Bali is one of those magical islands that never ceases to show me all her secret spaces, one trip at a time. I have travelled to this picturesque island five times and I always find something new to fall in love with.
This time around, my new year trip to Bali served up some new spots and interesting observations.
Monkey Forest, Ubud
I’ve been to Ubud a few times before and somehow always manage to bypass Monkey Forest.
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary (as it is formally known) is a lovely reprieve from the chaos that is Kuta (where all tourists head to for bars and erm, more bars). The lush jungle, sounds of little streams and unique Balinese statues welcome its visitors into a lovely and calm cocoon.
Before you notice all that, you will be greeted by the monkeys that make up the name of this lovely place. These long-tailed macaques are everywhere!
Thankfully, to keep them safe from human curiosity, signs are put up all around to let us know how we should behave around them. Please don’t feed them peanuts, people. Just. Don’t.
There are also guides standing around to help us if we get spooked by the monkeys, or if we want to buy bananas and feed the monkeys properly and calmly.
This place turned out to be so lovely and such a respite from the traffic we experienced earlier. Maybe my sixth trip here would involve a longer stay in Ubud. Who knows, right?
Ibu Oka is an institution, of sorts, in Bali and very well-known for its Babi Guling (roast pig). My failed attempts in getting there prior to this trip really, really, really bugged me.
Well, I made sure I didn’t miss it this time around and made a beeline for the restaurant when I headed out for lunch in Ubud.
So, how was it then? Honestly, I was expecting a more fiery experience – tasty but not mind-blowingly good. Even though I had to add in some much-needed chilli to complete the meal, it was still worth the effort getting there.
Also, I am pretty sure the other patrons saw me gape at the man who carried an entire roast pig on a tray past me. That scene in itself was worth the wait.
Cafe Bali and The Junction
I love Indonesian food especially the delicious and very cheap Nasi Padang (steamed white rice with local dishes). Somehow, a trip to Bali is never complete without this and Teh Botol (local iced tea in a bottle).
So, it came as a surprise for us to venture out from the local warungs (stalls) to two restaurants located along the hip and happening Jalan Oberoi in Seminyak.
The lovely interior of Cafe Bali (image courtesy of TripAdvisor)
Cafe Bali is a beautifully-decorated space with equally wonderful food. The people there were kind enough to take us in amongst a rather hectic new year’s eve dinner crowd. Not bad for two people who didn’t make reservations!
We had our fill of pre-dinner drinks, main course and yummy desserts, all accompanied with the going-ons of the main street festivities.
The Junction is filled with glass jars along its walls (image courtesy of The World Effect)
The Junction is an impressive piece of architecture for a restaurant; sitting fittingly at a junction. Designed by Nobuyuki Narabayashi, the restaurant is a wooden oasis with walls of glass jars of spices, stone, sand and other interesting-looking stuff.
What impressed me was how peaceful and cool this place was the moment we stepped in from the heat (and traffic madness) that afternoon. We ate, drank, talked, laughed and rested our weary feet. Somehow, walking around the busy streets after that didn’t feel all that tiring anymore.
That is, until we spotted a gelato shop. Tsk.
Bali Pulina Farm
After Ubud, we asked our wonderful driver if he could take us to a cocoa farm. There is a famous one I wanted to visit, which makes the raw cacao powder and butter I use for my raw chocolates.
He wasn’t too sure which one I was referring to and ended up taking us to Bali Pulina instead. We didn’t know what to expect, but the moment they mentioned coffee and cocoa, we headed straight in!
We were greeted by a young guide who let us say hi to some civet cats*, makers of the infamous Kopi Luwak or “Catpuccino” according to him (he scored major points with that joke).
Civet cats are notoriously picky eaters when it comes to their coffee beans; only the best beans are eaten and pooped out, to be cleaned and processed for our consumption later.
This “gourmet” coffee has never been something I’ve wanted to try; visions of the poop I saw stopped me from doing so at the time too. Also, why drink THAT when you get to taste some delicious plant-based tea and coffee for free?
We sat and enjoyed the wonderful view of rice fields while sipping our drinks and decided to buy some coffee powder and vanilla extract oil made by the farm. Now, aren’t those much better choices?
Bali showed me some lovely (and not so lovely) moments on this trip. I will, naturally, choose to remember the goodness of the island, the moments that will be bring a smile to my face. I have no doubt that this beautiful, soulful island will continue to surprise me in years to come with more secret spaces.
Here’s to more firsts in Bali. Here’s to a deeper love for this magical island.
* NOTE: I am not one to enjoy looking at animals in cages, but these civet cats seemed to be well taken care of. I hope, for their sakes, they truly are.
This post was part of #MondayEscapes