I am rarely inspired to go to a destination by photos on social media. Nusa Penida was an exception. There was a time when many people I followed on Instagram posted photos of places in Nusa Penida which I found beautiful, and some reminded me of Greek beaches, especially Zakynthos which I failed to visit. So on my way home from Sumba Island, I detoured to Nusa Penida, a small island south of Bali.
After a 45-minute ride with Caspla fast boat from Sanur beach, I arrived at Sampalan port, on the north coast of Nusa Penida. A few other fast boat operators at Sanur Beach include the Sea Horse, Idola, Mola Mola and Maruti. You can also opt to depart from Padang Bai, Kusamba and Benoa. The boats arrive in several different ports on Nusa Penida other than Sampalan, including Buyuk and Toyapakeh. If you already book an accommodation, you could choose which boat to take that’s closest to it.
Even though the nusa (means island) had gained popularity, it was still a lot less crowded than Seminyak or Ubud. It was relatively quiet, with forests between villages. At night it was almost pitch dark due to lack of street lights.
Street navigation became a challenge because there was almost no signage. Phone signal was like magic, sometimes you see it sometimes you don’t. Luckily, there has been a growing number of locals that became a tour guide and driver. It helps visitors like me to go around the island. Once you arrive at the island, you could ask the locals or the hotel staff for a guide or where to rent a motorbike.
“Now we’re heading to Molenteng on the east coast,” said Daffa, my tour guide, upon picking me up at Nusa Penida Beach hotel in Kutampi area. The one-hour motorcycle ride was a heads up of what the whole island was like; hilly, with partly asphalted streets and partly still dirt and rocks.
Molenteng is also called Pulau Seribu, which means One Thousand islands, because of the many islets scattered by the shore. From the parking lot, I followed Daffa to the edge of the cliff, and then hiked down a steep and rocky path with many turns. He walked fast in his flip flops while I, wearing hiking shoes, was left quite far behind. I didn’t think it was wise of him to walk in front of me in a distance where sometimes he couldn’t see me. What if I tripped? He wouldn’t be able to help me.
Finally I arrived at the most famous part of the cliff, the narrow protruding edge with a small shrine on it. Across it I could see smaller cliffs poking out of the emerald blue water. For security reasons a bamboo fence is now installed along the hiking path to the shrine cliff. It reduces the aesthetics, but safety comes first. Selfie takers can go wild these days, I heard somebody had fallen from the cliff accidentally.
I could see Atuh beach far down the cliff, white and beautiful. I think you could hike down there through another path, but I decided to just enjoy the beauty from atop. I know my hiking ability limit.
Suana village is actually not a very popular tourist spot in Nusa Penida, but it caught my attention on the way back to the hotel. Plus, I like my sushi wrapped in seaweed, so I wanted to see the origin of it.
Wooden pegs marked the area where they planted the seaweed. That piercing hot noon, a few farmers were picking their harvest and put them in bamboo baskets that were placed on floating black tires. They didn’t seem to care about my presence but were very friendly when I asked some stuff about the seaweed farm. One of them even gave me a pinch of seaweed to boil and consume later.
Seaweed farm in Nusa Penida and in neighboring islands (including Nusa Lembongan) is not in a good state. Then uncertain rainfall gives less time to dry it naturally with the sun heat. The more buildings erected on the coastline (mainly hotels) leaves less space to plant and dry the seaweed. In that case, I guess staying at hotel that’s not on the beachfront would be a wise choice because (indirectly) supports more space for seaweed production.
Crystal Bay in the west coast of Nusa Penida is known for the sunset view and a snorkeling spot with crystal clear water. I didn’t get to prove it though, because it was cloudy and I wasn’t in the mood to get myself wet. But it was a popular spot. Maybe because it was relatively easy to access, it’s got soft sand and comfortable for sitting hours and hours.
When I got there just an hour before sunset, many visitors were swimming, playing with sand and sunbathing (or what’s left of it). I went straight to rent a bean bag* and sketched the view.
If you know what other good locations in Nusa Penida to watch sunset, do let me know in the Comment below.
*Bean bag rental: IDR50,000 for domestic tourists and IDR70,000 for international tourists (2017).
A small peninsular rock cliff in the shape of a sleeping dinosaur was my first destination on the next day. It’s located in Karang Dewa on the west coast. People call it Kelinking, which means the pinky finger – imagine holding up a pinky and the rest of your fingers folded. Honestly, it could also be an index or middle finger, if you ask me. But anyway, this is one of the most instagramed spots in Nusa Penida and the one that reminded me of Zakynthos.
This giant pinky can be seen from either Kelinking cliff or Paluang, which is a lot less crowded. Each offers a different angle. There are sparkling white beaches on both sides of it, named Kelingking beach and Paluang beach (obvious why). Most visitors, like me, are happy just seeing the beach from up the cliff, while more courageous ones would hike down through the dinosaur’s back. Just like at Molenteng, fences are now installed along the hiking path.
North from the Kelingking is Pasih Uug, which means Broken Beach. It’s called broken because it has a big hole in the circular coral wall, where the sea water goes through and forms a lagoon-like pool with a rippling water. Obviously, it became a popular photo op spot. While sitting and enjoying the view, all I saw was domestic and Asian visitors taking selfies or pictures of one another, and a few Caucasians sitting quietly facing the ocean.
Then Daffa guided me through a bushy path to another popular spot, Angel’s Billabong. I don’t know why it’s called Angel and Daffa couldn’t explain it either, but I know that you need a good thick-enough footwear to walk on the sharp corals to get to the edge of water blow, its main attraction.
When the sea is calm, people could swim in the billabong. If not, don’t even try. There had been a casualty when a visitor (or maybe two) was standing too close to the water blow and got pulled into the raging ocean.
Then it was time for me to catch the boat to go back to Sanur. Two days in Nusa Penida was not quite enough for me to really get to know the island. But it doesn’t take a long time to see why Nusa Penida became a popular destination on Instagram. And for the more adventurous souls, it offers so many challenging terrains to explore.
I wish to go back again because I believe there’s still a lot more of Nusa Penida than the popular sites. But at the meantime, let’s just enjoy the views again via these pictures..
Xena, not the warrior princess, had a body of a Spanish guitar. A little twerk of her ass fired up the handful of men dancing in front of her. The 19-year old singer was singing ‘dangdut’—Indonesian folklore music genre—in Javanese and everyone sang along. Her persona wasn’t much different to any dangdut singer in Indonesia, with clothes showing what her mum gave her, heels that reach for the stars, and make up accentuating all of her facial features. But tattoos around her shoulders and hands caught my eyes. I’ve watched a lot of dangdut singers whether it be on TV or that on taped live performance and it’s very uncommon to see female singers with tattoos. It creeped up on me, have we reached a new era for tattoo appreciation in Indonesia?
Born in the 80s, I got to see the journey of tattoos in Indonesia. It was identical to rock, alternative, and all the ‘loud’ musicians in the past, especially of that foreigners. However, it was different to that in Indonesia where people hid their tattoos as much as possible because it was identical to criminals and premans—a slang word taken from vrijman, which means free man associated to political thugs that ‘kept the peace’ of a certain neighborhood. It’s common to find them captured for no reason or even shot by unidentified snipers during the Soeharto era. Hence, people hid their tattoos then, unless they were indigenous. It was an ironic time considering some of the oldest tattoo cultures in the world are from Indonesia such as Mentawai and Dayak. All accumulating to a stigma that tattoos are for tough guys only, so tough, you’d have a risk of getting shot!
Read more about the Dayak man and our encounter to Dayak tattoos.
“What the hell is an Instagramable tattoo studio?” both Vira and I questioned one day in a chat with friends. We were talking about people nowadays are getting visible tattoos and it’s no longer a symbol of toughness. Tattoos have become decorative, even the shapes and colors have evolved, to a point that even their studios were ‘pretty’. “Aren’t they supposed to be ‘dark’?” It started to seem like blasphemy.
Until I found myself in Be No Square, a studio tattoo in Bali, which was said to be ‘Instagramable’. The venue was all black and white. More white than black. It was bright and more friendly than what I had expected from a tattoo studio. I didn’t feel intimidated despite I have no tattoos, nor did I plan to get one.
Lidya, the founder of Be No Square, told me about her square one as we lounged on the floor. Her female friend got her first tattoo in a conventional Bali tattoo studio. She was asked to unnecessarily spread her legs up in the air and have the tattoo artists’ male friends watch while she got inked. Lidya didn’t say which part was inked but she emphasized that there were no need for her friend to spread her legs like that. Traumatized, she told Lidya of the experience.
“Why don’t I make a place that is comfortable, a place where we can bridge nicely especially for females? So I made one that isn’t dark, not like the others,” says Lidya calmly. “People want to see a detailed shot of their tattoo, how can they see in a dark place?” It made every bit of sense.
Be No Square breaks a few conventional ideas of tattoos. It’s an all-female artist studio, which makes getting inked more acceptable and comfortable for women in Indonesia. It’s bright and in its best interest to be environmentally friendly. The ink, ointment, and even plastic bags to wrap their goods are either vegan or organic.
“Vegan ink is better. Vegan ingredients are better for practical reasons and the aftercare is easier, especially on people that are vegan or keep good nutrition for their bodies.” Who knew? Vegan or not, the best tattoos are a collaboration of both the artists and clients. Good treatment afterwards, especially with organic matter, also contributes to a beautiful and long lasting skin art. Lidya also tells me that the business grows with her clients.
“The clients choose us and we learn from them. They teach us of designs and technology. We learned about the ink, ointment and all from them,” she continued.
Be No Square currently have three signature styles, though they can do much more. The classic black and white is Lidya’s thing and colors belongs to Elisa. Fiona, also present with her son and husband who is also a tattoo artist, can do handpoke designs.
“Handpoke is a trend, but I don’t like how people are permissive in quality just because it’s handpoke. We have a good artist that can do it well,” Lidya said proudly with Fiona smiling while playing with her son. So how about the prices?
“We can compete with the rest of the prices of tattoos in Bali. We don’t profit much, but we’re not all about money,” Lidya says, all smiles.
Growing more friendly to the tattoo world, I have to admit that the meet with Lidya and friends did reduce some hesitations. Not saying that I would get one, but I get that Indonesia is moving towards more accepting ink.
It was such a friendly talk, I felt closer to these tattoo artists because I had one thing in common as a creator.
“We don’t do other people’s work (plagiarism). Reference is okay, but not exactly the same. Why have the same tattoo like other people? It’s not appreciating other artists; the client also doesn’t appreciate themselves.” Now that’s a great direction to Indonesian artistry for the future. It’s to hear more people will appreciate good creation and spread it, including that ink on skin.
Jl. Pengubengan Kauh No.99A, Kerobokan, Kuta Utara, Badung, Kerobokan Kelod, North Kuta, Denpasar City, Bali 80361
It doesn’t seem much sense to wonder where to eat sushi in Bali, an island heaven to all sorts of traditional culinary delights. But from time to time, I forget that travelers or expats look for a little taste of home, or something familiar and international to cleanse the palate. In this case, sushi and the fusion kind. Our pop into Ji, to be fair, is based on a recommendation by the Tugu Group, and it’s a bit shady considering it’s part of their job. But knowing the group, I know that parts of the employees do love their brand and speak many truth when talking about their brands. So, when Ji came along as a recommended place to eat fusion Japanese food, we prepared to be hungry!
Photo by Tugu Hotels.
Ji, is part of the Tugu Hotel complex in Canggu. It’s located in front of the property, accessible to the public. Now any Tugu Group restaurants can easily distract you from food. It’s extremely hard not to be overwhelmed by the interior of the restaurant, as I was. As a food lover but not a foodie, and as an easily distracted girl, I was mesmerised (yet again) by the interior of the restaurant, before even tasting the food. I even think that it’s worth mentioning up front.
Photo by Tugu Hotels.
Entering Ji from the hotel, we stepped through the side double-door. First thing I saw, and is a signature Tugu Group item, was the structure within the restaurant. A black worn-out structure decorated the inside and the ceiling. It is said, it was an original ancient Kang Xi temple from 1706. It was found in Java and looked fairly intact.
Like all Tugu Group properties, there are many other antiques spread around the venue, all of which I would love to touch (I actually love touching antiques, because it’s the feeling off the past, in my opinion). And also like many of its properties, the restaurant is a bit dimly lit.
What was pretty odd for me was the decoration that seemed dominantly Chinese, despite the menu being mostly Japanese. Japan only invaded Indonesia for about 3.5 cruel years, so possibly the culture didn’t have time to blend in. Not saying the décor wasn’t impressive, it always is, but it’s a bit odd, but possibly it was part of the fusion concept, which could be sketchy if we said it’s the best Japanese restaurant in Bali. However, I’ve come to learn that it’s a Japanese, Balinese, and Chinese Peranakan eras reflecting the fusion of the cultures. Neat! I gave myself time to marvel at the wonderful 310-year-old structure.
You know that moment when you put food in your mouth and split second your world pauses for that flavorful taste? I had a few of them!
Honestly, I didn’t expect much from Tugu Group’s fusion food. Granted, they did a great spin on Peranakan food in Dapur Baba, but somehow I didn’t keep my hopes up.
In the blur of work, having Skype meeting at the time, and worried about Vira as she was possibly hungry thus cranky, the taste of the Kobe Style Black Angus Tenderloin really caught my attention. There was a pause. A ‘so good’ pause. The beef was juicy and had zest to make it interesting. A little bit of sauce kept the taste a true fleshy protein. The meat was served in little cuts which was perfect for a good chat, because we didn’t have to be busy cutting our food away.
The next pause was when we tried the Dragon of Ji. Looking like a dragon, with the green of avocado covering its body creating an illusion of green scale and a face that reminded me of dragon from Mulan, the sushi was entertaining to see. It could be the beady eyes that kinda gave it a cute appeal, but I didn’t expect much. Yet, it tasted WAY BETTER than it looks. It was the right amount of avocado to prawn tempura, and the spicy mayo was delicious. It was probably our palate, liking rich taste with a little kick in it. We both agreed from our first bite that the Dragon of Ji was really good. And although we were super full half way eating a dragon, we couldn’t just let it go. We had to brown bag it for the night. And it turned out to be satisfying snack, even though it had rice and should be considered a main course.
Granted, that Dragon of Ji was on the house as a compliment dish. However, it was so good and we were just too tired to explore much beyond the Tugu Hotel walls, we decided to have another go at it the second night there. We just had to have it again! Just have to! It was as good as the first time we tried it. That night, on the super comfortable Tugu Hotel beds, we dreamt of Dragon of Ji.
Another dish that was worth mentioning was dessert. Oh, dessert! As a sweet tooth, it was so my thang. It was the Mango Chocolate Mousse. I truly regret being full that night, and that is on a very rare basis, because I could have chowed down that dessert with the happiness of a kid in a candy store. Let’s start with the beautiful plating, it was decorative and meticulous. Gorgeous, the kind you don’t know which to destroy first. Then the taste? The mousse hit home run. I can remember it was a good portion of bittersweet from the chocolate. The bitterness and a scoop of vanilla ice cream actually neutralized the candied pistachio. The mousse also had an acidity to it, from the mango fragrance. The dish was something that you need time to digest, certainly good company along with girl talk, or a good closing to your meal. It was hard to say good bye to the unfinished plate. It wasn’t bag-able.
I think there should be an honorable mention to the cocktails of Ji. To be fair, we had mixed feelings for Sayuri, one of the signature cocktail (bottom picture, right). For me, it was delicious, with just the right amount of sour and sweet and still that signature coconut taste. Vira, on the other hand, found hers to be more sour the next day, which I concur. Coco Sexo was Vira’s drink and she enjoyed it much.
The restaurant itself is joined with the hotel, but anyone can visit for a good meal, doesn’t have to be the hotel guest. There are three floors of the restaurant, the very top being a roof-top-like scene, facing the ocean in the distance. The second floor was really green and set more like a garden meal. What was more interesting was within the two nights we had dinner there, Ji apparently interest some fashionable good-looking people, which are possibly people going to hang out later in the evening, are on a date, or enjoy to dress up in the presence of good food. Felt very sophisticated. And the food wasn’t that extremely expensive, on a average of IDR 100k per dish. As for drinks, well it’s pretty much the same in bars, but again have a go at their signature cocktails. Always delicious, like the time we ate the Rijstaffel banquet at Kunstring.
Should you eat sushi in Bali? Maybe. Should you at least know where to eat sushi in Bali? Probably. Is Ji recommended for that sushi crave? Hell yeah! For that nice Japanese food in an exotic restaurant. It’s a nice foodie exploration too, considering it’s fusion Japanese food in Bali, an unlikely choice but it could just surprise you, especially for where to eat it Canggu.
Hotel Tugu Bali, Canggu Beach
This post was supported by the Tugu Group but the opinion is my own.
Staying at Tugu hotels, whether it’s by invitation or self-paid, is always a memorable experience. Every corner of the establishment is well thought out. Early in this month I was back to Hotel Tugu Bali with Mumun for two nights. On my previous visit to Hotel Tugu Bali I stayed at Dedari suite, now it was time to try another type of suite, Rejang. After the stay and a quick tour around the hotel, because it was Mumun’s first time there, I found quite a few surprises. The sweet kind. Ones that I will be taking you through one by one.
Previously I had this image of Rejang Suite as very dark and old, possibly because I saw it after dark and the light wasn’t all on. My image of it changed totally the minute Mumun and I entered the room after checking in.
Yes, the room was dark-ish because most of the furniture was wooden. But it wasn’t dark, especially with the windows and curtains open. It was definitely spacious. The desk was long, enough for Mumun to work on her laptop and for us to just carelessly put our trinkets. Right beside the desk was a window sofa, where I would lie updating Instagram among our messy stuff taken right out of our bags. Oh, I love have so much space. I don’t have to put things where they should be all the time.
Rejang suite is so spacious, even the shower, toilet and bathtub are spread across the suite. They’re not in one bathroom, which kind of makes me have to sort through precisely what businesses I need to do; just shower, or will I also need to pee, or maybe even sit a while by the shower? It’s unusual, but when you’ve got space, might as well go wild about it.
After a few activities in a day, the bed became this idea of heaven. It’s very high and we had fun trying all sorts of style getting our short selves on to the bed. Going down from the bed was a struggle. Not really because of the height, but more because the pillows and I had created this sort of bonding of not wanting to be apart from each other. If that’s how I felt, I couldn’t imagine how Mumun must have been sad having to wake up and continue work the next morning.
Being a morning person, the bed, as cozy as it was, wasn’t my most favorite spot in the suite. It was the table by the window that faces the ocean. All Rejang suites are situated on the 2nd floor on top of Dedari suites, though not all of them have ocean view. The table by the window was my favorite spot to check on work a little bit, as well as to daydream a little more.
One of the things that Bali is known for is the beaches. And what comes great with beaches? Sunset! Hotel Tugu Bali is located by Canggu beach, which faces West, just the right location to view sunset. Unfortunately, quite recently a wall was built by the locals, blocking the beach view from Tugu to the ocean, for the reasons I haven’t come to learn. Hence, the view deck!
The deck is located at the lawn where Kaki Lima restaurant used to be, with beach chairs and Tugu’s signature round lanterns. A few beach beds on stilts were provided for those who want a more private time, where they could also have their meals served. A barbecue stall at the lawn is busy every day just before sunset. Guests relax and socialize with drinks in their hands, and it can continue until late at night.
Mumun and I once had breakfast there. Right then and there we knew why we were the only ones. Apparently it’s piercing hot in the morning, say, around 8 a.m. So it’s clear, the view deck is best starting late afternoon, unless you’re out for some tan. Oh, and it’s a great spot to check out them surfers, too!
This one’s actually been there all along, I just didn’t know about it. It’s located semi-underground, not far from the lobby. Upon entrance, an unknown face stared at me blankly. But it was sitting on no body. Then I quickly realized that it was a framed painting. Phew!
The gallery is filled with antique stuff, from silver spoon to a 1x1m meticulously carved wood. Each piece costs more than 1 million rupiah (about US$75), but mostly way more. The antiques are handpicked by Mr. Anhar Setjadibrata, Tugu hotels owner, as he is an antique collector himself.
We have no picture of the gallery because we weren’t allowed to take picture there, but they kindly let us use some official pictures.
We are going to write about this Chinese decorated with Japanese fusion food restaurant in a separate post, but let me just tell you that their Dragon of Ji sushi rolls are so good, we had to eat them two nights in a row! And it had just opened recently.
First it was Kuta, then it was Legian, then Seminyak, and now it’s Canggu. More and more hotels, restaurants, cafes and beach clubs are popping in Canggu. I don’t think there were that many when I stayed at Hotel Tugu Bali in 2014. But that’s how it is in Bali, especially in the south. Once you blink, a new business pops. The good thing about it is guests have more options of places to see – not that you’d need it with so many things offered in Hotel Tugu Bali. And that’s exactly what we did, staying inside the hotel 90% of our time there!
Our stay at Hotel Tugu Bali is complimentary, but the views are all our own.
There’s nothing much at Nyambu Village, Tabanan. It’s a Balinese village that had just officially opened its doors to visitors April 2016 and now seeking function as a tourism destination. Nyambu is so raw, very little sugar coated for tourism. It’s the ‘non-touristy’ the off the beaten destination people have been looking for, especially those that are looking for the authentic Bali experience. When people ask me “What’s there to see?’, I can only say ‘Not much. But it’s perfect!’
Thanks to the British Council, we were invited to see this authentic Balinese experience. Life in Nyambu wasn’t too traditional, but even with that said the Balinese tradition was dense with information. I was definitely overwhelmed by their livelihood, all summarized in two packages that they have prepared for curious visitors.
Passing the west coast of Bali, I’ve always wanted to walk in between the rice paddies. The undulating terrain seemed appealing, refreshingly green and serene. But, I never knew whose land I’d be trotting on or would I be trespassing or how the whole Balinese rice paddy system worked. That day, it finally came true.
At Nyambu, there’s a program where the locals will take you around the rice paddies and explain to you about the Subak system, which seemed very intricate. It’s about 2-hour walk through the fields with a guide. There’s a lot of daily ritual and overall tradition that is still applied in the system. From the 11.5 cm measurement of irrigation width for each rice patch to the community function, all were structured and maintained for generations. There was so many interesting and lovely minor information that I enjoyed, such as the Nyambu people believe that when a rice paddy is 2 months old, it’s considered pregnant. The rice paddies are then given ‘sour’ offerings, similar to sour cravings of a pregnant woman, just to keep the rice paddies happy.
The Subak system also maintains ecosystems within the field for many creatures and organism that keep the environment healthy. The humans are part of the system, preparing offerings to birds that signifies that we have to share what we have, even to animals. The rice paddy system has a horizontal and vertical relationship. All this gave me a warm fuzzy feeling on how the Balinese respect nature.
Most people in Nyambu are farmers and they pray daily to the gods at small temples and small shrines scattered around the rice fields. There’s one that signifies the beginning location of the village, another was to respect the spirits that happen to gather at one spooky spot, another at each rice fields. A lot! They are also known to be the ‘6-7’ farmers. Everyday, during 6-7 o’clock, a.m. and p.m., they would check their fields, unless it’s harvest time. During the day, they do other jobs like being hard labors, tailors, etc.
I’ve believed this for some time now, but personally I’m reminded how Bali is so blessed. The people sacrifice and offer so much to their gods, it’s no wonder that the island is abundant with beauty and richness.
I was very much impressed with Dewi, my guide and homestay host, as she explained the system to us. As the next generation, she seemed enthusiastic and genuine about her culture and way of living. She didn’t look too enthusiastic with whatever the kids were doing these days. She kept her hair long like most Balinese girls, she sews outside of the ‘6-7’ hours and she was exuberant during the official opening, because it had been a year of trainings building up to that day.
This tour kind of blew my brains out. It was intensely dense and a little much to digest. The history of the village and the explanation of the four Balinese temples left my brain saturated to a point I could absorb very little.
Nyambu Village used to be a warzone. It was highly abandoned to a point where the king offered free land to those that would want to live there. With land, I guess, people chose to plant food, rice in particular. It’s now part of an extensive rice paddy field of Tabanan. The cultural tour includes walk to several temples and the making of a canang. Bli Satria broke everything down to the wire, leaving my brain soft like a vegetable, feeling stupid hardly knowing anything about the Balinese culture.
I did remember a few conclusions such as the north and east direction of the compass is very important for the Nyambu people because that’s the direction of the mountains, where they believe they should cast their prayers. Nyambu people has been through a few different Hindu systems, from separating the temples to combining altars for the three main gods, Brahma, Siwa and Wisnu.
Interestingly, the Balinese year is 420 days, which means they’re actually younger in numbers than everyone else on the regular calendar. So be a Balinese if you want to stay young. My favorite info has to be the fact that the temple behind Pura Rsi, which is located amongst rice paddies, had to be moved about 1.5 meters just to prevent it from constant collapsing. Freaky!
See? A lot of information!
By the end of the day, we were on bikes riding through a very short route to the last tea session. Aside to the bike, which I really liked, the tea time in the afternoon was spent with a painting class, mentored by the local painter Nyoman. Somehow, the packed information during the whole day easily blended with a simple silent treatment in front of a blank canvas and limitless amount of paint. Surprisingly, it was one of the best relaxing sessions, especially after a boiled up brain.
Getting to know the people is to immerse in their lives. I took a chance to be the first official guest at Dewi’s homestay. A room was set for guests with twin bed, with access to the clean family bathroom. No AC, but the mornings are slightly cooler than expected.
You can’t beat the authentic Bali experience when staying at Dewi’s house. Their home is a simple Balinese compound with a dog farm, with puppies. The mother cooks, makes cakes and ‘canang’s to sell. Dewi’s cousin, Yeni, also lives with her. Their parents are 6-7 farmers who head out to be hard labors during work hours. Waking up to a family like theirs is such a homey feeling. Seeing them start the day with a prayer and daily routine really let me see the regular Balinese life. Definitely recommended for those that want to be amongst the people.
Rooms are IDR 150,000 / person, including pre-breakfast and breakfast. Yes, the Balinese have a weird tradition of having coffee and snacks before breakfast, usually of fried rice or noodles; the pre-breakfast. There are 2 homestays in Nyambu, another is at Pak Nyoman’s house, the painter.
For more information you can check out the village’s social media:
I was invited to the launch Nyambu Ecotourism program, initiated by British Council and Pt. Langgeng Kreasi Jaya Prima, and assisted by Wisniu Foundation. But the opinions are all mine.
I hopped off the Perama shuttle bus at their office on Jalan Hanoman, only a few steps away from Ubud’s famous Bebek Bengil restaurant. I had not booked a place to stay, so I took the Perama staff’s advice to check out the north part of Jalan Goutama for the criteria that I was looking for: a room under IDR300,000/night, an area with easy access to food and a walking distance to Ubud Market.
One of the staff drove me to Jalan Goutama on a motorbike, with my big bagpack placed in between him and the dashboard, with IDR30,000 fare. He dropped me off at the intersection between Jalan Goutama and Jalan Dewi Sita. I randomly checked on two home stays that looked right – totally depending on gut feeling – before I decided to stay at Goutama Home Stay.
Why I chose Goutama Home Stay:
Other than that, Goutama Home Stay also has/is:
Although there were so many options of places to eat, I only ate at Biah Biah restaurant, right across Goutama Guesthouse, in all the 3 days I stayed there – sometimes I had meals around the UWRF venues on Jalan Sanggingan or at the center.
I like Biah Biah restaurant because:
Jalan Goutama is dubbed – in a mocking kind of way – as “the hipster street” by two people that I know. Seeing all the vegan, raw food restaurants, kombucha and homemade jam shop, taichi and yoga lesson signs along the street, I wasn’t surprised. I actually like the area because of the varieties offered – and because things are affordable to me. If I was to stay longer, I might just sign up for the tai chi class. I regret for not bringing home the homemade jams. I would’ve peeked in the fashion and jewelery boutiques, but I was actually stopped myself ‘cos I didn’t have the budget to go crazy with the lovely dresses and necklaces they displayed.
In the middle, Jalan Goutama intersects with Jalan Dewi Sita, a very long street with an array of boutiques – from fashion to soaps, restaurants and accommodations. Some Jakarta people that I know are crazy about the massage oils of Blue Stone, the homemade jam of Kou, both shops nestle on Jalan Dewi Sita.
On the north end, Jalan Goutama intersects with Jalan Raya Ubud, which is the busy main street of Ubud town, often jammed with cars in the weekend. Ice cream parlors, mini marts, fancy restaurants and Indonesian chain coffee shop Anomali are within short walking distance from the intersection.
Most shops are closed at 9 or 10 pm, so the street gets pretty dark afterwards since the street lamps are almost non-existing. Although it’s relatively safe to walk there at night, there’s no harm in putting extra carefulness. Some more things that I like about Jalan Goutama is that there was only a few stray dogs roaming the streets – and none was bothering me by following or barking at me like my experience last year when staying at Taman Mesari on Jalan Sandat, and the street is so alive from afternoon until around 10 pm that I wouldn’t have to worry about being lonely staying by myself.
Do you have a favorite street in any destination?
We tried. We tried not to write about Bali again and again. But what can we do? The island has endless charm and I happened to stumble into yet more interesting things on my trip there to attend the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. So here we are again, summarizing the stories we’ve written about Ubud activities and a few more things you might need to know for your trip to this lovely highland in Bali.
Known for the rice paddies, there are so many Ubud activities revolving the green terrace. One can walk on the pathways, sometimes even bike there. What I did was take the Herbal Tour, getting to know about Balinese herbs with an experienced guide. It was like learning something new with the beautiful scenery as the reward.
Click this to find out what I learned about Balinese herbs.
Eventhough Ubud is highland; it can get pretty hot and sunny, especially in the dry season. A pampering session at the spa after varied outdoor Ubud activities would be a smart choice.
Here’s how my friend Sefin and I indulged in the infinity pool and spa of Pita Maha, just click here.
It’s an annual event and it attracts international participants, both the speakers and attendees. It doesn’t only consist of book discussions, but also cultural performances, cooking demo, and my most favorite were the sketching classes and poetry slam. To me, the event is about almost anything creative and you don’t have to be a bookworm to enjoy the event; take me for example.
Here’s my take on Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in 2014, and I’m thinking about going to the next one.
Ubud activities include so many more, you can check out our older posts on some of them. This one was about downhill biking and this one was basically all about Bali but it also has some things on Ubud.
You cannot be out of food choices when in Indonesia. We love food. However, when in Ubud on a very very tight budget, I had to choose wisely where to eat. Thank God for Warung Kelapa! It’s the only restaurant that fit my budget around the main area of UWRF’s venues on Jalan Sanggingan. It’s also a good place if you want to try Indonesian food for real.
Here’s my review on Warung Kelapa restaurant.
Lately I’ve been using Airbnb services whenever I can. So many variety of accommodations are listed there with a wide range of prices, including the ones in Ubud. With the budget I had, which was under US20/night, I settled for Taman Mesari. Though it wouldn’t be my top choice if I had more budget, it was not bad at all, considering service, cleanliness and space.
Public transportation can be tricky in Ubud, or in Bali in general. That’s why I thought I needed ot summarize what I know about the transportation in case you’re lost, too.
Here’s how to get to Ubud and to get around when you’re there.
Scooters fit the narrow streets of Ubud best.
Transportation in Ubud could be a challenging part of your trip in Bali. If anything the whole island is known for, it’s definitely not the easy public transportation. That’s perhaps why the locals prefer to have their own cars or scooters, and that is why I often get a headache about getting around when in Bali. Based on my last trip to Bali, here are my notes on the transportation in Ubud (and pretty much everywhere else on the island), just in case you’re wondering for your upcoming trip there.
A post(card) from Vira, while she’s traveling.
Rent A Scooter in Bali
A scooter or the little motorcycle, usually with around 125 cc machine, works best for a town with narrow streets like Ubud. Here in Indonesia we call it ‘motor’. You can find a rental motor or motor rental at random spots in Ubud. The rental fee is usually IDR 50,000 per day, excluding gas. You could find it on your own or have the staff wherever you’re staying to arrange it for you. If you’re going to Ubud on high season, it would be wise to make an advanced booking because rental motors would sell out fast. Or, should I say, rent out fast. This happened to us on the weekend of the UWRF. (link)
Note: The rule is to wear a helmet when you’re riding a scooter. You might see people riding without one since the law is weak in the country and it does feel cool (literally) when wind is blowing your hair on a moving scooter. But I strongly recommend you to wear the helmet, else you could go back home in an ambulance.
Ojek or taxi motor
Since most Bali people own at least one scooter in a household, an ojek isn’t very popular there. I always found a hard time looking for ojek. If there was one, the rate is so high (compared to many other places in Indonesia, even Jakarta). Based on my experience, a 3-minute ride (1 km distance) from the Perama bus pool to the Taman Mesari guesthouse on Jalan Sandat cost me IDR 30,000. Good news is that now my favorite ojek service is operating in Bali, Gojek. You can try to order their service by the mobile app. It might not be so cheap if you’re going under 5 km distance because the minimum payment is IDR 30,000, but at least now ojek is an easier choice of transporation in Ubud!
Rent A Car In Ubud (with a driver)
If you cannot stand the heat and humidity of a tropical country, you might want to take the car, or ‘mobil’ as we call it. A car rental is also easily found in Ubud, with a rental fee around IDR 150,000 to 250,000 per day, for the car alone and excluding gas. It’s much more expensive than a scooter rent, but you can share it with up to 5 people or 6 if one of you is driving, depending on what kind of car. A hired driver would cost you about IDR 100,000 per day, usually charged together with the car rent. An extra of IDR 20,000 per meal is usually paid directly to the driver. The cars are usually equipped with AC and it’s a good choice for rainy season, which is usually from November to March.
Note: Do buckle up eventhough you’d see many people could careless about it here, but the potential damage just isn’t worth damaging your vacation.
Bus, Angkot or Train
Nope, non-existent. Not an option of transportation in Ubud. Angkots may be available in some other parts of Bali, but even that is pretty rare to find. That is perhaps why most of Bali people seem to have their own car or scooter, as they are also not fond of walking much.
Taxi (with meter)
If you don’t want the hassle and responsibility of renting a vehicle, then a taxi is always up for grabs. There are several taxi companies operating in Bali, but my personal trusted one is Bluebird simply because it’s familiar to me and they always use the meter. It is also available in Ubud. You might not see the taxi units on the street a lot, but you can order them by phone (+0361) 728200, or by their own mobile app (you can download here)
Transportation to and from Ubud
If you’re taking a taxi from the airport, you don’t have a (legal) choice but to take the official airport taxi. It’s an orderly system, where you just need to walk from Arrival Hall to the taxi stand not far from the Starbucks Coffee, then tell the officers where you’re going and they’ll tell you how much it will cost. They don’t use the meter system but at least you know how much to pay in advance. The ride to Ubud was IDR 250,000 per taxi (October 2014).
Perama is an established company of transportations including intercity bus and boats in Bali and Lombok, and I think to Flores as well.. They have routes from and to Kuta, Legian, Ubud, Lovina, Sanur, and a few others. The rate for Kuta-Ubud route is IDR 60,000/ pax (May 2015), and they can give you 10% discount on the following trip as long as you show them your last trip’s receipt. Check out their official website for a complete information.
There are a few others you could try, which I have only heard of. Kura-kura Bus looks interesting, and it’s something our blogger pal Meidiana has tried. She has written the review here.
There is also the Priority Plus shuttle services, which Mumun has tried on another route and you can read her review here.
So. You need to be confused no more about transportation in Ubud, Bali. It might not be easy breezy like that in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, but I hope this guide will save you some hassle.
Finding a budget accommodation in Ubud is fairly easy because options are abundant. When it’s not high season, you don’t even need to reserve ahead. A quick stroll around almost any area would get you a place to stay. In my case last year when I visited Ubud for UWRF, I decided to reserve a room eventhough it wasn’t high season, for the sake of using my Airbnb voucher.
My accommodation budget was about IDR175,000 (in Oct.2014) per night. For that price on Airbnb, I didn’t get many options that were located within walking distance from some of the UWRF venues, which were actually spreaded around Ubud town. Taman Mesari Guesthouse was the only one that accommodated my requirements: close to city center (or the Ubud market), within my budget, looked decent, was on Airbnb, and the host was responsive enough to my queries.
Haley and Bu Kopang were the hosts of Taman Mesari Guesthouse. As it turned out, Bu Kopang is the owner and Haley is her friend who helps marketing her guesthouse online. When I arrived, I was welcomed by Bu Kopang and never got to meet Haley at all. if you’re not into Airbnb, don’t worry, the guesthouse is open for direct reservation as well.
Taman Mesari Guesthouse is one of so many Balinese house compounds turned into a complex of budget accommodation in Ubud. It consists of the main house almost at the back of the compound, where Bu Kopang and her family lives, a shrine, and a few bungalows. Upon my stay, Bu Kopang was having a few more bungalows built at the front part of the compound, and one was being built on the second floor. Looks like business is doing well!
My room was the one closest to the gate. Since it’s a small road and I was mostly out all day, I didn’t get any impression of a busy street. Only howling dogs, as you can expect almost anywhere in Bali. The room was totally spacious, with a double bed and an extra matress ready to be rolled out for extra people (but maybe some extra charge would have to be paid as well). A desk really came handy to me, what with all blog posts I had to write, and the wifi connection was pretty good. Bathroom was also spacious and I liked the natural touch they added with stones on the shower floor. Hot water, checked. Towels, checked. Soap and shampoo, you need to bring your own. Doesn’t actually sound like a budget accommodation in Ubud, huh? The facility is so complete.
Staying true to the typical of budget accommodations though, Taman Mesari Guesthouse does not provide breakfast. It provides, however, free coffee and tea every morning, served on the table on the terrace. A few diners are open as early as 8 a.m. around the area, so if you need to have an early breakfast, make sure you have something from the previous night. A simple diner at the far end of the street (toward the main Ubud street) became my savior for having cheap meals. The menu are all Indonesia food, I forgot the name of the place.
Though located almost at the fringe of Ubud town, it only took me 15 minutes to walk from Taman Mesari guesthouse to Ubud Market. Trendy cafes and restaurants align on the parallel streets and around the Ubud Market, mostly operate from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. A few motorbike rentals can be found nearby, make sure you reserved ahead when it’s high season. Motorbike rental fee was about IDR50,000/day excluding gas (Oct.2014). You could have Bu Kopang help you arrange the motorbike rent as she is very helpful with her guests.