Ubud is the nature retreat we have been looking for. Coming from Bangkok, we needed to get away from the city noise and the pollution. We heard it was beautiful there and everyone that has been has said how much they loved it and now I see why. We stayed outside the city center, really it felt like in the middle of nowhere, it was perfect and very inexpensive at the Pajar House. If you are looking for a nice, clean, away from noise, and inexpensive hotel I highly recommend this place. The hotel will even help you to book excursions through their own service or you can book ahead of time with other companies in the area like we did.
I know my husband needs things to do on our vacations. We aren’t the type of family to just sit and relax but there was a slight problem in my planning. I had made these booking before we realized we were pregnant. We signed up to do the Eco Bike Tour and the Sunrise Volcano Trek. Luckily for me, I was feeling really good just entering my second trimester and the company had made a few changes to our itinerary to accommodate my current condition. The sunrise trek would have been brutal for the pregnant lady so they suggested a sunset trek with a picnic at the top of the volcano. Then they weren’t comfortable with the pregnant lady biking 25km so I was allowed to ride in the van behind the tour group and had a lovely air conditioned ride through the country side.
The bike ride lasted the entire day. We were picked up at 8am and returned to our hotel by 3pm. You are first driven through the Tegalalang rice terrace for a morning sun photo opportunity and are told about the village and the handicrafts made there. Then you are driven to a restaurant on the top of the hill for breakfast and the breathtaking views of Mt. Batur, Lake Batur, and Mt. Abang.
Before the ride begins, you do a quick stop for a tasting of chocolates and to see how local coffee is harvested, roasted, and served. This is where we tried the famous Luwak coffee, which is the coffee bean ingested by a wild cat, pooped out, found in the jungle and then they make coffee out of it… We did try it and it was a very strange concept to get our head around to enjoy the flavor. The ride begins where they outfit you with helmets, bikes, and in our case a toddler seat on the back of the bike. Luckily for those who might not be in tip top shape to handle a difficult 25km ride, the adventure was mostly downhill. During the ride, there are a few stops to learn about the local life in Ubud. We visited a rice terrace to see how rice is grown and harvested, a traditional family home with home temple, a 500 year old banyan tree, and ended our day with a delicious Balinese meal. To see photos from this adventure click here for the photography post.
I was more excited for the volcano trek, especially since it was up an active volcano and I could actually participate. Since this tour was with the same company, the first stop is a quick coffee and cake break on top of the hill overlooking the volcano. I ask where our trek was going to begin and he pointed to the bottom of one side of the mountain covered in black, which we assumed was black lava rock. The grade was not very steep until you had to make the big climb up and we were a little disappointed thinking it would be too easy of a trek. That was not the case… Turns out the black rock was not rock but sand. You are climbing up a black sandy hill and it was by far one of the hardest hikes I have ever done and it took so long. You can imagine climbing up a huge sandy hill in the desert or at the beach; it’s not going to be a quick trip. We were visiting Ubud at the beginning of their tourist season, so there wasn’t a soul out there with us when we did our hike which was very nice. The guide said in July, for the sunrise hike, they can have around 600-800 visitors a day on the volcano and all you see is a line of people going up the mountain.
By the time we reached the top, the clouds began to clear and we could see Lake Batur and Mt. Abang. The smell of sulfur was in the air; steam was billowing from the top of the crater which was alive and kicking. Our son actually trekked half of the journey on his own until we had to do the big climb up. We were so proud of his efforts and the guide said there have been less than 5 three year olds that have climbed up the mountain. Once at the top, you had to be very careful as you could fall right out of the mountain (one thing our toddler had a hard time understanding). After a moment of reflection and prayer, it was time for a traditional Balinese dinner which was cooked over the steam of the active volcano.
The best part of this volcano trek was our guide. We really enjoyed his stories from what we could understand. He was present for the eruption in 1994. He had taken a group of tourists up the mountain in the morning and by the time they reached the top the smell of sulfur was very strong and there was a slight rumble. He decided it was not the morning to stay for their picnic and headed back down the mountain as quickly and safely as possible. By the time they reached the bottom the volcano erupted! Could you imagine!?
Ubud city center also has a lot to offer if you aren’t looking for the outdoor physical adventures. You could spend a day shopping for home decor and handicrafts from the Tegalalang rice terrace village area or in the city. We did a day in the city, with a quick lap around the palace and then a hike through town about 30 minutes to reach the monkey temple. The monkey temple is a must see, although I am not a fan of the monkeys everywhere. If you do visit, keep your snacks or water bottles inside your bag because if the monkey spots it they will go for it and they will win. If you really want to you can buy the food special for the monkeys and feed them. You could easily spend a day seeing all that the city center has to offer. If you love Mexican food I would suggest you need to have lunch at taco casa– YUM! We were so glad a friend recommended that restaurant because sometimes you are just over rice and noddle dishes.
If you are looking for more to do during your stay in Ubud read my post about the Bali Bird Park– a huge hit with our family.