Long Weekend in Bali: Meditate or Party? Forest or Beach?

It’s just four hours away from Manila, perfect for a quick trip.
IMAGE YVETTE FERNANDEZ
ILLUSTRATOR WARREN ESPEJO

In the hills of Bali in Indonesia lies mystical Ubud, tucked away among rice fields and rain forests. It’s where dreams are created and lived, as artists find sanctuary among like-minded souls.

It was the introduction to a long weekend on the island of Bali, just four hours away from Manila. With our hosts from Travel Warehouse Inc. we flew on the Friday early morning Cebu Pacific flight and woke up with a full day ahead. No visa was needed for Filipino passports, so we breezed through the airport where we were welcomed with garlands of frangipani, a.k.a. kalachuchi.

On the streets of Bali, we were charmed by schoolchildren in traditional clothing on their way to temple before heading to class. The houses of prayer are everywhere, steeped in centuries of culture and tradition. We stopped by the Batuan temple built in the 11th century, in honor of the Hindu Trinity, and attendants wrapped colorful sarongs around our waists before we were allowed to enter the hallowed ground. We spoke in hushed whispers as we wandered about the thatch-roofed shrines with intricately carved sandstone walls, and were hypnotized by lilies floating tranquilly in a pond.

Entrance gate to Batuan temple, Bali

.Photo by Yvette Fernandez.
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A shine to Hindu gods at Batuan temple in Ubud, Indonesia

Photo by Yvette Fernandez.

A Balinese man weaves baskets for offerings to the gods at the Batuan temple in Ubud

Photo by Yvette Fernandez.



Our next stop was breakfast at Ibu Oka, and what a way to start the day. Crisp, lacquered skin and hunks of roasted pork, the Balinese version of lechon, called babi guling. The late Anthony Bourdain tried the open-fire roasted meat marinated and stuffed with spices back in 2006 and proclaimed his satisfaction to the world. We must say we heartily agree.

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Babi guling, the Balinese version of lechon, at Ibu Oka

Photo by Yvette Fernandez.
Babi guling. Roast pig platter. With crispy skin, chunks of juicy meat, and blood sausage. At Ibu Oka.

Photo by Yvette Fernandez.


We checked into Plataran Ubud Hotel and Spa, an oasis set among rice fields, with villas set deep into the property away from the road to ensure privacy, peace, and quiet.

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Canopy bed in private villa at Plataran Ubud Hotel and Spa, Bali

Photo by Yvette Fernandez.


Lunch was at Nusantara, by the same team behind the highly acclaimed Restaurant Locavore. The homey space serves a taste of the distinct flavors and textures from different regions around Indonesia. For example, the baby squid simmered with fresh coconut milk and chilies from Central Java, or the deep-fried soft-shell crab also in coconut milk, with ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves from Tabanan, Bali. And oh, the Javanese sambal made with bilimbi (kamias), shallots, garlic, chilies, tomatoes, lemon basil, and shrimp paste or the West Balinese condiment made with similar ingredients, plus salted fish and roasted coconut.

The grill at Nusantara by Locavore in Ubud, Bali

Photo by Yvette Fernandez.
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Nusantara by Locavore features distinct regional dishes from around Indonesia.
Photo by Yvette Fernandez.


Soft shell crab at Nusantara by Locavore 

Photo by Yvette Fernandez.

I personally couldn’t get enough of the soup from South Bali made with made with morinaga leaves (malunggay), ginger, and base ganep (a Balinese spice paste), with fresh coconut flesh served in the actual fruit. Wow.

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Morinaga leaves simmered in coconut milk with chilies, ginger, and spices make a delightful soup

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Condiments in various flavors and textures at Nusantara by Locavore

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After lunch we were whisked away in vintage Volkswagen Safaris, and we rode with the tops down, with the wind in our hair, and our hearts soaring, down tree-lined streets past the Monkey Forest at some point, and flanked by rice terraces at others, with townspeople waving and cheering us on. We drove past many beautiful temples and through bustling shopping streets. So much to do and see in Ubud.

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Touring Ubud in a vintage Volkswagen Safari



Rush hour in Ubud

Photo by Yvette Fernandez.


Dinner back at Plataran hotel was another highlight. We donned the batik shirts that had been left atop our pillows, and headed down a path where we were greeted by a procession led by dancers and gong men clad in vibrantly hued traditional attire. We were led to a clearing where there was a lone table decked out beneath the sky. A Royal Balinese dinner, our hosts explained, as the courses came one by one, in colorful covered dishes perched on the heads of our servers. The young dancers performed an ancient dance ritual using their hands, fingers, heads, and even their eyes, darting here and there in expressive movements. 

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Procession to dinner at Plataran Ubud Hotel and Spa

Batik night by the rice paddies at the Plataran Ubud Hotel and Spa

Photo by Yvette Fernandez.

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Balinese dancers perform an ancient dance ritual with their hands, fingers, heads, and eyes

Servers bear platters of food atop their heads at a royal Balinese-style dinner at Plataran Ubud Hotel and Spa.
Photo by Yvette Fernandez.


A walk after dinner led us to a shop next door, Manik Bali, which sells handwoven ikat fabric and garments, and later, craving ice cream, we came across Tukie’s The Coconut Shop, which serves ice campur, seaweed jelly topped with shaved ice, mixed fruit, and fresh coconut jelly, their version of haluhalo, among other sweet treats.



Manik Bali in Ubud sells beautiful handwoven textiles and garments in ikat designs

Photo by Yvette Fernandez.
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Chalkboard at Tukie's, Ubud. Coconut is the prime ingredient in many dishes in Bali, including desserts

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Brownie with coconut ice cream and toasted coconut shavings at Tukie's The Coconut Shop in Ubud

Photo by Yvette Fernandez.

And that was the end of Day One.

Saturday morning found us at the market, where one of the Plataran chefs led us around as we purchased ingredients for lunch. We were especially intrigued by the section that sold offerings to the Hindu gods, little baskets made of palm leaves, and varieties of flowers in vivid colors. We found these offerings everywhere we went in Bali, in different corners of every space, offerings of gratitude, and wishes for peaceful, fruitful lives.

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Traditional offerings are spotted everywhere around Bali. Locals offer flowers, rice, fish, and vegetables to the Hindu gods three times a day in gratitude for their blessings

Photo by Yvette Fernandez.

Market vendors sell flowers and baskets to be used as offerings to the gods

Photo by Yvette Fernandez.

Back at Plataran, it was time to prepare lunch. We donned aprons and paper hats and listened as the chef showed us how to make a simple, tasty meal we all enjoyed. We made a salad of green beans and grated coconut; roast chicken skewers, spicy samba matah, a condiment made from fresh vegetables, and for dessert, battered sweet bananas.


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Fresh ingredients for our Balinese cooking class

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Cooking class at Plataran Ubud Hotel and Spa




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We cooked our own lunch

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Loved this simple green bean salad with grated coconut and traditional spices



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After lunch it was time to move from the more sedentary side of Bali to the more active part. Off we went to Kuta, known for its easygoing waves and sandy bottoms, and a great place for beginners to learn how to surf.

We checked into the Mamaka by Ovolo, Bali’s first urban resort. It has a chill, contemporary vibe, even as it pays homage to pop icons of yesteryear, including the Beatles, the smiley face, and the typewriter. Music from the 70s and 80s is the soundtrack of the hotel, a refreshing alternative to the muzak elevator music we usually hear around the world.

Good vibes at the Mamaka by Ovolo in Kuta

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Whimsical decor in the hallway of Mamaka by Ovolo in Kuta. Disco music plays all day

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The thoughtfulness is in the little details—free use of washing machines and dryers, a plus for those traveling with kids, USB outlets everywhere, bags of chips and candy for when you get the munchies at midnight, and a free minibar stocked with sodas and sparkling water.  Good vibrations for sure.

We were just in time for the opening night of the Kuta Social Club, a rooftop pool club with sunset views over Kuta Beach, and the perfect combination of excellent Mediterranean food, potent cocktails, and fun music.

Beach views from the rooftop at the Kuta Social Club at the Mamaka by Ovolo in Kuta

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Photo by Yvette Fernandez.


Sunset over Kuta beach, as seen from the Kuta Social Club
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Perfectly grilled tomahawk chop at the Kuta Social Club, Bali
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The Kuta Social Club is the newest place to chill and hang out on Kuta beach

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After dinner, we headed off to Seminyak where we were able to book a table and skip the snaking line at Motel Mexicola, popular for its tacos and retro music, but more than anything, its kitschy cool décor.

Mexicola draws crowds with its street tacos, kitschy decor, retro music

Photo by Yvette Fernandez.


Double stairs lead from the dance floor to the restaurant at Mexicola
Photo by Yvette Fernandez.

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The next morning we dragged ourselves out of bed for our scheduled surf class. There we were on the beach, watching young kids bravely riding the waves, and some getting wiped out. I must admit I chickened out and ended up taking a boxing class instead, a punch here, a jab there. Great workout.

Surf's up at Kuta Beach, Bali

Boxing barefoot on the beach is another fun option

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After a late breakfast, a treat for those who would rather sleep in and be unrushed in getting up, it was back to the club upstairs where we learned to make the cocktails we enjoyed the night before. A selection of liquor and liqueurs, cinnamon sticks, rosemary, shaken or stirred, made us again quite mellow while the sun was still up.

A dwarf figurine gives guests the finger at the bar at Kuta Social Club in Bali

Photo by Yvette Fernandez.

A guest in an elephant mask learns to make cocktails at the Kuta Social Club

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But then it was time to head out again, this time to the luxurious Apurva Kempinksi on the cliffs of Nusa Dua with views of the Indian Ocean. The sprawling resort, with 475 rooms, mostly villas and suites with private pools, has seven restaurants on the property, so once you check in, you don’t need to leave again till it’s time to regretfully fly home. One of its most talked-about dining outlets is Koral, an underwater restaurant where you can watch sharks and rays swim about as you dine.

The magnificent lobby at the Apurva Kempinski, Nusa Dua, Bali

Photo by Courtesy of the Apurva Kempinski.

The luxurious Apurva Kempinksi in Nusa Dua lit up by torches at twilight

Photo by Courtesy of the Apurva Kempinski.
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The underground Koral restaurant at the Apurva Kempinski in Nusa Dua, Bali

Photo by Courtesy of the Apurva Kempinski.



For our final dinner, we wore Balinese sarongs, again courtesy of our hosts at Travel Warehouse, which we wrapped around our waists and then headed down to the shore, where a lovely selection of fresh seafood and steak awaited us, served Jimbaran-style; Jimbaran referring to a seaside town known for its fresh catch, where you can get your dinner grilled just the way you want it.


Fresh catch of the day grilled the way you want it at the Apurva Kempinski in Nusa Dua, Bali.
Photo by Yvette Fernandez.
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Luxury accommodations at the Apurva Kempinski in Nusa Dua, Bali

Photo by Courtesy of the Apurva Kempinski Bali.

We dined barefoot, toes burrowing in the sand, as we sat underneath the stars, and toasted three fun-filled days of a long weekend in Bali. We honestly can’t wait to go back.


Photo by Pepper Teehankee.
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Cebu Pacific currently flies direct to Bali twice a week. In September, flights will increase to five times a week. Travel Warehouse Inc. can plan the perfect Bali itinerary for you. 

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Yvette Fernandez
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Yvette Fernandez is the Chief Storyteller of the Gokongwei Group. Previously, she was the editorial director of Esquire Philippines.
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