Sunday, 27 December 2015

South-East Asian Adventures: Shopping, eating and templing in Ubud, Bali

In recent years, Ubud has become one of the most popular tourist spots in Bali. I don't know about your Instagram feed, but mine always seems to feature at least one person gramming from Ubud.

One of the reasons for this, however, may be that I follow a lot of healthy foodies on Insta (such great inspo, trust), and Ubud is now something of a wellness destination and pilgrimage-worthy holiday location for keen vegans and yoga bunnies.

Whilst I may not be the best yogi around, I am passionate about delicious, nourishing food, and so I always knew I wanted to spend some time in Ubud during my final few days in Bali by myself.

Although Ubud's transformation into a healthy heaven is quite recent, its been regarded as Bali's cultural capital for yonks. And I do like a spot of culture every now and then.

I've already told you about my glorious hotel, Anumana, and harped on about the incredible healthy foodie haven that is the Yoga Barn, but I wanted to share a little more with you about Ubud.

OK, you caught me. I mainly want to tell you about the other places I ate. But if you're anything like me, you'll have done your research and made a plan of where you're going to eat for each meal during your stay. (Is that not normal? Should I have kept that to myself? Meh. We've known each other long enough now, chums. Take me as I am.)

There's such an exciting food scene in Ubud - not just raw, vegan cafés, promise - and I couldn't wait to have my tastebuds tickled.

However that's not to say that all there is to do in Ubud is eat. One of the top tourist attractions of the town is the Monkey Forest, which was conveniently right by my hotel. The thing is, I'd seen so many monkeys over the previous couple of months that I was absolutely not bothered about going into the Monkey Forest. Plus, the cheeky lil chaps can be found around the entrance anyway so if you're desperate to see some but don't want to pay to go into the forest it can be done.

There are little temples all over the town just waiting to distract you en route to your lunch destination...

The architecture is absolutely stunning. Big fan of Hindu temples, I am.

And even more impressive is the royal palace (Puri Saren Agung to the locals)...

As you can see, I paid it a visit at night. The lighting made it look magical, if a little eery, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a touch scared as the only person there.

And almost directly opposite the palace is Ubud's main market which is bursting with colourful souvenirs, fresh fruit and haggling tourists. Probably Australians. Because there seemed to be more Australians then Balinese in Ubud.

Oh, and on the subject of shopping, the shops in Ubud are fab.

Over my whole two months travelling through South-East Asia, when it came to shops it seemed to be a case of either tourist tat or international high street chains, so it was an absolute delight to reach Ubud and find so many lovely little boutiques. I could've spent a fortune had I not been feeling so poor as it was the end of my trip.

The shops all stay open into the evening too, which I love.

So, as I may have mentioned, there are some good eateries in Bali. We're talking everything from pizza and burgers to veggie and Balinese cuisine. One feels a tad spoilt for choice.

After two months of eating largely fried rice and noodles, however, I was especially keen to make the most of Ubud's incredible healthy eateries.

In my opinion, the absolute number one has to be Garden Kafe at the Yoga Barn, but allow me to share my other experiences with you too.

I ate my first dinner at Kafe, which is run by the same people as Garden Kafe but is a little less hardcore on the health food.

I had Meg's Big Salad Bowl: loads of veggies, tofu-tempe crunch, toasted seeds and a lemon-tahini dressing, with little toasts on the side. It looked incredible and was nice and tasty, if not mind-blowing.

Lunch on day two in Ubud took place at Bali Buda (soon to be Bali Bunda).

Bali Buda prides itself on serving top-quality, chemical-free, healthy, delicious food. Although there's a raw vegan section of the menu, you also find sandwiches and pizzas. Oh, and if you don't find a menu for their wheat-free wraps on your table, ask for one. I wasn't given one and then had major food envy when I saw the wraps being served to another group.

However, that's not to say I didn't enjoy my choice: raw flax pizza crackers with cashew cheese, sundried tomatoes and avocado.

It was unlike anything I'd ever had and really tasty actually. I treated myself to a banana chai shake too.

Just round the corner from the restaurant is Bali Buda's health food shop which is well worth a visit if you're into that kind of shiz.

That evening, I hit up one of Ubud's other top healthy restaurants, Alchemy, known for its raw vegan salad bar. (Try and contain your excitement.) I'd heard such good things so had really high hopes.

It's a little out of the centre of town, so when the driver dropped me off in the dark outside a boarded-up building, a slight wave of panic washed over me.

It transpired that Alchemy was being renovated. Hmm. However all was not lost - the restaurant had set up shop (well, kitchen) in the hotel just behind their usual spot.

Unfortunately this meant that I didn't get the full Alchemy experience - there was no salad bar! - but I decided to stay anyway.

The menu was small and a little pricier than what I'd become used to. However it was probably a bit fancier to match. I ordered the California Maki Nori: rolls filled with veggies and cauliflower rice.

They were beautifully presented, but to be perfectly honest I didn't love them. Isn't it disappointing when you order (and pay for) food and end up not liking it? Such a shame. But then again no-one can like everything all the time.

Feeling dissatisfied after my meal I was pleased to stumble upon a froyo place whilst having a post-dinner wander through town: Frozen Yogi. (The name seems very appropriate for Ubud too.)

Natural froyo, raspberries, strawberries, nutella and peanut butter sauce. Ohhhh yes! I think it cost more than my dinner but it was worth it.

I know there's lots more to do in and around Ubud too, but my time in the culture/wellness capital of Bali was up... And I had a pretty sensational final destination coming up.

If you've ever been to Ubud (or even if you haven't) I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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