After more than one hour car ride up north towards the centre of Bali, the road gradually slims down into a narrow strip and meanders sensuously, albeit treacherously, like a snake. The view also eventually morphs from dull concrete buildings into planes of rice paddies dotted with scarecrows and steep gorge thick with vegetation as if someone rewinds back the time.
Those are the unmistakable hallmark of the town of Ubud. Located in the heart of the island, Ubud has often been overshadowed by the more popular Kuta district down the south of Bali. But that doesn’t mean one is better than the other.
To give you a clearer picture, if Ubud were to have a welcome sign, it would read, “Welcome to Ubud: The Sensible, Spiritual and Sober Sister to Kuta”. Thanks to the novel and movie, Eat Pray Love, Ubud was thrust into everyone’s consciousness as the poster child of mystical and spiritual destination in Bali.
But, unlike the movie, Ubud is not just all about the morning walk by the rice paddies or fortune telling by some wisecracking shaman. This bewitching town doesn’t rest on its traditional appeal to stay relevant in order to attract the better-travelled and well-informed millennials, who are constantly on the lookout for something fun and updated.
Bisma Eight excels in delivering delayed gratification.
Bisma Eight, one of Ubud’s notable boutique hotels, seems to understand this psychology thoroughly. It aces discreet luxury with ease. Embedded along the strip of Bisma Street, there is no loud sign to confer its splendour (understandably, after taking in the view of modest paddy field, an ostentatious entrance would be an exercise in tawdriness).
But don’t be fooled by the hotel’s cold concrete façade and the sparsely decorated lobby. Bisma Eight excels in delivering delayed gratification. There’s a sense that the hotel does so in order to throw their guests off guard.
Pass the lobby, one could find him or herself swallowed up and dwarfed by the tall lush garden that resembles one’s utopian idea of a rainforest. It is as if the verdure had existed here long before until Bisma Eight came along and decided to erect walls to contain its beauty.
A lazy day can be spent ordering cocktails by the pool and then slip into a cool dip as the temperature rises.
Flanking the hotel’s garden on both sides are ground floor Garden Suite and Canopy Suite on top of the former. Inside, the rooms are furnished in sensible minimalist Japanese aesthetic complete with sliding wooden screens and the attention-grabbing Japanese onsen soaking tub with a generous pot of sea salt.
Just when one gets too comfortable and refuses to part with the comfort that the room induces, the balcony opens up to lush greenery and clear sky that gently reminds one the day is too good to be spent indoor.
Moving pass the garden along and the suites, an infinity pool calmly stands by where it frames the blue sky above like a clear liquid mirror. A lazy day can be spent ordering cocktails on the pool’s boxlike daybed and then slip into a cool dip as the temperature rises.
Even if you don’t get the chance to step out of the hotel’s vicinity, the magnetic spirit of Ubud is still within reach.
Here, complementing the infinity pool is the vast serene view of Ubud’s famous Monkey Forest. While one would be hard-pressed to spot monkeys cavorting on trees, flocks of birds can be seen moving from one tree to another. Beneath the pool, 18 Forest Suites lie quietly with their balconies that also flaunts splendid view of the forest.
It is easy to lose count of the time as one while the day away in Bisma Eight. But, the hotel packages the experience in a way that, even if you don’t get the chance to step out of the vicinity, the magnetic spirit of Ubud is still within reach.
The hotel’s restaurant, Copper Kitchen & Bar, where the menu roots itself in fresh ingredients sourced from the hotel’s organic garden, pretty much highlights the sustainable living movement that is currently sweeping across Ubud. Also, if all the nature is starting to get too much, the hotel’s café, Library Café, serves to ease city dwellers who are more used to stateless space like the airport lounge.
Luckily for those who prefer spending their day exploring the veins of Ubud, Bisma Eight is a good spot to start. The hotel is remotely located from the commotion of main street but close enough still to reach Ubud’s highlights within a stone’s throw.
How much it costs will largely depend on your bargaining skill and that’s probably one of the best parts of shopping in Ubud Market.
For those visiting Ubud for the first time, quickly head down to Monkey Forest and Ubud Royal Palace for a brief visit, cross them off the list and leave the rest of the day to explore the town, such as Agung Rai Museum of Art and Blanco Renaissance Museum.
Ubud Art Market is one of the recommended spots in Ubud. Even if it’s not in the itinerary, chances are, you’ll pass by this packed fair anyway. Start from its main building and slowly work your way down Karna Street. The market boasts countless vendors selling a variety of handmade homeware, clothes, bags, and knick-knacks.
How much they cost will largely depend on your bargaining skill and that’s probably one of the best parts of shopping in Ubud Market. Don’t be afraid to slash the price down to more than half of its original price. The locals are more than willing to reach a satisfactory compromise with you.
It’s as if one is in some European countries, visiting its Indo Town.
Once you’ve reached the end of Karna Street, turn left and stroll along Dewisita Street where street vendors are replaced by charming little shops. For those who are used to shop items that come with a definitive price tag, this area will be a short relief from all the intense haggling.
First timers would most likely be surprised at the amount of foreign tourists in this area. It’s as if one is in some European countries, visiting its Indo Town. But that’s also one among many other charms Ubud has. Despite countless waves of tourists pouring in yearly, Ubud still manages to keep its culture and identity intact.
The pace may be slower compared to Kuta but Ubud is that destination where one is here for its culture and tradition. It is also a perfect place where a simple mundane activity like slow walk along paddy field or people-watching trumps any wild hedonistic parties.
Jl. Bisma, Ubud.
tel: +62 361 4792 888