“Glow with the flow.” After one day in Ubud, a small village in the centre of the island of Bali- one will understand this local saying far better than after reading any long convoluted explanation in a guidebook or on a website. But, put simply, it means that going with the flow brings that elusive glow of happiness we seem eternally, to be in search of, and the proof is in the pudding. That is, in the small Balinese village of Ubud.
Life moves slowly here. Cars are stuck in traffic jams and hardly a horn is sounded. Rain pours down in buckets, halting business and all other activity but the happy expressions do not falter. Business is slow, the first customer sometimes appearing at 1 pm, yet still smiles shine bright. Happy hellos wait on local lips for each person who passes. Men calling out “Taxi, madam Taxi”, are repeatedly turned down, yet the genuine grin remains, sparkling in their eyes. There is a sense that sometime, the right customer will come along, and nothing can be changed by complaining. Acceptance and contentment reside in the air here. Contagious.
Many come to Ubud to rediscover themselves and detox through yoga retreats or meditation, yet with no professional assistance, my short time in Ubud inspired immense self-reflection and ‘rediscovering’ of myself. The people I met and the sayings that slip easily from their mouths, “We must always give first and then take. If you take first and then give we are selfish. If we take and take and take, then we are just greedy,” oddly profound, induced more self-reflection than any expert could have.
The locals of this village appear to hold the secret to a happy life, but it does not require discovery by teams of experts, philosophers or psychologists. It is not guarded meanly but worn openly and easily in their faces, made manifest by their daily actions. All one needs to do is watch. Listen. Glow with the flow/
So how do you get to get here, this haven of self-discovery?
Fly to Denpasar airport. If you are flying from Europe, it will not be direct; you may have to stop in Dubai or Singapore. From here you can get a taxi to Ubud. Expect to pay between 15-20 USD.
Where to Stay?
I stayed in a homestay which I found on Air BnB. I would highly recommend seeking one out in order to get the most out of your stay. It is a more immediate help to the local population as they are run by local families. They are cheap, $11 a night (another person can stay at no extra cost) and you can have a more authentic experience. The locals are generally happy to teach you about their religion and traditions, and include you in anything that is going on.
If luxury is more your style, there are plenty of hotels in in the village too.
What to do:
Glow with the flow! However, it never hurts to have a few ideas as to what to do, even if you don’t get to do them all!
Wander the village
Go on the Campuhan ridge walk (or don’t)- Just moments from the Campuhan ridge walk, is an another walk you can take, one which is less famous and consequently less frequented. It is within walking distance from the center of Ubud and though not exactly clearly marked on the roads, if you type ‘Sari Organik’ into your google maps and save it, you will be sent on your way along the walk. Sari Organik is a restaurant which, along with many others, can be found along the walk. We actually didn’t end up eating there but in another café, only two weeks old which served us one of the best meals of our trip, and definitely the best view- right over the rice fields. If you don’t have time (or money for a taxi), this is a great way to see the rice terraces, admittedly less photogenic than the famous Tegallang rice terraces but an incredible experience all the same. Anyway, with the hoards of tourists certain to be trotting around Tegallang, you might have more chance of actually seeing the rice terraces here!
Swim in a waterfall- There’s a famous waterfall nearby: Tegenungan waterfall, which most tourists visit. However, we got lucky and one of our new local friends brought us to one which was less frequented and as a result, much cheaper and less busy. Even with the rain pouring down, this was possibly the best experience of the holiday. The smiles say it all.
Watch the Herons landing at Petulu- every evening at 5pm you can watch the herons arrive back to their home in Petulu. Unfortunately it was monsooning (out of season) while I was there and it wasn’t possible to do this, but I’ll definitely be going back for it!
Yoga- If there ever was a hub of Yoga, it is Ubud. From Yoga-wear, to yoga classes, signs advertising the activitiy can be seen everywhere. There are several places in which you can take classes, but the most famous- the Yoga Barn- is located off the beaten track. The journey there is almost a retreat in itself. The space in which the yoga classes are carried out is marvelous. Coming from Ireland, where Yoga is often carried out in small rooms wherever possible, having a huge reverberating expanse in which to practice was quite the experience- the ‘shantih, shantih, shantih’ we repeated at the end reverberated soothingly in my chest. There are classes for every level and the teachers are wonderful. If you’re in Ubud for a while you can sign up for numerous classes and get a discount!
Journal- As I said, I found this trip inspired a remarkable amount of self-reflection, but my journal definitely helped me along. If you don’t like writing you could doodle or draw.
Visit Love Stories- On our first day, sheltering from the rain in Earth Café, the shining lights of this little shop caught my eye, a sign in the window proclaimed it sustainable- my heart leaped. Dripping wet I decided not to grace the shop with my sodden presence on that particular day, but vowed to return, which I did, only two nights before I left. Visiting Love Stories was one of the highlights of my whole trip. The store epitomizes the attitude that resides in the village, overflowing with love- love for the environment, love for people. Proceeds from the shop go to funding education for children in Ubud and every item residing in the shop tells a marvelously sustainable and inspiring story. Tess, the founder of the store, is an utter ray of sunshine, a bubble of energy and makes the experience of shopping here even more delightful. I honestly would go back to Ubud just to visit this place again. If you’re in Ubud, and are slightly interested-or more-in sustainable fashion, I urge you to visit!
Make Friends- Chat to the locals. Learn about their traditions. Exchange smiles. Laugh.
Where to Eat-
If you’re vegan, then you might just have reached heaven. The food here is incredible, and at every restaurant, I went to, Omni or not, I was asked if I was vegan or vegetarian, before even sitting down! Say goodbye to sad old single options on the menu or the go-to falafel. You’ll be spoilt for choice. With only a few days here we couldn’t try everywhere but some of my personal favourites were:
– Unknown restaurant on the Ridge Walk.
-Atman kafe- there are two of these within moments of each.We loved this place so much we returned three times. They serve both breakfast and dinner and breakfast is served all day! We also loved the seating: raised platforms with low tables and cushions on which to sit (or lie in a food coma)
-Earth Café- I had heard a lot about this café and to be honest, we were rather disappointed. Comparatively, it was the worst meal of our trip. At home, I would have said it was great, but in Ubud, it just didn’t cut it. If you do want to eat here, I recommend sticking to savory, our dinners were delicious but the deserts were somewhat stodgy and disappointing- also one of tarts had mould on them.
-Soma- this is branded as a café and meet-up-place. The menu is extensive and we would have loved to return. The best part about it, however, was the musical instruments. There were guitars, a piano, tambourines, even a digeridoo and guests are free to use them. I could have spent hours here singing away.
-Local restaurants (Warung)- Many of the restaurants, such as Soma and Kafe, cater to tourists. With western options, the food and experience is not entirely authentic ( sensing a theme here?) so for this reason, we tried out some local restaurants. It is very common in Bali not to eat meat or dairy so ordering was easy and the people incredibly friendly. An added bonus is that the food, of equal quality, costs only a fraction of what it would in the other touristy cafes.
-There are many more restaurants we didn’t get to try, you could be here for a month and still not have tried everywhere. Some of the places we wanted to try but didn’t get to include: Seeds of Life
- Finally, Make friends! Chat to the locals, smile with them, and laugh.
Have you been to Bali or Ubud befor or do you want to go? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below, or message me on instagram @afruitfulllife