Ubud beckons, pure & simple
BALI is a popular destination for Singaporeans and it is easy to see why - the beaches, spas, food and cheap prices make it an ideal getaway destination.
If you are looking for beaches and hedonistic parties filled with booze, Ubud, a town in central Bali, is not really the place to be.
But if you are seeking a tranquil place to rejuvenate, then you may be on the right track.
Ubud is unique compared to other parts of Bali, which are often associated with sun-bathing, surfing and crazy parties.
You can find many activities in Ubud that help to "purify" the soul - detox retreats, slow walks among nature, meditation, yoga and healthy food. Here are some ideas to help with your planning.
If you are looking to tune up your body, a detox retreat in Ubud could be a great way to kick-start your new diet programme.
For instance, at Ubud Sari, you can choose to have a detox programme of food-fasting (drinking vegetable broth or fruit juices).
While you are likely to feel good after the programme with heightened energy levels and a few kilos lost, it is not for the faint-hearted.
You will need to mentally prepare yourself for it.
If you think of the retreat as a holiday, you are going to feel miserable because you may feel weak and tired from having no food.
You may even feel you are wasting your vacation time by putting yourself through this "suffering".
My advice is to do your detox and holiday on separate trips to make the most of both activities.
RICE FIELD WALKS
Take a walk in the countryside to appreciate the real face of Ubud, where rice fields are almost ubiquitous.
A great place to start is the Ubud Kajeng rice fields.
You can see how the locals live - kids bathing in ponds, farmers working in the fields and motorists riding along the narrow and uneven roads.
It is also where you will feel the warmth of the Balinese people - they never fail to smile when you pass by and children shout the only English words they know to polite tourists and often try to help if they feel you are lost.
Give yourself about 1.5 hours to 2 hours to complete the loop.
Start by the road on the right of Starbucks (there is only one in Ubud) and you will reach some rice fields after around 1km.
The walk is easy and flat most of the way.
MASSAGES AND SPAS
There are few places in the world where you can get a better massage than in Indonesia.
In Ubud, you will find a variety of spas offering from one-hour massages - starting at prices as low as 80,000 rupiah (S$8.40) - to facials and body scrubs.
ATTEND A YOGA CLASS
A number of yoga studios have popped up in the town over the past few years.
In fact, Ubud is home to the annual Bali Spirit, a festival of yoga retreat workshops. So, if you are a yoga fanatic, do take time to attend a few classes.
Those who are new to yoga can try beginner classes. Yoga Barn, for instance, offers classes that tend to be focused on a more relaxed form of yoga - perfect for newbies.
UBUD MONKEY FOREST
This is a tourist must-see and you will get to spot many wild monkeys.
The Monkey Forest offers a short stroll through a small forested area with Balinese temples, animal statues and, of course, playful monkeys.
They literally surround you and it is not uncommon for them to snatch your bags or tug at your clothes.
Make sure that you do not have food in your bag as the monkeys can smell it. For women, avoid any sequined clothes or dresses as they seem to love them.
TEGALALANG RICE TERRACE
This famous tourist site in Bali is found in Tegalalang Village, north of Ubud.
You will see a stunning view of a rice terrace that is set 600m above sea level. It is a little far from town so hire a driver to take you there or, if you are adventurous, rent a motorbike.
Try to head there during the earlier parts of the day so that you can have lunch at one of the restaurants with a view of the rice field.
WHAT TO EAT
AUTHENTIC INDONESIAN CUISINE
There are plenty of good Indonesian food for all budgets.
For instance, you can eat at some of the "warungs" that serve local cuisine.
I found Cafe Lotus along one of Ubud's busy main roads, Jalan Raya. What I love about the place is that it offers diners the choice of eating at an outdoor hut while sitting on bamboo mats or eating communal style at low tables.
Its surroundings are utterly tranquil - you will be dining by a large lotus pond with one of Ubud's main temple complexes, Pura Taman Kemuda Saraswati, right behind the restaurant.
There were three of us so we took two types of platters that served a mouth-watering selection of Balinese and Indonesian delicacies, including bebek betutu (smoked duck), pork and chicken satay, sayur urap (Balinese mixed vegetables), tempeh and various types of seafood.
RAW OR VEGAN FOOD
If you are on a detox trip to rejuvenate and cleanse your body, go all the way and dine at one of Ubud's hip restaurants that specialise in organic, raw or vegan food.
One of these restaurants is Kafe which has a chill-out vibe.
Here, you will find a consciousness that goes into the preparation of food that is hard to match anywhere else - "salads washed with purified water" and "wheat-free pasta" are just some of the phrases you will see in their menu.
You can also opt for organic, free- range eggs.
If you are up for it, go for the desserts, such as raw chocolate spirulina mint slice or date orange ball, and you might just develop a new appreciation for raw food.
If your companion is not into raw or vegan food, the menu is varied enough to find something that may be more palatable to them.
Options include Indonesian favourite nasi goreng, albeit with a healthy twist with the use of red rice, and dry curry noodles with organic green chilli.
If you become a raw-food convert, check out Down To Earth Cafe before you leave to stock up on raw-food products as they are cheaper there than in Singapore.
Also known as the Dirty Duck Diner, this restaurant serves a crispy duck that is famed throughout Bali.
The dish consists of half a duck steamed in Indonesian spices, then deep-fried for a crisp finish.
It is served with steamed white rice and Balinese vegetables.
The restaurant has been operating for more than 20 years.
Its crispy duck is succulent with a crackling, crispy skin.
However, you may want to share the dish as there are many other delicious items to try as well.
WHERE TO SHOP
The main market in the town is located just around the corner of the Monkey Forest.
It features two storeys of stalls that are filled to the brim with batik clothes, sarong beach dresses, paintings as well as other craft pieces.
I go there more for the atmosphere than to buy anything.
If you are looking to shop there, remember to bargain as the merchants can most likely tell that you are a tourist and will not hesitate to quote you almost double the actual price.
Walk around the market as you will almost certainly find similar items at different stalls, so you can compare prices.
To avoid the crowd, head there between 3 and 5pm. This way, you can avoid tourist buses that usually come around lunch hour.
GIANYUR STREET NIGHT MARKET
About half an hour drive out from Ubud, this place is described as a market for locals.
We decided to hire a car to spend the evening eating and shopping there.
The market turned out to be a hidden gem due to its less accessible location. You will find local peddlers selling Indonesian food staples on carts at cheap prices.
Other than food, you can find all sorts of fashion accessories, T-shirts, flip-flops and even a stall selling coloured chicks. As the market is targeted more towards locals, you might find that many of the stall-owners are unable to communicate in English.
Just like in every other non-English-speaking country, point at what you want, smile and try your best to convey your message with body language.
When in doubt, a smile always helps.
The article first appeared on Get.com, a lifestyle and personal finance website.