Marina Bay Sands We had five days in Singapore as part of the first leg of our honeymoon and for our final night, my parents gifted us a stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. You might not have heard of it before, but you’ll certainly recognise it, as it’s that spaceship-looking highrise that you see on all those Instagram pics of Singapore.

One perfect night at Marina Bay Sands

One amazing night at Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore

I’d been desperate to stay here after we watched Giles Coren and Monica Galetti’s BBC programme ‘Amazing Hotels’ where they go behind the scenes. In the programme, the pair visits the hotel’s infinity pool – the highest in the world and that was it, love at first site. The pool is reserved for guests only, so we had to stay.

Marina Bay Sands

It’s probably the largest hotel I’ve ever stayed in and has 2,561 rooms. I might have mentioned that we were on honeymoon when I made our reservation and the hotel upgraded us to a bigger and higher room which had a view facing the city skyline and dancing fountains (plus a later checkout time.)

Marina Bay Sands

The lobby is vast and it’s more akin to checking in at an airport than your average hotel desk. On arrival, it did look a little daunting with a mega queue for check-in and this was a sign of things to come, but it really didn’t take the shine off the place. The staff here really knew how to treat guests well.

Checking in at Marina Bay Sands

The line moved steadily and staff came down the queue with magnums, ice lollies, orange juice and water refreshments – in fact, Tom was a little disappointed to miss the free cornetto that was just edging its way towards us when we were called up to the counter.

Marina Bay Sands

The hotel is made up of three central towers with the SkyPark spanning the rooftops, which from the ground, looks like a floating ship.  Our ‘Premier Room’ (roughly £300 per night, plus breakfast £30) felt huge after our stay at the Hilton Garden in Little India (which I equally loved but it couldn’t match this place!)

Marina Bay Sands

It had a very comfortable king size bed plus some excellent towel sculpture. It was on Amazing Hotels that they interview one a Guest Service Agent who attended the rooms and showed all the comprehensive towel animals that they can create.

Marina Bay Sands

Fittingly, we had two swans. Tom asked if I would recreate this for him every morning back home, I said he was lucky I made the bed before I left for work in the morning..! As you’d expect it was spotless and the deep soak bath ginormous!

Afternoon tea at Pollen in the Flower Dome

Before we spent our afternoon at the swimming pool, we first headed to Pollen in the Flour Dome in Gardens by the Bay for afternoon tea. Pollen is a sister restaurant to Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social in London, which we visited earlier in the year, and like its older brother, you can expect the same delicate presentation and hearty flavours.   

Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands

Our tea included five savories: a beetroot dip with charcoal crisps, beef croquettes, mushroom volovants, egg and cress sandwiches and salmon rolls. Plus five sweets; an Earl Grey lemon cake, mint macarons, clementine profiteroles with crakalan, financiers, and the signature orange and white chocolate scones.  It would have impressed even Bake Off judges, Prue and Paul.

Marina Bay Sands

The observation deck

The SkyPark Observation Deck is on the same level as the hotel’s infinity pool and is open to the public. Guests can go up to the top for free, but others will need to buy a ticket (it’s $23 Singapore Dollars for an adult).

Marina Bay Sands

From here you can see Supertree Grove, Singapore Strait and a bird’s eye view of the shipping lanes.

Marina Bay Sands

An afternoon’s swimming (or should that be posing!)

The infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands is the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool and gazes down at the Singapore skyline from 57 levels above. Yet this is no swimmer’s pool, it’s pretty much purely for posing. I’ve never seen so many people trying to take the perfect selfie in the water.

Marina Bay Sands

And it took Tom some persuasion to stand in the water phone aloft, but I don’t regret it for one cotton moment. We spent all afternoon by the pool soaking up the view.  

Marina Bay Sands

Dinner at Lavo

We went back to our room around 7pm to get ready whilst watching the dancing fountains from our bedroom, which was a spectacular sight but due to the amazing glazed windows, you won’t hear the accompanying music.

Marina Bay Sands

We then headed up to Lavo the hotel’s New York Italian-concept restaurant. We made a reservation earlier on that day, which I would advise, as it’s a busy place and getting yourself a little organised helps keep everything running smoothly.

Marina Bay Sands

Alcohol in Singapore is expensive, conversely to a lot of other things which are actually fairly inexpensive. We each had a glass of red which came in at around £10 each, so we just had one and certainly did not have a bottle! Tom had a seafood linguine and I had an amazing venison ravioli, and we both had a springy lemon polenta cake for dessert.  Fully sated, we enjoyed using that giant bath before heading to bed.

Marina Bay Sands

Beating the breakfast rush

Our room note suggested that if we would like a ‘leisurely breakfast’ that we should head to one of the three restaurants serving breakfast before 8am.  We thought we’d follow the advice as we only had one more morning to really enjoy the hotel. Plus I particularly wanted to have breakfast at Spago Bar & Lounge which is located on level 57 next to the infinity pool.

My family knows that I absolutely LOVE a hotel breakfast, I never miss it. Marina Bay Sands certainly didn’t disappoint. It had a vast array of pastries, asian noodles, granola and exotic fruits. There was also a dedicated eggs chef, I ordered eggs benedict, whilst Tom had a fresh omelette. By the time we left Spago ready for our morning by the pool, the queue was already beginning to build. We’d simply walked in and had a lovely table for two.

Yet more pool photos

The day before I’d seen quite a few couples having their photo taken by the hotel’s official photography service in the pool (well let’s face it, they’d be fools not have such a set up!)

Originally, I’d been a bit put off due to the expense as they only seemed to have options where they gave you a print out. That wasn’t going to be much use to us as we had another three weeks to go before we headed home and it would have either got lost, bent, torn etc. So, I asked about a digital package which I was quoted as just $50 (roughly £30-£40), which I thought more reasonable.  

Well, we spent the morning taking more pictures ourselves, enjoying the view (it was much sunnier this morning unlike the previous overcast afternoon) and ordering fresh coconuts from the poolside service. We decided to have a last dip and one of the water photographers was wading around offering to take pictures. I persuaded Tom to indulge me.

Here’s the point of this story, after we had our picture taken I was quoted quite a different price for the pictures – double in fact. But after I mentioned that a colleague had said an alternative cheaper price, they were quite happy to go with that – so the tip is, do try a bit of negotiation. I’m pretty sure that there isn’t a set price for those digital pictures!

The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

After we checked out, we stored our luggage at the lobby and went for a cruise around The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. (Tom found this spelling desperately annoying and no one seemed to know how it was actually supposed to be pronounced.)

It’s got 170 luxury and premium boutiques and we both quickly realised that neither of us had the paychecks to afford shopping here.  However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t an interesting place to mosy round. First off, it’s got its own canal running through the shopping mall and tourists queue for a ride through the shops. Like a slightly dismal Disney ride. Odd.  

We had a few hours to kill here before we headed to Singapore airport and our next stop Ubud in Bali, so we decided to have lunch at Din Tai Fung, which I know now, was voted as one of the world’s top ten best restaurants by the The New York Times. It is a Taiwanese institution.  

Initially, Tom wasn’t keen as it’s got quite a different ordering style. The maitre‘d gave us a clipboard with the menu on and we marked up the numbers according to the board posted outside the restaurant.

Now there was a lot of people clamouring to get a look at that board and Tom and I had a tag system, where I’d shout out the numbers of what we’d have and he’d scribble them down on the paper. We probably ordered way too much on reflection, but I’ve #noregrets.

Food certainly lived up to the New York Times billing and all these months later, it’s the place Tom and I recall most often.  The restaurant creates theatre with several open kitchens; one with chefs nimbly folding pork dumplings and another creating long stringy noodles – it’s enough to get the taste buds salivating even now.

Our lunch included noodles in a spicy sauce, fried vegetable gyoza, bok choy, steamed vegetable dumplings, the restaurant’s signature pork dumplings and sweet steamed red bean paste buns. Like I said #noregrets.

And you will be pleased to know that you can recreate this experience at home, as Din Tai Fung will soon be opening its first restaurant in Covent garden this December (Cue much excitement in the Friend-Bartlett household!)

 

It’s been a bit of busy time in the Friend Bartlett household; there’s the ongoing back garden project and in my day job, full of many award shindigs. However, my Mum, went to watch the Band at Oxford’s New Theatre when the opportunity came up as both my parents had watched the BBC series Let it Shine.

If you don’t recall the TV series, it was a reality show which auditioned singers and dancers for the chance to win a place in a new musical which featured the music, of the greatest boyband of all time, Take That.

To be clear, it’s a musical that features a boy band – ‘The Band’ – and five of their adoring fans. It’s not actually about Take That. However, Gary, Howard, Mark, and Robbie have all been involved in the show’s creation, which took seven years to get off the ground and was written by Tim Firth.

My mum went with my dad and both really enjoyed the show – I mean it’s not like Take That hasn’t had enough number ones!   I don’t want to give away too much of the plot line – but the musical follows the lives of five friends, all fans of the band (the one in the show) and about the hijinks this leads them too!

My mum says…

“With some musicals you watch, you often see one or two stars who have amazing singing voices or who have all the moves. However, all the members of the cast of ‘The Band’ were all really good with strong singing voices.

“Of course, the boys that played ‘The Band’ had that popstar vibe, reminiscent of Take That, Boyzone, Westlife and other boy bands that you recall.

“The other thing that I really enjoyed about the performance was to see such a range of people represented, it was a diverse cast (rather than all skinny twenty-somethings!) I imagine that Take That fans probably come from all walks of life.

“I was pleased to see Emily Joyce playing Heather, as I remember her from ‘My Hero’ and she played the part very well.

“I felt in many respects that The Band was a bit of a love letter from Take That to their fans, which is a nice touch.”

Why you must visit Hidcote Garden!Really I thought I best get this post about Hidcote Garden up before it became too out of date. But really gardens never really ‘go out of date’ as there’s successional planting to make sure there’s interest all year round – that’s certainly the case a Broughton Grange and here at National Trust’s Hidcote.

Why you must visit Hidcote Garden!

This year has been difficult for many gardeners and head gardener, Jo, said in her August update: ‘It has been a difficult, hot and dry summer so far and the garden team have been very busy trying to ensure that all of the many annuals and tender perennials planted in spring and early June have been able to establish properly.’  Yet despite this, the garden’s were looking full and bountiful, here’s why you must visit Hidcote Gardens.

Why you must visit Hidcote Garden!

Hidcote is one of the country’s most celebrated gardens and is known worldwide. It was created by American anglophile, Lawrence Johnston, a soldier, gardener and plant hunter. It covers 4 hectares and the garden follows the Arts and Crafts principles and comprises a number of garden ‘rooms’ around the main house.

Who was this charismatic gardener behind Hidcote Garden?

Johnston was loved by his friends and his garden became the setting for many gatherings and parties hosting games of tennis, badminton and squash.

Why you must visit Hidcote Garden!

However, Johnston moved in highly horticultural-orientated circles, in fact he had his own ‘Bloomsbury-style set’ which included Mark Fenwick from Abbotswood; Heather Muir from Kiftsgate Court; Sir George Holford, founder of the Westonbirt Arboretum;  Reginald Cory, of Dyffryn garden fame in South Wales; and the Messels, the great plant collecting family from Nymans, West Sussex.

Johnstone was an adventurous plant collector whose expeditions not only furnished his own garden but that of the royal botanic gardens in Edinburgh and Kew. His friend American novelist, Edith Wharton, said that the garden was ‘tormentingly perfect.’

It seems that Johnstone had quite an unusual upbringing. His American mother, Gertrude, was divorced from his father, Elliott, and remarried a wall street banker and the family moved between the states and Europe. On the death of both his dad and stepfather, Johnstone wasn’t included in either will. So, Lawrence forged a career in the army, seeing action in Boer War and WWI and in 1900 applied to become a British citizen to join the Northumberland Hussars.  

Why you must visit Hidcote Garden!

He stayed with the Hussars until he retired in 1921, but throughout his life, Lawrence had continually developed a passion in horticultural – and as a young man, was elected as a fellow to RHS in 1904.

In 1907, Lawrence felt the need to lay down firmer roots and purchased Hidcote Manor when it came up for sale – likely as many of his friends were already in the area. When he moved in Johnstone had quite a blank canvas for the gardens, but he retained the large cedar tree which presides over the garden today.

Why you must visit Hidcote Garden!

During the 1930s Johnstone sponsored and joined plant hunting expeditions all over Europe as well as China, Taiwan and the Appalachian Mountains in USA returning with exotic species now found at Hidcote. Following WWII, Johnstone decided to retire in the South of France and approached the National Trust, who acquired the gardens as the first garden of national importance.

So why should you go to Hidcote Garden?

Why you must visit Hidcote Garden!

The vast amount of choice! In 1943, James Lees-Milne, from the National Trust, wrote: ‘The garden is not only beautiful but remarkable in that it is full of surprises. You are constantly led from one scene to another, into long vistas and little enclosures, which seems infinite. Moreover, the total area of this garden does not cover many acres.’

The garden is created in the Arts & Crafts style with ‘garden rooms’ so here are Tom & I’s top favourites:

The Bathing Pool Garden

Why you must visit Hidcote Garden!

The raised swimming pool was created in 1921 with a deeper end for diving and was frequently used by the Muir girls, who lived at Kiftsgate (also worth a visit I’m told – next year for us!) The planting includes cream hydrangeas and the vast pool reflects the open sky.

The Alpine Terrace

Has a large gravel terrace and undercover gazebos which shelter some of the garden’s more exotic species. It’s said that this garden is more reminiscent of the garden Johnstone had in South France.  

Mrs Winthrop’s Garden

This was an area created for Gertrude to sit and be warm in a sunny place. It’s based on a familiar design of a circle set within a square, it’s enclosed with beech and lime hedges on three sides and open on the south side.  A sundial sits in the middle and the borders are planted with yellow flowers – Gertrude’s favourite colour including the yellow-flowered Hypericum ‘Hidcote’. It’s also got the Mediterranean feel with terracotta pots planted with agave.

The Italian Shelter

I also loved the Italian Shelter with its thatched roof, the perfect spot for gin and tonic on a warm summer’s evening.

The red borders

Tom’s favourite spot – we weren’t able to actually walk down the borders they were roped off. But the red leaved banana trees looked impressive against the late summer flower; the mixture of large foliage and bold colours.

Why you must visit Hidcote Garden!

There are two coffee shops on site, plus a shop and small garden centre and adult entry is £14 with giftaid. National Trust members get in free.

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Three things you absolutely must see at Broughton Grange gardens!This year has very much been about gardens and gardening, including our own horticultural project which is ever on-going. Now our backyard looks like Glasto circa 2007 i.e. a mud bath. However, it does mean that we’ve been visiting lots of other gardens for inspiration and an open day at Broughton Grange in Oxfordshire certainly appealed. 

Three things you absolutely must see at Broughton Grange gardens!

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The gardens are privately owned and are open just a few days of the year to the public, including every Wednesday from May to September, plus a few extra days for the National Garden Scheme which raises funds for a number of charities. We attended an open day at Broughton Grange which I believe was raising funds for Katherine House Hospice. 

Here are three things you absolutely must see when visiting…

1. The walled garden

Three things you absolutely must see at Broughton Grange gardens!

Broughton Grange’s centrepiece, the walled garden, was designed in 2001 by Chelsea Gold Winner, Tom Stuart-Smith. The whole house is set in 350 acres of gardens, parkland, and farmland and was owned for over 200 years by the Morrell family until its present owners in 1992. You need a good hour and a half to take in the whole site at a leisurely pace.

Three things you absolutely must see at Broughton Grange gardens!

Three things you absolutely must see at Broughton Grange gardens!

When designing the garden, Tom Stuart-Smith said of garden at Broughton Grange, ‘it was remote from the house … so there was kind of no point to it. It wasn’t a setting for a house, somewhere you all spill out and have a cocktail party and enjoy the view … it was absolutely something you made a pilgrimage to … and you got there, and the garden was the thing. I was immensely lucky to have this opportunity to make this garden that had no point.”

Three things you absolutely must see at Broughton Grange gardens!

And that’s the feeling when you wander around the garden. There’s no set path, but inviting spaces to explore.

2. The fish pond

Three things you absolutely must see at Broughton Grange gardens!

The walled garden is designed to a have interest all year round. In none-gardener’s speak, that means there’s something to look at even in the depths of winter. Beech, lime and pencil yews stand out against the large square, waterfall-filled pond and geometric paths create shape in winter, whilst in summer the place is filled with vibrant planting.  I’ve never seen a fish pond quite so busy – the koi carp were all over the place. The tall yews look like people gazing out into the landscape… 

Three things you absolutely must see at Broughton Grange gardens!

3. The unusual parterre

The walled garden has a series of terraces and the lower terrace features a parterre, which has a very unusual shape. It’s quite undulating and voluptuous and I’ve since read that the pattern of the box hedging mimics the cell structures of ash, beech and oak leaves found on the estate. I liked the brassacas used as ornamental planting (you normally eat them!) 

Three things you absolutely must see at Broughton Grange gardens!

Three things you absolutely must see at Broughton Grange gardens!

And one for luck…

There’s a lot to Broughton Grange other than the walled garden, which is perhaps the most famous part – it is billed as ‘one of the most significant private contemporary gardens in Britain.’ Tom particularly liked the peat garden, which uses large peat squares to shape a variety of beds and it featured an extensive looking irrigation system that kept the peat blocks damp to create the right planting conditions.

Three things you absolutely must see at Broughton Grange gardens!

During the open day when we visited the owners laid on refreshments, coffee and cake, on the tea lawn. Entry normally costs £8 per person and there’s also a plant nursery, find more information on their website: http://www.broughtongrange.com

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).