Ubud – The Cultural Heart of Bali

When we arrived at our cute villa at Bebek Tepi Sawah, we immediately embraced the calm, spiritual and relaxing atmosphere. There were sounds of chimes echoing throughout the resort, along with the smell of incense, while surrounded by greenery and nature. We would wake up in the early mornings to the sound of roosters before walking a few steps over from our villa to a beautiful breakfast nook. This is where we enjoyed smoothie bowls topped with granola, fresh pressed juices and delicious Balinese coffee. I think Mario had about 5 coffees by the time we left breakfast…lol

Our cute villa!
Breakfast included smoothie bowls topped with fresh granola and fruit, fresh juices and more fruit

Walking the streets is not easy

 The next day we decided to check out the main strip of Ubud. This turned out to be quite an adventure. Scooters could be seen packing every street, zipping past the few cars and ignoring the most non-existent traffic signs.  Sidewalks were non-existent, and if there were sidewalks they contained massive potholes that will probably never get filled in; let’s just say our eyes were peeled to the ground most of the way!

Along the walk, we passed by some beautiful flower shops, herbal stores, temples, and fruit stands filled with locals getting their daily dose of produce. Once we reached the main strip called Jalan Raya, we walked over towards the massive and very tightly packed Ubud Market. Here we found hundreds of little shops showcasing Balinese art including wooden sculptures, paintings, jewelry, colorful clothing and fabrics, and much more. I stopped to buy a dream catcher for my niece, a jumper for myself and Mario and I bought shirts. Nothing seemed to cost more than $5 which was sweet, but bargaining was required! Along our walk into the market the small of coffee aroma coming from a little kiosk, forced Mario to immediately follow his nose towards the shop where we ordered 2 cups of traditional Balinese coffee – so delicious!  Eventually, we made our way back to our hotel to rest for the next jammed packed day.

Wood carvings


Mario following his nose into the coffee shop

Komang – Our Bali Ambassador

 The next morning, we woke up very excited for the day ahead. We met our amazing driver that morning, Komang, and he took us to the following places:

  • Forest – to go on the Bali Swings
  • Temples: Elephant Temple, Monkey Temple, Gunungkawi, Tirta Empul
  • Tegenungan Waterfall
  • Cekingan Rice Terraces
  • Coffee Plantation

Our first stop was the Bali Swings, which were perfectly placed in what was essentially an ‘Instagram park’. We weren’t planning to visit, but thought -why not? It wasn’t too expensive – $12.  It is basically a massive swing that they strap you into and push you into the forest. It was quite fun, and I got a spectacular view and pictures of the forest. There also were some random bird nests on the property – it was so funny taking photos in them, who could take that seriously?!

Us in a bird nest overlooking the gorgeous forest! So much green surrounding us

After laughing our butts off taking pics in bird nests – we made our way to the temples. They were stunning and placed in areas with the most picturesque backdrops. I thought to myself, ‘people actually prayed here centuries ago and continue to come here for prayer’ I found this incredible. One of the main temples that is used for purification is called Tirta Empul. Watching the purification in process, I became very intrigued about it, what it signified and how I could partake.  After asking Komang 100 questions, he said if we were interested in doing it, he could bring us the next day. Since there was preparation we couldn’t do it at that moment. I immediately said yes, and asked Mario is he also wanted to do it with me, he was also interested which was nice as we could both do it together! (Click here to read our experience doing the Purification at Tirta Empul) We further explored the temple and then from there we went to our next stop – Cekingan Rice Terraces. The terraces are the ones you see in famous photos of Bali – so lush, green and beautiful. Since the season had just started, the rice was just beginning to sprout.

Rice fields for days

We were able to walk around, up and down and across the fields. It was so hot out, and I remember asking Mario – how do these people work out on these fields every day? Very strenuous to get up and down and in this heat – it must be tough! Nonetheless, they always had smiles on their faces spread from ear to ear. On the way to our next stop we took a break for lunch. The place was recommended by Komang and it was beautifully located on rice fields and the food was delicious. We had Nasi Goreng and grilled octopus with rice (the rice came from the rice field we were gazing at!) I also had a delicious mint and lime juice that was so refreshing on that super-hot day.

Fresh mint, lime and water –  always ask without sugar!

Coffee Heaven

Once our bellies were satisfied, we made our way to the coffee plantation – Mario was really engaged for this part of the tour…lol. For those of you who didn’t catch it previously, Mario has a love for coffee. Komang showed us around and explained the different types of coffee beans, and spices added to them for flavor – such as nutmeg, ginseng and cinnamon. There were also a variety of produce grown on the grounds and herbs for teas. We saw, lemongrass, turmeric, taro root, aloe, avocados, pineapples, sweet potato, papaya, and much more. The most interesting thing we learned about was the Lewak Coffee. Lewak is an animal that looks like a massive ferret. These furry things are all over the property because they eat the coffee beans and when they poo them out, the bean undergoes a process that chemically changes it. They are then roasted and BAM – Lewak Coffee is created. Kind of weird, but it’s quite good. In case you want to know what a lewak is… see pic below. Super cute!

Cute Luwak – he was a bit stinky…

Cooking Class Extravaganza!

We were pooped after this day and when we went back to the hotel, we were ready to pass out! The next few days we rested and hung out by the pool, did some reading and journaling. Went to a few lovely lunches and dinners in the downtown area. Near the end of our time in Ubud we went to a cooking class. We found the deal on Air BnB Experiences, and I HIGHLY recommend it if you are ever visiting Ubud. It was perfect in every way. We started the day by visiting a local market where we selected our fruits and vegetables for the class. While we strolled through the market, our guide Putu (Nicest guide ever!) explained to us the different types of ingredients that were used in traditional dishes. This included, Dragon fruit, Mangosteen (my fave), Durian (the stinky fruit), coconut oil, chilies, peanuts, etc. We left the market with all our ingredients and headed towards a local Balinese home, where we were greeted with some fresh juice from our lovely instructor Made Ayu. She showed us around their home and explained each area of their house. We also had the opportunity to make an offering before starting our class, which was a nice bonus 😊 The class was very organized and there were 5 of us, so Made divided up the tasks. One was chopping, one was making a sauce or marinade, and one was cooking. She was thorough in explaining to us what each dish entailed and how to combine the flavors of Balinese food. One of the most commonly used item was COCONUT! They use the skin, the water, the pulp, everything- which I was happy to hear since I am dairy free. No butter is used or dairy at all, which made me and my tummy happy. Going into the class I was not sure if I was going to be able to try all the dishes. Good news is everything on the menu was naturally gluten and dairy free – lucky me!

This is what we made:

  • Base Genep – which is Basic Yellow Sauce
  • Vegetable soup
  • Sate Empol
  • Pepes Chicken
  • Chicken Curry
  • Tofu Manis
  • Gado-Gado ( My fave!)
  • Lawar Bali
  • Kolak Ubi

It was tons of fun learning how to cook all this delicious food! We also had amazing class mates -Juan, Mitch and Rachel. Turns out Mitch and Rachel were also from Toronto, and left home to travel for a while – we really ended up hitting it off! (We met up later that night for dinner and drinks and a Bali traditional dance show – some good laughs that night) We all sat down at the table set up for us in the outdoor dining room, to enjoy all our delicious creations. Gushing about how it was the best meal we had on the entire trip in Bali so far – not to toot our own horn of anything! Hehe. I give all the credit to Made and her amazing cooking skills. To end off the day we got a nice certificate of completion and a grad pic …lol (see below)



If you want the recipes for some of my favorite and healthiest dishes we made , stayed tuned for my next post! Secrets of Balinese cooking revealed – only for you 🙂

Hope you got some useful tips on Ubud !

Until Next time,


Up next:

  • Completing the Purification at Tirta Empul
  • My top 5 fave Balinese Recipes

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