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My Ubud guide

So many of you have asked for all my Ubud recommendations that I had to get them all down in a blog post! Probably 90% of what I did in Ubud was based on recommendations from my beautiful followers on Instagram, so consider this a pay-it-forward exercise.

For those of you not following along on Instagram, Lexi and I have been on an Eat Pray Love Nappy Change adventure in Bali for the last six weeks.

I was exhausted after the last year (last six years if I’m honest), and I promised myself what I called a “spiritual adventure” once the business sale was completed. The plan was to dye my hair pink, get myself and Lexi matching ankle bracelets and chill the fuck out in Bali for a couple of months. Thankfully, my Mr. Amazing Wade was up for this idea, and the flights were booked: Lexi and I for eight weeks and him for a nine-day visit to see us.

In the time between booking the flights and the actual departure flight rolling around, I ended up dealing with a massive tax situation that knocked me for six, we bought a house and moved interstate.

As a result, I arrived in Ubud feeling (and looking) like a dishcloth that had been wrung out too many times. My brain was going a million miles an hour. My body ached from ongoing muscle tension. My skin was dull and I had massive dark circles under my eyes. I couldn’t sit still and I honestly thought I’d never be able to relax.

I left Ubud five weeks later feeling calmer and more grounded than I have in years (maybe ever?). My skin was glowing. My body was strong and nourished. Lexi and I were tighter – I discovered an even deeper delight in her. And maybe most importantly, my soul felt full – which means that Lexi’s soul also felt full.

I had no plan for the trip beyond booking a hotel in Ubud for the first week. I figured that would give us a chance to acclimatise, then we’d move to an Airbnb or bungalow beyond that. I had a rough idea that we’d do a month in Ubud, then a month in Canggu.

I do need to clearly preframe that fact that I was there with an eight-month-old baby, so partying, fancy dinners and all-day cocktail sessions were not what I was after. I had a total of ten alcoholic drinks over the entire five weeks. I wanted to eat health-filled food, sleep deeply, consult some expert healers, do a shitload of yoga and – more than anything – soak up time with our special girl.

I desperately wanted (and needed) to nurture and to be nurtured too.

Another quick pre-frame: I would love for this post to be filled with stunning food images, links and price guides. However writing fills my soul. Fiddling around with WordPress does not. Plus done is better than perfect – so if you want to check out images/prices/locations then Google and my Insta are your BFFs.

I have MUCH to share on travelling solo with a tiny human, check out this post for that kinda thing. For now, this is a download of all my favourite places in Ubud – restaurants, activities, healers, beauty treatments… It’s in all in here!

So here it is… my Ubud list.

WHERE WE STAYED

My wonderful friend Sarah found the Green Field Hotel for me, and we booked in for a week to start the trip off. We attempted to leave twice, but the accommodation was nowhere near as good as the Green Field, so – like proper Aussies – we boomeranged back twice.

Tip: As a travel industry veteran, Sarah’s trick is to get the best price on a hotel search site, then email hotels direct to see if they can beat it. Works a charm!

If you told me I’d ever be staying in a hotel for 5.5 weeks, I would have laughed at you… flitting from place to place is so much more my style. However we felt so cared for, safe and welcome at the Green Field that we ended up staying there for the entire duration of our Ubud stay. It felt so good to put down roots somewhere and have the pure ease of having a team around us to help.

Eight reasons we loved it:

1 – The staff were INCREDIBLE

They made the stay for us and made us feel like family. The entire hotel knew Lexi’s name and I felt like I was walking through the place with Selena Gomez in the baby carrier from how excited they got about seeing her. From one of the drivers sitting with me in the hospital while I waited to get her checked out, to another driver taking her paddling pool to the service station to get blown up (as chicken pox kept her out of the pool for a few days) to bringing me tea and cake to our room after our first return after our accommodation we had booked turning out to be a total disaster.

 2 – Complimentary drivers

The hotel advertised a free shuttle, which I assumed would be some kind of on-the-hour-type-thing. What it actually is is a team of drivers on hand to take you in and out of town whenever you want – until 10pm. This made it super easy to fly around with Lexi, as personally I’m not brave enough to take her on a motorbike. We’d go to reception when we were ready to go, and the longest we waited for a driver was ten minutes. When we were ready to come home, I’d call the hotel and a driver would come to get us. Some places we went to were outside the complimentary perimeter, so there was a small charge if we went outside of that.

 3 – Complimentary water

There were water dispensers in all the common areas. This might seem like a small thing, but having to buy bottled water every day for 5.5 weeks would get pretty bloody expensive – plus the plastic landfill makes me sick. Instead of making a killing on minibar water, the hotel had free filtered water throughout, which saved a fortune in cash and also in plastic waste.

 4 – The gardens are heavenly

The tagline is “your secret Eden” and that’s exactly what it feels like. We felt we were immersed in nature, with lily ponds, frangipani trees, frogs and birds all around us and I walked barefoot around the hotel as much as possible to soak up all that goodness.

5 – Breakfast is included

And it was a pretty good spread. Fruit, an egg/waffle station, Indonesian rice and noodle dishes, salad, fresh juices, beautiful Bali coffee, sweet treats (I developed a raging obsession for the pandan pancakes) and cereals. The restaurant team were super sweet with Lexi and turned a blind eye to me filling little containers for her lunch every morning.

6 – The location is awesome

It’s a 20 minute walk to the very centre of Ubud, however there are tonnes of restaurants and spas around it. Coco Supermarket is a five minute walk and – key for me – The Yoga Barn is just four minutes away. I ate super well from the immediate vicinity of the hotel (more on restaurants next).

7 – Built-in babysitters

The restaurant team moonlight as babysitters in the evening (for an extra charge). We had three different ladies look after Lexi, however our special and most regular babysitter was the beautiful Nina. I had a nanny for Lexi 3-4 days a week, however the hotel ladies were brilliant as I’d book one of them for after Lexi went to sleep so I could go down to the spa for a massage.

8 – It has a lovely spa

It’s super simple and Balinese in style, however every treatment I had was excellent. My favourite was the 90-minute hot stone massage = absolute heaven and it cost about $18.

I could continue raving, however in the interest of word count I’ll stop there. I should also say that I paid for our stay, so there’s no expectation/obligation for me to post about it whatsoever.

One thing I should flag with you is that while we were staying there, there was construction on the other side of the rice paddy field, which we overlooked for our entire stay. It wasn’t noisy at night, however the floodlights were bright – so if you go, bring your eye mask if you’re sensitive to light (I’m not).

WHERE WE ATE

In 5.5 weeks, I covered a LOT of restaurants, cafes and smoothie bars, so this is my pick of the bunch. Many of these were recommended by my gorgeous Insta followers, so thank you guys for the hot tips! You’ll see that a lot of these are in the immediate vicinity of the Green Field…

Clear Café

This was my absolute standout – I could happily have eaten here every day. The interior is just stunning; I have never seen a restaurant like it. The menu is ginormous, with every conceivable elixir/smoothie/juice/raw/macrobiotic/hot main on there.

My picks of my (many) meals there were the blackened fish tacos and the buckwheat pancakes. The Hot Lava cacao drink is to die for and I think I will in fact think about it until I die. Hot, spicy, chocolately – it’s the best cacao hit I’ve ever had.

There is a fish pond attached to the restaurant, and the staff can give you fish food – it’s a lot of fun. There’s also a spa upstairs, which I didn’t visit. The bathrooms are beautiful too, so make sure you have a wee there! They have their own kombucha, that you can buy by the wine bottle at the Express part outside.

Hot tips: the service can be super slow, so I wouldn’t go if you don’t have time to wait for your food. The waitstaff aren’t exactly friendly (or that might’ve just been me). During busy times it’d be wise to book a table as we just about swung one the week of the Easter school holidays. I found that their card machine is often down too, so I’d suggest you bring cash – there’s an ATM nearby if you need to pop out as well.

Alchemy

This is a must-visit for any of you plant-based folk.   I had two awesome meals here, and one very average one.   There’s a smoothie bar and a salad bar. For me, it’s more of an afternoon tea-and-cake kind of place, rather than where I’d choose to have lunch – I just didn’t find that the mains were substantial enough… it must be noted that I do eat a lot though! My faves were the banoffee pie and the mochaholic cake.

Earth Café

Another plant-based restaurant, and it has an enormous menu. You can sit on the balcony overlooking the street below and it gets a nice breeze. My favourite dish I had here was the raw green pizza, and the platters are also great as you can try a few different things. There’s a small play area upstairs for kids and it’s attached to the Paradiso theatre, which plays movies and documentaries throughout the week – as well as a kids’ music session that I took Lexi to one Sunday.

Kismet

This is just across the street from Earth Café and I only got to go once – they don’t have high chairs so I went solo one day for lunch while Lexi was with her nanny. The interior is very cool and you switch the light above your table on when you want service, and you get a little face flannel and some water to dip it into when you arrive. I had the jackfruit bowl for my lunch, which was incredible. If I was going again, I’d go for dinner and get one of the dessert cocktails for afters…

Sage

Sage was talked up massively so I was super excited to go with a couple of friends I met at a yoga workshop – it’s another plantbased joint. The interior is stun-ning and it feels very cosmopolitan. There’s no alcohol served. I had a mojito mocktail, which was delicious. We shared the fried cauliflower (so good) and then we each got a bowl for main. I was pretty disappointed with mine – so if I went again I’d stick to sharing the small plates and skip the chocolate cake I ordered.

Nostimo

Wade and I went here on the recommendation of a couple staying at the hotel. Going for Greek food in Bali probably sounds like it would be doomed to failure, however we found the best Greek food we’ve ever eaten. Our picks were the shared meat platters, the grilled octopus and the halloumi. The staff were incredibly sweet with Lexi and made a huge fuss of her. I ended up going back two more times.

Pundi Pundi

This restauarant and grill is pretty unassuming however I had three excellent meals there. It’s got a barbeque, and having a simple meal of grilled tuna, vegetables and rice was heaven on some days after so many sauces and rich flavours. Myself, my mum and my sister shared a couple of the mixed grill platters and got some extra salads one night and it was great. They also do a happy hour until 7pm, which the two of them made excellent use of (while I was putting Lexi to bed).

The Garden Kafe at Yoga Barn

I ate here a LOT during my time in Ubud. The restaurant looks over the main yoga building and pavilion below and has tables as well as areas to sit crosslegged on big cushions. The food is so, so good – reasonably priced, super healthy, filling and an interesting menu that includes vegan, raw and Ayurvedic options. I became obsessed with kitcheree (an Ayurvedic dish of lentil and rice). There is also a fridge full of gluten-free cakes and sweet treats. You can just go to the restaurant, you don’t need to do a class or be a member and there are usually a few kids around.

Hot tip: It can get busy after the more full yoga classes, so my little hack was to order and pay for my meal before I went to class, and ask for it to be ready when I was finished. There’s also a juice bar at Yoga Barn, that does fresh coconuts, cold-pressed juices, smoothies, bliss balls and these yummm raw flaxseed crackers.

Acai Queen

This cute-as-a-button smoothie bar is an Instagram dream, with floor cushions, swing chairs and the most beautiful smoothie bowls I’ve ever seen. Wade is an acai bowl connoisseur, and these ones managed to make it into his No.2 spot of favourite bowls ever (the No.1 spot is held by Kuk Thai in Woollahra, FYI).

Biah Biah

Wade and I asked the hotel guys where we could get the best local-style Indonesian food – and they said here. It’s super super low-key (you’re basically sitting in a shed). The food is excellent – we ordered half of the menu and feasted on little fried chicken balls, salads and the best nasi goreng (fried rice) we’ve had so far in Bali. If I went again, I’d get the Indonesian tapas as they looked great. We had a tonne of food and three beers for just $20. My mum and sis happened upon the same place by coincidence another night and listed it in their top three meals in Bali!

Sari Organik

This was another hotel tip. There is no road access to the restaurant, so you get dropped on the side of the road and take a beautiful 15-20 minute walk through the rice paddies. There’s a perfect footpath throughout, so hilariously the one and only time the pram came out for a spin the while time we were in Ubud was through the fields! There are small vendors along the way and my sister and I bought some little pieces from a wood carver who was making them right there on the side of the path. The restaurant is casual and has a great view out over the luminous green rice paddies. The menu is simple and heavy on the veggie dishes. My favourites were the Sari Salad (a mix of veg and herbs from the restaurant’s organic garden), the baba ganoush (best I’ve ever had) and the vegetable and feta quiche.

Kakiang Bakery

I’m pretty glad I didn’t discover this till two days before we left Ubud – otherwise I would have been gorging on incredible cakes every day… if not multiple times a day… It’s a pretty unassuming spot, however has more seated space upstairs – or you can do what we did and drop in after dinner to get some dessert to take back to the hotel room. My picks? The matcha crepe cake, the cream pie crust and the dark chocolate cake. There’s also a gelato bar and great coffee (according to my mum).

Three places I didn’t get to and I will be going to next time:

Locavore – five and seven-course degustation menus that you can match with beverages. I wanted to go here for our last night in Ubud as a special treat, however it was booked out that whole week… a pretty good sign.

Mosaic – this got rave reviews from my friend Kady, so I’ll definitely be going next time.

Ibu Rai – local Indonesian near the Monkey Forest, with a very inspiring story behind its founder.

HEALING

Bali is known to be something of an epicentre for healing, so seeing some practitioners was high on my priority list in Bali. I didn’t have any key physical ailments as such, however I was concerned about my stress levels and had some heavy emotional stuff happen in 2017 that I was keen to put to bed. I also arrived in Bali on something of a rebirth mission, and I wanted to seek out help on that journey.

I ended up seeing two different practitioners in Ubud:

Liana Nenecheva

Liana works out of the KUSH wellness centre at The Yoga Barn. She has a stellar background that crisscrosses traditional and alternative medicine – she was a facial reconstructive surgeon and then trained as a naturopath, as well as tonnes of other modalities. She has also written books on her subject areas, and I read Food as Medicine while I was in Ubud (I then passed it onto my sister, who loved it).

I had two sessions with her. The first covered relationships and work, and I had quite the paradigm shift around how work needs to be managed in the future given the presence of our sweet girl in our lives now (I’ll write more about this separately).

Liana recommended that I revisit Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus based on some things we discussed in our chat. I read it when I was a teenager, and found when I hit up my Kindle after Liana’s reminder that there’s a new version called Beyond Mars and Venus. This book threw SO MUCH LIGHT on not just our relationship, but how I work and how that affects my hormones. I don’t think I’ve ever highlighted a book so much and I already know how transformational it has been.

On our second visit, we discussed cleansing. In a nutshell, our bodies cleanse in line with the moon cycle (men and women). Weeks 2 and 4 of the moon cycle is when our bodies are ridding themselves of toxins, and is when we can assist them to cleanse. Liana said that she always has a peak in new clients in weeks 2 and 4, as people’s bodies are cleansing without the proper support – which makes them sick.

She said that if I follow her schedule of gut and liver cleansing, that I will never get sick, and nor will Lexi. I’ve only implemented a small bit so far (drinking baking soda ever night before bed) however will get into it properly from this week and will report back.

Tunjung

I heard about Tunjung via a tip-off from an Insta follower, Justine – she and her family have been seeing Tunjung for years. She is a Balinese woman who has had psychic ability since she was a small child and has since trained in different areas of healing. I booked a two-hour session and really didn’t know what to expect…

For the first hour, we talked – I shared the areas of my life I was concerned about and she knew about a couple of things I didn’t share with her, that were clearly underpinning other issues for me. She gave me frank advice that called me on my own BS and was absolutely what I needed to hear.

For the second hour, she worked on my body – starting with my neck and head, and then she moved to my feet where all I could feel was an incredibly sharp pain in the sole of my foot. She worked on three different points on the soles of each of my feet and – I’m sorry to say – the pain didn’t get any easier as she moved from point to point. At times during the treatment, she burped loudly – as if she was expelling “stuff” from me via her own body.

I did somehow manage to fall asleep at one point, and woke up in something of a stupor. When she was finished, I asked her what she had been pushing into my foot – expecting to see a torturous needle-sharp pokey-stick of some sort.

She showed me a blunt crystal, and pressed it onto my hand with the same pressure she’d used on my foot. It didn’t hurt at all!! She explained that during the treatment she had “sucked” all of the negative energy out of me via the crystal and inputted positive energy instead, again with the crystal.

I walked out of her room feeling lighter than I had in a very long time, and with a clear perspective on my life over the previous few months. I definitely left a lot of heavy emotional and mental shit back there in her room.

My mum and sister were keen to see her too, so I booked them in for sessions when they arrived in Ubud. They had very powerful experiences with Tunjung as well.

Tip: I went to the bathroom and pumped after my own session, however my mum and sister both left straight after their treatments. The spa that she works from (Pertenin Bodycare) is on a hectic road and it’s a bit of a jolt after experiencing such deep healing. It’s on a hectic road, and they both said separately that it was a shock to the system for them. If you do see her, I’d suggest chilling out in the reception area for 15 minutes after your session.

YOGA

There are so many options when it comes to yoga in Ubud – of the time I’ve spent in Bali so far, there are the most yoga studios there from what I could see. Lots of friends had raved about The Yoga Barn, so I went along for a class there a few days after arriving – and promptly had my mind blown.

The “barn” is more of a complex, all built from timber in beautiful Balinese style. I counted at least eight yoga studios dotted around. There are about ten different classes (yoga, meditation, tai chi, self defence) a day, as well as a monthly workshop schedule, Monday night movie, Sunday morning ecstatic dance and health talks. There’s a restaurant (see above), juice bar, wellness centre and shop as well.

I did two workshops while I was there, and did about five classes a week. I would base myself there for the morning and do a yoga class, eat a lot of food, and do a meditation class over a half day.

My favourite classes were Paul’s Power Yoga and Tanya’s Vinyasa Slow, however I loved every class I did. The space is beautiful – each studio is surrounded by nature and its sights and sounds, and it feels like you’re doing yoga how it’s meant to be done. My usual yoga habitat of a first floor office building overlooking a busy pub in Surry Hills kinda paled in comparison!!   The teachers are charismatic and 100% bring their own flavour to the class they’re teaching.

My standout was the lunchtime crystal bowl and Tibetan bowl meditation with Swami.   I did six classes all-up I think, and each one took me deeper and deeper. As our bodies are made up of vibrations, the idea is that the sounds from the bowls helps us clear our chakras and raise our vibration. I would love to continue this when I get back to Australia if I can, as each class was an intensely spiritual experience.

Tips: For the first few sound meditations, I slept a lot. For the last three classes I did, I had a piece of raw chocolate from the juice bar just before – to open my heart up, but also to keep me awake so I could enjoy the full experience. It worked a treat!

 Another thing I would say if you do the class is to load up on props – I’ve got a bony bum so I would get uncomfortable twenty minutes in.   By the end of my time there, I had perfected my cosy-ass set-up with three bolsters, a blanket and a cushion…

As I said, there are tonnes of options when it comes to yoga in Ubud. I just decided to choose one place and really immerse myself there.

TREATMENTS

You could easily spend all day getting treatments in Ubud – there are spas on every street and many are super cheap (e.g: $6 for a pedi). I didn’t get a huge amount of treatments but the ones I had, I loved.

Fresh! Spa

A super cool retro-style salon with the comfiest chairs I’ve ever had the pleasure of having my nails done in. I had the express mani and pedi, however it was very close to the full shebang. It was uber relaxing and my nails were beautiful (my mani lasted a good week). This is definitely more on the expensive end of the scale, however it was worth every rupiah.

I went back to Fresh! again to get lash extensions. They have four looks to choose from, in increasingly dramatic/expensive stages. I went for the “Cute” look, which was the second one up and I loved it. It cost in the range of $60 to have them done and it took 45 minutes (felt super quick compared to my past experiences).

The best bit about Fresh! is the rice cracker thing they give you afterwards, with a blob of cacao crackle stuff on top. I need to track those things down and haul a sackload of them back to Oz…

Coconut Wellness

This is an Ayurvedic spa right near the Green Field, that we discovered on the recommendation of another hotel guest. I only went two days before we left Ubud, otherwise I would have been there every second day… The treatments are really unusual, and make a nice change from the standard Balinese massage.

I had the Elakizhy treatment, which involved being massaged by two therapists with heated bundles of herbs and garlic. It was definitely different! My shoulders felt inches lower afterwards and they were achey the next day – that satisfying ache you get from working your muscles.

They have an Ayurvedic doctor inhouse, who does two-hour consultations to help you identify your dosha (body type). I did something similar with a health coach a few years ago, and understanding my dosha (I’m vata) was incredibly illuminating and empowering. My sister wanted to find out hers, however unfortunately the doctor was away on the last day we had available. When I go back, I’ll definitely be booking in to see them.

The Yoga Barn also specialises in Ayurvedic treatments, however they are a lot more expensive than Coconut Wellness – for context, a consultation with an Ayurvedic specialist is five times the price at Yoga Barn.

ACTIVITIES

Hands up, I was a bit of a shit tourist in Ubud – partly as I had done a day tour to Ubud a few years ago and seen the coffee plantation (those sad civets, devastating), the water temple (fascinating) and the Monkey Forest (terrifying), and partly as I was travelling with Lexi and I only messed with her naps when I absolutely needed to.

Green School

One of the only activities (so to speak) we did was a visit to Green School – a world-leading school that takes a totally alternative approach to education. We booked the tour for when Wade was visiting, and toted Lexi along in the Ergo carrier. There is a tour every morning, and more specialised tours every afternoon – each tour is guided by a parent, student or teacher at the school.

It absolutely blew us away and there may have been much gushing via Insta stories… The classrooms are open-sided, and don’t actually look like classrooms at all. There is a permaculture farm, and even a fish farm. The primary school kids run the chickens as a social enterprise. I would happily eat in the school restaurant every day – it cycles through various international and Indonesian dishes every day, including sushi (hello?!).

The tour wrapped up with a cold glass of iced tea and pandan pancakes (that were even nicer than the Green Field ones).

Even if you’re not into all that green stuff, it’s still absolutely worth a visit – it really needs to be seen to be experienced.

SHOPPING

I did a bit of shopping for my Bali uniform (crochet bra top, shorts) and treated myself to a gorgeous backless playsuit and handmade leather sandals from Labu (I got three pairs).

Besides that, I mostly bought cute little homewares things from the markets so we can have touches of our Bali experience around us at home – dreamcatchers for our bedrooms, handcarved wooden animals and masks and two knockout paintings.

My mum and sister adored the markets, which go on for a couple of blocks and you can easily find yourself lost in them. The quality of the items for sale is excellent, and the vendors aren’t pushy or aggressive. All prices are negotiable, and we would generally start our offers at half the asking price and bargain up to about 60-70%. I usually dread the market haggle process, however this was really fun. We also tried to buy more things from one vendor so we could get a better deal.

FOOD SHOPPING

Bali Buddha is a nice wholefoods/organic/crunchy hippy shop and my sister got a massive haul of healthfoods for her husband for just $30. It has a bakery, meats, yoghurts, etc. It also has a café around the corner that serves a big selection of healthy food.

Earth Café also has a small market attached, where I got deodorant, magnesium spray, castille soap, essential oils and other bits I ran out of.

Coco Supermarket was only five minutes from the Green Field, and it’s a full supermarket. I’m a bit crap at checking prices, however my mum and sister said that it’s half the price of the supermarket near us in Canggu. It also has a few ATMs.

Ok, that’s my Ubud wrap.

Please do comment and share your hot tips – as I am DEFINITELY going to be back!

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