Other than Thailand, Bali was always the first place that came to mind when thinking of this part of the world (that is before we moved here). Bali seems to do an incredible job at promoting tourism and those who go there seeking a spiritual destination can definitely find something amongst all of the temples - old and new - and the never ending green landscapes.
Our destination was Ubud, a town made famous by the film Eat Pray Love. Though we didn't partake in sunrise yoga, meditation, or scenic bike rides, we did fill up on local food, drinks, and sights. With only 50 hours on the clock (including sleeping), we knew that we weren't going to see and experience everything, so we made a conscious decision to take it easy and enjoy whatever we came across and felt the urge to do.
The town center was perfect for our time allowance - lots of restaurants, shops, and great spots to relax with a cold drink and a view of rice paddy fields. Our hotel was right in the heart of it all but still felt remote and peaceful. The yummy breakfast delivered to our room every morning and enjoyed on the balcony was perfection.
Just a short walk off of the main roads gave us a glimpse of how new mass tourism development really is in Ubud; there were villas and small hotels being built on dirt roads that were being primed for cement. Ubud has been uber discovered and I can imagine the town center being crazy-packed with visitors and locals alike during the high season. We got lucky by stumbling into the low period because it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. Not counting the reggae bar on Saturday night (a very impressive Bob Marley tribute, fyi), most restaurants and bars were empty. Not good for them but great for us.
For our only full day there, we booked a tour through our hotel so that we could get out of town and visit Mount Batur, see rice paddy terraces, and check out a temple or two. I had it in my head that "tour" meant guide, but really we just got a driver. It would have been great to have a guide share details about Hindu symbolism and discuss the local economies but that's precisely when having a smart phone and Google comes in handy - on the spot knowledge! Of course I could buy guide books but I'm way better at understanding something on the spot when it grabs my attention rather than reading it in advance. I would just be like "you know, that thing that means that thing when it's pointing right or left..."
The temples and rice paddy terraces were definitely worth a visit (gorgeous and green like you've probably heard a bazillion times) but Mount Batur was my standout favorite. We had lunch at a restaurant looking out at the largest caldera I have ever seen in my life. I'm talking Land Before Time status with three active volcanoes (Mount Batur) in the dead center. It's the kind of thing that makes you think "damn, nature is crazy." My photo hardly does the area justice because it truly is a giant bowl of sunken land and it is awesome.
Getting to and from all of these spots was my second favorite. The drive alone was interesting in that you get to see how much craft is still happening in the country. We drove past countless wood carvers, masons, potters, weavers, you name it, all with road side stores and workshops. Aside from some questionable items that were everywhere - you know, the kind that could be mass produced somewhere else and branded locally - you could be sure that most of the goods for sale were genuinely made in Bali. If only I could have packed one of those large ornate wood doors into my carry-on ... they were stunning and crazy enough, a dime a dozen. That's how many skilled hands are still working there. At least that's the impression I got compared to other places we've been to, I could be totally wrong. I should Google it.
With all of the above on offer, the only shopping we did was at Ikat Batik - a beautiful shop full of naturally dyed and hand woven textiles. I think we were so satisfied with our purchases there on the first day that everything else didn't seem appealing enough to bring home. That means that I didn't find anything to share with you like last time but I trust that you'll understand the main reason for it: with limited time just before leaving for the airport it was either A) experience a traditional Balinese massage for $18 (mid-range price if you can believe it!) or B) walk around in the heat to shop. It just had to be A. If I didn't do the yoga, the meditation, or the bike riding, I was sure as hell going to partake in the art of the Balinese massage :)