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My Week in Paradise: A Review of Ubud, Bali

It's hard to believe that this time last week I was waking up in paradise. After a 15 hour flight to Hong Kong, a 4 hour layover, followed by a 5 hour flight, I had arrived in my paradise for a week - Bali.

Since going to Bali many people have asked me "why Bali?" I'm hoping that after this post you'll see exactly why! But prior to booking my trip I was in the mood for a tropical getaway (a good mix of adventure and total relaxation). I'm not sure where I first saw it but this magical, paradise started popping up on my Instagram feed. Filled with mesmerizing infinity pools, beautiful beaches and lush greenery as far as the eye can see, this Bali place seemed to fit all my #vacationgoals.

Once I started looking in to it, I realized why!

Of course I did a significant amount of research, comparing flights, locations, hotels etc. before "swiping" the credit card but it was official, Bali was on the horizon!

We arrived Thursday evening (left Los Angeles Tuesday evening) to our hotel in Ubud - Como Uma Ubud. Ubud is known as the "arts and cultural center" of Bali and centrally located on the island. The perfect location for an island escape.

Como Uma Ubud is in the ideal lush green setting I dreamed of and saw plastered all over my Instagram feed for months. This boutique hotel has less than 50 rooms and each one feels like your own oasis. The back patio is the perfect setting for taking in a good book, eating outdoors, or simply getting lost in the mini jungle right outside your room.

Our own private jungle right off the patio.

Everything about this hotel was wonderful and not only would I go back but I would visit it's other locations in the UK and Miami to name a couple of its international locations.

Everywhere we went at Como was like something out of a dream. Each morning we ate breakfast overlooking a coy pond surrounded by more beautiful greenery. The pool where we spent many of our mornings was the infinity pool of my dreams. Even the spa was this beautiful destination, tucked away in a quiet corner of the hotel. It was the ultimate relaxation experience.

Where we ate breakfast every morning.

Breakfast views: our coy fish friends.

Isn’t this just surreal? Imagine eating breakfast to that view every morning! This quickly became our favorite table.

Escaping to the spa.

Let’s talk about serenity…

That being said we didn't venture out of the hotel for the first couple of days. Not only was the exhaustion all too real after traveling for 24 hours, but we wanted to experience and enjoy the comfort of our new "home" for the next week.

If this isn't #poolgoals I don't know what is.

As you can see, we spent a good majority of our mornings sitting by the pool. I even managed to get sunburned!

Our first trip into town came courtesy of the hotel. With numerous group and private activities, we booked a private tour of some of the island's finest attractions. In six hours we saw two temples, a volcano, a plantation where coffee and spices are produced as well as the infamous rice terraces. While we were beyond exhausted by the time we made it back to Como, we had essentially done a comprehensive tour of the best of Ubud.

When asked if this was the largest rice terrace, our tour guide said “no, but it is most beautiful.” That’s all I needed to hear about Tegallang Rice Terrae.

Wearing the traditional sarong inside the Tirta Empul.

An array of fresh spices from the plantation we visited.

Cleaning the Cat Poop coffee beans.

A coffee tasting complete with the Cat Poop (Luwak) coffee.

To see the cultural, spiritual and most beautiful parts of the island was a truly eye-opening experience. The people of Bali are so steeped in their culture so it was wonderful to be able to see them participating in their daily prayer and ceremony. At one point during our trip I asked our driver where the people of Bali travel to for vacation. Our driver indicated that the people on the island don't travel much because of their commitment to their ceremonies year-round. How incredible is that!

Monthly purification ceremony at the Tirta Empul.

A prayer conducted by the holy man at the Tirta Empul while we were visiting.

Somehow I realize I've yet to mention the weather in Bali. Bali has two seasons - wet and dry. We happened to visit toward the beginning of the wet season (explains the discounted prices at many of the hotels and resorts, although don't get me wrong Bali is a very cheap destination). What did this look like? Well, as you would expect any tropical destination to look. From the time we woke up in the morning until early afternoon-ish, it was 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit, sunny and 90+% humidity. So while it sounds like that perfect Southern California sunshine I'm used to, you can bet that humidity made all the difference.

I don't think there was a day in which I didn't take two showers - the air was that thick with sticky, moisture (sorry not sorry) and if you planned on being outside at all, it was a guarantee you would come back feeling a layer of sweat.

Traveler's Tip: This is NOT a destination in which you can wear outfits more than once. If you're anything like me, you often pack clothes expecting to wear a certain top or at least pants more than once during that trip. Don't do that for Bali. You will sweat, EVERY DAY and therefore leave your clothes less than desirable to wear again.

Female Traveler's Tip: Do not, I repeat, do NOT bring everything in your makeup cabinet because you will not wear it. Most days I chose not to wear any makeup but on the days I did I stuck to foundation, mascara and bronzer. Keep the eyeshadow and contour palettes at home - leave more room for your souvenirs!

After recovering from our whirlwind cultural tour, we utilized the free shuttle that departed from the hotel into town. From our drop off point we could walk to the Ubud Market, made famous by Eat Pray Love. I absolutely loved the market! It seemed to go on for miles and I could have honestly walked up and down the market every day. It was an explosion of the senses - the colors, the smells, the people, the culture - it was overwhelming! Picking any kind of souvenir was a serious task.

Traveler's Tip: Barter, barter, barter! Prices are negotiable throughout the market. The vendors will start extremely high then you can barter with them until you land on an agreeable price. There were multiple times I saw tourists offer the vendors a price, the vendors turned it down then the tourist put down the item and walked away only to be chased by the vendor who suddenly had a change of heart on the offered price. Just don't insult them with your offer (Note - 13,500 rupiah is roughly $1).

One of my favorite parts about traveling is the ability to walk around and get the true flavor of a city. We spent a few days wandering the market then the streets of the Ubud town, checking out the shops, eyeing the various restaurants and bars filled with locals and visitors alike.

Gorgeous, handmade dream catchers like this were going for 300,000 rupiah (or roughly $20 – at least before bargaining).

See those pants in the bottom right hand corner? You bet I bought a pair.

We made our way to the Sacred Monkey Forest one day which was less than two miles from the market. From the moment we entered the sanctuary, I was a little bit uneasy. The woman who gave us our tickets promptly asked what was in the bag I was holding and if I could shove it into the tote I was carrying on my shoulder. Her reason? "They [the monkeys] will take it from you."

Oh boy.

From that point on I clung to all my belongings with all my might. In addition to the sweat that was already dripping down my body from the outside temperature, there was now an additional layer thanks to the nervousness coursing through my veins.

While I managed to follow all the rules including avoiding eye contact with the little guys, one still managed to jump up on my leg for no reason. That was as good a sign as any that it was our time to leave.

Okay okay I can admit they’re a tad bit cute.

Most likely the guilty party who jumped on my leg for no apparent reason.

We stopped at this wonderful little cafe on our walk back - it was a good thing too as shortly thereafter it started pouring rain. Due to the fact that Bali's economy is dependent on tourism, there are numerous "Westernized" eateries included this organic, healthy spot we stopped at.

How cute is this little cafe?! So Instagrammable!

Of course I HAD to try the Matcha Lattes in Bali. Not bad, not bad.

There's something peaceful about the rain. Despite the fact that we sat just inches away from the street where water was flooding the gutters and slowing down the cars and people moving by, it was beautiful. With the rain comes the beautiful greenery as far as the eye can see throughout Bali. With the rain comes growth, new beginnings, a fresh start.

For me, Bali was the perfect place for just that.

It was the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the chaotic Los Angeles scene. It was an eye-opening look into how another part of the world lives.

Similar to any period of extended travel, there are always things that you realize you take for granted once you're away from home. Whether it be ideal weather like I have every day in Los Angeles, a plethora of food options, well-developed highways and freeways or simply the freedom to travel easily from place to place in your own car, there are always things we're happy to go back to.

Despite our "first world" comforts we're used to, nothing compares to traveling. Nothing compares to adventuring to different parts of this world, meeting new people, learning about their culture, day-to-day life and taking in all the sights and sounds of that particular culture.

I'm honestly still in a state of shock looking back on my trip to Bali. Did that really happen?! Did I really spend 20+ hours in an airplane to land in that beautiful little paradise I called home for a week. As hard as it is to believe, I did and I have the pictures and the epic Hammer pants from the Ubud market to prove it.

(Originally Published November 28, 2017)

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