I arrived at the Depasar International Airport right around 5pm on a Saturday. I flew Garuda Air direct from Tokyo and I flew through customs and immigration. Partly because Garuda Air has a fabulous system that I have never seen before, where you go through Immigration on the airplane. Oh yes, you heard me right. On the airplane. You can read more about my thoughts on Garuda Air in my airline review.
When you arrive at the Bali Airport, please remember that you will be pounced on for a taxi if you do not already have a driver lined up. There is a taxi counter, but often times it has a long line. The line both times I was at the airport was about 10 people long. Either way, the drive up to Ubud will be about 1.5 hours depending on where you are staying. I stayed at Alam Shanti, a part of the Alam Indah group. I stayed in the room Saraswati which had a lovely veranda, room, and porch. It was $85 a night plus tax.
Something to always remember in Bali: government tax in Bali is 15% plus whatever the particular place you are in wants to charge. I would say that I paid about 20% on everything I ordered, bought, paid for. Take that into account when you are budgeting your trip.
Tip: Indonesian money has a LOT of zeros. Drop 4 to figure out what the US Dollar conversion rate is (as of 3/2014). The biggest bill they have is the equivalent to $10, and all I had were the equivalent to a $5. Take a bigger wallet, trust me. You’ll need it.
I choose Alam Shanti based on a couple of things:
1. Location. This hotel was not in the middle of the city, had a pool, and was a nice walk from the town. They also offered a free shuttle which I used quite a bit. Ubud is about a 20 minute walk but it was hot so I opted mostly for the shuttle.
2. It was owned by locals. The best places that I have ever stayed have been owned by locals. Alam Indah employed almost exclusively people from the island and is owned by a Balinese family. By supporting the local businesses, the money goes straight back into the economy and culture.
3. It had decent reviews on Trip Advisor. I use trip advisor for just about everything. But it’s funny...I have never actually posted on it…
4. It was in my price range.
5. Bonus: It had free breakfast AND afternoon cake. Dust my hands off and I made my decision.
I walked in and it was beautiful. It was about twice the size of my apartment and on a main road with several other hotels that I looked at. I got in, got to my room and was in heaven. It was huge, it had a lovely bathroom, a beautiful bed, a huge veranda. There were geckos on the walls, not a mosquito in sight. It was exactly what I was looking for. The internet didn’t work as well as I had hoped, but it worked just fine down by the main check in area.
Bottom line: Overall it was a great experience. The staff was friendly and helpful, the room was beautiful. The only thing I would have changed was the bathroom. I am a shower person, and there was only a hand held shower head. By the time I took a shower I drenched pretty much the entire bathroom.
During my stay in Ubud, I mainly explored Monkey Forest Road. This is a massive road that leads up to the Sacred Monkey Forest. You can find the best shopping in Ubud, fabulous restaurants, places for a drink, and great coffee shops. It’s the main event in Ubud and definitely can’t be missed.
However, there was no way in hell was I going to actually go into the Monkey Forest. After reading this post by the bloggers of “Our Big Fat Travel Adventure”, I felt like I had experienced it. I wasn’t going to go in and get bitten, chased, or touched by any of the furry animals. It was like Wizard of Oz all over again. Plus there was plenty of monkeys on the streets so I got my fill.
As I said before Monkey Forest Road is full of little shops and places to eat. It’s a lovely place to take a couple of days and walk around. If you want to negotiate a taxi or a ride around this island this is where you can go. You can book tours on this street, buy yoga gear, eat, drink coffee, or visit the forest.
Tip: Don’t forget to barter! Most of the places closest to the forest you can barter your own price. I start by saying $1.00 to just about anything and refuse to pay over $5 for anything. If I come up, they know that I am serious. If I don’t, then they know that I am not. My best advice when bartering is be prepared to walk away with nothing. Sometimes that’s the price of trying to get things cheap. If you really want it, give them the money that they are asking for.