Relaxed and settled in, breathing in the Balinese air, right as my thoughts started to clear away, I heard a rather strange cacophony of sounds coming from a microphone on the other side of the wall. Was someone crying on a mic? It sounded like a man’s voice, amplified yet emotional, followed by an uproar of people – singing, crying? I just couldn’t figure out how many. The symphony of sounds started to irk me as I couldn’t pin down what I was hearing. I rolled out of my hut and peeked over the wall to discover one hundred Balinese locals practicing Laughing Yoga, dressed in yellow and howling in laughter on the floor. The leader started with his genuine guffaw, and the rest followed in sync, sitting Indian-style and making sounds in unison like the most cheerful choir. Gutteral, light and genuine. I couldn’t believe it. I heard Indonesians were some of the happiest people on earth, well here was the proof…
One of the best destinations I’ve ever visited, Ubud epitomizes nature, art, spirituality and adventure. From rice fields to exotic jungles, Ubud offers more than enough tranquility and untapped beauty. Away from the famous surfing scene of the coastal cities on Bali, the city serves up a genuine island experience that showcases the best hospitality and beauty Indonesia has to offer.
Although spiritual retreats of eating, praying and loving are Ubud’s most famous attractions, don’t forget that coupled with relaxation, adventure is Ubud’s ace. If unwinding is not your only goal, experience Ubud by taking advantage of the surrounding nature and witness the serene, raw beauty. To immerse ourselves in relaxation and adventure, we chose three activities that I’ll never forget and they we’re so, so worth it. There’s a slew of companies willing to make these adventures a reality, but shopping around for the best deal is your best bet (your hotel will know of options as well). First off, white water rafting down Bali’s longest river, Ayung River, was spell blindingly beautiful, fun and intense. Many five-star hotels line the river’s banks, and I’ve only seen landscapes this exquisitely beautiful in movies. The next day we used Eco Cycling and it was phenomenal. For around $30, the tour started off with breakfast overlooking Mount Batur, a crater lake volcano, then we continued downhill on bikes through back roads winding through lush rice fields and valleys, stopping through villages along the way. We visited a Luwak Coffee planation (one the most expensive coffees in the world), to see how the coffee is processed and then did taste tests overlooking the jungle. Lastly, we went to the Elephant Safari Lodge to ride one of thirty Sumatran elephants. This experience was no less spectacular, but looking back, it was a bit sad. These large, beautiful creatures are kept on grounds that just don’t do a natural habitat justice. What was nice was that we could interact, pet and feed our elephant after the tour of the grounds. The talent show was particularly amusing and cute – some of the elephants learn to “paint” on an easel and their masterpieces can be even be bought. As for Ubud’s city center, it’s charming, albeit small. Most hotels and villas are tucked away in serene, oasis like atmospheres. Inside the city, there’s an artisanal vibe with boutiques, amazing souvenir shopping, galleries, restaurants and spas on almost every corner.
*Another must do in Ubud? A massage at ShangriLa Spa. This was the best massage of my life. 1 1/2 hours of pure heaven, I walked out of that massage feeling dazed, relaxed, and buzzing for hours after. After that existential experience, head over to Bridges for a gourmet dinner on the Campuhan (Wos) River.
Puri Asri: Staying here was a little piece of heaven. The grounds are designed to envelope the guests in true Ubud style – with beauty, serenity and hospitality. The villas and rooms are clean and nicely designed, although we had some trouble with our bathroom water pressure. Our room was the downstairs part of what seemed like a modern little house with a room upstairs. A beautiful pool was shared between our house and the next. On premises massage was not very good; I recommend going into town for a cheap yet luxurious spa experience. They serve delicious food and are conveniently located near the Monkey Forest. Shuttle pick up service is available until 10pm and reception helped us book interesting activities like the famous rafting and Eco cycling tours. http://www.puriasrivilla.com/index.html