Beautiful Ubud, Bali

The heat is different in Asia. It is a heat you can smell, as well as feel.  And maybe that is in part due to the sweet, pungent cigarettes that I only seem to smell in Bali. That everybody seems to smoke.  And I mean everybody.  The humidity is in the high 90s.  And your body (and some would say your hair) knows it.  And it tells you.  All the time. The only respite is a refreshing dip in the villa’s private pool.
We stayed at Ubud Padi Villas, somewhere I would highly recommend.  A short 10 minute shuttle transfer from the centre of Ubud, this is isolated enough to let you feel you are the only people here. There are 10 private villas, all around a lush green central area that doubles as the outdoor restaurant. That said, breakfast was served in the room in each day, eating on the deck by the soothing sounds of our pool.

Breakfast is served
Ubud is full of great food options, and we have some excellent choices for both lunch and dinner within walking distance. Terracotta was an inspired choice, but even this was topped with a splurge at Kubu restaurant, in the Ritz-Carlton resort, a 10 minute walk away (or 5 minute golf buggy ride) from our villa.
Kubu is a river front restaurant, where you get to sit in your own private cocoon.  And indulge in a world class menu, whilst listening to the Ayung river charge by.  We went for the 6 course degustation, which was excellent, complemented by the chef’s complimentary numerous amuse bouches.  Not that we needed dessert, I had elegant sufficiency, but after my heads up to the wait staff, Victoria got serenaded with a rousing rendition of happy birthday, and was presented with a beautiful little cake.
I probably didn’t make as great an impression on our first trip to Bali as a couple.  Indeed our very first holiday as a couple, just two years ago.  Not long being together, we had a romantic week booked in a fabulous hotel, on the beach in Nusa Dua, south of Denpasar airport.
“I’m not a fan of how close the bathroom is to the bedroom, are you?”
“What do you mean, close to the bedroom?  Aren’t all bathrooms close to bedrooms in hotels?”
“Well, yeah, possibly.  It’s just that usually there is a door you can close.  Rather than these louvre shutter things we have.  It just seems a little…”
“What?”
“…”
“A little what?”
“Oh god! You might want to put some music on.”
“Put some music on?  What are you talking about?  Is everything ok?  Where are you going?”
And with that I knew I was in a race against time.  And my odds weren’t looking good.
“Just put some music on”, I shouted from the bathroom in desperation.  Not that I needed to shout. The was no noise cancellation created by the bloody louvre shutters.  And the lack of noise cancellation was my main concern.
“Oh god. Oh my god!  No. Oh no”
Mary J Blige came to the rescue, drowning out my first case of Bali belly.  And the point that our relationship was either about to blossom, or fade like a jacaranda tree at the end of Summer.
If you ever find yourself in Nusa Dua, I’d probably avoid the “Queen’s” Indian restaurant. Especially if you are trying to make a good impression with your paramour.
This time around, I have been a little more circumspect about what I eat.  Not that you really need to be.  As I’ve mentioned, the food options are excellent in Ubud.  It is more a case of deciding what you fancy that particular evening, and finding one of the many busy restaurants to suit your needs.  The only concession we did make, on occasion, was the amount of wine we would customarily drink on holiday.  Whilst food is cheap, wine prices are astronomical by comparative standards.  In keeping with my somewhat parsimonious nature, Bintang beer was often my drink of choice.
Whilst most of the trip was relaxation, and massages, we did get out and about a little. An activity I would recommend is taking an eBikes cycling tour. I was drawn to this both due to the effort required to cycle in this heat, and the fact that I had never ridden an ebike before.  Going out on the 3pm trip, our small group was led through little villages, to temples, and through the magnificent rice fields. One girl in our group even managed to cycle off the path and into the water ditch that ran alongside the narrow footpath we were cycling on.
We finished at a little uninspiring coffee plantation, where the main attraction seemed to be the civets that were kept in captivity. Civets are a little cat like animal that eats, amongst other things, the coffee cherries off the trees. These are digested by the civet, and disposed of, in the most natural of ways. The “waste” is then rummaged in, and the passed through coffee beans are retrieved, washed (thankfully), subsequently roasted, and ground, to make Kopi Luwak coffee, which is sold at a premium.  If you are waiting for me to explain the reason behind this whole bizarre procedure, I’m afraid I don’t know.  Either what possessed the first people to start checking civet shit for coffee beans, or what then drove them to think it would be a good idea to use that for making their morning coffee.  One of life’s mysteries I guess.
Balinese petrol station
I would like to tell you how much Ubud has changed in the many years since I’ve been, but I honestly couldn’t tell you.  The whole place was unrecognisable, which tells its own story.  No doubt “aided” by Elizabeth Gilbert’s infamous memoir, Eat Pray Love, Ubud has seen an exponential rise in visitor numbers over the last ten years.  And the traffic, or more accurately, the limited road infrastructure in Ubud is bearing the brunt of all these visitors.
It is a very precarious balancing act, appealing to tourists, and bringing in much welcome income to the economy, whilst trying to maintain the beauty of what attracted people there in the first place.  I have seen this done wrong in places, most notably Koh Phi Phi in Thailand.   I hope Ubud, and Bali manage to keep the balance right, and hold on to the magic this little island undoubtedly has.