In February 2011 we found ourselves having a vacation in Bali, me and the cook. We stayed in this hotel called Ubud Hanging Garden. Saying the place was really something is very much an understatement. It was probably one of the best hotels we’ve ever stayed at so far in our life. Perhaps also one of the most expensive ones that we paid for ourselves. But the money was well spent. Each villa in the hotel has its own private infinity swimming pool (they even regulate the water temperature!). It overlooks the beautiful vista of the valley below the hillside where the hotel is located. The green rainforest around the hotel is well preserved. Monkeys still can be seen jumping around from trees to trees and occasionally paying visit to some of the villas early in the morning. The fresh air, the sound of the flowing Ayung river at the bottom of the hill, and the secluded location makes it a perfect little getaway. And if you still crave a little bit of noise and action, the popular town of Ubud is just a half-hour car ride away (the hotel provides free shuttle service, the last time I checked at least).
The cook and I are both mountain person. We prefer going to mountains more than going to the beach (though I still love the beach on a sunny day more than she does, but more on that later, in a different blog perhaps). We also appreciate nature. Finding out that the hotel provided various guided outdoor activities was a pleasant surprise. Looking at the list of activities and checking our timing, we decided to go for the morning botanical walk. The guided walking tour would take us around the surrounding hill-and-valley. We’d be going through the rice fields, following along a foot trail used by the nearby villagers; all the while the tour guide would offer abundant explanations regarding the plants we’d come across, the temples we’d see, and also the local traditions.
So on the morning of our last day at the hotel (we’d be checking out on the next day) we set out on our morning hike with our guide and another couple. It was a slightly cloudy morning. It drizzled a bit when we started our hike, which worried us a bit since none of the group brought umbrella. Thankfully, it slowly receded and stopped as we started going further. To tell you the truth, I didn’t listen much to the guide about the vegetation native to the area, or about that first temple we walked pass, or about the local culture. I was blissfully busy taking pictures with my camera. But I did enjoyed the hike.
To me, the walk was all about the fresh mountain air and the beautiful scenery that I saw. We walked through the thick vegetation of the nearby rainforest, following the beaten path made by the local villagers; came across rice fields with mountains in the background; all the while our friendly guide provides lengthy explanations about the characteristics and benefits of the local vegetation (which I, again ashamed to admit, ignored most of the time). We also walked through the nearby villages and were greeted by the friendly locals. The school children were especially nice and welcoming (my wife and the other lady in our group took a group shot with them). I saw a big, pink pig inside one of the villagers house, squealing (happily, it seemed) while taking a bath. And I saw dogs. Lots of dogs. One of them even tried to assert his territorial rights by chasing me whenever I was not looking. But you know how barking dogs are: they’re just all bark and no bite. When I didn’t run and actually approached it, it turned tail and ran away scared.
Our small group of two couples (one of them us) and the tour guide started out a bit quiet, with only the tour guide doing most of the talking. But after a short time, the scenery and the fresh air really helped the group warmed up and we started talking to each other. There were some interesting tidbits I learned from the guide: he had been an athletic runner; that he lived in the nearby village; and that he came to the hotel jogging, through the route that we were going through in that morning walk. We also found out that hotels in Ubud really helped the locals by hiring them to work there, some for modest positions and some even for important ones as well. It was good to know that such commercial facilities empowers the local people. Aside from our guide, it was also a pleasant surprise to find out that the other couple turned out to be good friends with an old friend of mine whose blog you can visit here.
Overall, it was a good morning walk. If by chance you find yourself staying in Ubud Hanging Garden, and you’re the type that likes to go on a hike and enjoy nature, we highly recommend this activity. If you’re even more adventurous you can try going out on your own, but I don’t recommend this if you don’t know the area or if you’re really bad in finding your ways. Ubud Hanging Garden also has several other more attractive outdoor activity options.
There will be more stories of our visit to Bali in subsequent posts. But for the meantime, do enjoy the photo gallery below.