Ubud

I’ll drop everything and hop on a flight with you just at the mention of the word. Ubud is one of the places I go to recharge (read my old post on Ubud here). The cultural heartland of Bali, surrounded by rice fields and lush greenery, is my place of rest and inspiration.

lush-greeneriesIt’s a town about 300 meters above sea level so it is comfortably cooler than the rest of the island. The main reason Ubud appeals so much to me is because it feed my needs. In Ubud, I get to relax, be artistically inspired by its art and culture, enjoy the good (but not necessarily expensive) food and be in the midst of nature.

architectureThis town in the middle of Bali has been known for over a century as an artist village, a cultural center that draws those who seek crafted treasures and/or architectural inspiration. The cultural and traditional art in Ubud were preserved because when it became a Dutch Protectorate in the 1900s, the colonialists didn’t interfere much.

art-sceneIt was only in the 1930s when the Royal family encouraged foreign artists to Ubud did the modern era began in Ubud, eventually creating a dynamic art scene. Consequently, a treasure trove of museums and galleries now call Ubud home.

retail-therapyUbud is a haven for shoppers, truth to tell. Monkey Forest Road, Jalan Raya and Hanoman Streets are strips of retail therapy treats – from beautiful arts and crafts, local designer clothes and jewelry to unique housewares and antiques.

warungIt is also home to restaurants, cafes and warungs (local eateries), and a foodie’s haven. The whole island, in fact, has an exciting culinary scene and Ubud is right up there.

gastronomic-delight-At first glance, Ubud seemingly may consist of local eateries but it has its fair share of creative restaurants featuring a fusion of different cuisines. Every visit, I discover new jaunts but try to revisit one or two favourites.  More on Ubud Eats here.

rice-fieldsNature lovers will love the countryside feel of Ubud. Cafes and lodgings surrounded by rice fields abound.

resortThe view of the rice field from our resort, Munari Resort and Spa.

While birds and animal lovers will enjoy an afternoon in either the Monkey Forest or head out to Putulu Village for some white heron (kokokan) sightings.

Monkey-ForestThese herons, thousands of them, have inhabited the trees of Putulu since 1965.

white-heronsThey return to rest at around 6 pm every night so it is best to go an hour or so earlier, find yourself a warung and enjoy a few drinks of cold beer while you wait.

The one lure that calls out the loudest and the one I truly look forward to is the pampering. You can’t walk more than a few meters without passing a spa.

massageGetting a daily massage is a norm in an area swarming with spas – a traditional Balinese massage one day, a Javanese Lulur Scrub another and what about a four-hand massage or coffee scrub for that special treat before going home?

Ahh… just writing this post had me yearning for another de-stressing visit to Ubud. Sigh…

How Time Flies…

Has it been a year already?  According to WordPress, I made 23 new posts this year.  Really?  Only 23?  That’s about 2 posts a month, and half of what I posted in 2012.  Not good at all.  I can’t say if I will do better than last year, but I can at least promise to strive for it.

2013 was pretty good to me—in both the travel and work scene.  In the travel category, it has been a cultural feast near and far with Morocco, most definitely, topping the list, followed by Spain and Portugal.  But not to be outdone are some of the places close to me.  Here’s a glimpse of how I spent my 2013, many of which I still owe a post so please stay tune.

2013And with this, I wish you all a year of greater adventures and good health.  Cheers!!

Random Travel Snaps: The Orangutans of Borneo

orangutan

Threatened by logging and captivity, their population dwindles through the years.  These so-called “men of the forest” are estimated to be as few as 10,000 still in the wild.

In 2007, I followed the path of a boardwalk that led me to a viewing gallery and a feeding platform.  There were a few orangutans on site but slowly, more emerged from the rainforest lured by milk and bananas.  Feeding time is twice a day – once in the morning and another in the afternoon.

No longer held in captivity (by various people and for various reasons), they are free to roam as they please around the 4,300 hectare Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve.  This is so they get used to their own natural habitat once more and this –in the meantime – is their sanctuary.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre aims to return orphaned, injured and displaced orangutans back into the wild, back to the jungle of Borneo.  Orangutans are natives of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia.  The Borneo orangutans however, are only found in Borneo, and the centre affords a rare opportunity to see these endangered species up close.

The orangutans may be the star, but pig tailed and long-tailed macaques share a bit of the stage at the time of feeding.  They have learned that there is an easy meal available and show up too at feeding time.

A day trip to Sepilok is not possible from Kota Kinabalu but if you find yourself in Sandakan, a trip to Sepilok Sanctuary is a must.

Useful Info:

Getting There


If you are not on any tour, public buses and taxis are available from Sandakan town. The Labuk Road Bus Company vehicles leave from the front of the Sandakan Town Council (Majlis Perbandaran Sandakan or MPS) from 6.00 am onwards.

The Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan bus can also drop you at junction Jalan Sepilok, around 2.5km from the Center. Journey about 5 hours from KK.

You can hire a taxi for a return trip for about RM100.00 negotiable. The distance between town and the Centre is about 23km.

Opening Hours: 
Daily from 8.00am till 5.00pm

Exhibition Hall: Daily (except Fridays) from 9.00am till 4.30pm

Centre: Daily from 9.00am till 12.00pm and 2.00pm till 4.00pm Fridays 9.00am till 11.00am, 2.00pm till 4.00pm 

 
Address:
Batu 14, Jalan Labuk Sandakan Sabah,
WDT200, 9009 Sandakan Sabah

Incredible Lightness

Credits: Quickpage by Jessica Griffin

The new donut craze in Southeast Asia that is soon coming our way (hopefully). Incredibly light and airy with good java to boot.  J.Co, originally from Indonesia has entered the shores of Singapore, Malaysia and most recently Shanghai.

Ubud for Kids?

Ubud only have a few places suitable for young kids.  This however being our annual family vacation, the kids were with us.  We indulged them and went to a few kid friendly places.  On their last day, we indulged them even more and had them stay in to play and swim to their hearts desire.  I’m sure they enjoyed that the most.   😯

So if you have kids and HAVE TO bring them to Ubud with you, here are some of the places that they might enjoy.

The Sacred Monkey Forest

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This place is full of long tail Macaques.  Within Balinese Hinduism, monkeys can be the embodiment of positive and negative forces, which is why the Balinese both loathe and revere these monkeys.  Monkeys that occupy sacred Balinese Hindu temple sites (such as this place) tend to be revered and protected by the Balinese because monkeys are believed to be capable of guarding temple sites against evil spirits.  They, however become a negative force once they start raiding rice fields or snatch items from souvenir shops.

monkeys-2

Some of the trees here are likewise considered holy and are vital in various Balinese practices.

This is good information but the young ones will surely find fascination in the monkeys.  Period.

Elephant Ride

elephant-1Experience sitting atop an elephant in a teak wood chair.  These trained elephants are native to Sumatra.  Apparently, there are 2 different places to see these jumbos and that is the Elephant Safari Park at Taro and Bali of Elephant Camp, where we ended up.  I didn’t realize that there were two places and when our driver/tour guide took us to the latter I just assumed it was the former.   The 30-minute ride at the camp had the kids wired and the grandfather sore.  Unfortunately, there was no elephant show much less the painting elephants as these are found on the one in Taro.

elephant-2

Ubud… Second time around

I’ve been to Bali 3 times in the past 2 decades.  Twice for work and once tagging along an incentive trip of an ex.  Each time was spent on a beach resort, Nusa Dua to be exact.  My first and only time in Ubud prior to this trip was in 1991.  A day trip only.  Almost 2 decades later, here I am experiencing Ubud like it was my first time.

Ubud is Bali’s cultural enclave, where one can find artists’ studios & galleries, rice fields, ornate temples and ancient historical sites.  While it once was an oasis for backpackers, artists and bohos, Ubud is now a popular destination for literati, glitterati, art collectors and connoisseurs.  Elegant 5 star hotels and sprawling mansions now stand in the outskirts of Ubud.

ubud-dance

So without further hoo-ha, here’s a list of places that deserves a thumbs up (according to me)!

The Crispy Duck of Bebeck Bengil:

dirty-duck1

Lines were long even at 1pm.  Obviously a popular eating joint for both locals and tourists alike.  Service was slow and quite inefficient.  But the (long) wait was worth it.   The duck was very tasty.  Crispy yet juicy – fried to perfection, if you ask me.  It didn’t look very appetizing but it definitely had me at first bite.

Dinner at Lamak Restaurant and Bar:

lamak

Hands down the best meal of our entire stay.  Located along Monkey Forest Road, they serve excellent fusion dishes like Tea Infused Duck Broth with dumpling and Sesame crusted Scallop w/ Kung Pao Sauce.  And desserts like Orange & Ginger Bruleé, Chocolate Soufflé and Chili ice cream.  Nuff said!  My dad actually wanted to return for lunch or dinner the next day.   😀

Pura Puseh Temple, Batuan Village:

pura-puseh

Considered to be one of the finest and oldest temples in Bali. The temple dates back to the 11th century and has many fine carvings. This Balinese village of Batuan possesses one of the richest cultural legacies on the island.  Renowned for some of the finest music, dances and sculptures in all of Bali, it has performances twice a month of the Gambuh, a rare ancient dance drama.  Regular performances are held on the 1st and 15th of every month.  Nope, we didn’t catch it; it was the wrong time of the month.

Ubud Palace / Puri Saren Agung

ubud-palace

Set in the center of Ubud, across the Ubud Central Market.  This is the palace of the Royal family that ruled from the late 1800’s until World War II and is essentially the father of other Ubud Palaces or Puri, as the locals call it.

When we arrived, a portion of the palace was closed (for unknown reasons) but the little that I saw of the grounds impressed me.  The garden was beautifully kept, the old stone gates and the statue guards in that familiar checkered cloth skirts were main points of interest.  Definitely worth a revisit.

The front courtyard is open to the public during the day and a traditional dance performance, the Legong Dance is held here every night.  Interesting to note, some of the pavilions have been turned into hotel rooms for those who want a glimpse of the Royal life.

Shopping!!!

shopping-in-ubud

Along Monkey Forest Road and Jalan Raya.  Fantastic and extremely varied.  You can find all kinds from ancient antiques to whimsical trinkets.  Shops upon shops filled with sarongs, woodcarvings, paintings, souvenirs, jewelries, incense potteries…  It’s a shopping haven even if I had to put my rusty bargaining powers to use.  For many, bargaining is an art and is what makes shopping fun… not for me as patience is not my virtue. Wahaha!   😛

Maya Ubud – A Haven of Tranquility

mayaubud-1

Our home for 4 days.  Let’s just say I can afford it because I wasn’t paying for it.  If you like the finer things in life and prefer traveling luxuriously as my family does, Maya Ubud is for you.

maya-ubud-2

Reviews says that it is a cut above the rest and rightly so.  Located high between 2 river valleys, set in sprawling lawns and gardens, Maya Ubud is indeed a haven of tranquility.  All villas face the river, and the sound of the river brings such serenity.

maya-villa

I adore my villa and the daybed outside my room.  I spent a lot of time reading on that comfy daybed.  It is pure bliss to be able to just relax and read my book.  The greatest indulgence however was a relaxing bathing experience in the privacy of my bathroom.  For US$15, I had a personal assistant prepare my bath.  When I arrived from dinner, there it was, all ready for me.  I just had to slide in and enjoy my book some more before I slumbered off.  Now that’s what I call capping the day.  And the best part is that they provided an extra set with their compliments and for 2 straight nights I bathe in tranquility.  Such is life!   😉

maya-bath

One thing I didn’t get to do was try the award winning spa.  It was kinda duh of me but I just couldn’t bring myself to pay for something that I can get in Manila for a quarter of the price.  Could anything be that worth it?  Regretfully, I’ll never know!  😦

Hello 2009!

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How did you spend the extra-long break?  I spent it up in the mountains… two, in fact.  After Christmas, my family and I flew to Denpasar and spent 5 relaxing days in a wonderful resort in Ubud, Bali.  As soon as I landed in Manila, I was on my way to Baguio to spend a quiet New Year in Sagada with good friends.  Both locations I return again and again for their food, so I indulged in good eating this season (as always).   😉 Overindulgence aside, I also found time to finally make a dent on the pile of books on my shelf, waiting to be read.

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Despite the gloomy forecast, I can’t wait to get started.  I’ve already got a growing list of plans for the year.  Four exciting places I want to explore within the 1st half of the year. Learn one sport (starting this month) and master it (in a year or two, I hope).  Know Photoshop inside out.  Take more photos… and the list goes on.  But before all these, it’s back to the gym tomorrow to shed off those extra pounds!   😛

Seriously though, I am thankful and grateful to the almighty God for a wonderful 2008. Hope the blessing continues with the same grace and faithfulness He has bestowed through the years.

A blessed New Year to all!  More on Bali and Sagada in the next few days.