I was talking to my friends about their honeymoon trip to Bali, and the conversation quickly turned to the incredible experience they had in Ubud.
Jim and Makram started off their honeymoon at a luxe resort in the center of Bali. After a crazy time planning and executing their wedding (which involved a flash mob in Times Square, no less), and a long flight from New York to Bali, they were more than happy to relax in luxury for a few days. They took a really fun cooking class, where you learned to make Indonesian cuisine, and then sat down for lunch with the other people in the class to eat the delicious food you'd just learned to make. But after a couple of days of having the high-end resort experience, they started to feel like they were missing out.
Then they discovered Ubud. They left their resort and moved to the Purnati Center for the Arts, which is not just an arts center. They have performances and provide a cultural home for visiting artists, but they also host groups. In fact, just as Jim and Makram were departing, a small group from Australia was checking in for a yoga retreat. The arts center rents out little bungalows on stilts that are arranged around a central courtyard. You descend from your elevated retreat for breakfast in the morning, but the whole center is surrounded by gorgeous scenery, fabulous art and amazing views.
The surrounding area has lots to see and do. Over the next several days, Makram and Jim passed stunning terraced where rice was growing, on their way to visit stone temples or en route to the crater lake at the foot of Mt. Batur, an active volcano. They went to incredible museums, and visited the Monkey Forest. At one point on their route, they passed a festival in progress. Makram demanded that they stop, even though their guide said, "well, this isn't on our itinerary."
At one point on their route, they passed a festival in progress. Makram demanded that they stop, even though their guide said, "well, this isn't on our itinerary."
When Makram wanted to experience more of the local culture, his guide explained that to make good on seeing the way real people in Indonesia do their marketing, he'd have to get up to be at the market at 6 a.m., because the tourist market starts at 8.
It goes without saying, at this point, but Makram and Jim are a same-sex couple, and you might already know that Indonesia is one of about 6 dozen countries where being gay is illegal. I asked them whether they felt safe, and they said that they did. Bali is crawling with Australians, and so this part of Indonesia is obviously used to catering to tourists of all stripes. They had specifically booked this as a honeymoon trip, but they took care not to make a correction when someone showed up to pick them up with a placard that said, "Mr. and Mrs."
It's certainly possible to have a luxurious vacation in Bali without ever leaving your resort, but if you're looking for a springboard to experience the local culture, Ubud sounds like a great option!