Two days of blissfully doing nothing in Bali’s cultural capital
After a week of lazing about on Nusa Lembongan and discovering an amazing abandoned theme park in Sanur, I headed north to Ubud, the cultural capital of Bali located amongst rice paddies and steep ravines in the central foothills of the Gianyar regency. This was actually my second visit to Ubud – the first being back in 2013 during this blog’s infancy when I checked out a Balinese Fire Dance. This time around I was keen to explore the foothills by bike and stay deep amongst the rice paddies away from the traffic of the town. In the end I got the best of both worlds: a beautiful villa that seemed remote yet wasn’t too far from the centre of Ubud: Villa Sabandari.
Located at the end of a winding driveway, Villa Sabandari feels hidden from the rest of the world. The cul-de-sac means there is no through traffic, and the back of the property overlooks a vast amount of rice fields and greenery. The rooms reflect the spacious nature of the villa itself, with both minimal and traditional Balinese designs to choose from. The semi-outdoor shower reaches up to the sky and is surrounded by palm trees – I almost wished at times for it to rain so that I could shower in nature as well. The clean design all around the villa is bordering on perfect – the architect somehow managing to wire about ten different light fittings in the bathroom from a single switch. It was also amazing to see a music room, the first time I’ve ever seen this in a hotel.
No Restaurant, Yet Amazing Food?
One of the most impressive features of this Villa is that despite not having a restaurant it still manages to provide first-class food twice a day, included in the room rate. On both days breakfast and afternoon tea was served on the terrace outside my room – a real highlight. Unlike some other hotels where the food is almost an afterthought, at Villa Sabandari it’s an important part of the experience with the chef changing the breakfast daily. Likewise, the cakes and pastries served at 4pm for afternoon tea were different each day making me wonder what was in store. For dinner, a short five-minute walk brought me to a number of good local restaurants – but there was also a list of recommended places to eat in Ubud, with a shuttle bus provided there and back free of charge.
Upon arrival at Villa Sabandari I was provided with a Lonely Planet guidebook and also a detailed walking/cycling guide written by the owner himself. Included are a number of routes and hikes that vary in difficulty, and feeling (somewhat) lazy I opted for the 6km-return hike up to Campuhan Ridge. Starting out early, I managed to avoid the sun on the early stages but by the time I reached the top of the ridge I was sweltering. Luckily there is an amazing little place called Karsa Kafe where you can rest up for a bit and get something to eat. Free bike rental from Villa Sabandari meant I was also able to explore the town at my leisure. When I returned from my hike I took advantage of the free welcome massage at the Spa – where the bath has been carved out of a massive rock.
Villa Sabandari is currently #2 (out of 363 Ubud hotels) on Trip Advisor – but from what I’ve seen, it deserves to be right at the top. The service from the staff was impeccable and the setting unmatched. Here’s a short video tour of Villa Sabandari featuring music from Paul Hughes, a musician, composer and childhood friend from Northern Ireland. You can check out the rest of his work here. Above all, I wanted this short video to show just how peaceful the place is and the ambient tropical sounds that surround the villa. The ducks at the end are a feature of the area – released into the fields to help eat the husks from the harvested rice.