Eat. Shop. Stay. Wander.
The newly cobbled laneway of Jl. Goutama is tucked away from the bustle of Ubud. You can window shop without risk of falling in a hole, worrying about non stop traffic or dodging between parked cars.
Homes are nestled in between cafes and shops. The daily rituals of offerings and family temples maintain their place amongst the commercial activity. There’s a slower, almost graceful pace.
You can drop in for a few hours, or move in for a few days.
And of course you can eat your way through the street….. there’s Italian bistro style, Asian Fusion, French crepes, Balinese tapas, Javanese warungs and organic superclean cafes. It’s easy to treat yourself to chocolate, ice-cream and cocktails all on the same day.
Try Bernadette’s Woerung @ Toko Madu for classic Javanese food with a spicy zest usually reserved for local eateries.
Warning: minimalists keep walking, this is not your place.
Crystal chandeliers, metal mermaids and tigers hang from the exposed rafters. Chairs and tables are a collection of various styles. The simple thoughtful touches such as old style jugs for cutlery and napkins cut through the friendly clutter.
They’re most famous for the classic Beef Rendang. Their healthy version of the Soto Ayam (chicken soup) is good. I’m happy here because I can graze on small plates. The spicy samosas and a cold Bintang on a hot day works for me.
Do try the ginger tea. It’s one of the best I’ve had in Ubud. Seriously zesty, in a generous glass, you can sip it seated at a bench overlooking the street. It’s a good place to while away an hour or so.
If you fall in love with the quirky homewares and artefacts, you’ll be pleased to know they’re for sale.
Ubud Raw is the place to kick any guilt you may have over chocolate.
Stepping into this uber cool store is an immediately uplifting experience. A tester plate of 4 bite size chunks of pure chocolate delight is the place to start.
The chocolate is sold ‘naked’ by the chunk, direct from the refrigerated cabinet, my fave is wild orange & fig. A great place to stock up on Raw Cacao Powder, Raw Cacao Drinking Chocolate (with coconut palm sugar), Raw Cacao Nibs, Raw Cacao Beans and Coconut Palm Sugar.
(I’m happy to report Ubud raw is #refillfriendly so grab a glass of water or top up your water bottle).
The story behind Ubud Raw is as captivating as the chocolate. They have a revolutionary approach to chocolate making and equally impressive, a revolutionary approach to managing waste. Read my full story here.
Grazers… this is your place.
Think Balinese style tapas. Small plates of delicious food served on brown paper in baskets. Warung Biah Biah is usually comfortably crowded, find a place at the bench seats if you’re solo. Service is fast. There’s a good choice of Balinese meals if you need more than tapas. Closest you’ll get to village style food at affordable prices.
Looking for vegan and raw food deliciousness?
The standout is The Seeds Of Life Café for super food bliss. Settle into the cushions for a meal or head down the back to the Loloh Bar (named after the Balinese word for health drink).
I dropped in at the end of a big day, so I chose the ‘Stamina’ jamu from the extensive Tonic menu. A blend of red ginger, ginger, pandanus, clove, cinnamon and turmeric, served warm, sprinkled with raw chocolate (I declined the cashew milk) it was soothing and invigorating at the same time.
The menus give you everything you need to know about ingredients, benefits to your health and how Indonesian, Ayurvedic & Taoist herbal systems are embraced into their philosophy.
There’s more going on behind the scenes with daily yoga sessions and Raw Food Chef Certification and Training. All the deets here.
If you can skip the pool and don’t need too much space, staying at one of the homestays will put you right amongst daily life on the street.
My pick is Darta Green Garden. New rooms are approx. $35 double/$25 single. Older rooms $20 double/$15 single. Wander in or book online.
A word of advice. The homestay world has changed. Gone are the days of staying in a spare room in the compound, sharing food with the family etc. These days there’s many rooms jammed into the compound, family life goes on around you, mainly in the background. Effectively you have a pleasant and inexpensive room to rent.
One element that hasn’t change is the typical homestay breakfast menu. White bread toast, pancakes, fruit, tea or coffee. Possibly a boiled or scrambled egg. I love it… it’s from an era gone by, in a culture where the concept of breakfast doesn’t exist. Accept it with a smile. Be gracious. If you need granola and smoothie bowls you’re spoilt for choice on the streets of Ubud.
Having said all that, I still love a couple of nights in a homestay. It takes only a little effort to get to know the family… wander into the kitchen, introduce yourself, ask about the family, say hello to the kids, take time to talk.
Another option is Mai Malu Homestay, an extension of the much talked about The Melting Wok restaurant, famous for Asian/French fusion food. The upstairs rooms are probably the quietest. $15 – $35 a night. Book online here.
There’s a spa of some sort every few metres.
Most are extensions to the homestays and offer similar services in similar environments. Think lounge chairs on a balcony, massage tables in a simple room, basic bathrooms. Not plush, and most likely the quality of the treatment will be dependent on the level of care from each therapist. Considerably cheaper than the average Ubud spa, if you don’t need princess level treatment, it may be right for you. There’s not enough hours in my life to try them all out, so I’ll leave you to experiment!
However I do have two places I can highly recommend….
Skin Spa & Organic Waxing Salon is a tiny salon, quietly sophisticated in comparison to the typical spa offer on the street. It’s a popular place with expats so book ahead. Prices: Start at $7 for eyebrow waxing. Check the full menu on their website.
Tucked away towards the top of the lane is Restu, it’s easy to miss, so look out for the sign on the left. I send anyone with injuries or generally riddled with aches and pains, to the owner, Wayan. Trained by a famous guru, he gets very booked out, so call ahead or drop in early morning to make an appointment. Spa treatments are also on offer with his staff. Around $25 for one hour massage. PH: 0361 970483
The vibe changes at night. Cocktail hour arrives.
Head upstairs to Nomad Restaurant or join happy hour from 4pm at Sambal Matah.
What I most love about this street is the variety.
A basic old style local shop selling postcards and useful things such as umbrellas has survived amongst the uber cool transformations. Amongst the eateries you’ll find small boutiques, mask sellers, hand made paper products, organic body products, a place to take a batik class or get yourself a tattoo. Need a zip fixed or a copy of your fave shirt made? Drop into the two lovely ladies at Riyan tailor. They do wonders on their Singer sewing machines.
The street wakes up at a slow pace around 9.30/10am and hums along until after dinner. It’s easy to spend a few hours, so allow yourself time to wander and explore.
Shops and cafes come and go. By the time I finished this post one store had disappeared. That’s the nature of business, but whilst the homes and the families still remain in place on the street, I’m sure the vibe of Goutama St will live on. Enjoy your wander.
Its an easy walk from the market. Check the map.
Need a hotel in Bali? I use Agoda.com.