For my first few nights in Ubud I stayed at Narasoma. It is in Beji Lane, just off Monkey Forest Road in a small lane and is gorgeous accommodation and very, very quiet. I think it was really good value for 90,000 rupiah per night. There are only four rooms, on the second and third stories of a family house (in a traditional walled family compound). The rooms are large, with lovely high ceilings and a good bed. There is a good sized bathroom with shower and bath and a ceiling fan. The rooms open onto a little balcony on one side (overlooking a small valley) and onto a veranda on the other side. Breakfast is included and there is a fridge on the veranda for guest use.
Then I stayed at Gandra House for about 6 weeks. It’s cheaper, at 50,000 per night, but I thought my little bungalow was great value. Gandra House is in the LP book, and is located in Jalan Karna, a laneway just behind the Ubud market (just a 3 minute walk to get fruit every morning!) It’s a family compound and has around 9 rooms. I thought the bungalows at the back were the best value and quietest although there is motorbike traffic up the laneway behind these bungalows starting early in the morning (going to the market) so ear-plugs might be a necessity. There is a nice little garden, and the place is kept very tidy. The rooms have cold water, shower, mandi, ceiling fans and mosquito nets. You get breakfast and there is also a small shop at the front where you can get water bottle refills. Gandra House is clean, friendly budget accommodation and I’d really recommend it. This is a photo of my bungalow –
There were other good, cheap places to stay all over Ubud. Other streets I liked were Jalan Goutama (very quiet but still close to the action), which has several guesthouses, and also the road where the post office is. This is a lovely little street, windy and has some real atmosphere to it, but is a little away from the complete centre of town. I didn’t like Monkey Forest Road – too busy and commercialized.
If you want to meet other travellers, Dewa Warung is the place to go – the only real communal eating place in Ubud (that I found). It’s a small place in Jalan Goutama. The food is cheap (around 7000-12000 ), very fresh and well cooked.
The other cheap place to eat that is also very relaxed is at the Pondok Pekak library (on the east side of the Soccer Field in Monkey Forest Road). This place is great – like a community centre. It has a restaurant area and comfortable places to lounge and eat either downstairs or upstairs, a library, and also lots of art/music/language classes. The food is fresh and cheap (around 10,000 rupiah). It’s not open at night though.
Joining the Pondok Pekak library is a great idea if you are going to be in Ubud for more than a few days. It’s located on the eastern side of the soccer field in Monkey Forest Road. I joined for a month and it costs 40,000 rupiah. That’s a bargain considering how much it would have cost to buy books for a month. The library is well-stocked with novels other travellers have left, a real treasure trove if you are a book-worm!
One thing I really enjoyed reading was the reports made by US university students who come to Ubud once a year on a program to learn bahasa Indonesian and study some aspect of Balinese society/culture/history. The reports they make are left at the centre. They are only 20-30 pages long and some are fascinating – people have written about Balinese psychology, healers, the ‘Kuta Kowboys’, adoption in Bali, environmental and tourism issues, HIV/AIDS education…the list goes on and on.
I had heaps of massages in Ubud. The best, in terms of quality and price, was by a guy named Dewa Sukra. He works with another woman and they both have that great “touch” and I found them very professional. They come to your hotel and charge 50,000 for an hour massage (that actually goes for around 80mins) or 60 000 for a two person massage. The best way to book is by SMSing or calling Dewa’s mobile (085 237 999 569). Or, you can e-mail him on firstname.lastname@example.org (but he only checks his e-mail around once a week, so phone is better.)
I also saw a great Balinese healer/balian (more like a western physiotherapist/body worker) just outside of Ubud. For generations his family have worked as treating people with muscular or bone problems. The types of things I saw him treat were people with headaches, broken or sprained bones, sinus problems, strokes or other people who had muscular problems. I went to him for a neck muscle problem which I’ve had for years(he doesn’t do any of that neck cracking stuff though – I hate that!) He was excellent. I don’t know his name, but he lives in Buruan, which is around 8km east of Ubud.
You can get there by bemo. Outside the Ubud market, catch a bemo to Bedugal (past Goa Gajah). Tell the bemo driver you want to go to Buruan and he will drop you at an intersection where a road goes off to the right. The massage guy lives about 1.5km down this road, and you can catch a bemo.
I don’t know his exact address but keep going down the road, past a mobile phone store with flags out the front, until you get to a sign next to a laneway saying, “I Made Sama, Hasya Bhawa, Wood Carver and Painter” The massage guy lives in this laneway, in the first house on the left hand side. If you get lost just ask around the area for the ‘balian’ (Balinese word for ‘healer’). This guy is really well-known so local people will be able to direct you.
You can see him in the morning or late afternoon onwards (4pm onwards). He has no set fee. You pay by buying two or more offerings from the Ubud market and putting them in a plastic bag with some money on top (I paid around 25,000). Then, when you get to the massage guy you just leave the bag on the wall next to where he works.
If you don’t speak bahasa Indonesian it would be a good idea to bring along someone who can translate (at least for your first visit).