Tale of Two Balinese Cities: Ubud and Seminyak
Bali is a far-flung gateway to exotic and spellbinding wonders. Indonesia has over 17,000 islands spread between Asia and mainland China. Brimming with 246 million people, Bali is the only island that is Hindu in the whole archipelago, and that is a draw for many visitors. The island’s terrain is diverse and is largely volcanic. See cloud kissing mountains and rice terraces expertly etched by artisan hands along their sides. Rainforests blanket the land while serving as a backdrop to blindingly bright beaches and azure blue seas.
The towns of Ubud and Seminyak offer distinctive ‘tale of two cities’ experiences. Where Ubud is soulful and serene, Seminyak is a cacophony with a chic modern edge. However, no visit to Bali is complete without a trek to these two towns, because underneath it all lays Bali’s spiritual heartbeat.
Ubud represents Balinese culture and is also home to shops selling goods from the area’s artisans, restaurants, cafés and a bustling traditional market. Located in the center of the island, Ubud is far removed from the beach and party scene in rowdy Kuta. The town is a hub for arts and crafts and most of the surrounding villages have artist workshops and galleries. Ubud’s popularity continues to soar because its essence is creative, artful and peaceful. Be sure to check out traditional Balinese dance like the kecak (fire dance) and the legong (dance of virgins) in the cultural performance hall opposite the royal residence The nearby verdant hills and rice fields make the traffic and hoopla along Jl Raya Ubud forgivable in the daytime. Spend a few days in Ubud. It’s one of those places where time gets warped. Days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months. Ask an expat, they’ll tell you it’s hard to leave.
Ubud does have many dining options from street side warungs to upscale degustation wine courses. Copper Kitchen and Bar offers modern Asian cuisine while staying true to Balinese ingredients. All their ingredients are sourced from the restaurant’s fully functional organic farm, Bisma Gardens, a few meters down the road. Executive chef, Miles Belfield works his culinary magic on the restaurant’s signature communal dining platters. The décor is an eclectic mix of colorful contemporary design with artful Balinese touches. Rice fields serve as a backdrop to a memorable dining experience. A popular appetizer is the pan-fried black pepper shrimp ($7.00) served with sun dried pineapple, coconut dressing and sambal matah (fresh spicy mix of chilies, ginger, shallots, tomatoes, lemongrass, lime juice and garlic). For the main dish, order the mixed satay platter ($11.00) with beef, chicken, fish and tempeh (fermented soybean) served with a velvety and decadent peanut sauce. Finish your meal with a delightfully cooling palate cleanser of homemade Copper Sorbet ($4.00) in lemon thyme or cucumber mint.
Jalan Bisma, Ubud, Gianyar 80571 Bali, Indonesia. Tel. +62 361 4792 888 www.copperubud.com
Bali Bliss Bungalows is nestled in a rice field (see a trend here?) in Sangigigan, a twenty-minute walk from downtown Ubud. There is a spa on the premises offering a variety of traditional Ayurveda and Balinese treatments. On a clear day, Bali’s highest point and holy mountain, Mount Aging and the Batukaru mountain range provide a picture frame of verdant serenity. Rooms start at $60 a night with a balcony overlooking the rice field. You can see farmers tilling the soil in the early morning and late evenings. Rooms are clean and sparsely decorated with heavily carved furniture. A traditionally bountiful Balinese breakfast featuring pisang goreng (fried ripe bananas) or a western breakfast is included.
Jl. Raya Sangigigan, Ubud, Bali, 80572, Indonesia. +62 361 979272 www.blissubudbungalow.com
City slickers flock to Seminyak for more upmarket, luxury accommodation with high- end restaurants and bars. The sophisticated atmosphere of Seminyak draws an international crowd. It is hard to imagine that the now shopping capital of Bali was a sleepy seaside village where banana trees lined dusty roads. Development has boomed in Seminyak, catapulting the town to a must see international attraction with arguably the most vibrant nightlife scene in Bali. Beach resorts flourish here. Splendid beachfronts setting are sought in the day and by sundown, evening crowds gather for sunset drinks and party into the wee hours of the night.
The Potato Head Beach Club is where international headline acts such as John Legend, Mos Def and M.I.A come to perform. The beach club received a nod from Conde Nast Traveller as one of the best destinations in Bali. Upon entering, the Coliseum inspired design is framed by pastel wooden windows shutters. In the daytime, families gather for the beach club experience by dipping in the pool or splashing in the Bali Sea. After 4pm, the vibe switches to an adult gathering as grown ups swim to the tiki bar for sundowners and the DJ spins tunes to get everyone grooving. There are three restaurants on the property offering a variety of dining experiences. Lilin serves Balinese fare served on top small simmering coal pots, Tapping Boots for elegant modern French cuisine and the Beach Club Restaurant restaurant serves a wicked Kobe beef burger and other pub fare.
Jl. Petitenget No. 51B, Seminyak, Kuta, Badung, Bali 83061. www.pthead.com
La Favela has proved that it is not the new kid on the block anymore and can stand firmly against nighttime giants like Ku De Ta and Motel Mexicola. The décor is street art inspired by the urban cult flick, City of God. Renowned Jakartan street artist, Xuf Iman is responsible for politically poignant stenciled art featured around every nook and corner. A haven for local and international DJ’s, La Favela’s urban edge is a hallmark in the Seminyak late scene.
Kody & Ko is located off the main Jl Kayu Aya drag. Here, you can get quirky home décor and locally sourced art pieces to ship back home. The atmosphere is fun here with laughing Buddha statuettes, oversized portraits of Balinese girls and flamboyantly decorated pop skulls poke fun at their usual depiction of death. Almost everything you stumble on is an unusual tongue in cheek display.
Jalan Kayu Cendana C003, Seminyak Tel: +62 361 737 359
Biasa Bali is the best store for Bali based designers. The store features a rich collection of lightweight, cool clothing for women and men. Think billowy draped shawls, shirts scarves and dresses, belts made of top quality cotton, silk and linen. Chic jewelry presenting dreamy unique and inspirational designs is a welcome addition to personal bauble collections from around the world.
Jalan Raya Seminyak 36, Seminyak. Tel: +62 361 730 308