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Driving through the roads leading to Ubud, it’s hard not to feel tranquil and at ease. From the rolling rice and tapioca fields orbiting Ubud’s outskirts, rows of tall papaya trees to leafy ravines and sloping foothills – it’s an organic journey through the heart of Bali. The town’s name is derived from the Balinese word for medicine and was once a destination for medicinal herbs for Balinese people. It’s no wonder that Ubud has a well-earned reputation for being a town where you can find rest, relaxation and a little healthy indulgence along the way.
Taking a bike ride through Ubud
Taking in some energising exercise, and experiencing Ubud’s village life, is possible by partaking in a winding bicycle journey through the town’s lush scenery outside the urban sprawl. Yet, there are more times than often that this peaceful scenic bike ride around Ubud morphs into more like Tour de Bali and I’m glad I took out travel insurance before leaving home!
There are hills to climb and snake-like roads to manoeuvre as local children stand by the roadside to cheer me on. Speeding freely along a downhill slope is the best reward after a calf-stretching hill climb and groups of children squeal in delight as I speed faster and faster along the road. Sweat is dripping off me, but the passing scenery makes me forget that I’m exerting any effort under the Balinese sun. Gullies and side streets offer brief glimpses into desa, or village, life and I ride through many. Locals are selling groceries from roadside shops, squatting in doorways casually sucking away on half-smoked cigarettes or drying rice grains in the sun.
Taking a traditional Balinese cooking class
Traditional Balinese cooking embraces many traditional ingredients, from salt and sugar, to ginger, garlic, coconut, tomato, onion, spices, chillies, rice, noodles and kecap manis sauce, giving each recipe a multi-layered aesthetic. My home cooking class with Payuk Bali begins at the local bazaar where our host chef guides us through a labyrinth of stallholders to identify the ingredients we need for the day’s lesson. It’s where traditional vegetables like beansprouts, shallots, lemongrass and cassava can also be found.
By the time we reach the kitchen, our chef is fast-paced and has us grinding spices, ginger, peanuts and garlic in a mortar and pestle almost immediately. He takes us through the fundamentals of traditional Balinese cooking and we’re quick to learn how to make a spicy sambal ulak from scratch, a wholesome and moreish peanut sate sauce and a vibrant vegetable stock that underpins the foundation of many Balinese dishes. Within the space of three hours, we’ve prepared a feast brimming with Balinese delicacies – sayur urab, vegetables in spiced grated coconut, pepes jamur, grilled mushrooms wrapped in banana leaf, and vegetable soup and curries. Dessert is not forgotten, and we’ve chopped, simmered and stirred to concoct a decadent kolak pisang, braised banana in palm sugar sauce, that tops off this homemade feast.
Indulging in a gorgeous coconut scrub massage at Sedona Spa
What better way for this girl on holiday in Bali to achieve complete relaxation than to indulge in a coconut body spa. The Balinese hold massage in high regard and it’s been engrained in the Balinese culture for centuries as a form of natural healing. The Balinese art of massage evolved from various techniques discovered from traders passing through the area along the spice route. Fast-forward to present day and many travellers to Bali are reaping the rewards.
My masseuse leads me to my very own massage room that’s open-air and decked out in gorgeous native plants. I strip to my underwear and lie across the massage table as my masseuse assertively kneads and stretches my tired muscles into submission with a smearing of coconut oil. She then rubs my body down with coconut, herbs and salts then drapes me gently with a cloth. As I start to drift off into a sedative state, my masseuse rouses me to take a quick shower before leading me to a deep bath filled with warm water and flower petals. As I steep my body in the water, she delivers a steaming cup of ginger tea and a platter of watermelon and papaya for me to enjoy. I’m reluctant to remove myself from this soak, though I’m walking on air as I leave. I’m dozy and my body has never felt so relaxed.
A raw dinner at Alchemy Bali
From Sedona Spa I float my way over to Alchemy Bali, only a short taxi ride away. Alchemy Bali is the island’s first 100% raw vegan café and juice bar that also offers an organic health food store and holistic centre. The shopfront is open to the leafy road and raw timber seats are plumped up by soft cushions. The menu is noted by a fusion of Western and Eastern influences, and the choices are just as plentiful as the organic goodness they offer.
Quiches, vegan Californian rolls and salads all entice my stomach tand it’s the Californian rolls and quiche that win my heart. The raw quiche is a rich and creamy slice of pureed nuts atop a biscuity pastry, alongside a crispy salad that’s lightly dressed. There’s fresh coconut found in the rolls, posing as the rice, not to mention thick cuts of cucumber and carrot. There are juices galore to choose from, served with a plant-stem straw and can be purchased in sizes up to two litres! After gobbling these meals down, the dessert counter calls out to me with a bevy of raw choices. There are raw peppermint patties, lemonade fudge and peanut butter cups. I opt for one of each, as well as generous lashings of banana and strawberry raw ice-cream served in a sundae glass. My body is feeling revitalised and brimming with energy.
Have you visited Ubud in Bali? How did you find your healthy dose of Ubud? I’d love to hear your stories from Ubud and the healthy places you discovered.