Those “in the know” will set aside as much time as possible to slow down and take in everything this captivating destination has to offer (check out the Top Three Cooking Experiences in Ubud).  And, as the ever-expanding expat community suggests, you might end up staying much longer than you ever intended. Will you find love in Ubud like Ms. Gilbert? Perhaps not in the form of Javier Bardem, but you are certain to find love all around you in the warmth of the Balinese people and in the palpable spiritual energy.  Culinary explorers will be spellbound by the abundance of fresh produce and exotic spices.  From spicy chili sambal to rich coffee, fresh tropical juices, and spice-laden spa treatments, Ubud offers sensory experiences not to be missed.

Puri Sunia Resort, Ubud, Bali

Puri Sunia Resort is an ideal base from which to explore Ubud. Located in a tranquil village about ten minutes outside the hubbub of the city, Puri Sunia is a special slice of Balinese paradise. Nestled among the rice paddies and towering coconut trees, this stylish boutique property offers superb service, beautifully manicured grounds and spacious guest rooms. Start the day with a classic yoga session in the open air pavilion perched among the tree tops, followed by a complimentary breakfast. The chef goes all out with a 3-course offering. Don’t miss the dadar gulung – thin, crepe-like pancakes scented with tropical pandan leaf and filled with sweet grated coconut – and the nasi goreng (fried rice) topped with a delicate ribbon of egg and served with spicy chili sambal and savory prawn crackers. A courtesy shuttle runs to Ubud on the hour, but the more adventurous can grab a seat on the back of a zippy motorbike for a few rupiah. Spend a day (or three) at the exquisite spa, which offers indulgent multi-hour treatments that incorporate local Indonesian herbs and spices. Take advantage of fun activities like morning trekking through the rice fields and nearby Abangan Village; a market tour and cooking class with the hotel chef; and daily afternoon high tea. Personal touches like homemade gingerbread cookies at Christmas make Puri Sunia one of those rare finds that leaves you misty-eyed when the staff hugs you goodbye.

Seniman Coffee Studio, Ubud, Bali

Coffee shops are ubiquitous in Ubud, but for an exceptional java experience head over to Seniman Coffee Studio, tucked away on Jalan Sriwedari just off the main road. Seniman specializes in high-quality house-roasted coffee, prepped by knowledgeable baristas using funky devices like Taiwanese siphons. But the brilliant coffee is only part of the fun. Take a seat at the communal table in one of the comfy “bar rockers” (an ingenious design that outfits a standard plastic chair with a reclaimed teak wood base, transforming it into a gently swaying seat) and strike up a conversation with a fellow journeyer – never in short supply in Ubud.

AlthoughPineapple & Guava Jam, Kou Cuisine, Ubud, Bali Monkey Forrest Road and Jalan Dewi Sita have a fair share of shops peddling standard tourist tchotchkes, there are some unique locally-owned boutiques worth checking out. Yogis, hippies and bohemians will love the beautifully crafted gold and silver jewelry in designs inspired by nature and ancient symbols at Yin Jewelry for the Soul. Kou Cuisine specializes in handmade soaps, jams and sea salt. The soaps, made from a base of pure coconut oil, are infused with flowers and herbs like sweet orange, frangipani and vanilla bean. The 20g squares are wrapped like fancy candies and make great gifts. Toko Paras is a treasure trove of enticing bath and body potions in gorgeous glass vessels. Try the Organic Lulur body scrub – a fragrant blend of frangipani flowers, sandalwood, pandan leaves and turmeric – and the Organic Chocolate body scrub – a confection-like mix of honey, coconut cream, chocolate and cinnamon. Stop into Juice Ja Cafe for a fresh pressed juice (pineapple, turmeric and ginger is a favorite) and browse the section of local products like raw cashews and cacao beans, and cold pressed coconut oil infused with vanilla bean pods.

Karsa Kafe, Ubud, Bali 2014© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Feeling refreshed, grab your walking shoes and head West (away from Ubud Palace on Jalan Raya Ubud) for a 15-minute walk to the Ibah hotel where you can access the Campuhan Ridge. This walk offers stunning views from atop the ridge, which is flanked by two sacred rivers, and winds around peaceful villages, organic farms and tiny art galleries. If you buy a painting or a piece of art here, you will likely make a friend for life. Continue to the top of the ridge to Karsa Kafe, a family-run outdoor eatery with sweeping rice field views that is the definition of “off-the-beaten” path. This is the kind of place adventuresome travelers dream of. Snag a seat under one of the stilted overwater pavilions and enjoy a freshly opened young coconut and Balinese dishes like nasi campur and charcoal roasted sate.

Karsa Spa, Ubud, Bali 2014© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

After lunch, indulge in a luxurious spa service at nearby Karsa Spa, one of the best spa experiences in Ubud. The gifted therapists are highly professional, and the outdoor treatment rooms are spectacular. Try the “Spicy Balinese Boreh,” which includes a massage with fragrant Ayurvedic oils; a piquant body scrub of cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander; a hydrating mask of fresh tamarind and Borneo honey; and a warm spice bath. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself booking your next appointment before you leave.

Bali Buda, Ubud, Bali While there is no shortage of healthy dinner options in Ubud, Bali Buda is credited with spearheading the organic food movement in Bali. A member of Slow Food International, and supporter of sustainability and Fair Trade practices, Bali Buda serves uber-healthy farm-fresh fare in a treehouse-like hideout. A gado-gado salad of steamed organic veggies and spicy peanut sauce, fresh lemon ginger soda, and homemade coconut ice cream is the ideal end to a day exploring Ubud. Om shanti shanti shanti.

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Taste of Adventure


Taste of Bali: Jamu Kunyit (Turmeric and Tamarind Drink)

Jamu Kunyit

This refreshing tonic will immediately transport you to Bali. Adapted from the Lebong Culinary Experience cook book, and featured in Top Three Cooking Experiences in Ubud

  • 5 ounces of tamarind paste, smashed
  • 5 ounces of fresh turmeric, peeled and sliced
  • 5 ounces of palm sugar syrup
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 17 ounces of water

Mix all ingredients, except lime juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool. Add lime juice, then strain with a fine sieve. Serve over ice.

Taste of Adventure

Taste of Bali: Base Gede (Basic Spice Sauce)

Base Gede

Although assembling this sauce can be quite labor intensive (especially if you hand-grind the mixture in a lesung in the traditional fashion), Base Gede is the quintessential ingredient in most Balinese dishes. Mix it into minced chicken or beef for sate, incorporate into soups for an exotic boost, or stir into basic curries. Most ingredients can be sourced in your local Asian market. Adapted from the Paon Bali cook book, and featured in Top Three Cooking Experiences in Ubud.

  • 5 small shallots
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of lesser galangal
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of galangal (aromatic ginger)
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of turmeric
  • 2 small chilis (hot)
  • 3 large red chilies (mild)
  • 4 candlenuts or macadamia nuts
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg powder
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 1 stalk of lemon grass, trimmed and crushed
  • 2 salam leaves or bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons of shrimp paste (Indonesian shrimp paste, Terasi, if possible)
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut oil
  1. Clean and wash all ingredients. Slice and remove seeds from the hot and red chilis. Finely chop the shallots, garlic, lesser galangal, galangal, ginger, turmeric, candlenuts, red chilis and hot chilis.
  2. Blend the chopped ingredients, coriander seeds, nutmeg and cloves in a Balinese lesung, or in a conventional blender, until they form a fine paste.
  3. Sauté the paste in the coconut oil. Crush the lemongrass stalk then add salt, pepper, palm sugar, salam leaves and the lemongrass to the paste. Sauté for about seven minutes on low heat.

The sauce will last 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator, and up to 6 months in the freezer.

Taste of Adventure

Best Cooking Classes in Ubud

Ubud, Bali 2014 © Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Ubud, Bali 2014 © Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Bali, the “Island of the Gods.” Most people who visit fall madly in love with the warm people, the lush landscape, the almost otherworldly spirituality and the exotically-spiced food. Bali’s agricultural bounty is a treasure, and if you are passionate about cooking, this little Indonesian island is heaven on Earth. Make sure to leave room in your suitcase for treasures like coconut palm sugar, hand-harvested sea salt, pure coconut oil, vanilla pods, rich cacao powder and beans, coffee, tea, cashews, tamarind, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and the unusual Balinese long pepper. The most impassioned cooking fanatics will want to spend time in a kitchen on the island learning family recipes and techniques from the locals. These are Taste of Adventure’s top three options in Ubud.

PAON BALI You will start your day at the bustling Ubud market. Meandering among the vendors, you will be given a full tutorial on all the produce and spices this little island has to offer, with plenty of chances to taste exotic fruit like the rare mangosteen. Once fresh herbs, chiles, spices and vegetables are selected, you will be whisked away to the rice paddies for a brief overview of the painstaking process of growing and harvesting rice, carried on by Balinese families for generations. From there you will be taken to nearby Laplapan Village, the family compound of your host, Puspa, who will welcome you with an energizing drink. The afternoon cooking lesson, which takes place in the outdoor family kitchen overlooking a deep gorge filled with palm trees, is a carefully orchestrated procession of nine traditional Balinese recipes, including Base Gede (the foundation of Balinese cooking) and chicken with fresh coconut cream curry. Sit back, relax and enjoy the feast with your new friends and adoptive Balinese family.

LEBONG CULINARY EXPERIENCE The chance to spend the afternoon in a spectacular Balinese compound would be enough for most people, but food and culture enthusiasts will be spoiled by Sang Made and his family. After a brief tour of the local food market, you will be transported to Lebong, where four generations work together to provide an unforgettable experience. While enjoying rich Balinese coffee and golden banana fritters, you will learn about the compound, the shrines and other cultural tid-bits about Balinese life. The cooking experience takes place in a beautiful outdoor pavilion. The air quickly fills with aromatics like shallots, garlic, kaffir lime and lemongrass, as you work your way through the seven-course menu while sipping on refreshing Jamu Kunyit. There are a few more surprises after lunch that make the Lebong experience extraordinary. You will cherish every drop of the thoughtful departing gift of fresh coconut oil made in the Lebong kitchen over a wood-burning fire from coconuts gathered from the grounds.

CASA LUNA: SUNDAY TWILIGHT SMOKED DUCK CLASS Although Casa Luna offers a number of cooking classes throughout the week, the Sunday Twilight Smoked Duck Class is a special opportunity to prepare, and devour, the ceremonial Bebek Betutu in the stunning Honeymoon Guesthouse. This is a dish not easily replicated at home (as it entails wrapping a spice-smothered duck in Betel tree bark and smoking it over fiery rice husks), but cooks will quickly find themselves dreaming of inventive hacks to recreate the dish in their own kitchen. You will depart stuffed and inspired.

Taste of Adventure

Four Fitness Vacations That Will Change Your Life

1. WILDFITNESS Kenya, Spain, Greece, Tanzania and England

Imagine arriving at a private villa ensconced in palm trees steps away from the warm Indian ocean in Kenya, or savoring freshly prepared lamb and farm fresh vegetables at sunset while you overlook the mountains on the Greek island of Crete. The Wildfitness locations and accommodations alone would be enough for most travelers, but add in a carefully-crafted program of physical activities, nourishing meals, and the camaraderie of like-minded “tribe members” from around the globe, and you have something truly life-changing. A team of highly-skilled coaches will motivate you through outdoor sessions focused on “wild” movements like running, swimming, boxing, agility, and a few other surprises. There is also plenty of time for rest and relaxing massages. Meals showcase the best local ingredients with a focus on meat (Pan Roasted Chicken in Whole African Spices), fish and an abundance of vegetables in multiple preparations; there are even a few “wild” treats like Avocado Chocolate Mousse.  Best for: Those of any fitness level looking to completely disconnect from the outside world and get back to their “primal” nature.

2. BIKINI BOOTCAMP Tulum, Mexico

Located at the Amansala eco resort on one of the most beautiful stretches of white sand and turquoise water in the world, Bikini Bootcamp is a “tune up for the mind, body and spirit.” The six-day all-inclusive camp offers a mix of fitness classes (zumba, boxing, circuit training, yoga, dance) with top instructors, superb massages and local excursions. Extras include sessions with Mayan healers, a temazcal (sweat lodge), tarot card readings, and more.  Meals focus on healthy fare like tropical fruit and housemade granola, grilled seafood and colorful salads (those who tire of the menu can find solace at nearby hotspots like Hartwood, Posada Margherita, Casa Banana, El Tabano and Restaurare).  Famous Bikini Bootcampers include Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Reese Witherspoon and Demi Moore. Best for: Ladies looking for a girlfriend getaway or a safe solo excursion who don’t mind casual beach accommodations and a bit of disorder.

3. BACKROADS Worldwide

Backroads is your one-stop shop for a turnkey active getaway, with a seemingly endless selection of adventures. Whatever your dream (a gourmet walking tour through the Tuscan hill towns; a walking and hiking tour of Bhutan; a trekking tour in Peru), Backroads likely has the perfect trip to make it a reality. A focus on high-quality trip leaders, impeccably-designed itineraries, authentic local experiences, and above-and-beyond service makes Backroads an industry leader in group travel. Best for: Those with little time or patience to plan and orchestrate an unforgettable trip and willing to pay a premium to have someone else do the work.

4. NINJA CAMP Canggu, Bali

Located on the magical island of Bali, Ninja Camp is an exclusive health and fitness retreat located in Canggu that embraces the mantra “eat well and play hard.” Ninja Camp is an immersive fitness experience, offering a variety of training activities, tailored nutrition and local adventure activities to small groups of fitness lovers. Freediving, mobility training, yoga, surfing and CrossFit are all on the menu, as are scheduled blocks of free time to rejuvenate. A private chef sources local ingredients and prepares Paleo meals and snacks focused on lean meats, fish and vegetables. “Ninjas” stay in a spectacular, modern villa on beautifully maintained grounds with rice paddy views. Program expansion plans include Guatemala, Iceland, the Philippines and Japan. Best for: Thrill-seekers with a fairly strong baseline level of fitness.

Taste of Adventure