Bali and what to do in Ubud with a toddler
And here we are, exploring Bali with a toddler on tow. The island of Gods and the island of surf, party, meditation, veganism, yoga, yummy restaurants and digital nomads: we got so many different accounts of it that we are in between confused, worried and excited. We’ll get to realise what a great family holiday destination it can be and how it conquers you with its colours, friendliness, beautiful nature and mixture of old traditions and fashionable trends.
The first thing that hits us is that Bali smells like incense. Even the airport smells like incense! Balinese people give every morning an offering to their gods: a small basket of flowers, incense and food in every shop, every home, every car and scooter.
The second thing we notice is that the colours are beautifully vivid. The green is so green and the same fancy plants we buy in hip shops in London and keep in our flats grow here lush in the wild.
We follow the suggestion of our friend Claudia, and we decide to start exploring the island from Ubud, a little village tucked between the rice fields that has quickly become a busy hub for expats and travellers. It’s strategically located to explore some beautiful temples, areas of natural beauty while enjoying top notch restaurants, yoga classes and a buzzing atmosphere.
As we get on the highway from the airport, we overtake two blond surfers dudes riding a scooter without shoes and carrying a surfboard, a picture perfect image of the surfer vibe of the south of the island. As soon as we approach Ubud, the crowd changes. The surfers are replaced by the yogis and families negotiating the crazy traffic with three or for people on a scooter.
Even though not all the most advertised Ubud attractions seem to be toddler friendly (besides hanging by the pool), there is a lot to enjoy as a little family.
We embark on the Campuhan Ridge Walk and the views over the rice fields are indeed incredible, but the heat gets unbearable pretty fast and we take it easy. We stop after 2km at the Karsa Cafe for juice and Bali coffee. The setting is amazing, with tables on little huts over the fishpond water surrounded by the rice fields. We continue for another couple of km and the lunch spot is less scenic but the food at the Balinese home cooking is home-made, delicious and fresh.
There are many temples around Ubud, and two even into the little town, but we decide to dedicate a day to the discovery of Gungun Kawi and Tirta Empul.
We went first thing in the morning to Pura Gunung Kawi, a pretty big temple and funerary complex. It's quite early and there are few people around , it’s our first experience wearing a Sarong and the visit is really enjoyable.
From there it’s a short and pleasant (although sweaty) walk to Pura Tirta Empul, the holy water temple, where holy spring water channels through 30 different spouts in two pools. Local families queue for the ritual, sided by a sizeable amount of tourists getting their pictures taken in pose in the purification pools. But truthfully, it is beautiful and there is a special atmosphere around, so it’s easy to feel the pull to join in this beautiful ritual. We ask for indications and explanations to some friendly locals, and equipped with appropriate sarongs the three of us go waist down to the cold water and join the hoards to the holy spring.
Our getaway ended in a vegan Warung (Siripadi) nearby the temple, where we are joined by a friendly balinese family we met in the springs!
Curious to dig into Balinese cooking, we searched for a cooking class that we could attend together without having to pay a fortune for a private one.
The cooking classes at Ketut ends up making a nice half day activity.
We enjoyed a very nice market tour, and the class was quite informative and the food was delicious, in a nice and quiet setting. The people were very friendly and helpful with Tommi, showing him around the garden and keeping him entertained when he wasn’t interested anymore in doing any cooking or tasting!
The rest of the time in Ubud has been spent chilling by the dipping pool of the Villa we were staying and the excellent coffees and restaurant in the centre.
Tommi gets increasingly confident to swim by himself (with floaters), which is nice to see.
Indonesian coffee is really exceptional. Of note, there is an increased interest in the Kopi Luwak, where the coffee bean has passed through the digestive system of the civet cat, then gets extracted from its poo and processed. Bear in mind when purchasing it or visiting coffee plantations that very often the civet cats are kept in captivity and suffer through the process. 'Regular' coffee is much cheaper, cruelty free and still really really good!
Besides the places already mentioned, we liked:
- Warung Sopa. Very cheap, fresh, low key and delicious! A small baby friendly area with some toys, but not a child focused place
- Clear cafe: nice place, many veg options and not only balinese food
- Warung Fair Bale has been founded by a local NGO, and helps giving medical care to people in Bali who normally don’t have access to it.
- Semanyak: excellent coffee, we kept on coming back and we even got some beans to make with our Aeropress, the quality was top notch.
- Soma Cafe’: nice fresh food, with a relaxed sofa-jam session where locals and travellers join in. Our Tommi is always attracted by the musicians, and they were so nice to get him involved by giving him a tambourine and, briefly, also a guitar!