Ubud in Bali offers an overwhelming variety of places to do yoga and eat delicious, healthy vegetarian or vegan food while using the high speed wifi, alongside some amazingly cheap local eateries; these could both be deciding factors for me when choosing a place to live as a vegetarian nomad. You’re also close to some amazing beaches and diving spots, great when you need a break from the computer/lens/notebook.
Introduction to Ubud
Ubud is a picturesque village cluster in Bali, one of the many Indonesian islands, which is surrounded by rainforests and dotted with Hindu temples and shrines, distinctively ornate with their fresh ceremonial flower offerings on the street outside. The town has a hippy vibe and is often rated as one of the best places to be a digital nomad due to the balance between local culture and western amenities and comfort. Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel Eat Pray Love has attracted many soul-searchers to Ubud, who wish to retrace the protagonist’s footsteps and meet the local healer. Personally I was a little sceptical given the commercial nature of this place and lack of local clientele, but some tourists rave about it. The hills surrounding Ubud are covered in rice paddy fields. Nearby there are plenty of hikes, waterfalls and temples to discover. The Sacred Monkey Forest is a popular place to go on the edge of Ubud, where you are able to feed monkeys in a Hindu temple complex; beware though, these monkeys bite!
During my three weeks in Ubud I stayed in In Da Lodge. A dorm bed here will only set you back £6 a night (so £60 for 10 days), which comes with a swimming pool and pretty garden, complete with hammocks and a bar, within walking distance from everything. I met others who paid much less for a rented appartment or private room. I would have followed suit had I know I would keep extending my stay!
Upon entering Ubud, you will find that the centre of town is not really a real place anymore, but a yoga disneyland. It’s a nice yoga disneyland, anyhow, and offers the digital nomad a fusion of western comfort, eastern charm and global hippy vibes.
The main place to go is the Yoga Barn, which hosts a variety of classes, from hatha and kundalini to aerial yoga. Prices are relatively high in comparison to elsewhere, given the popularity of this establishment, but the community classes are free and also very highly rated.
A good option is Radiantly Alive, a new studio in a beautiful location, which offers Ashtanga yoga and Yin yoga, two of my favourite complimentary disciplines. 10 days unlimited access will cost you 800,000 IDR, approximately £42. During my time in Ubud I did at least one class per day. When I was tired I stuck to calmer classes such as Yin, but generally did two classes a day and maintained a steady Morning Myesore practice throughout my stay.
There are plenty of other studios, and it can be worth trying out different ones to try something different.
Ubud is a vegan and vegetarian paradise, testified by the fact that Happy Cow lists 112 restaurants in this small town. I ate in numerous places, but these were the highlights of my stay. Eating out on a regular basis is quite cheap in Indonesia, even cheaper if you stick to local warung’s. In 10 days I spent £69 eating out for just about every meal in really nice, healthy restaurants.
Shinta’s Mushroom Hut
An alternative to beans and tofu, this place has some really creative menu offerings which are all based on mushrooms. I had the satay skewers as a light snack, which were amongst the most flavoursome thing I ate while in Ubud. I also enjoyed a vegetarian version of the Balinese street food Bakso, where the dumplings were made of mushroom instead of meat. I also got vegan ice cream here from the locally made raw ice cream producer.
This warung offers homely food which is also very healthy, with a focus on fresh vegetables and simple but flavoursome taste combinations. The butternut squash lasagne was too die for, and the choice of raw and cooked vegan and vegetarian cakes is overwhelming. Sip it with a tea made to suit your body type or ailments. I had an ear infection and was recommended the lemongrass and ginger. Dayu’s also make a variety of packaged vegan cookies to take away. No pictures unfortunately! I was too hungry.
The Seeds of Life
This was my regular haunt while staying in Ubud. Prices are high in comparison to local restaurants, but there are few places in the world where you can get raw food so cheaply. I thoroughly enjoyed the raw pancakes with cashew ice cream, the raw granola, fruit and fresh homemade nut milk and the raw beetroot lasagne. Everything is fresh and healthy. Upstairs is a small yoga studio where you can practice ashtanga yoga.
Earth Cafe and market
Small market with attached café selling amazing selection of fresh and packaged raw desserts, nut milks, soya milk and other health foods. Upstairs from the raw dessert café is a small alternative cinema which is very popular with local expats.
Wayan Coconut Juice bar
This café is hard to miss given the pile of coconuts outside. Wayan Coconut Juice bar focuses on, surprise surprise, coconut water straight from the coconut, but also sells coconut jam, coconut sugar and dried coconut meat. Ice cold coconut water directly from the source beats the packaged variety, hands down.
You can’t go to Indonesia without sampling some of the country’s top notch beans. Kahiyang is a hole-in-the-wall sort of affair; combining an arts studio and a coffee press, it’s the closest thing Bali has to hipster culture. Outside of town you can go to the company’s larger space where they roast beans, you can take some home.
So far, for yoga, food and accommodation that’s just £172. That is much less than what most yoga centres are offering, and you are getting a lot more for your money, not even mentioning the flexibility that comes with organising these things independently.
There are many places in town offering a variety of different services, including body scrubs. I usually opted for the Balinese or Thai massage; the former involves being covered in ginger and sometimes lemongrass oil and getting a relaxing massage from head to toe, the latter involves a little more stretching and being taken out of your comfort zone, but you’ll feel great after.
You are often semi naked for these massages or just wear an apron.
Prices vary, but you can expect to pay around 50,000 IDR (£2.60) for a one hour massage. There was a period where I was being quite self-indulgent and treating myself to these treatments every other day, but the novelty wore off. Give yourself 2 or 3 massages in your 10 day DIY yoga retreat, and spend less than £10.
Mt Batur is Bali’s only volcano, and a difficult hike to its summit during the night will give you amazing views from the crater come dawn. Unfortunately the only real way to do this is by going with a tour group who will walk at the guide’s pace; it only takes about two hours but it’s steep and tiring at 2am. The loose volcanic soil makes you feel like for every two steps you slide down one step. I was regretting my life choices until I saw the incredible view of Bali, its beauty enhanced by the sunrise. Most trips provide food and a banana pancake and good local coffee breakfast.
Do also check out the interior of Bali if you get a chance. Hire a taxi or take a bus to get a taste of the less commercialised side of the island.
Gill Trawangan is the party island, a worrying description for anyone seeking a bit of peace and tranquility. Luckily, it also has its fair share of quiet areas, beautiful beaches and crystal clear water. I was on Gilli Trawangan primarily to get my Padi Advanced Diving certificate, these waters are renowned for their rich biodiversity and the guarantee of diving with turtles.
Fortunately, I also found yoga; This Yoga Place is also the only vegetarian cafe on the small island, but it is all you really need, serving up amongst others things delicious tempeh and peanut salads, coconut water and fresh juice. Green’s cafe is also a good vegetarian-friendly omni option, with its delicious vegetable and tempeh dishes which are served up fresh every day.
Lombok is a good alternative to Kuta for those who love surfing but can’t stand Bali’s crowds and overexploited tourism. The island is beautiful, and for the strong-willed, Lombok also boasts one of the country’s toughest hikes: Mount Rinjani. A three day arduous hike to the summit of the volcano will reward you with stunning views of the crater and a well-earned sense of achievement. This would probably be the biggest expense of your trip as hiking alone is not permitted and paying to hike as part of a group can cost around £200.