After spending two weeks in Bali with the luxury hotel company, Alila, we were inspired to spread the word abou their unique properties and the authentic guided experiences they provide their guests. We caught up with Jork Bosselaar, General Manager of Alila Ubud, to learn more about the local artisan community, cultural ceremonies, where to escape to experience the quiet, bucolic side of Ubud and, of course, where to find the best food and drink.
On your first day here, seeing this is a must: The rice paddy fields in Melinggh and the stunning backdrop of Mt. Batur and Mt. Agung, which are visible on a clear day — you can’t get at better feel of natural Bali.
Most people don’t know this, but to get a true taste of the local culture”…Rise early and visit some of the morning markets. All Balinese shop in traditional fashion, allowing us the freshest products from local farms.
Participate in one of the many cremation ceremonies during the period of July ““ August. Cremations are believed to be the next step in the reincarnation and the journey towards Nirvana, a positive and joyful moment with lavish ceremonial adornments and stunning processions. Locals welcome you and are always more than happy to share insight into the proceedings of the ceremony.
For a glimpse of daily life, I recommend this form of transportation: Rent a small motorbike or even better a classic Vespa scooter to cruise through the many small country and village roads. It’s easier to get away from the main roads and traffic with a motorbike, plus you’ll have the opportunity to soak in the sights, smells and sounds of local life.
I had my best night’s sleep at: Alila Ubud in one of the Valley and Terrace Tree Villas. Alila Ubud is a tranquil and secluded hillside retreat that sits high up on the edge of the rich green Ayung River valley in Bali’s central foothills, in the traditional Balinese hill village of Payangan. (The resort is located just minutes from Ubud village.) Blending contemporary design and traditional Balinese architecture, the resort’s secluded courtyards, spacious terraces and private gardens create an intimate feeling like none other.
The meal at this local eatery had me salivating for days: Visit “Ayam Kedewatan” or locally known as “Ibu Manggku” (Mother Manggku), for the best ‘Nasi Campur” dish in Ubud.
Best place to find artisan handicrafts: Opt to visit artisans and artists in their own studios or workshops that surround Ubud village. To see people at work, travel away from the village center and Ubud market and instead visit the small neighboring villages where you will see true artisans at work. Check out Mas for its woodwork and Celuk for the silver smiths. The Tegallalang road is full of small shops with homeware and artifacts. The further north (towards the volcanoes) you go, the more local it gets.
Local celebration not to be missed: The “Nyepi” or Silent Day celebration and its “Ogoh-Ogoh” parade the night before.
One full day of silence, no electricity and no traveling is imposed. The evening prior will see fantastic creations of puppets, which are paraded around the main streets to attract the ‘evil spirits’ and then are set on fire at the end of the parade. The next day Bali falls into silence, allowingthe evil spirits to oversee the island and move on to other places.
Favorite pastimes: For the wellness-minded, opt to indulge in the world’s best spa and wellness treatments. Visit a local healer (Balian) to get an authentic treatment.
For active travelers, opt for one of the many walking trails along fruit plantations, jungle, rivers and spice fields visiting some of the more traditional and less known temples nestled along the roads in Payangan.
For those who want to truly go local, join the men in their cockfights during ceremonial times. Though not for the faint-hearted, this an important part of ceremonial life in Bali among men.
For a more bucolic/green setting I escape here: Villa Idana by Alila Manggis. Set in the scenic and tranquil valley of Sidemen in East-Bali’s province of Karangasem. A private home of a well-known writer set in the most idyllic and tranquil setting.
The art/music scene is alive and well here: Ubud Village is the place to be. Since the ’20′s it’s been a hub for local and visiting artists and is still the place for artisans, artists and writers to gather. The annual Ubud Readers & Writers Festival in October welcomes an impressive line-up each year of (inter)national writers and poets. There are also many quality art museums, art galleries and craft shops to explore.
Where the locals get tipsy: Jazz Café and Laughing Buddha
Most common stereotype about the people here: Free-spirited, open-minded beings who appreciate art, nature, life, food, local culture, being together and being away from the fast-paced life referred to by many as ‘normal life.’
If I had only 24 hours to explore Ubud I would: Wake-up early, visit the local market and grab a ‘Bungkus’ (take-away breakfast) then return to Ubud to visit one of the many coffee shops such as Seniman Coffee Studio, Anomali coffee or FREAK Coffee to sample some of the local Indonesian coffees before heading towards Mt. Batur with a mountain bike. See the caldera of the island’s largest volcano and the beautiful Mt. Batur lake. Then opt to cycle downhill along the scenic route (avoid the main road) and watch the natural scenery change from cool lush mountains to sleepy villages. Continue along the scenic roads of the Taro village back to Ubud village. Then book yourself a local spa treatment to relax after this adventurous journey while avoiding the hottest part of the day.
Late afternoon go out and grab a Vespa to cruise to the artisan communities in Tegallang, Petulu, Nykuning, Lotondhu and back via the Sayan Road to Alila Ubud. Enjoy late afternoon tea poolside (complimentary from 4-5pm) and relax in our award-winning pool. Later at dinner, indulge in a 7-course seasonal tasting menu from Executive Chef, Eelke Plasmeijer, which is created from only local ingredients, but prepared to match any top restaurant in the world”…after that”…surrender to sleep with the sound of nature and the river flowing below the resort…what a 24 hours!
About Jork Bosselaar
Starting his hotel management career in Aruba, the Caribbean, before moving to Phuket, Thailand in 1999, where he became one of the youngest general managers on the island. His experience there included overseeing all operations at two boutique resorts followed by a position as Assistant Villa Manager of the deluxe Amanpuri Villas. Jork joined the Alila team in May 2006, heading the development of Alila Manggis as a seaside resort in East Bali, and now leading the team in providing an exceptional guest experience at Alila Ubud.