It so happened that I spent six months in inspiring Ubud, Bali. When I left Europe, I had no further plans, but I knew that I wanted to visit Ubud. Not because Elizabeth Gilbert had been there and written about it (I didn´t make that connection at that time even though I had really enjoyed reading „Eat, Pray, Love“), but because a friend´s friend had told me about her time there and I somehow knew that I had to go.
Ubud is a place one has to experience by themselves, that does a lot to you, in whatever way you need it. I saw people come and go and heard their stories, watched them going through whatever came up. Ubud, as I was told, means healing, and it really does seem to transform people. No, you don´t go there and suddenly you are a different person with no worries, weaknesses or addictions. But Ubud inspires, cleanses and transforms its visitors in many ways.
Here are some recommendations for those who want to experience magical Ubud for themselves. Of people and places that have given me a lot. They might not be the ones for you though, and it´s probably best if you just go and follow your intuition. There´s so much on offer in Ubud that you can´t miss out.
Meditation and Yoga
My journey in Ubud started at Anand Ashram (http://ubudashram.org), 3 km north of Ubud. I had been looking and asking around for an ashram, and it´s the one that had been recommended to me by a few Indonesians (another one that has been recommended to me by several tourists is the Gandhi Ashram in Candidasa.) I stayed at Anand Ashram for 3 whole months, whereas the other foreigners staying there were mainly passing through. It wasn´t always easy, and it was never as quiet as I had hoped it would be, with a massive building site just next door, but the people there are very welcoming. At Anand Ashram, they have several furnished rooms as well as two quite dark cottages with only a mattress inside but with an outdoor bathroom, which I adored. The prices are rather high compared to homestays where breakfast is often included (the one you can order at the ashram is quite nice and creative though, and they also veganize it, if you ask for it – the food is all vegetarian), but then you get to stay at an ashram and to join all the activities, with at least three daily meditations, a fire ceremony every morning as well as a yoga class. On a weekly basis, they also offer guided meditations and satsang with Anand Krishna, who put a lot of effort into answering my zillions of questions, and I really enjoyed Kirtan on Wednesday evenings with mainly Balinese people attending (all these happenings you can also join if you are not staying at the ashram).
I don´t necessarily like how the Yogabarn is run – how they sometimes fit an insane amount of people into the rooms -, but they do have some great and inspiring people teaching there, so that it was still the place I mainly went to for yoga. They offer a large choice of classes on a daily basis as well as workshops, which allows you to explore different styles of yoga as well as other approaches (http://www.theyogabarn.com/schedule). My favourite classes were the ones with Tina, Emily and Umaa. Tina Nance (http://www.alchemysticyogadance.com/about-tina-nance.php) gives classes and workshops in yoga therapy and yin yoga healing. She connects it to Chinese medicine and has an immens knowledge on these subjects. I mainly went to Emily Kuser’s meditation and yin yoga class, where she combines yin yoga with Tibetan meditation. But she also teaches other styles (http://highvibeyoga.com/about/). When I was there, Andrea Paige didn’t teach very often, more as a substitute teacher, but I really liked the classes with her as well. She also runs the detox retreats at Yogabarn (https://www.facebook.com/cleansewithandrea). And then there’s Umaa Inder (http://www.umaa.info), a force of nature. She teaches every Sunday morning from 7 – 10 am – for three whole hours, yes, and she could and probably would still go on. Her classes are not for everyone, there’s usually someone to leave, since she has her very own style of teaching, but she lives yoga and Ayurveda and has thereby inspired me a lot. She´s also the founder of Kush, the Ayurvedic center at Yogabarn, and gives Ayurvedic sessions there, which I can highly recommend. Make sure to book in advance. Its rather expensive, but worth the money. Of the meditation classes offered at Yogabarn, I always went to Wakuha´s Sacred Geometry Meditation (http://wakuha.com), where you lie on the floor while she recites and performs some rituals, and to Punnu Wasu´s meditation class (http://punnuwasu.com, Punnu also offers 2-day Oneness Awakening courses that are worth joining and he is a great musician), where you sit in a circle holding hands and work through the chakras by breathing rhythmically. Many people seem to experience a lot during both meditations; blockages get released, channels open up,… The Yogabarn also hosts a yearly Bali Spirit Festival, which from my point of view is completely overpriced and never worth all that money. I got in for free, but would never have paid the insane amount they ask for. The last day of the festival is free for everyone.
The other yoga place most Westerners go to is Radiantly Alive (http://www.radiantlyalive.com). I went there for a day, but didn’t like it too much. They completely overbooked the rooms, which Yogabarn does as well, but somehow Yogabarn resonated a lot more with me. I also went to a class at Intuitive Flow (http://www.intuitiveflow.com) that seemed quite good with more space available than at the other places.
Furthermore, there’s Ketut Arsana´s Bodyworks (http://ubudbodyworkscentre.com/arsana.php) with daily classes in the morning and evening. He teaches himself on Wednesdays and Sundays (the Sunday classes are no longer at Bodyworks, but at Om Ham, his resort across the street from his ashram about 5 km out of town). He’s quite something… I’ve tried to figure him out, but I´m probably more confused than ever. During his challenging yoga classes, he might walk on you while you’re in child’s pose or sit on your belly while you are doing the wheel, he might hit your butt or tell you to write an 8 on the floor with your nipples. He’s extremely charming, a good business man I would say, and his female disciples treat him like a god. But at the same time, you hear people talk about the many miracles he should have performed, and I experienced myself a few weird coincidences around him (just a trick of the mind?). I also went to some of the ceremonies at his ashram – I had taken the bait and wanted to know what it was all about -, but I just felt pretty out of place and lost.
The best massage ever I had with the above-mentioned Ketut Arsana, the guru or master as his disciples or employees refer to him of Bodyworks – and that´s how it all started… As said, I still don’t know what to make of him and his disciples, but his hands are definitely amazing. You should book in advance, especially if you are only in Ubud for a few days. His massages are very pricy for Bali, but worth a try. (Beware: Some people have called it the roughest massage ever and were glad it took only 30 minutes. He manages to very effectively massage the whole body in that short amount of time – and to walk on your back). I haven’t had a massage with his employees, but I´ve heard that they should be very good, too. Otherwise, I went for most massages and other treatments to Starchild (https://www.facebook.com/starchildbali), where you can get some beautiful package deals for a good price by some very friendly and capable Balinese women. They also sell sacred geometry products there. Another place i went to, mainly in the beginning, was Golden Hands (Jl Kajeng, 19, Tel 852-3799-9569), where I had some very good massages by Dewa.
Healers and Psychics
Being a rather curious person that wants to understand, I went to see a few healers who made me vomit for hours and where I got spit on, hit and touched in places I do not want to get touched by some weird little Balinese man – and otherwise not much more out of it other than some funny stories that might be told at some point later. (From what I experienced with Wayan and what you hear about Ketut, I would definitely not recommend seeing the healers mentioned in Eat, Pray, Love. Neither would I recommend a session with Cokorda Rai. But should you still want to see him, I was advised to go early in the morning, since he’s rather grumpy afterwards, which I can confirm.)
One psychic I would definitely recommend though is Novi (http://www.budenovi.com/about-me/), who seemed to be very genuine, and I haven’t heard anyone complain about seeing her. She’s very clear in what she tells you, and it´s not as vage as with others who tell you that your mind blocks you and make it sound like that one big revelation you have been waiting for all your life. Someone else who seemed to be genuine is the High Priestess Ida Resi Alit. Just ask around, people know where to find her (it´s outside of Ubud though). She will perform a water purification ceremony on you by pouring lots of water over you, which is quite fun. If you want to do learn Reiki, Cat Wheeler (http://www.balispirit.com/health/the_magic_of_reiki.html) would be a good person to go to. She had been recommended to me by locals, and I really enjoy the course with her.
For the German-speakers: Allen Deutschsprachigen kann ich eine (oder mehrere) Cranio-Sacral-Behandlung mit Vidya (https://www.facebook.com/vidya.groesel?fref=ts, +62 852 37922834) wärmstens empfehlen.
Ubud is a haven for vegans, people with food intolerances or simply everyone who cares about healthy food. You can easily get your daily fresh coconut, your shot of wheatgrass or your green smoothie and pretty much everything else your heart desires.
It´s at Atman, where I probably had most meals. Only a smaller part of the menu is vegan, but some more dishes can be veganized, and the vegan dishes they have are quite lovely. They also seem to be the place with the most reliable Wi-Fi in Ubud – which is good to know, since there can be days when it´s hardly working anywhere else. For quite a while, I used to have the raw grain-free porridge and a cold brew coffee with coconut milk, but at some point the porridge became too heavy for me, so that I then usually ordered the vegan tempeh scramble (I love tempeh!). Atman is definitely worth a visit, and most tourists probably end up there sooner or later (Jl Hanoman 38, https://www.facebook.com/AtmanKafe).
Down to Earth used to be my favourite, since it´s all vegan (apart from honey, if I remember correctly) and it has quite a few macrobiotic dishes, but over the months, the prices seemed to increase while the portions and the quality decreased. In the end, I hardly went there anymore, which was a shame. I especially liked their macrobiotic planet platter and the dragon bowl, which also comes in a set with soup and bread (Jl Goutama Selata, http://www.dtebali.com/earth-cafe-market-ubud-2/).
Alchemy and Seeds of Life are the places to go for raw food. Alchemy (Jl Penestanan Klod, http://alchemybali.com) has beautiful salad bowls that you can choose from a buffet, and in the mornings, the have parfaits with different yoghurts and toppings. Furthermore, they have a quite extensive menu of freshly mixed juices and other drinks as well as some lovely desserts. A bit further down the road, you can also get lots of different juices at a small Balinese place who’s name I’ve forgotten. It’s on Jl Penestanan, right after Sari Organik, with Sari Organik being another place worth a visit (also have a look at http://rawfoodbali.com/resources/markets/). If you are already up in that area, The Elephant (Jl Raya Sanggingan, http://www.elephantbali.com) is a cozy restaurant you could try out, too. You might have to wait a while for your order though.
I didn´t go to Seeds of Life (Jl Gootama No. 2, http://www.theseedsoflife.net/raw-food-cafe-bali/) that often, since I didn´t like it as much as other places. If you´re in for a sweat raw treat, try the pancakes with ice cream, which are quite yummy. They also offer herbal tonics that may be worth trying and sell fresh coconut milk to take away.
Soma (Jl. Dewi Sita) is another cafe well frequented by Westerners, which I didn´t visit too often either. Service can be quite bad, the portions rather small, and there was nothing that stood out for me (but some people love it, so best to check it out for yourself).
Some more tourist´s favourits are Clear Cafe and Bali Buda. Both of them, I didn’t frequent too often, but they are definitely worth a visit. Clear Cafe (on Campuhan Road, across Bridges Restaurant/Antonio Blanco Museum, http://www.clear-cafe-ubud.com) moved to a new location recently, which is much nicer than the old one and comes with a great view. Bali Buda (Jl I Gusti Ngurah Rai, yhttp://www.balibuda.com) also has a shop that includes a bakery with quite a choice of bread. I didn´t eat in too often and mainly visited the shop, bought some coconut water, or got some fresh rice, cashew or almond milk to take away at the restaurant. And I quite liked their bags…
Kafe is another place you will come across sooner or later, either a bit further down from Atman, on Jl Hanoman 44b, or as Garden Kafe at the Yogabarn. The menu varies at the two places. I liked Meg’s big salad bowl, the macrobiotic breakfast bowl and the tiger bowl best (http://www.balispirit.com/kafe/index.html, http://www.theyogabarn.com/healingfoods).
Warung Schnitzel is a place I discovered only shortly before I left. Due to it´s name, I would never have expected them to have such yummy vegan food (Jl Sriwedari No. 2, http://warungschnitzelubud.weebly.com). And not far away from it, there´s Dapur Bunda (Jl. Sri Wedari No.1) with Indonesian food and a lovely interior (I also liked it for being empty and therefore quiet most of the time).
Dayu´s Warung offers some creative meals and drinks with quite a few vegan options (Jl. Sugriwa No. 28X, http://dayuswarung.weebly.com). In the same street, there´s also Warung Sopa (Jl Sugriwa No.29-35, http://www.warungsopa.com), which serves Indonesian food and has some nice vegan desserts.
Talking about desserts, I can definitely recommend the ice cream at Gelato Secrets (http://www.gelatosecrets.com) in several locations with a few vegan options as for example the coconut or the beautifully pink dragonfruit ice cream.
A bit out of town, down south, there´s Kagemusha (Jl Raya Nyuh Kuning, http://kagemusha-bali.jimdo.com), a Japanese restaurant that´s worth the ride. I usually had the wakame salad, the nasu miso or some noodles (or rather „and“ some noodles). Up north, there´s Paula´s Rice Terrace Cafe (Jl Suweta) with very nice and cheap Indonesian and Western food.
Make sure to go to a Balinese ceremony while you are there; not the touristy thing, but the real stuff. They have lots of them, so that there’s a big chance you will be around when one is happening.
The Balinese are very friendly and mostly kind-hearted, and Ubud is just a magical place…that has become very touristy, unfortunately, so that I would not recommend going there for peace and quiet, but it is still definitely worth a visit. I usually stayed out of town, but it could be more quiet in town, where they can’t build anymore, since otherwise there’s a 99 % chance you will have a building site next door. And they do work on it every day and sometimes even throughout the night. But it’s all part of the experience…;)
Thank you for reading! ❤ If anyone wants to add their favorites, please, feel free to comment…