There’s more to Ubud than what’s seen in the film ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’
Graced by rice paddies and steep ravines in the central foothills of the Gianyar regency, Ubud is the flourishing centre of Bali’s arts and cultural scene, it being known as the spiritual capital of Bali and home to a small treasure trove of museums and galleries. However, a lesser-known attraction of this town is its accomplished culinary scene. A growing number of restaurateurs and chefs are putting Ubud on the map as Bali’s favourite foodie destination. The number of local warungs, or family-owned eateries, as well as Western-style cafes, have sprouted, serving good quality stomach fuel in casual settings and at reasonable prices.
Tutmak Warung Kopi
Jalan Dewi Sita, Ubud, Bali
This cafe overlooking a football field in central Ubud has gained popularity over the years among locals and the travel community for their use of fresh, locally-grown produce in their dishes. Everything on their menu is made fresh on-site, and people who’ve been here rave about their coffee being almost world-class. It’s no wonder then since their coffee beans are carefully selected, freshly roasted and ground daily.
What impressed us was actually the oversized cinnamon rolls, which were fluffy with enough stickiness and a drizzled icing not too cloyingly sweet allowing the taste of the local cinnamon to come through. Only one batch of cinnamon rolls consisting of 12 pieces are made daily on the premises and typically gets sold out in the evening.
Jalan Gootama 13, Ubud, Bali
This humble restaurant is opened by husband-and-wife team Philippe and Geraldine Camus, who followed their dream to Bali after living in Réunion, a French island southwest of Mauritius for 15 years. Having years of experience in the hospitality industry, they set up Melting Wok about three years ago with Philippe doing the cooking and Geraldine entertaining customers. They source for fresh ingredients in the local market every morning which will appear on the menu as daily specials. The menu is limited because of the small kitchen but the mainstays, featuring fragrant wok-fried meats and vegetables as well as curry noodles, is enough to guarantee a full-seating every night. The menu takes the form of a large blackboard and held up by the affable service staff when they attend to you. There are only about eight tables so make sure you have a reservation or go early. When we left at about 7 pm there was already a line forming along the stairs leading to the restaurant.
Don Antonio Blanco Museum
Jalan Campuhan, Ubud, Bali
Touted as the ‘Dali of Bali,’ Antonio Blanco, who was of Spanish and American descent, spent most of his long artistic career painting in Bali after settling down on the island in the 1950s with his Balinese wife. The King of Ubud gave Blanco a piece of land to set up his home and studio, which Blanco built on top of a hill in Campuan, Ubud, overlooking the Campuan River. This is now converted into a museum which now houses an interesting collection of works drawn over diff erent periods of his life. His drawings reveal his fascination with Balinese topless women, which are displayed on the walls of the brightly-coloured museum. What stood out were the unique frames of the paintings, each designed by Blanco to give a sense of harmony with every picture.
Tepi Sawah Restaurant
Jalan Raya Goa Gajah, Ubud, Bali
Tepi Sawah, which means “by the paddyfields,” has a nice ambience where diners get to enjoy privacy and their meals in individual traditional gazebos or pendopos, a Javanese pavilion-like structure with a thatched roof while overlooking the rice fields. This restaurant, which has played host to Miss World 2013 contestants and other local celebrities, is known for their signature deep fried crispy duck as well as the bebek betutu, or Balinese smoked duck.
Shalimar Gallery and Boutique
Jalan Hanoman, Ubud, Bali
Shalimar’s gallery is a treasure trove of Indonesian ethnic art pieces aimed at the highly specialized and niche collectors’ market. It has a collection of masks, Wayang puppets and primitive art, and also specializes in old and rare fabrics from all areas of the Indonesia Archipelago. Ask to see its prized batik collection, where more than 100 of such fabrics are neatly folded and stored in an old-fashioned cupboard deep in one corner of the store. The word batik is thought to be derived from the word ‘ambatik’ which translated means ‘a cloth with little dots.’
Depending on the type of design, condition and age of the fabric, they could cost as much as 23 million Rupiah. The type of design also reveals the region where the batik is made. Central Javanese designs, for instance, are influenced by traditional patterns and colors, whereas batik from Java’s north coast near Pekalongan have been influenced by Chinese culture, resulting in brighter colors and more intricate flower and cloud designs. The condition of the old fabric doesn’t make it perfect for wearing, instead it appeals to avid batik collectors including Americans and Japanese who adorn it on walls of homes. The most expensive batik sold to date by the gallery was 80 years old and cost 16 million Rupiah (about US$1,300.).
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