First Impressions of Ubud, Bali

Well, I wanted a challenge right? An uncomfortable growth opportunity. We’ve only been in Bali for 2 weeks now and have accomplished a fair bit. We got over jet lag, found a house, moved in, rented ourselves a scooter, hired a cook and have already experienced the town’s peacefulness and chaos.

The first few days we stayed with our friends at their luxury villa that they’ve rented in the town of Ubud, Bali. Being served breakfast, lunch and dinner overlooking calm rice paddies at their villa was wonderful. Driving into Ubud, the town we are staying in, was not so wonderful the first time.

Feeling overwhelmed with differences

Ubud is the cultural and art center of Bali. There are lots of artists, writers, healers and yogis that flock to Ubud for it’s spiritual nature. The town is full of yoga studios, meditation centers, and natural and spiritual healers. One would think the atmosphere would be calm and tranquil. Perhaps it was before it was discovered…but it is no longer. The tourists have flocked here for years and since Elizabeth Gilbert wrote her book Eat, Pray, Love more have come. She came here on a spiritual healing quest and now, the town of Ubud is crazy busy.   Outwardly it seems to be tourist-focused, overdeveloped and a bit disappointing. It is still an artsy town, but it is SO commercially busy. The roads are narrow, there are motorbikes speeding in every direction, even down one way roads. There is peace, tranquility and spiritual nature behind this place, but it is totally overwhelming upon first glance.

It’s quite a difference from our last place of residence, which was on a tiny island off the coast of Belize that didn’t allow many cars. No longer will I stroll down the beach barefoot to yoga, like I did on Ambergris Caye in Belize. No. Now I will have to battle congestion, traffic noise and motorbikes that come so close you can nearly feel the drivers breathe. My first impression is “I’m not liking this!” This town is way bigger than I imagined and we’d have to get a car so that we can take advantage of all the activities there is to do inside of town, but do we really want to go into town with all it’s noise and crowds?

Oh, just relax

Fast forward 2 weeks later, the initial overwhelming emotions have passed, and we really, really love this town. So much so, we think we may just stay, not one, but two years. We’ll see. Mr. King has become accustomed to riding his motor scooter along the roads, we have found the organic markets, my yoga studio and we even experienced the medical system when treating G’s advanced ear infection.

I also know from experience that I get this feeling every new place we move to. There is just so much to take in and so much that is different. That’s part of the fun, er, frustration…it depends. The senses are on hyper-alert, the eyes seems to focus on everything and nothing all at once and you wonder why anyone would live here. And then the layers start peeling back and, amongst the surface chaos, there is a peace and tranquility that radiates from the culture which begs you to stay just a little bit longer.

There’s a reason I was attracted to this place. It’s a center of spirituality, nature, natural healing and yoga. All things that are at the core of me. I can see past all the commercialization of it now. I’ve found my yoga place and it is within walking distance of my house and down a path with no motorbikes (yes!). Ubud is opening up to us like a flower blooming. We are enjoying the hidden, narrow walkways that lead to seemingly covert restaurants, shops and homes.

Below are our first impressions of what we have experienced so far in Ubud, Bali. I’ll start with the one that most have asked questions about.

The Bugs of Bali

After reading about our Bali open air living style home, many readers wondered how we are dealing with the bugs. Ubud is a tropical climate, but one of the most surprising aspects of living in Ubud is not the lack of bugs, but the lack of bug bites. There are bugs but I expected more, especially living near rice paddies. The mosquitoes come out around dinner time, but the entire 2 weeks that I’ve been here I may have suffered from only five bites total. We do sleep with mosquito nets on our beds because we like to sleep with the doors open. Otherwise, the occasional fly comes into the bedrooms, we found a baby scorpion crawling along the tile floor, but beyond that the bug situation has been pleasantly uneventful.

The Food of Ubud

The food may be the reason we stay forever! It’s fresh, local and mostly organic. We can find all our ‘health food’ (I dislike using that phrase), like bee pollen, kombucha, spirulina, psyllium and the like all over town. There are three organic markets (on Tues, Wed & Sat) where you can get beautiful produce packaged in banana leaves.

Delicious organic produce (even edible flowers).

Delicious organic produce (even edible flowers).

The Restaurants

Eating out in Ubud is wonderful and cheap. A plate at a really nice restaurant will cost $3-7 and the food is top notch.  There are restaurants to cater to every eater: Raw, Vegetarian, Carnivore, Vegan. Every restaurant has an assortment of fresh fruit juices and smoothies made on order with local fruit or green smoothies of every variety. Our favorites so far have been Bali Buddha, Clear (for the most delicious raw pies), and Kafe. We have not had a disappointing meal at any restaurant and there are hundreds to choose from.

Veggie Enchiladas at Bali Buddha...so colorful.

Veggie Enchiladas at Bali Buddha…so colorful.

The Weather of Ubud

I think we have found our paradise. The weather in Ubud is warm with a touch of humidity. There is no need for air conditioning and our open air home seems to have a slight breeze running through it all the time. Just in case it does get too warm, we have rented a home with a swimming pool to cool off. The mornings are cool enough for us to put on socks and a light jacket. It has rained enough times to keep everything green, but the rain has never interrupted our plans so far.

The Craftsmanship

Ubud is home to loads of artists and craftsman. The woodwork here is nothing short of awe. It is incredibly detailed, intricately made with patient hands out of teak or mahogany. It’s gorgeous. Riding on the outskirts of town, we passed hundreds of independent artisan shops, all skillfully carving huge tree trunks into works of art. We’ll have a bunk bed made for the kids, although it may not be as detailed as the entry below.

Typical entry into a home in Bali.

Typical entry into a home in Bali.

The People

Most of Indonesia is Muslim, but Bali is distinctly Hindu. The culture here is incredibly devote, spending up to one third of their time and money on daily offerings and blessings to the gods and nature. I don’t know that much yet of the culture, but I can see how incredibly bonded the people are to nature, and that makes me smile and know that I am in the right place. The genuine smiles and happiness of people here are apparent and addicting, much more so than in Costa Rica or Belize.

The Health

It’s easy to be, become or stay healthy in this environment. The weather is conducive to being outdoors all the time instead of inside a stifling house with no air movement. The food is incredibly fresh and flavorful. The specialties of all the artists and healers that have made Ubud their home lends itself to many retreats, both health and spiritual. Yoga studios are abundant. In short, Ubud has everything to be a place of healing, a resource for transformation and a grounding for tranquility….which are the very reasons we have found ourselves here.

The peaceful retreat of rice fields and volcanoes of Ubud

The peaceful retreat of rice fields and volcanoes of Ubud

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15 Responses to “First Impressions of Ubud, Bali”

  1. Tracey - Life Changing Year June 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Oh wow! I thought you made Belize look great! Now I want to go to Bali too!!!

    • S King June 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

      Tracey, Every place we move to builds upon the last. It’s just lovely to know this is right for right now.

  2. Living Outside of the Box June 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    Oh my goodness…are you trying to convince me to go there?! Umm…because…just those photos of the fresh produce and veggie meal are enough for me! Raw pies? Oh…and those edible flowers…aren’t those nasturtiums? The leaf and flower are edible and have a bit of a spicey kick! We used to serve those on sandwiches at an organic garden tour place I used to work at in AK :-) Yum!

    And I’m SOOOOO glad to hear the first impressions faded and that you’re now learning to looove it! Yippeeee!!

    • S King June 26, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

      Yes on all accounts! The flowers are delicious, a little spicy for my kids, but they look so pretty on salads.
      And Clear restaurant has the best Strawberry Raw Pie and Chocolate Raw pie with a cashew crust. OMG. We’ll devour them when you get here.

  3. Living Outside of the Box June 26, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    Chocolate Raw pie…made with avocado?!! Or tofu? Yummmm either way……!!! Ooooohh….Bali!

  4. Jennifer Pearce June 26, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    Beautiful post about Ubud, Sabina! Such a chaotic, yet lovely place, all woven into one. :) Having your family here makes it even better!

  5. Allison June 27, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    You have captured the essence of Bali beautifully. You make me want to come back for another visit….

  6. Lisa Wood June 27, 2012 at 12:53 am #

    Oh the sound of the fresh food! So yummy…love the idea of going to Bali and visting all of the spiritual places. It would be so nice to do Yoga and eat fresh good quality food at such low prices.
    The traffic sounds busy but I think that the surrounding area would be enough to want me to go there!
    Love the idea of the pool for hot days.

  7. Erin June 30, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    You captured it beautifully, glad you found a yoga walking distance away! :)

  8. Sharon Hiebing July 8, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    “And then the layers start peeling back and, amongst the surface chaos, there is a peace and tranquility that radiates from the culture which begs you to stay just a little bit longer.”

    Love that sentence! So often we panic when we should just be absorbing. Incredible place-loving reading about it!

  9. Kate Green August 9, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    Sounds lovely. Do you find you need to have a scooter or car there? We did in Costa Rica (where we were at) but not in Malaysia so much. Now in Europe I’m getting spoiled by public transportation and would like to not have to buy private.

    • S King August 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

      We do have a scooter that all four of us ride on in Ubud, but not a car. You can scoot around everywhere, even where cars can’t go. And a car get’s stuck in traffic a lot, whereas scooters just ‘scoot’ around it. For longer trips to the beach, we just hire a driver for the day for $30-35 to take us around.

  10. Marcus December 6, 2012 at 3:21 am #

    Hi There,

    Really nice to read your post here. Myself and my Girlfriend are moving to Ubud in February. We have been there 3 times in the past 2 years and love it. Any advice or suggestions you have, especially on renting somewhere would be very much appreciated. We were going to book into our usual hotel on Monkey Forest Road for a month and give ourselves that time to find a ncie place to live.

    Look forward to any advice or direction you can offer.

    Thanks a million, Marcus

  11. Manfred August 27, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    Arrived in Ubud two days ago and feeling like you first felt, so glad to hear it might get better. At teh moment it just seems so touristy, with 100s of shops all selling more or less the same thing. Seems more of a tourist trap than anything else. I’ve been asked if I want a taxi about 50 times so far, so that’s not helping. Great food here though, so that’s one good thing. I think it would be better staying a little outside the center though – we’re two minutes from the center at the moment.

    • S King September 18, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

      You’re not alone Manfred! I think if people only saw the center of Ubud, they wouldn’t come back. It’s the community level that is so attractive here. Get outside a bit and meet a few expats living here and your eyes will be opened up to another world happening here.

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