Seven nights in Ubud, Bali As part of our honeymoon, we spent seven nights in Ubud, Bali’s self-confessed cultural capital.  If you’ve watched Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love – and her tale of self-discovery – it’s likely that you’d recognise quite a few areas in and around Ubud.

The city has quite a hipster vibe with independent boutiques (like TN Parrot, a local menswear brand designed in Ubud, where Tom bought a whole new summer wardrobe, we needed to bring back another suitcase – no jokes) and local artisan shops. Since Eat, Pray, Love it’s also discovered a market for yoga retreats and vegan diets.

Seven nights in Ubud, Bali

A spot of history…

This is important as so much of Ubud’s daily life is affected by its history. In the 19th century,  Corkorda Gede Agung Sukawati established a brand of the Sukawati royal family and began an age of alliances and disputes with neighbouring kingdoms. In 1900, the Kingdom of Gianyar, including Ubud, became, at its own request, a Dutch protectorate, enabling religious and cultural life to flourish.

Corkorda’s descendants encouraged Western artists to visit and settle in the area across the 1930s, including notably Walter Spies and Rudolf Bonnet. The new art scene hugely influenced local art introducing different ideas and techniques and likewise, Balinese culture was popularised in artworks sent back west.  Expats and tourists have flocked ever since – mainly for the arts.

Where we stayed in Ubud.

We stayed in two places during our week there, the Swasti Eco Cottages and Payogan Villas.

Swasti Eco Cottages (three out seven nights in Ubud)

Seven nights in Ubud, Bali

By far our favourite was the Swasti Eco Cottages, it’s noted in the Lonely Planet that its ‘green cred out-Ubud’s Ubud’. On our first night, it was a bit of a culture shock, as we’d come from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore.  We stayed in one of their vintage traditional houses, which the owners had rescued from all over Indonesia.

Each cottage comes with a large water fountain so that you can refill your bottle and a canvas tote to encourage you to avoid plastic bags. The compound includes a large organic garden where the produce is used in the onsite restaurant which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and was some of the best food we ate. 

You can also sign up for yoga classes or for a pampering session in its spa (which of course we did, more than once, Tom particularly enjoyed his pedicure!) It also had a saltwater swimming pool, which was very welcomed after a hot day schlepping around Ubud.

 

Each morning, breakfast is served buffet style with lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and chia pots and a morning smoothie.  Eco Swasti is about a thirty-minute walk to the centre of Ubud but it is very close to the Monkey Forest. (I’ll come onto that in a minute.)

Payogan Villas (five out seven nights in Ubud)

Unfortunately, we were only due to stay at Eco Swasti for three days, after that, we moved to Payogan Villas, which was a 20-minute taxi ride out of the centre. Catching a taxi is straightforward process once you’ve worked out the process – unlike at home they don’t really do taxi ranks, instead drivers stand around on street corners and outside tourist attractions holding signs saying ‘Taxi’.  

Once you’ve established that they know where you need to go and fare settled, they pootle off to retrieve their car and you hop in the back. They will definitely try to win business from you for the next few days with offers of tours to various sites – this is helpful in the first few days, but eventually, we ended up saying it was our last day for about a week.  

Ok back to Payogan, this was a very large resort which I picked because it had this swimming pool:

A swimming pool in the jungle. It did not disappoint on that front.

But when we arrived on a Tuesday night, there really was nobody else there, it was a bit disconcerting. If you do stay here, breakfast is perfectly pleasant, but don’t eat dinner – it was the worse meal we ate in three weeks. Also, the place seemed to be run by 16-year-olds who were all on their summer placements and my goodness, they were keen to chat!  They were, of course, incredibly polite and helpful. Eventually, a larger party of Chinese guests joined us and the hotel filled out a bit more.

Also, the approach to the hotel is incredibly bumpy, it’s like someone spent all this effort to build the resort and then ran out of funds for the road leading up to it. We had a lovely room with a HUGE bed, but it did take me a while to get used to the outdoor bathroom. Literally, loo outside.

What we did! – The Monkey Forest

We visited the Sacred Monkey Forest twice, we stayed just 10 minutes away from it at Swasti Eco Cottages. Its official name is Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana and houses three holy temples, including the Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal, also known as the Great Temple of Death. This Hindu temple, built around 1350, is dedicated to the god Hyang Widhi, the personification of Shiva, the transformer.

 

As you’d imagine by its name its inhabited by 600 grey haired macaques who are innocent looking, but not innocent in behaviour.  Despite adhering to the MANY warning signs, I was harassed by a monkey. And Tom did nothing to save me, although he did save my hairbrush which this cheeky monkey was tempting to make off with.  

Our second visit was much more uneventful and we met up with local flytographer who took our picture! We followed up our morning trip with breakfast in Habitat Cafe, where Tom had one of those breakfast smoothie bowls which seem to be all the rage and a kombucha tea (who’s saying Tom didn’t enter into the spirit of Ubud!) I opted for deep-fried poached eggs.

Bali Nature Herbal Walk, through Ubud’s rice fields

I spent ages trying to decide the best way to see Ubud’s famous rice fields. I didn’t just want to see them from a viewing point, which I suspect a lot of the touristy tours do, I wanted to walk through them and know what I was looking at.

We opted to join Bali Nature Herbal Walk, an easy three-hour walk through the nearest rice fields which are literally just tucked behind Ubud’s main streets. It is possible to do this walk on your own, but without the tour guide, I’m not sure we’d ever find the start of the walk!

Our guide explained the different types of rice we could see, plus coffee, lemongrass and other herbs growing in the wild. We stopped halfway for a fresh coconut, they were delicious. You can find all the details about Bali Nature Herbal Walk here.

Museum Puri Lakisan

The Museum Puri Lakisan was built to the designs of Rudolf Bonnet, a Dutch artist, who lives much of his life in Ubud.  

When he arrived in Bali in 1929, he was invited by Cokorda Gede Raka Sukawati, a prince of Ubud’s royal family to live in Ubud.  Alongside Cokorda and Walter Spies, a German artist, I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, Bali’s foremost stone sculptor and architect, Bonnet was a founder member of the Pita Maha movement which was instrumental in curating local Balinese art, selling it in galleries and including it in exhibitions that travelled worldwide.  

During WWII, Bonnet was interred in a number of prisoner camps and despite the deteriorating relations between Netherlands and Republic of Indonesia, Rudolf remained in Ubud until the late 1950s, partially due to his close relations with President Sukarno, who had 14 of his paintings. The Museum Puri Lukisan began in 1954, just a few years before Bonnet was eventually expelled from the country after some artistic differences with the then president Soekarno. He finally returned in 1972 to help the expand the museum and organise an opening exhibition.

The Museum’s East building shows early works from Ubud’s surrounding villages and 16th-century cloth wayang-style paintings – a bit like shadow puppets, whilst the North building features works during the Pita Maha heyday.  The West building includes artworks from post-war Bali and the South gallery houses special exhibitions, which when we visited included artworks by Lempad.

The four galleries, provide a great insight into Balinese art and are surrounded by lush gardens, the museum has a great little cafe too. Alternatively, there’s a branch of Gelato Secrets a few doors down offering an exciting selection of unusual ice cream flavours.

Ubud Water Palace

It seems that  ‘palace’ is used as a synonym for ‘temple’. Ubud’s water palace or Pura Tama Sarawasti, is in fact a temple dedicated to the goddess Sarasvasti, the Hindu deity of learning, literature and art and was designed by Lempad and commissioned by Cokorda (it’s a small Ubud art scene!). Plumeria trees decorate the edges of the huge lily pond which sits in front of the entrance gate, known as kori agung, to the temple complex within – understandably, only locals in a traditional dress can enter the holy sanctum.

Seven nights in Ubud, Bali

 

 

Balinese dancing at Ubud palace

The palace and temple complex is an impressive backdrop to one of the weekly Balinese dancing performances. There were many different performances and we eventually plumped for one at the Ubud Palace, which seemed to be the main venue. We got an insiders tip that if you wanted a seat make sure you were at least 45 – 50 minutes early and I was pleased we followed the advice – front row seats no less!

We were given a leaflet at beginning of the performance describing the story behind each routine and there are plenty of entrepreneurial sellers with Bintangs should you not make it through the 90-minute performance. The Ubud Palace’s official name is Puri Saren Agung and was mostly built after 1917 earthquake and many of its carvings were done by Lempad.  

We watched the Legong performance, which is a style of dance with intricate finger movements, complicated footwork and expressive gestures, all to traditional gamelan music. Even writing this now, I still attempting to do the flittery hand move.  Apparently, it’s believed that a Sukawati prince fell ill and dreamed of two young maidens dancing and when he recovered organised such performances.

Our eating highlights 🙂

No diary of our trip to Ubud would be complete without some culinary highlights.

Hujan Locale

We really didn’t have a bad meal when we were in Ubud, but this was a really great dinner and was our final night in Ubud before we headed to Lombok the following morning. Hujan Locale is part of the wider Sarong group and is set in a colonial style bungalow which as the Lonely Planet says ‘is made for balmy evenings’.  It’s all very Ubud – sustainably grown produce, home-smoked meats and locally sourced organic vegetables. We particularly like the Plaga Chardonnay, Bali’s local wine source.

Melting Wok

After we spent the morning wandering the rice fields we firstly needed our sore feet tending to with a reflexology massage which was right above Melting Wok Warung. It made a perfect lunch stop. Tom had a spicy fish dish on a chilli sambal. I also discovered a new love for tempeh, a type of nutty tofu, in a fresh Indonesian curry sauce. Four months later, I’m salivating at the thought.

Arang sate bar

This is directly opposite Ubud’s Palace and offers a vast range of satay choices. It had a hustle-bustle kind of vibe in the evening without feeling rammed or too close to the busy main road. We had the tuna satay and crispy duck, a Bali classic, amongst other dishes.

Well done that was an epic blog post, after this, we headed to Lombok in caring hands of Kadek (check out Kadek if you’re looking for a driver).

Afternoon tea at The Manor at Weston on the GreenLast weekend we had another little bit of summer just creeping into September. Mum and I were invited to try out the afternoon tea at the Manor at Weston on the Green near Bicester, which fitted in very well to our plans to hit up Bicester Village.

We tried the afternoon tea at the Manor at Weston on the Green, near Bicester Village.

A quick potted history…

I’m always interested in the history behind these grand houses… the current house sits on a site which once belonged to the Augustinian Osney Abbey which held on to the manor until Henry VIII got involved in the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the mid-1500s.

We tried the afternoon tea at the Manor at Weston on the Green, near Bicester Village.

It’s believed to have housed Osney Abbey’s bailiff sometime around the 15th to 16th century and has all the Tudor hallmarks, a couple of Tudor roses gracing the front door and a ginormous fireplace in the entrance hall.

The manor front we see today, which is now covered in a wonderful amber Virginia creeper, was added in the 1800s and more fully renovated in 1851 by the Hon. Rev. F. A. Bertie.

Afternoon tea at Manor at Weston on the Green

If you’re not visiting the Manor for an afternoon tea, it is hosting a food festival and village fete on 30th Sept (more details at the end) and that would be the perfect time to take in its grounds.

Afternoon tea at Manor at Weston on the Green

Our afternoon tea at the Manor at Weston on the Green

Now the Manor is country house hotel offering those visiting Bicester Village a little respite. For our cream tea, we settled into a bright airy room, next to the window, overlooking the lawns – which on this sunny day were just crying out for a croquet match. The afternoon tea is £20 per person, with an extra £7 each for a glass of bubbly.

We tried the afternoon tea at the Manor at Weston on the Green, near Bicester Village.

I love it when the afternoon tea is brought out on a three tier cake stand, finger sandwiches, scones and cake.  At the Manor, the sandwiches included a selection of cucumber, salmon and cheese and pickle on neatly cut crustless bread.

We tried the afternoon tea at the Manor at Weston on the Green, near Bicester Village.

The scones (scone as in cone) were the best bit of the whole experience – freshly baked, airy with a super crumbly texture (not so crumbly that they fall apart at the sight of a knife laden with clotted cream). We had a plain and a fruit scone each and of course, eaten jam first (we’re not heathens!).

We tried the afternoon tea at the Manor at Weston on the Green, near Bicester Village.

 

We tried the afternoon tea at the Manor at Weston on the Green, near Bicester Village.

The top tier included a selection of small bitesize cakes – a macron, Madeline, carrot cake, fig roll biscuits. Lots of people when we visited were taking home what they couldn’t finish, to them I say ‘amateurs’. Mum and I had no trouble finishing off the lot! And it set us up well for hitting the shops after.

We tried the afternoon tea at the Manor at Weston on the Green, near Bicester Village.

The food festival

The Manor is hosting its Festival of Food & Drink and Village Fête on Sunday 30th September 2018 from 11am to 4pm. There’ll be street food, gin and whisky bars, artisan food stalls and a dog show.

We tried the afternoon tea at the Manor at Weston on the Green, near Bicester Village.

You can also have a cream tea or pop into the Ila Spa for a mini hand massage or purchase something from their range. In fact, I’ve teamed up with the Ila Spa to offer one lucky winner a little pamper package, just check out my Instagram but hurry entries end on 14th September 2018.

 

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🌼Competition!🌸 I’ve teamed up with @ila_spa to offer one winner a pamper package including this Energy Spray and a 60 minute treatment and sound healing session at their Cotswold Spa at The Manor at Weston on the Green @themanorweston The energy spray has notes of orange blossom, rose geranium, lemongrass and juniper berry – a quick spritz will certainly lift the mood! The treatments from Ila Spa at Cotswold Spa are redeemable between Mon – Fri. The Manor is also hosting its own Festival of Food & Drink on 30th Sept. To enter all you have to do is: Follow me at @theweekendtourist Like the post Tag a friend who’d also like to enter (tag as many friends as you like, each comment counts as a separate entry.) This is not affiliated with Instagram, and closing date is 14th Sept. I’ll announce the winner on Friday evening on my Instastory – so stay tuned. #competition #cotswoldbloggers #cotswoldspa #pamperme #ihavethisthingwithspas #spa #pamperyourself #pampertime #cotswolds #ila #ilaspa #bicestervillage

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We tried the afternoon tea at the Manor at Weston on the Green, near Bicester Village.

We tried the afternoon tea at the Manor at Weston on the Green, near Bicester Village.

We tried the afternoon tea at the Manor at Weston on the Green, near Bicester Village.

We tried the afternoon tea at the Manor at Weston on the Green, near Bicester Village.

 

Trying out the Cotswold Pizza Co. Shack at Red Lion Pub, Chipping Norton.

Abby Owen is the proud owner of the Cotswold Pizza Company and opened The Shack at Red Lion Pub in Chipping Norton in May. Since it crept onto my Instagram radar some months ago, I’ve been angling for a warm summer day to go round and get my hands on one of those wood-fired pizzas.

Trying out the Cotswold Pizza Co. Shack at Red Lion Pub, Chipping Norton.

The Shack is open Thursday, Friday (6 – 9pm) and Saturday (12pm – 9pm) and serves a short, but perfectly formed, selection of classic pizzas; margheritas to the carne, featuring Italian speck ham or the Milano, with taleggio cheese.  

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Trying out the Cotswold Pizza Co. Shack at Red Lion Pub, Chipping Norton.

As well as doing take out, The Shack has a number of tables hewn from sleepers in the pub’s beer garden. In fact, it’s quite a good partnership, bringing a new clientele to the Red Lion, which I’ve always been under the impression would be called a ‘drinkers pub’.

Trying out the Cotswold Pizza Co. Shack at Red Lion Pub, Chipping Norton.

Abby uses imported Italian flour for the pizza bases and tinned tomatoes from Italy for that authentic Napoli taste. She did mention that she’ll be teaming up with a number of local producers to make a truly Cotswold pizza – using pizza flour milled by Matthews Cotswold Flour in Shipton under Wychwood and a Chippy producer of mozzarella cheese and charcuterie.

Trying out the Cotswold Pizza Co. Shack at Red Lion Pub, Chipping Norton.

The Shack also serves gelato. Made from a local herd of Gloucestershire cows, gelato really is better for you than ice cream – as it lacks the cream! At least that’s what I’m going to tell myself.

I’ve actually teamed up with both Cotswold Pizza Co. and Matthews Cotswold Flour to offer one lucky winner the chance to win a true Cotswold pizza prize – two free pizzas from the Shack and a bag of Matthews Cotswold Pizza Flour. To enter just head to my Instagram account – instagram.com/theweekendtourist. Hurry, as I’ll be announcing the winner on Friday 17th August.

Trying out the Cotswold Pizza Co. Shack at Red Lion Pub, Chipping Norton.

The good news is that the Shack won’t just be open for the summer, but will remain open all year round with special winter warmers such as pulled pork and dirty hot dogs. There was even talk of a yurt in the beer garden and the bottomless pizza Sunday brunch – I’ve signed up for the waiting list already!

No trip the Cotswolds is complete without visiting Whichford Pottery and The Straw KitchenWhichford Pottery, based in Warwickshire, is a stalwart of the Cotswolds. I’ve been visiting the potters since my parents moved to Sibford Ferris 25 years ago and have been taking out-of-town friends and family to visit ever since. However, I don’t think I truly realised its horticultural significance until I married a gardener and understood its true influence until the place appeared on BBC’s The Great Pottery Throw Down.

PIN ME FOR LATER No trip to the Cotswolds is complete without visiting Whichford Pottery and The Straw Kitchen. Here's everything you need to know on the blog!

No trip to the Cotswolds is complete without visiting Whichford Pottery and The Straw Kitchen. Here's everything you need to know on the blog!

Spot of history

Jim and Dominique Keeling established the business in 1976. Jim giving a lecture on the pottery’s 40th birthday said: “When I was six I had a clay pit in an old Saxon ditch, I hollowed it out and made a den down there. I was always playing with mud and fire. If you start something young, it often leads as a thread throughout life, and it gives you an early intuitive feel for materials.”

No trip to the Cotswolds is complete without visiting Whichford Pottery and The Straw Kitchen. Here's everything you need to know on the blog!

Jim was educated at Uppingham boarding school, studied Archaeology and History at Cambridge before he began an apprenticeship at Wrecclesham Pottery in Surrey with Fred Whitbread.

“Fred used to say ‘anyone can make a nice pot, the skill is in making a hundred more like it.”

The original pottery created by Jim was in Middle Barton but soon outgrew its location and a new purpose-built home was constructed in Whichford in 1981.

No trip to the Cotswolds is complete without visiting Whichford Pottery and The Straw Kitchen. Here's everything you need to know on the blog!

These are no ordinary pots, each one is hand thrown to the pottery’s specific catalogue collection but each pot is marked with the individual maker’s sign. They are so popular that Whichford even exports the pots to Japan.  

Jim’s son, Adam, followed in the family footsteps and worked on the largest pot ever undertaken by Whichford Pottery – a massive 109cm high by 157cm wide.  Now the team include thirty local people and has an extensive training programme for apprentice potters.

No trip to the Cotswolds is complete without visiting Whichford Pottery and The Straw Kitchen. Here's everything you need to know on the blog!

Watch Whichford potters in action

You can mooch around the workshop see the team in action particularly if you visit Monday to Thursday. Whichford prepares its own clay and uses a mixture of three local varieties which are mixed on site and prepared in huge slabs, like thick pieces of chocolate fudge. Each potter will throw down clay on their wheel and use strength and force to form the pot which can weigh up to sixty pounds.

No trip to the Cotswolds is complete without visiting Whichford Pottery and The Straw Kitchen. Here's everything you need to know on the blog!

Each pot is then hand decorated using a plaster mould which is held against the wall of the pot and the potter will then gently push the side of the pot into the mould to create the design. The more ornate designs are made by coiling and beating clay into a plaster mould designed by individual team members.

One pot can take up to three weeks to completely dry out before they are then loaded into the kiln carefully ready for firing. If you’ve ever watched the Great Pottery Throw Down you’ll know that this is one of the most intense parts of the whole process, waiting to see if your pot has made it through!

No trip to the Cotswolds is complete without visiting Whichford Pottery and The Straw Kitchen. Here's everything you need to know on the blog!

The Courtyard Garden

At the beginning of the blog post, I mentioned how influential Whichford Pottery has been on the horticultural scene and that’s through container gardening. Head gardeners from Whichford have appeared on many a gardening TV show displaying creations from the Courtyard Garden from the from the iconic classic elephants to the bonsai tree centrepiece.

No trip to the Cotswolds is complete without visiting Whichford Pottery and The Straw Kitchen. Here's everything you need to know on the blog!

The Octagon Gallery as added in 2007 following DEFRA funding to build a gallery showing and exhibiting top British and Japanese ceramicists – now it displays over 50 British artisans.  

The Straw Kitchen at Whichford Pottery  

Since Baker Girl at Wykham Farmshop shut (and since re-opened!) The Straw Kitchen, became Tom and I’s favourite haunt for its collection of brunch and lunch dishes and homemade cakes and is usually open from March through to December.

No trip to the Cotswolds is complete without visiting Whichford Pottery and The Straw Kitchen. Here's everything you need to know on the blog!

It’s a vast improvement on the little cafe they use to have back in the day and is run by Maia Keeling (Jim’s eldest daughter) and her partner, Christine. The kitchen team use a lot of fresh salad and vegetables are grown on site and the cafe is full of character, it is in fact made out of straw bales.  The menu is also very vegetarian and vegan-friendly (but they also do a mean bacon sandwich.)

No trip to the Cotswolds is complete without visiting Whichford Pottery and The Straw Kitchen. Here's everything you need to know on the blog!

No trip to the Cotswolds is complete without visiting Whichford Pottery and The Straw Kitchen. Here's everything you need to know on the blog!

Our stay at Qunci Villas

We spent one glorious week at Qunci Villas, a boutique resort, which hugs the coast of Lombok, Indonesia. It was so brilliant that we only left the resort for one morning, which in the history of Friend Bartlett holidays, has never happened. I have never been to a place for an entire week and stayed in the resort the whole time – so that just tells you something.

Getting to Qunci Villas…

Getting to Qunci Villas was an adventure in itself. We got a fast boat from Padang Bay in Bali. In Ubud, we’d been looked after by Kadek, an excellent tour guide (You can reach him on WhatsApp +62 8123 653 3938), and he arranged our boat tickets because that was easy. I think it cost us around £50 return.  

So I’m a Brit, I was expecting an orderly jetty – like getting the Clipper on the  Thames from Embankment.

How wrong was I! There are many boat services between the islands, we travelled on The Golden Queen. Getting on in Padang is a bit of a mad scramble as you climb aboard through a sea of people clamouring on the gangplank.  It’s a bit like the last scenes from Titanic as everyone scrambles for a lifeboat. I warily watched as the crew hoisted our (very over packed) suitcases on the top deck.

The boat was perfectly fine, if not a bit bumpy, and they did screen reruns of The Incredible Hulk.  Coming back was equally exciting, Tom and I couldn’t have been more the British tourist if we tried. The two sunburnt Brits with their overpacked wheelie suitcases, dragging them across the sand to meet the boat.  

Anyway, driving through Senggigi the nearby beach town to Qunci Villas, we decided that there probably wasn’t a lot that was going to interest us there. (We had just spent two weeks hitting up Singapore and Ubud).  The other main activities to do in Lombok are snorkelling, diving or climbing Mount Rinjani. Well I wasn’t going to be snorkelling being frightened of fish and the hike was a three-day affair (and we were on honeymoon.)

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So let’s get to Qunci Villas itself….

We were greeted with a wonderful welcome drink – something mixed with lemongrass which they have copious amounts of; they even use it as a swizzle stick (and it’s about 50p a go at home). We had apartment number 16. Importantly it was on the second floor of the traditional-looking houses, which meant it had an indoor bathroom. (Our previous digs had an outdoor loo, literally a loo in the open air, and it’s a bit disconcerting sitting there with a lizard running across your feet.)

Our stay at Qunci Villas

Our stay at Qunci Villas

The complex is filled with art, from artists based in Indonesia and further afield.  There’s even a dedicated art corridor that travels the width of the complex filled with large portrait terracotta tiles of local staff by artist, Symon, who moved to Bali in 1978 from Detroit.

Cooking classes

One of the many reasons we did not need to leave Qunci Villas was the fact it had three perfect restaurants onsite – a tapas bar (Nooq), an Italian (Quah) and a South Asian seafood restaurant (Quali).

Our stay at Qunci Villas

Breakfast was made to order from a long list of some twenty different dishes and you could pick from an ‘Italian Affair’ – muesli, yoghurt and Italian biscuits, ‘Parisian Basket’ – as many croissants as you could eat or ‘Brazilian Breakfast’.  We realised two days in, that you could even order more than one breakfast at a time! Each came with the first course of fresh tropical fruit. There were five or six tables on the beachfront, but you had to be up early to snag one – we managed it the day of my birthday.

Our stay at Qunci Villas, Lombok

The hotel runs cookery classes on the beachfront with one of their chefs. We spent a great morning learning to make Thai food – green Thai curry, chicken soup and a stir fry beef. It’s the perfect set up, all the chopping is done for you and all the clearing up afterwards. Tom did an excellent job of stirring! 

Our stay at Qunci Villas

Our stay at Qunci Villas

Our stay at Qunci Villas

Our stay at Qunci Villas

Actually the only day we left the hotel was for another cookery class which we’d organised before embarked on our honeymoon with Anggrek Putih, based at a homestay just outside Senggigi. We were collected from the hotel by a greek guy, who seemed to have a monopoly on tourist excursions in the Senggigi area. We joined four others – a couple from Bow and a mother or daughter from Walthamstow (small world – that’s where my parents are from.)

The chef soon had us armed each with a pestle and mortar, grinding down a variety of sauces. We all had slightly different dishes. I was on corn fritters and spent what seemed like a lifetime pummeling the kernels. There was a small bit in the back of my mind that couldn’t help thinking it wouldn’t be quicker in a blender but I was assured that using a pestle and mortar adds flavour. We have actually made these dishes a few times since we got home, but with a blender!

Our stay at Qunci Villas

Our stay at Qunci Villas

Our stay at Qunci Villas

My birthday

I was lucky enough to spend my birthday on holiday.  Tom organised our own candlelit dinner by the beach and this was preceded by a day at the hotel’s Qamboja Spa, which is shaped like the traditional Sasak houses. Apparently, a Lombok wedding ceremony is known for its pageantry, practised from generation to generation and on the day of the wedding the couple is known as the king and queen of the day or in Indonesian ‘Raga and Ratu Sehari.’

Our three-hour spa trip included pretty much every treatment going on the menu including a Jamu – herbal tonic for anti ageing; Siraman – milk bath; Royal Secret of Putri Mandalika – a deep tissue massage.  We simply floated out the spa. This is probably one of the best places I have ever stayed. From here, we headed to Seminyak for our last few days. 

Our stay at Qunci Villas

Our stay at Qunci Villas

Our stay at Qunci Villas

 

Last weekend, the island suffered a 6.4 earthquake affecting some tourist areas, our thoughts are with the kind staff who looked after us, you can find the latest via BBC.