After a 16h flight and two transfers, this was a much awaited encounter indeed. First 7 impressions:
1. Flip-flops are in fashion. Even more so, there must be a note somewhere saying they are mandatory in Indonesia as 99% of the people we met were wearing them.
2. If you re motivate enough, you can go with flip-flops anywhere, including water rafting and climbing active volcanoes.
3. Ubud is immediately relaxing and as peaceful place as it can get on this Earth! I have never so far experienced silence quite like on the high hills of Bali, crickets and geckos included.
4. Balinese dance is particular cultural experience, involving bright costumes and what may seem a repetitive strand of sounds. Choose one playing with a temple as a backdrop, for the full experience. In Ubud, there is at least one show scheduled per evening.
5. Monkeys are generally nice creatures, except when they have a sudden craving for your hat or your water bottle. Of course, not holding food out to them would also help. Despite all warnings, you will always meet good intended locals offering to sell you a small bag of bananas to feed the monkeys.
6. Sample warungs during the day but go for a restaurant in the evening. Great Nasi goreng and local fares to be found at Ibu Oka, on Monkey Forest Road. The bar scene is eclectic, with something for every taste. I really enjoyed the jazzy place in front of the Four Monkeys restaurant. Music is improvised and the cocktails are cheap.
7. After a treck in the rice paddies, book a massage with a local establishment. I found good quality and great prices at Sang Spa. They have 3 centers in Ubud so there is bound to be one close to your hotel.
Coming next: a review of a great retreat among the rice paddies – the Samara Villas. Till then, a few glimpses of the central Balinese landscape.