2018 Indonesia – Bali – Ubud & Beyond

Ubud and beyond…

By now the lazy part of my Bali trip had come to an end and I was moving home… No, no, no, not home as in Hillensberg but home as in Guci Guesthouses, Ubud. I was extremely thrilled to meet my friends Ulli  and Nyoman and their son Daniel again. We had a lot of catching up to do and I needed to go shopping for a traditional Balinese outfit as Daniel was getting married on the 27th and I was lucky enough to be on the guest list.

Punctually 11 o’clock my taxi arrived and we started our journey to Ubud. As soon as we left Tanjuang Benoa we took the new toll road built over water and avoided the congested roads surrounding the airport.

Once in Sanur we joined the always present traffic jam and slowly made our way to Ubud. The closer we came, the more my excitement started growing and it did not take long before I recognized the route we were taking.

And then we approached Ubud, once again it had spread out but finally I saw the welcoming sign of Guci Guesthouses. For the 14th time I arrived home. I followed the narrow path towards Guci and after the second corner I found myself in my beloved garden. I rang the bell and not much later Ulli came to see me with a big smile on her face. The bungalow could wait, it was time to catch up. Not much later Nyoman and Daniel showed up and we were a gaged in a vivid conversation. It did not seem like 5 years ago I was last here. It felt so good!

Later that afternoon the family of Ade, Daniels soon to be wife, came for the official introduction so I decided to step back as I felt I should not be part of this important meeting. Instead I went to Warung Enak and ordered a Blue Mountain, my favorite cocktail from there. Not much later the waitress returned and asked if I was mr. Marc… My jaws dropped, even after such a long time they remembered my name.

The blue mountain was no longer on the menu but fortunately enough other cocktails to choose from so I made my choice and ordered something to eat as well. Not much later the chef arrived to say hello and it was great to meet her again.

The rest of the evening I spent chatting with Ulli and Nyoman and as expected I should have gone to bed much earlier.

Next morning started with a refreshing shower in my private rainforest and the legendary Guci Guesthouses breakfast.

After a short chat with Ulli and some German guests I headed towards Ubud which turned out to be a a journey of new discoveries and surprises. Once again Ubud had changed so much. So many new shops, so many new restaurants. I was blown away. Best thing though was that the sidewalk at Jalan Pengosekan had vastly improved. The potholes, in one of which I fell in years ago, had disappeared and they actually looked rather fence now.

The market had extended into a large “art” market, mainly targeted at tourists and there were more restaurants than one could visit in a lifetime. This time I decided to try out some new ones so I ended up at Nussantara, an up market Indonesian restaurant that belonged to the same owners as Locavore, where I had already booked a table for a couple of days later.

Still I loved the atmosphere which was so typically Ubud, in pact nothing had changed. On my way back I stopped to enjoy a cocktail after which I returned to the Zen Spa for an hour and a half long massage. I could not have thought of a better way to relax.

The rest of the day and evening I spent with Ulli and Nyoman, after all, after five years there was a lot of catching up to do…

Next morning, after breakfast Ulli and I went out for a ride. She had to deliver wedding invitation cards to her friends and for me it was a good chance to meet them and see the stunning environment around Ubud. As soon as we left the buzzing centre the roads became quiet and I was able to enjoy the breathtaking rice fields. I was enjoying the ride at the back of Ulli’s motorbike and the stops helped me to stretch a bit.

Expectedly not everybody was home but on two occasions we were invited inside and had a nice chat. Later in the afternoon we went to the Green Kubu, a nice restaurant surrounded by even more rice fields. We had a lovely extended lunch over there and the rest of the evening we spent at Guci Guesthouses.

I did not sleep well that night and was fully awake at 6 o’clock. After a refreshing shower I read a bit on the patio and a bit later I decided to go to bad, it had been a short night after all. When I woke up my stomach was upset, something that lasted the rest of the day. I decided to stay home (not that I had much choice) and mostly spent my time sleeping and visiting a certain place….

Late afternoon I went out for a so to Adam (chicken soup) and boiled rice, picked up my laundry and returned home. That evening I went to bed early. I felt much better already and could only hope this setback only lasted one day.

After 10 hours of sleep I woke up again, this time feeling much better. I enjoyed a coffee and some bananas after which I was picked up for cooking class. Our first stop, as usual, was the Ubud market. It had become much smaller over the years but was still very enjoyable.

We were informed about the several vegetables, fruits and spices used in Balinese cooking and spent some time enjoying the activities. Then it was time to go on.

Next stop was at the rice fields where we got a clear explanation about the several types from rice and how they were grown. The views, once again, were breathtaking.

And then we went to Paon Bali, where cooking classes were held. We were a rather big group but there were enough dishes to be prepared so there was work enough for everyone. Actually everybody had to make each dish so no lack of hands on. The class was delivered with lots of humor and passion and it was big fun.

Finally it was time to eat the dishes that we cooked ourselves. Thanks to the guidance we had they all tasted wonderful. A big selection of chicken, tuna and vegetable dishes ensured I had eaten enough for the day. Dessert just fitted and after we received our recipes for the day we were brought back home.

I decided to get out in the centre and slowly strolled back home. Passing Warung Enak I could not resist some cocktails and was offered some more bites to accompany them. That definitely meant no dinner for me tonight. By now I was afraid I would not fit in the plane anymore, but on the other hand I might have lost quite some weight the previous day.

Back at Guci I relaxed a bit at the patio and updated my journal. Later that evening I returned the White Ginger Restaurant to enjoy the vibe and have another cocktail.

Next morning it was time to pack. After breakfast I jumped on the back of Ulli’s motorbike and we drove to the Amarta Beach Cottages south of Candi Dasa for a two day break away. Traffic was fine and I enjoyed the route that I had driven so many times myself.

It took just over an hour after we checked in at our bungalow witch had a view over the pool and the sea. The place was absolutely perfect, a good recommend idea from Ulli. Far away from the noisy street this place was true paradise.  The bungalows were simple but perfect, the view… To die for! I could not have wanted anything better and immediately I loved this place as much as the Brothers Bungalows in Balangan.

We changed into our swimming gear for a quick jump in the pool after which we enjoyed a light lunch. After that we returned to the pool to enjoy the sun, some cocktails and chatting to each other. There was so much laughter and fun, what a good time!

Next to the pool was a massage parlor and obviously we could not resist that. Ulli had chosen an aromatherapy massage of 90 minutes after which it was my turn for a hot stone massage. It was an extremely relaxing experience and the hot stones did me well.

With such fun time was going by too quickly and sun started setting. Time to get changed and go to the restaurant for a lovely dinner. We still kept on talking and talking and it did not come as a surprise we were the last ones to leave. The end of a lovely day.

Next morning we woke up early. Ulli was already outside reading a magazine on the patio. After a refreshing shower we enjoyed breakfast at the beach after which we returned to the pool. Another morning in paradise. Ulli decided for a nap whilst I listened to some music.

After lunch we packed and left Amarta Beach Cottages, but I already knew, I would be back! We stopped at Iris her place, another good friend of Ulli, to deliver the wedding invite after which we drove back to Guci Guesthouses.

There we finished of our fantastic breakaway with a beer and Daniel joined us to hear all the stories. Later that evening I returned to White Ginger for a cocktail and a small bite to eat. Around eight all lights in Ubud went out and we were left in the dark.

As the blackout did not seem to be resolved soon I paid my bill and returned in the pitch black to Guci Guesthouses. There was not much to do so an early night was appropriate.

Next morning electricity was up and running again, I updated my journal and enjoyed a light breakfast. Today was another day I had been looking forward to. Since a couple of years Locavore had been a rising star in Ubud and by now it is known as the best restaurant in town. Unfortunately dinner is booked out months ahead but I was still able to book lunch over there as I simply could not leave Ubud without this culinary highlight!

I enjoyed a short stroll through town after which I went to Locavore, full of expectations.

Since years Locavore is known as Ubud’s culinary hotspot. Needless to say I wanted to visit this extraordinary place whilst in Bali. As it is fully booked weeks ahead I could only secure a seat for lunch which offers the same experience as dinner. So was it worth it? Absolutely!

I was welcomed by one of the friendly hosts (they are so much more than just waitresses and made sure I enjoyed every single moment of my stay) and brought to the chef’s table directly facing the kitchen. The perfect spot for a serious foodie like myself as I could see how the dishes were prepared by the chef himself and the large team of sous chef’s. Every dish was assembled with passion and loving care, with enormous detail for presentation.

I started with a heavenly cocktail and then opted for the seven course, non-vegetarian menu with beverage pairing. It started with countless amuses, one even better than the other and my tastebuds were brought to attention and pleased by the taste explosions that filled my mouth. Each amuse was explained by my host and even her descriptions were mouthwatering.

Although each and every amuse was totally amazing but the one that really got me emotional were the different preparations of tomato, something that I can not describe but you have to experience yourself. A tomato broth, a cured slice of tomato and a tomato sorbet. Heaven is a flavor on earth!

And then the first course was brought. Each time one of the sous chef’s came to the table to explain the creation which was paired with a cocktail that perfectly matched the food and even enhanced it’s flavors. Several times I had goosebumps and shook my head in disbelief of the imaginative presentation and beautiful flavors. I even got some extra courses off the menu and was enjoying every single moment of this extraordinary experience.

Three hours, 11 amuses, 7 courses and 3 extra courses from the chef later I left Locavore, totally satisfied and extremely pleased with the experience. There was no doubt possible, Locavore had easily entered my top three of culinary experiences. Together with the Fat Duck and Restaurant One it was in very good company.

I made my way back to Warung Enak and sat down for a while just to let the experience sink in, after that I returned to Guci Guesthouses where Ulli was waiting for my full report. We spent quite a while chatting but that evening I decided to go to bed early.

The next day was a productive one. I spent most of the time with Ulli working on the website and had a refreshing nap in theatre on when it start raining. The first time during my trip. That evening Nyoman had cooked and as I knew from previous times it was gong to be very special.

We started of with a delicious fish soup followed by fried tuna, shrimps, mango and rice, accompanied by snail sate. Nyoman remembered from our last visit to Warung Enak I loved them so he especially made them for me. What can I say, it was finger licking good!

Time was flying by quickly so the next day Nyoman and myself went on of trip. First stop was Kendaran to see the progress on Villa Unggul. A lot of work had been done since I last saw it but still plenty to do. I loved it’s location and the atmosphere. Once opened this will be another paradise on Bali.

Next was a shop for traditional men’s clothing where I bought my outfit for Daniel’s wedding. It looked nice but we drove back to Ubud in order to get a matching linen shirt. Then we continued to Nyoman’s favorite Warung in North Ubud for lunch.

It had been a great morning and we laughed a lot, still it had been trying so as soon as we returned to Guci Guesthouses I went for another nap. Later that evening I returned to Warung Enak for dinner.

Next morning I went to the local market. Prices for vanilla went sky rocket high so I did not buy as much as I initially wanted. The previous day’s I had seen some other things and after a morning of shopping my list was empty. Mission accomplished and I thought I deserved a massage.

So I returned to the Zen spa and enjoyed an extremely relaxing massage for an hour and a half. On my way back to Guci Guesthouses I stopped at the white ginger for a light lunch and a cocktail, after which I enjoyed another afternoon nap.

Later I joined up with Ulli  again to finish of some business. By the time we were done sun had already set and I returned to White Ginger, another day had come to an end.

The next day was a very relaxing one as I wanted to save my energy for the wedding of Daniel and Ade. I listened to some music, chatted with Ulli and Nyoman and that was about all. In the evening I went to Warung Enak for my final cocktails and dinner after which I spent a while with Ulli.

Continue to the Wedding of Ade and Daniel