Allow me to back track for a moment to the comment my Sydney doctor made after I told her we’d be traveling to Bali for a week.
“Bali?”, she asked incredulously. “That’s a bit pedestrian for you, isn’t it?”
I must admit that this was the very thought that was going through my head as we drove through the cultural void of Kuta on our first day. Don’t get me wrong, Bali’s coastal life wasn’t without its charm during our visit. Together with the tropical sanctuary of our villa at the Legian Beach Hotel, our sessions at Saka Healing Center went a long way in reviving our tired bodies and spirits. In terms of memorable experiences, eating freshly caught seafood at sunset on Jimbaran Beach has indelibly etched itself into our memory banks. But after six days of coastal madness, it was definitely time to shift gears and head for the hills of Ubud.
Known as the cultural heart of Bali, Ubud is just 35 km northeast of Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar. Sitting at approximately 200-300 meters above sea level, it is noticeably cooler there than in the coast. Drawing hordes of Health and Wellness travelers to its plethora of yoga retreats and Spa Centres like bees to honey, Ubud is just as famous for it's arts, crafts, restaurants and culinary schools.
Our hotel in Ubud was the very gorgeous Hotel Tjampuhan, a destination in itself. Designed in the traditional Balinese style, the front entrance gives but a hint of the decorative grandeur that you’ll find as you step into the foyer. Built in 1928 for guests of the Royal Prince of Ubud, the hotel is p erched high over a tropical ravine between two river valleys and faces the 900 year old Gunung Lembah temple complex, marking the meeting of the sacred Wos and Tjampuhan rivers. The hotel is comprised of 67 individual dwellings with traditional thatched roofs, scattered amongst landscaped terraces and gardens and offering private views of the tropical river valley below. The Hotel Tjampuhan is still under the supervision of the royal family today.
Having scored the Raja Room, our elevated quarters boasted an expanse of window and a large private terrace that overlooked the lush Ubud landscape. The King bed, generous floor space, handcrafted timber furniture and Balinese artwork made us feel positively princely. Okay, so the air-conditioning of our room didn’t kick in until the wee hours of the morning, the bathroom could’ve used a bit more elbow grease, and there wasn’t a hair dryer in sight. The fact that our hotel was steeped in local history and teeming with culture were of far greater importance. That the Hotel Tjampuhan was also brilliantly located - far enough from the centre of town to avoid the crowds but still within walking distance to some fabulous restaurants and amenities - and the staff were extremely gracious and attentive was an added bonus. We’d come back in a heart beat, if only to experience the sensation of being marooned inside a Balinese palace, surrounded by nothing but nature.