Christmas 2011 was a series of firsts for Will & I. Despite having been together for more than 7 years, it was the first time we actually spent Christmas Day together. Usually, we spend it with our respective families, meeting up on Boxing Day. It was also the first time that either of us had spent Christmas anywhere other than in England, and the first time we’d ever had a ‘hot’ Christmas.
When we first arrived in Singapore, we decided almost instantly that we should go away for the festive season. We knew flying back to England wasn’t really an option – too far, not enough days holiday, expensive, and potentially rubbish timing as we would be trying to get settled in Singapore, and returning home so soon might have made us feel even more homesick. We did a little bit of Googling and looking on Skyscanner to find affordable flights, and Bali came up trumps. We’d been once before, back in 2009, and LOVED it, so we knew we’d have a great time. 4 nights booked in Ubud.
We left Singapore bright and early, and of course had a super easy time getting through Changi airport! Two hours later, we touched down in Denpasar to an absolutely torrential rainstorm! Not quite what we had expected, and we both looked at each other and wondered ‘is it going to be like this the whole time?’. Thankfully, as we made our way by car from the airport to Ubud, the skies clearer and soon the hot Bali sun had raised our spirits.
It was so wonderful being back in Ubud, just hanging out in the clear air by the paddy fields, and enjoying the sounds of all the wildlife, especially after being somewhere so urban like Singapore (and London of course!). Where we stayed is tucked away down the end of a long road, meaning it’s very peaceful.
We spent Christmas Eve walking around Ubud. We took the road that leads out of the main town, across the river. We walked past lots of interesting little shops selling arts and other craft works. Just as we were beginning to tire we found the Art Zoo run by an American artist called Symon. Its a huge studio on several levels, and we had a great time wandering around, cooling off in the breeze blowing through the big open windows. Symon is a bit of a character, and talked to us about his work, whilst reclining in a hammock, wearing little more than a sarong! But we liked him, and we liked some of his art (some of it is truly bizarre – like a naked man, with the head of a bird) so we ended up buying a painting off him. Hey, who comes to Ubud without buying art right?! After that, we walked back into Ubud, stopping to have a massage, before hiding on our balcony for the rest of the afternoon, due to a sudden tropical downpour.
That evening we had an amazing time, eating at Mozaic restaurant, which is claimed to be Ubud’s best restaurant. We ate a six course tasting menu, at the chef’s table, where you could watch the dishes being prepared, and ask the chef questions about each dish – its ingredients, cooking methods and composition. I think I can safely say its one of, if not the best, meal I’ve ever eaten (you can read my post all about it here). I had such a fabulous evening – fantastic food, delicious wine, and great company! We went to bed feeling sleepy, full and very content.
Christmas Day! It was wonderful to wake up with Will on Christmas morning, and sit in bed opening our stockings that we’d brought with us. Lots of little treats and tasty things, as well as a Singaporean cookbook for me, and a Paul Frank T-shirt for Will, amongst other things. We ate our breakfast in the sunshine, and read on the terrace for a bit. We then went walking around Ubud again, exploring some of the shops along Jalan Dewi Sita, and Jalan Hanoman. We stopped in a cafe for a long lunch, before walking back towards our hotel. We stopped at a spa across the road from where we were staying and then indulged in a massage and beauty treatment, where you get an hour-long massage, before a green tea scrub, being covered in yoghurt, and then soaking in a bath in a garden bathroom, overlooking the paddy fields. Bliss.
In the evening, we Skyped our families (which left me a big teary afterwards) and then walked down to a restaurant where we had ordered babi gulung, or roast suckling pig, to have as our Christmas dinner. Unfortunately, it was at this point that I started to feel rather unwell, and had to leave Will to eat everything on his own, whilst I succumbed to the food poisoning curse. I haven’t felt that ill in quite some time, and needless to say it was an early and then rather sleepless night! However, Will reports that the babi gulung was delicious!
We spent Boxing Day just taking it easy, as I was finding it hard to eat much! Lots of sitting by the pool, reading, and relaxing. Later on in the afternoon, we took a trip to the village of Lodtundah, to visit the Semar Kuning artists co-operative that operates there. It’s basically a huge gallery, with every style of Balinese painting you can think of. The co-operative arrangement means that each artist benefits from any sales of art there, so you can invest in the whole community with your purchase. The artists show you around, and are happy to talk to you about each style and the artist who painted each piece. We had actually visited the co-operative before, when we came in 2009 but didn’t remember where it was or what it was called, so we were delighted that we had ended up there. Prices are very negotiable, so don’t be afraid to ask for a discount (we managed to pay a third of the price we were originally quoted!). We bought a beautiful painting of a pair of parrots, which I’ll put up here once we have had it re-stretched and framed.
Before too long, it was time to go home. It’s here that I must mention the only bad thing about our trip: the traffic in Ubud has become crazy. The roads are so congested with big tourist cars and motorbikes, that it took us over an hour to get out of Ubud centre! We just crawled along the streets. Despite the beauty and tranquility of Ubud, that has put me off returning somewhat, and I do think the Balinese need to take some serious steps to address it, as it won’t get any better on its own. Our driver drove like a demon to get us to the airport in time – we arrived 10 minutes before check-in closed! And then before too long we were up in the air again, saying goodbye to Bali, and on our way back home to Singapore.