Friday, December 31, 2010

Bali 2010 - The Three Monkeys Cafe

The Tree Monkeys Cafe in Ubud is quite popular with travelers, and it is easy to see why. Located along Monkey Forest Road, the cafe is well designed and very cosy. At the back of the cafe - the views open right into rice fields so you can enjoy watching local rice farmers at work while having your meal. Like many of the cafes in Ubud, it is better to visit for lunch rather then dinner, as at night all the great views would be lost in the darkness.

The dining areas are all open planned and look into working rice fields.

I did not have the chance to eat there during our visit. The menu is Mediterranean, vegetarian and Indonesian - quite a strange mix but most of the reviews are quite positive, so will definitely give it a try on my next visit.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bali 2010 - Maya Ubud

Maya Ubud is one of the more well known resorts in Ubud - famous for its distinctive design and luxurious spa facilities. The thing that strikes you as you arrive is the dramatic roof form of the entrance porch and reception building - it is unlike anything else in Bali. The rest of the resort maintains the drama with a design that veers towards Art Deco.

With a total of 108 villas, this resort is quite big and is set in a 10 hectare garden. As usual, the garden is immaculately designed and maintained. After you pass through the reception area you are faced with the expansive vista of the resort, with the villa units arranged on both sides of the main visual axis.

The villas are designed in Balinese style with straw roof. They are not very big, but beautifully furnished.

The entrance to the villas.

Inside the villas - cozy and romantic.

The small plunge pool in your private garden.

The rates here are not cheap, like other resorts in Bali you do have to pay for quality. As a matter of interest, Elizabeth Gilbert stayed at this resort when she wrote the Bali section of her book “Eat, Pray, Love”. She must be really rich even before the book was published !

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bali 2010 - Around Ubud and Monkey Forest Road

To me one of the nicest areas in Bali is Ubud and the surroundings. The famous valleys of Ayung River, Campuhan River and its many tributaries, and the beautiful rice fields in the Ubud countryside provide an attractive and perfect natural setting. Add in the villages nearby which produce beautiful handicrafts such as wood carvings, stone carvings, furniture and silver jewelry, and the many artists who have set up residences and galleries in the area, and you have an unbeatable combination of nature, culture and people which all contribute to the irresistable charm of Ubud.

Though the Ubud area is quite big and stretches into Kedewatan in the North and Padang Tegal in the South, the main centre of activity is in Monkey Forest Road. Here you will find endless fashion boutiques, art galleries, cafes, restaurants, boutique hotels, craft shops, etc. The road actually starts off as Jalan Hanoman at the T-junction with Jalan Raya Ubud which is the main Ubud thoroughfare. It then loops around and turn back as Jalan Monkey Forest, completing a u-shaped loop which must be some of the most well-trampled grounds in Bali.

Early morning in Ubud Town Centre.

Along Monkey Forest Road.

Lots of interesting shops and places to explore.

No trip to Ubud would be complete without a trek through this charming neighbourhood. Due to the constant arrival of tourists which provide the ready market, and the entrepreneurial spirit of Bali locals as well as expats, there is always something new to discover even if you have been here many times before.

Some of the notable outposts to check out are:

Pusaka, Monkey Forest Road - purveyor of understated chic apparels in interesting natural fabrics. Prices are high by Balinese standards, but the quality and unique designs make up for it.

Calico Home, Monkey Forest Road - very high quality Balinese handicrafts, home ware and antiques.

Bead 'n' Bali, Monkey Forest Road - a huge collection of beads of all kinds. Buy some to make your own bead necklace or bracelet.

Oasis Bali, Hanoman Road - tastefully designed clothes for the ladies.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Bali 2010 - Lunch at Murni's Warung

Like Made’s Warung, Murni’s Warung is also an old institution in Bali. This casual restaurant in Ubud is one of the most blogged about restaurants on the island, and is very popular with travellers. I have been here several times myself, and can easily see the attraction. It is one of the most charming restaurants in Bali in terms of decor. Nice Balinese design, tastefully decorated with antiques and artifacts, and a great view over the Campuhan River combine to create a very cosy venue for a short break.

It is best to visit Murni’s Warung for lunch when you can enjoy the scenery. At night it would be too dark. The restaurant is actually divided into several levels. The lobby level is the highest, and it steps down to a dining area overlooking the river. The next level down is a bar and lounge, and going further down you reach a small open pavilion with only a few tables. To me this is the best part of the restaurant as you get to see and hear the beautiful river while you enjoy your meal.

The small dining pavilion next to the river.

The food at Murni’s Warung is quite average, so don’t expect to satisfy your culinary appetite. We ordered a Gado Gado, Nasi Campur, Mixed Sate and Ayam Tutu. The Nasi Campur is quite far from the Made’s Warung version in terms of taste and presentation, with only a few accompanying dishes. The Ayam Tutu (Balinese smoked chicken) was not as good as Lotus Lane’s or Batan Waru, and the Sate was honestly quite bland. Even the Gado Gado was a bit lack lustre. But the ambiance and the view is terrific.

Murni's Nasi Campur.

Gado Gado.

Satay. A bit bland, but very nicely presented over a mini terracotta grill.

Ayam Tutu. Not as good as other's but still tasty due to the aromatic herbs and spices.

Poppy seed cake with ice cream. Nothing special.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bali 2010 - Tirtha Empul Temple

Pura Tirtha Empul is famous for its Holy Spring which is thought to have curative powers. For hundreds of years, Balinese worshippers have been coming to this temple to purify themselves in the sacred water. Today, even visitors from outside Bali take part in this ancient ritual which has virtually remained unchanged. Tirtha Empul is located in the village of Tampak Siring, about 45 min from Ubud.

The most prominent feature of this temple are the 2 rectangular pools outside the main temple complex. Water from the Holy Spring is fed through carved stone sprouts into these pools. After praying and making the requisite offering in the temple, the worshippers will climb into these pools to purify themselves.

The concept and design of these pools are probably the most influential in terms of “Balinese Design”. The same concept can be seen in countless modern interpretations of Balinese architetcure.

Prayers and offerings are made before entering the pools.

The main temple complex is quite big and consists of many temple structures and pavilions.

Regular prayers are held here, including blessings from the holy man.

The pond inside the main temple complex which contains the holy spring.