Banyan Tree Ungasan + Bali Bucket List

The love affair between Australians and Bali is undeniable. Over the last 10 years, the number of Australians travelling to Indonesia grew by 416% to over 1.2 million trips in the last financial year! While Reality TV shows such as What Really Happens in Bali highlights the destination as a cheap party town, on my recent trip (my first time to Bali), I discovered a spiritual connection with Bali’s culture and their more sophisticated offerings. 

The bulk of our time was spent at luxury resort Banyan Tree Ungasan, located at the southern tip of Bali near Uluwatu. It was Zen‘s turn this year to plan our wedding anniversary celebrations (cannot believe it has been a year since Tanjong Jara) and to be honest, I’m not quite sure how to top this next year — we spent some time at Six Senses Yao Noi after Bali, but more on that later! Up until now, I’ve never felt drawn to Bali but after this trip, I simply can’t wait to return; so if you’re the same, I feel like I’m going to change your mind by the end of this blog post! 

Poolside at Banyan Tree Bali
Poolside at Banyan Tree Bali

Breakfast

Breakfast is a leisure activity that I normally don’t get the pleasure of enjoying during the hustle of everyday life. On holidays, it’s always such a treat to be able to sleep in and start the morning strong with a long multi-course breakfast. At hotels and resorts in particular, I find that the standard set by breakfast is often reflective of the entire experience, and breakfast everyday at Banyan Tree Ungasan was a splendid curation that I looked forward to. The dilemma begun at the pastry table with freshly baked doughnuts, breads and pastries fighting for my attention. I never passed the cold salads station without adding a few slides of shaved jamon to my plate.

3yearwedding-21 3yearwedding-23 3yearwedding-24 3yearwedding-25

Boiled eggs with balado sauce
Boiled eggs with balado sauce
3yearwedding-42
Hainanese chicken rice
3yearwedding-45
Fish ball noodle soup
Foie gras congee - rice porridge, pan seared foie gras, spring onion, wakame, silken tofu
Foie gras congee – rice porridge, pan seared foie gras, spring onion, wakame, silken tofu
Signature dish - lobster & truffle scramble with mushroom ragout
Signature dish – lobster & truffle scramble with mushroom ragout
3yearwedding-208
Vietnamese pho
Crispy waffle, caramelised banana, chocolate icecream
Crispy waffle, caramelised banana, chocolate icecream
Assorted dim sum of the day
Assorted dim sum of the day

The Indonesian station featured a rotation of a variety of traditional rice, noodles, stir-fries and curries, with all the necessary condiments including sambal ulek, saur kelapa (grated coconut), abon ayam (shredded chicken), fried shallots, kacang goreng (fried peanut), kacang mentik (fried soya bean), ikan teri (anchovy) and various types of krupuk (deep fried crackers).

With a surprising number of Chinese and Korean tourists at the resort, there were also dishes such as Hainanese chicken rice, Korean japchae and honeydew juice to suit all tastes. I was particularly fond of the noodle soups which included a Malaysian/Singaporean inspired fish ball bee hoon and even a Vietnamese pho! 

The made-to-order menu was where things got real. Luxury ingredients such as scallops, foie gras, caviar and truffle made casual appearances alongside essential breakfast fixtures. The foie gras congee was surprisingly well balanced, with the lightness of the tofu and wakame complementing the richness of the foie gras. Breakfast was included as part of our package so you could look at it as all-you-can-eat foie gras πŸ˜‰ 

(L - R) Fish with green sambal, Lamb kofta with tomato sauce, Fresh juices, Korean japchae
(L – R) Fish with green sambal, Lamb kofta with tomato sauce, Fresh juices, Korean japchae
Wok fried chayote with corn
Wok fried chayote with corn
Breakfast on day one
Breakfast on day one
Breakfast on day two (I didn't bother bringing my camera to breakfast on the other days so I could focus on eating LOL)
Breakfast on day two (I didn’t bother bringing my camera to breakfast on the other days so I could focus on eating LOL)
Halibut and beans
Halibut and beans
Pineapple, papaya, dragonfruit, watermelon and rockmelon; Papparoti style bun
Pineapple, papaya, dragonfruit, watermelon and rockmelon; Papparoti style bun

In-villa dining

Good food didn’t end at breakfast. For such a luxurious resort, we expected astronomical in-room dining prices (I even suggested we pack instant noodles prior to departure!) but we were pleasantly surprised by the affordability (not by Bali street standards but in comparison to Sydney dining prices), quality and service at Banyan Tree Ungasan! Given how exquisite our villa was, I really didn’t want to leave anyway, so we took advantage of in-villa dining on numerous occasions. 

The living room / dining room of our garden view villa
The living room / dining room of our garden view villa
In-room dining
In-villa dining

On our first night, we ordered a quintessential Indonesian feast comprising of sate campur (Rp 120,000), a mixed assortment of char-grilled satay skewers featuring prawn, squid, fish, chicken, beef and pork; a cucumber & jicama salad (Rp 75,000), bound with the creaminess of a kaffir lime infused coconut cream and accentuated with panko crumbed coconut prawns; gai hor bai toey (Rp 80,000) which are fried chicken bites wrapped with fragrant pandanus leaves; gerang asem sai laut (Rp 90,000), a tantalising spicy and sour seafood soup with carambol (star fruit) and the nasi goreng (Rp 150,000) which totaled Rp 623,150, equivalent to approximately $62 AUD. 

Sate campur - mixed charcoal grilled satay skewers
Sate campur – mixed charcoal grilled satay skewers
Cucumber and yam bean salad
Cucumber and yam bean salad
Gai Hor Bai Toey. Deep Fried Chicken Wrapped in Pandanus Leaves
Gai Hor Bai Toey. Deep Fried Chicken Wrapped in Pandanus Leaves
Nasi goreng needs no introduction :)
Nasi goreng needs no introduction πŸ™‚
Indonesian feast in-villa dining
Indonesian feast in-villa dining
Beef burger and spaghetti bolognese - in-villa dining
Beef burger and spaghetti bolognese – in-villa dining

On another day, the secluded bliss of our glistening private pool was simply too gorgeous to depart so we called upon room service again. That is the beauty of luxury resorts — while enjoying the idyllic peacefulness of our villa-mansion, we knew that everything we could need, was just a phone call away. That lazy afternoon, surrounded by the humming of birds and the sapphire hue of our private pool, we savoured a hearty spaghetti bolognese (Rp 130,000 – approx $13 AUD) that was almost as good as my rendition of Neil Perry’s spag bol recipe, and a juicy classic beef burger with perfectly crisp French fries (Rp 190,000 – approx $19 AUD). 

Bebek Betutu (whole smoked duck) - in-villa dining
Bebek Betutu (whole smoked duck) – in-villa dining
Accompaniments with the bebek betutu set - banana tree trunk soup and snake bean salad
Accompaniments with the bebek betutu set – banana tree trunk soup and lawar green bean salad
Gado gado
Gado gado
The Bebek Betutu in-villa dining feast!
The Bebek Betutu in-villa dining feast!
Fresh fruit platter as part of the Bebek Betutu set
Fresh fruit platter as part of the Bebek Betutu set

One of the highlights of in-villa dining, was the bebek betutu (Rp 750,000) dinner set which requires at least 24 hours advance booking. That in itself is a tell-tale sign of a good bebek betutu as it requires a fair devotion of time to prepare the dish properly. 

It felt like a celebratory affair when our door well rung. Two waiters dressed in the traditional Balinese attire waltzed in with a humongous tray between their shoulders. In minutes, our wooden dining table was draped in a plush white table cloth and crowned with a wedding-like bouquet centrepiece. They begun to unload the tray, one by one, individually packed garnishes and side dishes were laid out across the kitchenette. 

Suspense built as the outer leaves were unwrapped from the duck parcel. Layers of coconut bark and banana leaves peeled back to reveal a whole duck, smothered in the most exquisite spice paste. The villa was suddenly filled with a lingering aroma of turmeric, galangal, lemongrass and chilli. 

The entire duck was quickly deboned with the prime cuts of the duck breast and leg separated and the rest, pulled apart into tender shreds for easy eating. We dived in as though we’d been starving all day and even devoured the accompanying side dishes of steamed rice, the most flavourful banana tree trunk & duck soup and lawar, a green bean salad, which could have easily fed four people. 

We were advised to call reception when we were done so they could send someone to clean up and serve dessert. Yep, we felt like Indonesian royalty! 

Luxury villas

Our villa was one of 59 one-bedroom villas at Banyan Tree Ungasan — they are available with a garden view, sea view or ocean view. There are also 11 two-bedroom villas and 3 spectacular three-bedroom Presidential villas (subject to availability, you can attend tours of the Presidential villas – photos below!).

The contemporary Balinese theme flows naturally throughout the enormous resort, from the stunning architecture, to the beautifully landscaped gardens. I cannot emphasize how well designed this resort is. Our 1 Bedroom Villa with Garden Views spanned a massive 403sqm and was open yet private. There were so many break-out areas to relax in, each space radiated with just as much tranquility and luxury as the next. It was a true sanctuary.

We quickly got used to the daily rotation of aromatherapy oils and incense, as well as having not one but two showers (an indoor one and an outdoor one!) plus our very own 10-metre infinity pool, private jetpool, and Balinese bale complete with personal daybed.

There were many memorable moments by the pool — we swam morning and night. In the mornings, it was invigorating to wake up and slip straight into the cool calming waters and by night, we felt at one with nature as we gazed at the stars twinkling above. 

One thing that I really appreciated was access to the free high-speed wireless internet, in the villa and throughout the resort. Despite having internet and access to my emails, it did not require much discipline to switch off and actually relax — but it was a relief to know that I could jump online and address any business emergencies if I needed to! 

But really, how am I supposed to go back to normal life after this? 

Marble bathroom with BOSE Stereo System throughout the entire villa
Marble bathroom with BOSE Stereo System throughout the entire villa
One bedroom villa - includes pillow selection
One bedroom villa – includes pillow selection
My view every morning
My view every morning
Dining table, study desk and living room - opens up to the pool
Dining table, study desk and living room – opens up to the pool
The exquisite bathroom - on the other side of this was a twin vanity set and make-up table plus enormous wardrobes
The exquisite bathroom – on the other side of this was a twin vanity set and make-up table plus enormous wardrobes
A different view of my garden view one-bedroom villa
A different view of my garden view one-bedroom villa
The jetpool and private 10m pool of my garden view one-bedroom villa
The jetpool and private 10m pool of my garden view one-bedroom villa
My daybed
My daybed
View of bedroom from the garden/pool
View of bedroom from the garden/pool
View of the pool from the bedroom
View of the pool from the bedroom
Zen organised for the staff to surprise me with this rose petal bath in our villa!
Zen organised for the staff to surprise me with this rose petal bath in our villa!
Absolute bliss...
Absolute bliss…
Another view of our pool
Another view of our pool
My private oasis!
My private oasis!
Complimentary exotic fruits available in the villa. By the way, I would highly recommend reading Chapter One by Daniel Flynn, co-founder of Thank You.
Complimentary exotic fruits available in the villa. By the way, I would highly recommend reading Chapter One by Daniel Flynn, co-founder of Thank You.
Zen enjoying our private pool
Zen enjoying our private pool
Model of the resort
Model of the resort

Presidential Villas

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, a tour of the Presidential Villa gave us a taste of the ultra-luxe high life. One night in the Presidential Villa will set you back around $10,000 USD and comes with your own 24 hour butler service! 

The three-bedroom Presidential Villa is set across 680sqm and can sleep up to 10 comfortably. It includes an expansive 25-metre infinity pool, a multi-purpose entertainment room (which includes your own karaoke bar, home cinema and pool table), your own fitness quarters, and all the amenities as seen in our villa, only bigger and better!

Here’s to dreaming of a Presidential life —

Private fitness quarters
Private fitness quarters
Living room - note the piano
Living room – note the piano
Lounge in the pool, literally
Lounge in the pool, literally
Overlooking the Indian Ocean
Overlooking the Indian Ocean
Round bed... because rectangular beds are overrated
Round bed… because rectangular beds are overrated
The XXXL bathroom
The XXXL bathroom
The XXXL walk-in wardrobe (probably the size of my one bedroom apartment in Sydney LOL)
The XXXL walk-in wardrobe (probably the size of my one bedroom apartment in Sydney LOL)
Made for relaxation
Made for relaxation
Your private movie theatre or karaoke room
Your private movie theatre or karaoke room
Pool table in the entertainment room
Pool table in the entertainment room
The Presidential Villa view
The Presidential Villa view
One of the rooms in the Presidential Villa - they all have their own bathrooms!
One of the rooms in the Presidential Villa – they all have their own bathrooms!
Private 25m infinity pool
Private 25m infinity pool
Dream higher than the sky and deeper than the ocean
Dream higher than the sky and deeper than the ocean

Resort facilities and restaurants

The standard amenities that you would expect at a luxury resort are all available at Banyan Tree Ungasan — lobby, function rooms, business centre, spa, swimming pools, gallery, library and a kids club — to top it, because they can, there’s also a private beach.

The resort also has a fitness facility for those not lucky enough to stay in the Presidential Villa
The resort also has a fitness facility for those not lucky enough to stay in the Presidential Villa
One of two pools
One of two pools

In addition to in-villa dining, there are four dining facilities: Tamarind for healthy eating, Bambu for Balinese, Ju-Ma-Na restaurant & bar for fine dining and the Pool Bar for everything else. 

The Pool Bar was our go-to for lunch when we felt like we needed some outside human interaction. Surrounded by the inviting sea breeze, perfect manicured gardens and bursts of colour from frangipani trees and bougainvillea plants, diners can opt to dine from the wicker lounges, day beds or dining tables. 

Sitting among the frangipanis and bougainvilleas
Sitting among the frangipanis and bougainvilleas
Dining at the Pool Bar
Dining at the Pool Bar
View of the pool from the Pool Bar
View of the pool from the Pool Bar
Bintang and ginger mojito
Bintang and ginger mojito
Complimentary house-baked breads
Complimentary house-baked breads

I often opted to start with the the non-alcoholic ginger mojito (Rp 105,000) which was subtly punctuated with the sharpness of ginger and freshness of mint; I continued to have many of these throughout our stay, as did Zen with his many Bintangs (Rp 87,000).

We also almost always polished off the bread basket. Containing one of each item, we quickly lost track of how many pieces we’d actually eaten in the excitement of trying new flavours. The caramelised onion focaccia and the black rice bread roll were favourites.

The menu at the Pool Bar contains international delights and everything we tried was executed to perfection. The chicken tikka (Rp 105,000 – approx $10.50 AUD) contained two skewers of tender marinated chicken with pieces of onion and capsicum studded between. Blistered with delicious charred marks, it went down a treat with the housemade naan bread, mango chutney and cucumber yoghurt raita. 

The Korean pork ribs (Rp 160,000 – approx $16 AUD) were equally delicious. We generously drizzled a sticky gochujang sauce over the chargrilled ribs, roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables which imparted addictive sweet and spicy notes with plenty of savoury umami. 

Chicken tikka
Chicken tikka
Korean pork ribs
Korean pork ribs

Having tried a bit of Indian and a bit of Korean, we decided to sample some Italian as well — however, this time, we were lazing on the sun lounges with a view of the infinity pool. There were perfect blue skies, not a touch of Bali’s infamous humidity, not a soul in the pool (except for us later on). Sipping on cocktails and Bintang, the seafood pizza (Rp 150,000 – approx $15 AUD) topped with squid, prawns, mussel, pesto, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese really hit the spot! With everything made from scratch in-house, I’d come with high expectations now, and this did not disappoint.

Seafood pizza at the Pool Bar
Seafood pizza at the Pool Bar
The infinity pool at Banyan Tree Ungasan Bali
The infinity pool at Banyan Tree Ungasan Bali
Lounges at the infinity pool where you can order from the Pool Bar
Lounges at the infinity pool where you can order from the Pool Bar

Another exquisite dining destination within the resort was at their award-winning fine dining restaurant and bar, Ju-Ma-Na which is also open to guests outside of the resort.

As our villa was near the entrance of the resort, we called for a buggy (golf cart) to take us to Ju-Ma-Na which was located at the opposite end. By the way, check out my video at the top of this post if you haven’t done so yet, I had lots of fun filming this trip, you’ll find the buggy ride scene in the middle somewhere. 

The open terrace bar at Ju-Ma-Na is the perfect vantage point for admiring the glorious sunset and the harmonious ebb and tide of the Indian Ocean. Bar snacks such as the charcuterie platter (Rp 145,000), prawn bruschetta (Rp 110,000), seared Hotatei scakkio with togarashi butter and truffle mash (Rp 220,000), shisha and cocktails are on offer before settling into the plush confines of the cliff-side restaurant. 

Bali sunset view at Ju-Ma-Na
Bali sunset view at Ju-Ma-Na
Ju-Ma-Na outdoor bar
Ju-Ma-Na outdoor bar
Cliff-side dining at Ju-Ma-Na
Cliff-side dining at Ju-Ma-Na
Happy husband
Happy husband
Celebrating 3 years wedding anniversary and 13.5 years together
Celebrating 3 years wedding anniversary and 13.5 years together
Complimentary bar snacks , Saffron Sunrise cocktail (vodka, Malibu, lime juice, lemon dice, kaffir lime leaves, whole lime, red chilli, soda, Rp 165,000) and Coconut Kiss mocktail (cherry, coconut, pineapple, grenadine, Rp 105,000)
Complimentary bar snacks , Saffron Sunrise cocktail (vodka, Malibu, lime juice, lemon dice, kaffir lime leaves, whole lime, red chilli, soda, Rp 165,000) and Coconut Kiss mocktail (cherry, coconut, pineapple, grenadine, Rp 105,000)

The million dollar ocean view fades into pitch black by night so be sure to arrive for pre-dinner drinks early! Or if you have an appetite, book yourself in for the afternoon tea which unfortunately we missed out on (the pool and my book always beckoned!). The Cliff Edge Afternoon Tea menu (Rp 950,000 – appox $95 – for two) is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, although when reminded of my whereabouts, I suppose it should be expected to find foie gras, oysters, yellow fin tuna, avruga caviar on the menu.

The restaurant menu on the other hand, is speckled with molecular gastronomy and the cuisine is a fusion of classic French and exotic Japanese. The amuse bouche of breaded oyster flowed beautifully into the starter of ama ebi tartare — a round stack of avocado guacamole topped with a tartare of finely diced raw spot prawns and a layer of avruga caviar with gold leaves. The miso dressing tied all the ingredients together into a heavenly unison. The angus beef tenderloin was unevenly cooked to our desired medium-rare but given it was the first flaw of our entire stay, it was easily forgiven. We ended the night on a high with a delectable mon merveilleaux (mascarpone passion cream, light vanilla chantilly, carrot ginger candy, meringue tuille) and a surprise chocolate cake to celebrate our wedding anniversary! Our package included this three course set menu so while we didn’t get the chance to sample the wider menu, this was a great teaser for us to return! 

Signature molecular creation: Mojito pearl served with mint foam (Rp 190,000)
Signature molecular creation: Mojito pearl served with mint foam (Rp 190,000)
Ama ebi tartar - avruga caviar, avocado guacamole, gold leaves, miso dressing
Ama ebi tartar – avruga caviar, avocado guacamole, gold leaves, miso dressing
3yearwedding-180
[L – R] Complimentary breads, fried oyster, palate cleanser, mon merveilleaux (mascarpone passion cream, light vanilla chantilly, carrot ginger candy, meringue tuille)
Angus beef tenderloin, potato mousseline, teppanyaki vegetables, truffle cream, citrus reduction
Angus beef tenderloin, potato mousseline, teppanyaki vegetables, truffle cream, citrus reduction
Happy Wedding Anniversary cake!
Happy Wedding Anniversary cake!

For a taste of traditional Balinese cuisine, Bambu Restaurant was the place to be. Reminiscing the night we had the bebek betutu, I was excited to see a similar variation of the banana trunk soup on the menu. The jukut ares (Rp 70,000) had such a depth of flavour, it was just as fragrant and complex as I’d remembered. The broth overall was lighter than the duck alternative and the aromatic spices and the soft pork bone was pure comfort. 

Of course we ordered the sate campur (Rp 110,000) again, although dining at the restaurant meant they were able to serve it on mini table grills, allowing the satay skewers to retain its heat. The rest of the menu was a bit of a hit and miss — I probably wouldn’t recommend the urab bulung (Rp 60,000) unless you’re really into tasting the sea — the seaweed salad had a similar textural crunch to wood ear mushrooms which I don’t mind but left a lingering fishy odour that wasn’t for me. The bebek sambal bawang (Rp 120,000) of confit duck with shallot sambal, the babi pangang (Rp 150,000) of slow roasted pork with bumbu guling and the stuffed squid (Rp 90,000) with sambal hijau, a green chilli sauce were much more enjoyable! 

Arriving at Bali without much exposure to Indonesian cuisine or Balinese cuisine, I’m definitely excited to explore these flavour profiles in greater detail so keep an eye out for some recipes down the track! 

Babi Panggang, slow roasted pork with bumbu guling (Rp 150,000)
Babi Panggang, slow roasted pork with bumbu guling (Rp 150,000)
Sate Campur - assorted Balinese satay: pork, beef, squid, prawn, fish and chicken (Rp 110,000)
Sate Campur – assorted Balinese satay: pork, beef, squid, prawn, fish and chicken (Rp 110,000)
Stuffed squid with green chilli sambal hijau (Rp 90,000)
Stuffed squid with green chilli sambal hijau (Rp 90,000)
Balinese feast - jukut ares (banana trunk soup with baby pork ribs), urab bulung - seaweed salad, coconut and cold fish, bouillon dressing (Rp 60,000), satay campur and more!
Balinese feast – jukut ares (banana trunk soup with baby pork ribs), urab bulung – seaweed salad, coconut and cold fish, bouillon dressing (Rp 60,000), satay campur and more!

One of the perks of staying at Banyan Tree Ungasan is access to their remote private cliff-side beach! The buggy will get you past the gates to near the beach, but there’s a steep descend from there via 100+ stairs that you must make on your own. The journey is definitely worth the effort as you’ll be rewarded with an icy bottle of water, the whitest sand, the sound of swelling waves without any squawking beachgoers and perhaps you’ll even meet some of the friendly beach dogs that sleep wherever the shade takes them. 

Private beach for Banyan Tree Ungasan residents
Private beach for Banyan Tree Ungasan residents
Secluded cliffside beach at Banyan Tree Ungasan
Secluded cliff-side beach at Banyan Tree Ungasan
The stairs that descend to the beach from Banyan Tree Ungasan
The stairs that descend to the beach from Banyan Tree Ungasan
Blue skies and crashing waves
Blue skies and crashing waves
View of some villas and the ocean, from the lobby
View of some villas and the ocean, from the lobby
Part of the lobby
Part of the lobby

With such glorious facilities, it’s no wonder the resort is a popular choice for destination weddings. During our stay, there was almost always a wedding everyday at the chapel! 

The cliff edge wedding chapel (we snuck in right after a wedding!)
The cliff edge wedding chapel (we snuck in right after a wedding!)

My favourite part of all, would undoubtedly be the infinity pools. Yes, the one in our villa as well as the main swimming pool. Where the infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands has the Singapore skyline, the main infinity pool at Banyan Tree Ungasan has the spectacular coastal cliff scenery and a panoramic view of the Indian Ocean. 

Me at the infinity pool :)
Me at the infinity pool πŸ™‚
Don't ever want to leave...
Don’t ever want to leave…
Keep still your mind...
Keep still your mind…
Absolute tranquility at Banyan Tree Ungasan
Absolute tranquility at Banyan Tree Ungasan
Jennifer Lam at Banyan Tree Ungasan Bali
My happy place
Sunset on the way to the spa for a massage!
Sunset on the way to the spa for a massage!

Ticking off my Bali bucket list in 12 hours

As luxurious as the resort was, I didn’t want to leave Bali without seeing the ‘real Bali’ so we decided to do a day trip on our second last day. Through the recommendations of a dear reader who has since become a good friend, we were referred to Anantha who runs a tour and driver service around Bali

He picked us up from Banyan Tree Ungasan at 9am on the dot and drove us back at 9pm! We shared some of our researched must-do’s with Anantha and left the itinerary in his very capable hands. As you’re about to see in the photos below, he took into consideration our time constraints whilst accommodating our interests, and we ended up covering a lot in just 12 hours!

Anantha had lots of stories to tell about the Balinese culture and traditions. As we headed towards the direction of Ubud, our conversation flowed naturally as we talked about the cultural significance and history of our surroundings.

One of the first things many don’t realise, is that whilst Indonesia is mostly Islamic, 90% of Balinese are Hindu. The most prominent display of this, is the sheer number of temples and shrines everywhere.

There are three main types of temples in Bali: major temples, village temples and family temples. Little pallets of offerings made from woven palm leaves are placed at temples, shrines and statues all across Bali as part of daily praying rituals. Anantha said that when a home is constructed, the most effort is always put into the family temple which sits at the front of the family residence. He joked that sometimes the family temples would be structures of architectural grandeur, whereas the family home behind it will be a stark contrast of modest simplicity. 

Religion plays a key role in the life of the Balinese people – it impacts almost every aspect of their personal and professional life. Anantha went on to explain that when he needed to purchase a new car, despite needing it for the tour operating business, he had to wait a few weeks for an auspicious date. Traditionally, the Balinese are constantly striving for harmonious balance between the good and bad, gods and demons, to prevent chaos.

I loved that each of the villages we passed, specialised in a trade or artisan craft that has been passed down from generation to generation. I was touched by their commitment to preserving these artisan skills which could otherwise be lost in time. There were artists, batik painters, stone carvers, shell crafters, silversmiths, potters, kite makers, furniture manufacturers and more. Their immense pride in developing their skills was evident as we visited some of these villages. 

Entrance of Artika's
Entrance of Artika’s

In the village of silversmiths, we stopped at Artika’s, a huge bright orange palace-looking compound dotted with palm trees. Although it was mind boggling to browse dozens of glass cabinets, I eventually spotted the most gorgeous ornamental lapis lazuli silver ring, that was even resized on the spot for me. 

Handmade silver jewellery
Handmade silver jewellery
Resizing a silver ring
Resizing a silver ring
My beautiful handmade lapis lazuli silver ring
My beautiful handmade lapis lazuli silver ring

Our next stop was Pura Desa and Puseh Batuan Temple which was founded some 1000 years ago! As we emerged from our air-conditioned vehicle, we were ushered to a pergola where we were provided with kain kamben (sarongs) to cover our bare legs. In respect of the holiness and purity of the temple, one cannot enter the temple when menstruating or a year after child birth. It is also respectful to cover up legs and on occasions, shoulders. We signed the guestbook and made a donation (entry is free but a donation helps support the upkeep of the temple) and were off on our way to explore the temple.

Founded in the 10th century (944 isaka, 1020AD), the structure and foundation of the Batuan temple has been restored over the years with some originals ornaments still in tact. You can easily spend an entire day at just one temple — every wall, column, ceiling and pond was intricately detailed with sculpted murals and gold paint. Admired for its grandeur and harmony, it’s hard to capture the mystical serenity of the temple in photos but Anantha made sure we arrived early before it became crowded with tourists so I’m glad we got to experience the temple in all its glory.

 

Gold detailing and thatch roofing at Puseh Batuan Temple
Gold detailing and thatch roofing at Puseh Batuan Temple
Zen and I at Puseh Batuan Temple
Zen and I at Puseh Batuan Temple
Another photo of us because Anantha said if we're not in the photo, it could have been downloaded from Google!
Another photo of us because Anantha said if we’re not in the photo, it could have been downloaded from Google!
Offerings at the temple
Offerings at the temple
Offerings being prepared
Offerings being prepared
Local Balinese preparing offerings at the temple
Local Balinese preparing offerings at the temple
Anantha explaining the Pawukon Balinese calendar
Anantha explaining the Pawukon Balinese calendar

3yearwedding-328 3yearwedding-329 3yearwedding-332 3yearwedding-333 3yearwedding-334 3yearwedding-340 3yearwedding-341 3yearwedding-343 3yearwedding-348 3yearwedding-349 3yearwedding-353 3yearwedding-355

Lunch was a no-brainer; for a very long time, I’ve heard about the Balinese speciality of babi guling, roast suckling pig. Ibu Oka is said to be one of the best and was even featured in an episode of No Reservations. If it’s good enough for Anthony Bourdain, it’s good enough for me!

Serving only babi guling suckling pig, there are now three Ibu Oka restaurants (Jalan Suweta, Ubud +62 0361 2077 490; Jalan Raya Teges, Peliatan, Ubud +62 082 897 005 063; Jalan Tegal Sari, Ubud +62 0361 976 345). A complete meal costs Rp 55,000, approximately $5.50 AUD. That will buy you the ‘spesial’, a plate of nasi, sayur, daging, gorengan, sosis dan kulit (rice, fresh vegetable, pork roll, fried meat, sausage with pork crackling) — it is also available ‘pisah’ meaning separated for Rp 70,000 and includes a bowl of sop babi, a pork soup with potatoes, carrot, beans and pork meat. 

We dined on the floor with cushions
We dined on the floor with cushions
Table snacks
Table snacks
Our bargain of a feast!
Our bargain of a feast!

Around six pigs are roasted each morning over wood and coconut husk, and even though I thought we had arrived early, the kulit babi panggang (roasted pork crackling, Rp 60,000) was sold out! The disappointment was quickly washed away as I calculated that I could potentially order 10 meals here for the same price of one meal at a luxury resort. There was no denying that the real thing, real street food, was incomparable.  

My first taste of the crackling let out an earth-shattering crunch. Thick and crispy, each bite went hand in hand with a mouthful of the local greens, coconut-infused rice and tender pork. The fiery sauce of secret Balinese spices added so much depth, and all the different textures of pork — fried pork, blood sausage, pork soup and roast pork — made the last bite as exciting as the first bite.
3yearwedding-363 3yearwedding-364 3yearwedding-365 3yearwedding-367 3yearwedding-374 3yearwedding-377

As we drove towards the nearby Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary (Rp 40,000 entrance fee per person), Anantha warned us of the cheekiness of the monkeys and advised us to empty our pockets and leave behind our sunglasses and handbags. The monkeys have even been known to break off car antennas, causing tour operators much grief! Nowadays, the tour operators take turns to mind each other’s vehicles in the carpark! 

There are about 600 Balinese long-tailed monkeys living in the sanctuary. The monkeys are fed a diet of sweet potato three times a day, plus a combination of banana, papaya leaves, corn, cucumber, coconut; and other local fruit. You can buy bananas to lure the monkeys in for a photo but the highlight for me was actually the lush jungle, a rare glimpse of ancient Bali frozen in time. 

3yearwedding-380 3yearwedding-382 3yearwedding-390 3yearwedding-394 3yearwedding-405

For a bit of shopping, Ubud Market is filled with Balinese handicrafts and souvenirs. My favourite purchase was a handwoven straw box purse handbag with leather strap. 

Handwoven bags and baskets at Ubud Art Market
Handwoven bags and baskets at Ubud Art Market
Souvenirs at Ubud Art Market
Souvenirs at Ubud Art Market
Mangosteen, green mango, snakeskin fruit, bananas, papaya and other local tropical fruit in Bali
Mangosteen, green mango, snakeskin fruit, bananas, papaya and other local tropical fruit in Bali

A short stroll from Ubud Market took us to Ubud Palace, a peaceful compound coexisting amongst the bustling streets of Ubud. 

Jennifer Lam at Ubud Palace
Me at Ubud Palace — “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”

3yearwedding-412

Passing the flocks of tourists at the top of the Tegalalang Rice Terrace, we took a serene walk through the lush emerald green fields. Anantha spoke about the clever design of the subak irrigation system which protects water supply and connects rice fields with the water from springs and canals. We spoke about the ingenuity of the Balinese — ducks for example, are herded into the rice fields prior to harvest so they can eat algae and insect pests as well as fertilize the fields with their droppings. After harvest, the ducks feed on dropped rice grains. I was in awe of the beauty — the landscape, the rice-duck system, all of it.

3yearwedding-416

3yearwedding-424

3yearwedding-420

When Anantha heard that we loved our coffee, he suggested a pit stop at Merta Harum Agroo Plantation. We toured the garden where vanilla bean plants, coffee plants, cocoa plants, rosella plants, ginger and other fruits and spices are turned into exquisite teas and coffees.

Luwak coffee, also known as the world’s most expensive coffee is derived from coffee beans that have been digested by the palm civet and is a popular export from Indonesia. Caught up in the hype of the coffee (which actually tastes amazing by the way!), I was blind-sighted by the cruelty of the ‘farmed’ luwak coffee industry and unfortunately didn’t get a chance to chat to the plantation owners about this. However, I still can’t help but appreciate their genuine affinity with the land. 

Vanilla bean plant
Vanilla bean plant
Coffee bean plant
Coffee bean plant
Luwak weasels sleeping
Luwak (palm civets) sleeping
Torch ginger plants
Torch ginger plants
Cacao fruit
Cacao fruit
Roasting luwak coffee
Roasting luwak coffee
Some of the herbs and spices grown at the plantation
Some of the herbs and spices grown at the plantation
Luwak coffee beans before and after they're washed
Luwak coffee beans before and after they’re washed
Complimentary tea & coffee tasting: mangosteen tea, rosella tea, ginseng tea, cinnamon tea, saffron tea, ginger tea, lemon tea, lemongrass tea, chocolate coffee, vanilla coffee, ginseng coffee, coconut coffee, white coffee, ginger coffee
Complimentary tea & coffee tasting: mangosteen tea, rosella tea, ginseng tea, cinnamon tea, saffron tea, ginger tea, lemon tea, lemongrass tea, chocolate coffee, vanilla coffee, ginseng coffee, coconut coffee, white coffee, ginger coffee
Luwak coffee
Luwak coffee
Treehouse tea & coffee tasting
Treehouse tea & coffee tasting

We arrived at Jimbaran Beach just in time for Bali’s mesmerising sunset. Only here did Bali actually feel like a tourist destination. For as far as the eye could see, the beach was a buzzing orchestra of busy restaurants. Tourists from all over the world were captivated by the mouth-watering aroma of grilled seafood that wafted through the air. Tired from a full day of sightseeing, our sore bodies sunk into the cushioned seats and our feet were relieved to rest in the cold sand.

We dined at JBS, Jimbaran Bay Seafood and went all out! The Komang package (Rp 1,150,000) included a feast of lobser, crab, calamari, clams, fish, king prawns, soup, rice, local greens, fruit and 2 beers! 

Good times
Good times
Jimbaran Bay Seafood at sunset
Jimbaran Bay Seafood at sunset
Fish and prawns grilled over coal
Fish and prawns grilled over coal
Me with my giant young coconut drink (Rp 35,000)
Me with my giant young coconut drink (Rp 35,000)

3yearwedding-468 3yearwedding-469 3yearwedding-471 3yearwedding-472 3yearwedding-475 3yearwedding-479 3yearwedding-483 3yearwedding-487 3yearwedding-490 3yearwedding-492 3yearwedding-494 3yearwedding-498 3yearwedding-502 3yearwedding-514

 

BBQ seafood platter on the beach at night
BBQ seafood platter on the beach at night
Mud crab
Mud crab
Fried calamari, lobster, prawns, clams,...
Fried calamari, lobster, prawns, clams,…

Banyan Tree Ungasan rejuvenated my burned-out mind but Anantha helped us to fall in love with Bali; we can’t wait to return!

Banyan Tree Ungasan
Jalan Melasti, Banjar Kelod, Ungasan, Bali, Indonesia
Phone: +62 361 3007000
Web: banyantree.com/en/ap-indonesia-ungasan-bali

Anantha – our driver / tour guide
Whatsapp: +62 819 9966 8686
Web: thecheapesttravelbali.com

Bambu - Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ju-Ma-Na - Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

#AustraliasTop50InfluencerAwards presented by http://www.MyDeal.com.au

SHARE
Previous articleEating Prague – the Prague Foodies Tour
Next articleLuke Nguyen’s Street Food Pop Up At The Star
Jennifer is the founding blogger of I Ate My Way Through (originally, Jenius.com.au). Growing up in the multicultural melting pot of Sydney’s Inner West as a second generation Australian (of Vietnamese refugee parents of Teochew Chinese ancestry), Jen has always had a deep curiosity about global cuisines, culinary heritage and the cultural assimilation of immigrants. For Jen and her family, food is always at the centre of all celebrations, life events and milestones. A lover of the finer things in life, as well as cheap eats, her blogging ethos is all about empowering and inspiring people to expand their culinary repertoire. When not running her two companies (she is also the Managing Director of The Bamboo Garden online marketing agency), Jen can be found exploring old-world charms at vintage markets and delving into local eats around the world. She has a weakness for fried chicken.