My New Love/Hate Relationship – Ubud, Bali

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll have realised that I’m just a little bit obsessed with really good vegan food… But I also have a serious love of yoga and a shopping habit that I’m trying hard to kick. I love places that are peaceful and beautiful and I love pondering the universe with like-minded people, whoever they are or wherever they’re from. Ubud was one of the places on this trip that I had been waiting for as I thought it would be a perfect mix of all my favourite things.

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The peaceful backstreets of Ubud

As it turns out, it’s not so much a beautiful, peaceful place but more of a melting pot of people ‘finding’ themselves, crowds of Japanese tourists, backpackers, expats, yogis, artists, taxi drivers, tour guides and women begging on the street. There seem to be about 4 million scooters on the road at all times. The main street is a challenge but there is some respite in the smaller side streets, lined with shops and restaurants and galleries. All of the above led to me having a sort of love/hate relationship with Ubud…

There are lots of places to eat hippy vegan food in quirky cafés where chairs seem outlawed and cushions on the floor rule the roost. There are musical instruments, art and expensive ‘natural products’ for sale in every direction. I blow our budget with my initial excitement, giddy with the thought of having a new style of food on my doorstep for a while and ready to dive in, head first and discover the meaning of life whilst drinking an organic juice somewhere.

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One of Ubud’s many cool hang outs

We eat small but tasty raw things in Soma, made from flax seeds and organic vegetables. The dips  taste amazing; creamy coconut citrus, cashew cheese and kafir lime peanut… So good that I ignore the chipped crockery in an attempt at being laid back and going with the flow.

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Small, tasty but expensive…

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Even smaller raw pizza

I have raw vegan mochalate ‘cake’ and slip into dessert heaven with its creamy chocolately texture.

But the excitement wears off quickly as our Ubud days move on. I’m underwhelmed by my salad from The Seeds of Life promised to “blow me away” (or some claim like that) on the menu and find myself admiring the coconut wood spoons more than the contents of the bowl (which is just an ordinary salad).

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Salad bowl at ‘Seeds of Life’

My best friend happens to have a special talent for for making salads and they are legendary so a salad has to be pretty awesome to really get me excited and this was just a salad (although it did have two teeny-tiny wafers of dehydrated banana which although a bit unusual were too stingy-small for my liking).

I was disappointed with the food at the Down to Earth cafe, sister restaurant of the fabulous Zula in Seminyak. A friend orders the falafels on our recommendation and they are nowhere near as good… Oh woe… Sigh.

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Average food at ‘Down to Earth’

I share some sweet potato fries and a black bean stew with TravelMush, the fries have a weirdly dry texture and the beans are ok but half way through eating I realise that I’m basically having posh chips and beans for dinner…

Generally all this food is either small, expensive or worse: small and expensive and it’s leaving me a bit hungry. I also start to feel uneasy when I compare the cost of a small snack in a vegan cafe to an entire meal in the local warungs. Plus everyone seems to be having a spiritual crisis, experiencing bad energy somewhere or involved in an intensely blissful embrace with another person. I try to find my place in it all but I just don’t fit in.

The main street is lined with taxi drivers (who are actually less hassle than in Sanur as they just hold up signs suggesting you might want a taxi today or “tomorrow maybe?”) and women holding sleeping babies in one hand and begging with the other which makes me feel sad and angry on a few different levels, all at the same time.

Then there’s the shopping opportunities. There are yoga shops everywhere and I actually find the number of shops selling bamboo or organic cotton yoga clothes overwhelming (not to mention the price). I’m in serious danger of having a shopping habit relapse and filling several bags with floaty clothes made from thin stretchy expensive fabric.

All this makes Ubud an exhausting place for me.

But the one thing Ubud does have is culture. Lots of it, bursting out from behind the tourist traps and it’s unavoidable. We are lucky enough to see a cremation ceremony, it’s crazy and nothing like anything either of us have ever seen before. I’m glad we are in Ubud for this experience alone. It’s energising to witness such a vibrant and real ceremony.

Its also a good place to escape to see some beautiful scenery and with adventure in our hearts we set off to walk along the Kampung Ridge which is not only a nice break from all the hassle (we only get accosted once by a tour guide wanting to sell us his services) but is so green and lush that we can’t help but smile and feel energised.

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Lovely walk in the countryside overlooking rice paddies.

Back in Ubud central, we eat in some great local warungs which are cheap and cheerful and filling and all have resident dogs of varying friendliness.

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Simple food from the local warungs

We also visited a lovely restaurant (called Fair Warung Bale) where all the proceeds go towards providing medical care for local people and ate one of the tastiest curries of our trip so far, rich with the usual turmeric, galangal, ginger, lemon (or lime?) leaves, peppercorns and coconut milk but also containing ground up candlenuts which I now know give a distinctive richness to a dish. I asked the name of this dish but she just said it’s called ‘Balinese sauce’ so I’m really none the wiser.

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Great food for a great cause at ‘Fair Warung’

It was memorable though and I’d highly recommend anyone finding themselves in Ubud get themselves to this restaurant. The people were friendly too one of the people who spoke to us had been volunteering as a nurse all day in one of the medical centres and come along to support the restaurant in the evening. There were no spiritual crises here, only generosity, purpose and great tasting food.

The other redeeming feature of Ubud are the many opportunities to buy vegan ice cream or ‘sorbettos’. I opt for lime-ginger, coconut or lemongrass mainly but made sure I sample all the other flavours (strawberry, dragon fruit, mango) whilst ordering.

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Never one to turn down vegan sorbet

I think I’m developing a kind of love-hate relationship with Ubud, I begin to hate going into the centre but I love the idea of the place and there vegan ice cream to be found so I know I’ll be back…

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8 thoughts on “My New Love/Hate Relationship – Ubud, Bali

  1. Lillian Marie

    wonderful blog about Ubud and vegan food! Like you, I’m vegan and I definitely love Bali but most especially Ubud! Those eating places you found are great but sadly I only had only 3 days here since we were exploring other places of the island. Thanks for sharing your awesome experiences

    Reply
    1. VeganMush Post author

      Thanks Lillian! Think we’ll be heading back to Ubud next week, as much as there were a few places that didn’t get my vote, I’m still dreaming about the wonderful food we had in others, plus the culture was so rich. Do you have another favourite Bali spot for vegan food? I’ve been surprised at how good it’s been here!

      Reply
  2. eileen

    what an informative and interesting blog, Caryl. Your descriptions and pictures of the wonderful food stimulate my taste buds and takes me straight back to Ubud. Look forward to reading about your next experience. Don’t give in to the lure of the shopping, you can’t ‘need’ anything other than what you are carrying . xxx

    Reply
  3. flavourphotos

    So very envious! I love Bali but haven’t been for about 13 years. Ubud was peaceful paradise then (well, if you ignore the little scooters) but I bet Bali has changed a lot since then. Balinese is still to this day my favourite vegan cuisine. Nasi campur with the best marinated tempeh and tofu I’ve ever eaten (anywhere in the world, EVER!!!). My mouth is actually watering as I write.
    I hope you’ll have many wonderful experiences on your travels.
    Best wishes and safe travels, Chava

    Reply
    1. VeganMush Post author

      Thanks Chava – we are having an amazing time and it is lovely when people can relate to where we have been and what we have eaten!

      Bali really is a true paradise for vegans with so many new, raw vegan restaurants opening along with the great array of local food that is vegan by default. It will have changed no end since you were there i’m sure but you will still find that little piece of vegan paradise if you look hard enough.

      Do you have any plans to go back to Bali?

      Reply
  4. Wayne Furlong

    Lots of what you say is true but there are genuinely great and ethical vegan restaurants nearby. Moksa, in Sayan which is twenty minutes walk from Ubud is brilliant. In many years of vegan travel, I have not experienced a better vegan restaurant. A cheap vegan warung worth considering is Prima, Great set menu. Confession time- myself and my partner Penny run a vegan b&b (Bali Firefly) in a lovely garden twenty minutes outside of Ubud. There are jungle walks and local cooking lessons available that are perfect for vegans and far from the hackneyed ‘finding myself’ vibe that can trap the visitor. Good luck in your travels.

    Reply
    1. Vegan Food Quest Post author

      Hi Wayne!
      Thanks for your comment and for making me go back and revisit this post that I wrote when we first left home nearly 3 years ago. Since then I’ve been back to Ubud twice and definitely found the places I love there (although I do still find some aspects of the scene there not for me!). I’m so glad you mentioned that you have a vegan b&b…. us too! only we’re in Siem Reap in Cambodia – next time I’m in Ubud I’ll look you up and feel free to do the same if you ever make it to Cambodia. I love finding good vegans restaurants so will keep your recommendations in mind for my next trip to Ubud 🙂
      Thanks for getting in touch
      Caryl

      Reply

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