Driving up toward Ubud, the seaside chaos gives way to narrow streets lined with Hindu shrines and terraced rice fields surrounded by coconut trees. Maybe it's the subtle shift in climate, or the incense burning in front of each home and shop, but almost immediately, we get it.
There is a calm energy (or "vibe" as our fellow Ubud travelers would say) to the gorgeous hillside town. Art galleries are found on nearly every corner and open-air coffee shops are full of happy transplants and tourists enjoying a cappuccino or pressed juice post yoga sesh. People are squeezed shoulder to shoulder at the local market and trendy boutiques display hipster mannequins in the windows. Within minutes of arriving, it's apparent that we aren't the only people who thought it was a good idea to explore Ubud.
We manage to locate our homestay, Kamol House, about a kilometer out of town in the middle of a rice field. As we walk single-file down the narrow raised path, rows of rice in swampy water glow neon green below us. We reach the home, a Hindu offering resting dutifully on the front gate, and meet the three generations of family members and two puppies. We're warmly welcomed and invited to a local music and dance performance by the oldest son Wayan, but he goes by Sudi (we later learn that Wayan is one of three potential names given for the oldest son in Balinese culture, making it very common and easy to remember).
That evening, following a lot of exploration, we make our way to the local dance performance. It's the second annual Royal Weekend Performance, with traditional Balinese dance accompanying world renowned ballerinas from Singapore and Japan. It seems like everyone who's anyone in Ubud's art community is present and the dancing and music is phenomenal.
Benefiting from the abundance of healthy vegetarian food options, we indulge in our first western salads (greens, grilled veggies, avocado, cheese, etc) at Kismet Cafe since leaving the States. We also discover Arak, a local spirit that, when mixed with lime juice and honey, goes down dangerously easy. The "Arak Attack," as it's called, is potent and delicious, especially when enjoyed from Mingle Cafe & Lounge's second story open-air dining room. Happy hour two-for-one specials are definitely the way to go.
Our other favorite spots for eats and drinks in Ubud are the trendy Indonesian tapas of Dapur Bunda, the understated, local, and cheap Dewa Warung, Warung Citta Ovest's amazing happy hour pizza and beer deal, and the awesome pour over coffee from Flabird Coffee.
After a few days exploring, we decide that Ubud is the perfect little hilly town. Surrounded by beautiful rice terraces and jungle, it offers all of the culture and art of Bali but with all the comforts and ease of home. Its easy to love.
the lowdown on our favorite spots: