A friend teased recently that he had been checking on my website and for months all he kept seeing was “the prawn“. Hello again everyone! It has been a while indeed. I was in Ubud with a buddy for a weekend trip and captured some wonderful memories on my iPhone. If you are swinging by Ubud, here are a few worthwhile stop-bys.
We stayed at Alaya Ubud, an 11-month old Balinese resort located at the junction of Jalan Hanoman and Monkey Forest Road. The architecture pays tribute to classic Balinese design; the interior is contemporary and kitted out for the comfort of the modern traveler. This is in the heart of the main Ubud cultural, shopping and entertainment belt, home to many restaurants, cafes, galleries, specialty shops and yoga shalas.
Alaya Ubud sits between the wildly popular fried duck institution Bebek Bengil and yoga haven The Yoga Barn, and is a shop-lined stroll to Ubud’s sacred Monkey Forest. Rooms at the resort have a generous terrace that presents a stunning view of Bali’s famous padi fields which were in resplendent shades of green when we were there.
Though the well-appointed room enticed a stay-in, we were equally seduced by the gorgeous pool, the centerpiece of the property designed as a dedication to local craftsmanship. The tranquil environs invited a lazy bask on the sun loungers that fringed the pool, while the poolside Bamboo Bar tempted an afternoon tipple.
Petani Restaurant, located next to the lobby at the front entrance of Alaya Ubud, serves a delicious breakfast spread and home-style Indonesian and regional cuisine throughout the day.
We had wanted to stay at a resort along Jl. Hanoman to be close to The Yoga Barn, but what sealed the deal for our eventual choice was actually the espresso machine in Alaya Ubud’s Petani Restaurant. It has become increasingly unbearable (for me) not to be in the vicinity of good coffee. I let out a shout of triumph after spotting the La Marzocco in the photo gallery on Alaya Ubud’s website during our pre-trip research. Pleased to report that the coffee has proven our decision right.
A great lunch stop across the street not far from Alaya Ubud is Warung Uma. The restaurant looked very unassuming from the outside but turned out to be rather rustic within (think thatched pavilion). There was a light drizzle and we couldn’t help but be awash with a sense of serenity and promise as we awaited our food. Our grilled chicken and fish were cooked over a coal pit in the restaurant’s back yard. We could see the smoke rise beyond the back door. The beautifully charred chicken and fish, served with some fried kang kong, rice and a piquant chili dip, were ferried to our table under an umbrella. Kind of just added to the poetic feeling of the moment. Oh and the food didn’t disappoint.
The Provencal-styled Kebun Bistro on Jl. Hanoman (10 minutes’ walk from Alaya Ubud) has a Mediterranean focussed menu offering tapas, grill, pastas and pizzas accompanied by a decent wine selection. Sit indoors to be close to the action in the open kitchen or outside for a convivial French country style setting with a good view of the people traffic up and down Jl. Hanoman.
For dinner, we had arancini, prawns sauteed in olive oil and a generous amount of garlic, and escargots served piping hot in parsley garlic butter, topped with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. We mopped up all the sauces with some crusty baguette. We followed with a rich gazpacho that was a little too creamy we felt and a very tasty salad of root vegetables, dark leafy greens and cashews well-dressed in a balsamic and caramelized onion base. Alas I have no photos to show of our food as the ambient lighting was too dim for my iPhone camera to process. Next time.
Kebun Bistro is midway between Alaya Ubud and another favourite stop – Ubud Bodyworks Centre, a traditional Balinese massage and body treatment centre with an extensive menu of other massage and spa treatments. If you like your massages strong, do sign in for their deep tissue therapy. Thanks E for your Sunarti recommendation! (Sorry I forgot to take photos.)
Yoga at The Yoga Barn was top of my agenda this trip. This yoga centre has daily classes and occasional workshops for traditional styles of yoga as well as contemporary programmes such as Ecstatic Dance conducted by well qualified, dedicated teachers. I attended 3 classes (Vinyasa Flow and Power), of varying levels of difficulty but all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a wonderful experience sharing the practice with passionate fellow yogis and teachers. I am convinced I need to put in at least a week here my next visit.
Even if you are not feeling too bendy, you must not pass up on The Garden Kafe (used to be known as Little K) located at the front part of The Yoga Barn grounds. This raw food kitchen serves an awesome array of delectable raw foods, cakes, smoothies and Ayurvedic meals. For lunch, we had a fabulous vegan tofu burger, an Ayurvedic pita, raw ravioli, flourless orange cake and fresh juices. The Garden Kafe overlooks the terraced lawn and studios of The Yoga Barn. The vibe is laid-back as yogis and travelers alike enjoy a meal and quiet conversation amid the tranquil environment. I repeat – DO NOT MISS.
Another old favourite of mine is Three Monkeys. This charming restaurant extends deep into the padi fields with tables on the terrace enjoying a view of the lush greenery. We didn’t have enough slots this trip to schedule a proper meal here, but I insisted we find room for their lovely coconut sorbet.
Bali is also famous for kopi luwak, coffee from coffee cherries eaten and excreted by Asian Palm Civets. It is believed that the cherries as selected by civets in the wild are of superior quality and that the digestive process enhances the flavour profile of the beans. See here for more information.
Kopi luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world; I wanted to find out for myself what the fuss is about.
Our visit to Lumbung Sari, a luwak coffee and tea production house started with a short tour and explanation of the coffee production process.
Here we were shown the beans excreted by the civets before roasting.
The beans were roasted manually on a pan over direct fire by a friendly lady used to gawking tourists.
The beans below were the final product after roasting and ready to be ground. To be honest, I was quite taken aback by how dark roasted (oh alright…burnt) the beans were. This could be a harbinger of the outcome of our taste test later.
For our tasting, we were brought kopi luwat (the cup on top of the platter for which we had to pay a little short of USD 5) and several complimentary cups of flavoured coffee and tea (lemon, ginger, ginseng, coconut, vanilla, lemon grass, you name it).
The kopi luwak tasted very burnt (surprise surprise). The mouthfeel was soft. There was no acidity, no fruitiness, no aroma. It tasted like the dire robusta coffee from my office pantry. To be fair, I am not sure if this were a product of an overhyped civet digestive process or a result of extremely bad roasting or both. But what’s certain is thou shalt not be paying top dollars for this.
A visit here is still worthwhile if only to get an education. I would refrain from buying kopi luwak beans. Glad to have found out for myself.See you next year Bali! Written and photographed by jack.d