24 hours in: Ubud, Bali

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Away from the beaches of Kuta, the clubs of Legian and the chic restaurants of Seminyak lies the true heart of Bali. Ubud is where the island’s cultured, artsy and enlightened naturally come together

First published on 11 May 2010. Updated on 11 May 2010.


We arrive in the sleepy town of Ubud, just one hour by car from Denpasar airport. There’s ample accommodation on offer, from backpacker-style chalets to luxurious lodges. We go mid-range and dump our bags at Saren Indah Hotel, just a few minutes out of Ubud’s centre, with a view of the lush, green rice paddies. Saren Indah Hotel, Nyuh Kuning Village (+62 361 97 1471, www.sarenhotel.com)


We hire a scooter to explore the surrounding villages, each of the 14 features unique crafts for sale, and are as picturesque as the next. We stick to the back roads and drive for miles without spotting another vehicle.


As we drive further out, the rice paddies begin to loom, descending sharply to the floor of the valley. Perched on the edge of the incline is Alon Alon Terrace Café, the perfect place to stop for a cold drink with a view. Alon Alon Terrace Café, Desa Cekingan, Tegallalang, Gianyar (+62 361 279 7956, www.alonalonterracecafe.com)


The serene surroundings of Ubud inspire us to go vegan while we’re there. We’re glad we do, because the Juice Ja Café has the potential to turn even hardcore carnivores green. We munch on oversized burgers made of spicy chickpea patties and chunky fries, washed down with a glass of sweet, organic passion fruit juice. Juice Ja Café, Dewi Sita St (+62 361 97 1056)


In Bali, it’s likely you’ll be offered a massage everywhere you go. Ubud is no different. We’ve decided not to fight it and opted for the twohour ‘Javanese Lulur for couples’ at Alam Wangi Spa. At S$90 (per couple) the price seems steep, especially considering you can get a massage on the beaches of Kuta for a fraction of the price. But once the treatment gets under way, you know it’s money well spent. Closeted within the confines of a private room, we’re massaged, pedicured, scrubbed, rubbed and left to soak in a bath full of rose petals with a tray of tiny cakes and a pot of lemongrass tea. Alam Wangi Spa, Nyuh Kuning Village (+62 361 97 6718, www.alamindahbali.com)


We decide to check out the infamous Monkey Forest. We could pay the entrance fee or we can do as the locals do and zoom through on a scooter. We go with option B. It’s like a video game – we vroom over a small stone bridge, and monkeys leap past the bike. Jalan Monkey Forest, Padangtegal (+62 361 97 1304, www.monkeyforestubud.com)


In search of dinner, we stumble across Tutmak, a casual joint sporting low tables, comfortable floor cushions and a dessert list that includes home-made cinnamon rolls. Tutmak, Jalan Dewi Sita (at the northeast corner of the soccer field) (+62 361 97 5754)


We’re keen to check out Ubud’s nightlife, which appears to be fairly non-existent. Finally, on the advice of a bouncer at an empty ‘nightclub’ we head out of the village to Naughty Nuri’s, which turns out to be a scruffy-yet-cool shack. Anthony Bourdain has singled out their martinis as the best in Asia and Julia Roberts is just one of the stars rumoured to have had a sip or two there. Naughty Nuri’s, Jalan Raya Sanggingan (across from the Neka Art Museum) (+62 361 97 7547, www.naughty-nuris.com)


We could sit and people watch all night (who wears pearls to a shack?!) but this is a health retreat and there’s no better time to indulge in a 12-hour sleep. Back to the hotel!

By Lauren Bartlett & Charlene Fang
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