“Bali is so overrated,”
claimed my friends incessantly when I asked for tips because it seemed that I was the only one left in Asia who hasn’t been to the Island of the Gods. Regardless, there is something about Bali that really attracts me to go there – is it the culture? The food? The people?
When I stepped on the plane bound to Bali, I knew one thing: I didn’t want to be a tourist in Bali, and instead decided to take it slow and go to chill spots where I could have time to relax and enjoy myself, rather than doing and seeing as much as possible in seven days.
So, as a Bali newbie, here are my 23 points of joy that I discovered during my recent trip there:
1) When you touch down in Bali, you’ll instantly feel like Julia Roberts.
2) A stay can make or break your trip. In my case, I was glad that I chose Wapa di Ume, a wonderful hideaway just five minutes from Ubud Centre.
3) Further elevate the experience by staying at Wapa di Ume’s Villa with Pool.
4) Skinny dipping in your own private pool while facing the lush greenery is a must.
5) Everywhere at Wapa di Ume, you are surrounded by the textures and colours of nature. My personal favourite is the fragrant alang-alang grass roofing.
6) Rough cut marbles, sunken bath and the view of your private pool in a natural garden – all that you dreamed of in a luxury boutique hotel.
7) When your own private pool is not enough, then head to the resort’s serene temple-like swimming pools adjacent to the panoramic rice fields with the soothing sounds of water falling from the upper level infinity pool.
8) At the back of the resort you’ll find an infinity pool sitting by the river that runs through the property, evoking tranquillity.
9) Ubud is home to an eclectic and varied culinary scene and Mr Wayan Restaurant serves Balinese traditional cuisine with a twist.
10) Those craving for something sweet after lunch will be delighted to know that Wapa di Ume serves complimentary afternoon tea comprising freshly-made Balinese cakes in a thatched roof teahouse, which is a nice touch.
11) The Balinese landscape is shaped by thousands of Hindu temples at every corner – there’s a spiritual feel as you wake up every morning and walk pass the Balinese homes and shops.
12) Hike up ancient Mount Batur where you can breathe the cool mountain air, watch the clouds change and feel closer to nature in such lofty surroundings. Mount Batur is an active volcano and is also bordered by Danau Batur, which adds to the dramatic picturesque beauty of Mount Batur.
13) After many impromptu car stops and endless hairpins bends when heading to Kintamani, the driver took me to one of the restaurants with the most beautiful scene you could ever imagine. I soaked in the views as I ate my lunch buffet, which wasn’t great.
14) After driving down the road from Kintamani passing through beautiful country side, I hit something really special: Tegallalang. The name is derived from two local words: ‘tegal’, which means garden, and ‘alang’, which means stories. I was a bit unlucky because it was post-harvest season, therefore the paddy fields were not as lush with green or gold hue.
15) If you’re a passionate about food (like me), join the cooking class at Rondji Restaurant. You will get to understand why Balinese cuisine is one of the most complex cuisines in the world.
16) I was brought to Ubud Market by Pak Gusti, the manager of Rondji Restaurant to immerse in Ubud’s rich culture by strolling around the bustling local market and get to know the ingredients used for the cooking class. The market is filled with locals shopping for fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, spices.
17) The core ingredients for every Balinese cuisine consists the combination of galangal, ginger, and turmeric – together they are called Bumbu Ibu (mother’s condiment). It’s a great introduction to Balinese cuisine, getting to cook and taste some of Bali’s best dishes such as Sate Lilit and Bebek Betutu.
18) The difference between Satay Lilit and Satay Malaysia that I grew up with is the Bumbu Ibu and instead of bamboo skewers, Satay Lilit uses trimmed stalks of lemongrass. I love the aromatic lemongrass and when you grill it, it imparts great aroma to the meat!
19) Savour the variety of heat-inducing sambals (spicy condiments) that really kick your taste buds while viewing the lovely Bukit Cinta in front of you.
20) Explore the purpose-built art gallery of Don Antonio Blanco flanked by picturesque grounds at its impressive entrance. Located on a hilltop overlooking the lush Campuhan valley, it houses paintings together with lithographic artworks of his favourite subject: Nude Balinese women.
21) Right after checking out, I decided to head over to Mr Wayan Restaurant again for lunch. With Wapa di Ume’s gorgeous rice paddy centrepiece as the restaurant’s fitting backdrop and friendly Balinese staff, Mr. Wayan Restaurant offers a unique, fully authentic Balinese dining experience, which is why I love it so much.
22) Besides its atmosphere, Mr. Wayan Restaurant has the best fried duck with trio of sambal I have ever tasted in my life. It is complete with local herbs, spices and of course that local Balinese flair. Simply divine!
23) To finish it up, normally I will take the Bubuh Injin a.k.a. bubur pulut hitam but I’ve decided to try Lemongrass Pannacotta served with fruit minestrone and raspberry sauce instead. I love the delicate, floral, lemony flavour of lemongrass!
There goes my first #ElahElahBali experience. Wapa Di Ume is a wonderful hideaway from the hustle and bustle of Bali. It is really hard to leave this oasis of tranquillity in Ubud and I deeply appreciate the resort’s excellent hospitality. Hope to be there again!