Volcanos and I are not a match made in heaven. This might come as a weird statement for most but I find it quite sad because volcanos are fascinating and I would like to see one up close. However, so far it hasn’t happened.
When I was set to climb one in Borneo, Mount Kinabalu was shaken by an earthquake a few weeks before my planned trip and roads became impassable. So instead of writing a guide to hike up there, I wrote a post called “Of not climbing a mountain”.
This year I thought I would have another chance because Indonesia is full of volcanos and really, you can’t leave your house without tripping over one. And wonderful coincidence had it that my friend Julia was coming for a visit and she also likes volcanos and hiking with me in general. We booked our Mount Batur trip, traveled up to Ubud, set our alarms to the ungodly hour of 2.30am and went to bed. We woke just in time to realize that she had succumbed to a big fat cold and was in no shape to hike up a volcano.
It was just as well that we were staying in the jungle hotel in Bali, the Alila Ubud, which was the perfect refuge if you are sick and still want to feel somewhat adventurous. And to be very honest, I wasn’t too sad at the time – 2.30am is really no time to get up even if a volcano is waiting!
The Alila is a twenty-minute drive away from Ubud center but it might as well be another world. It is a jungle out here, quite literally as it is fitting for a jungle retreat in Ubud. Rooms offer various degrees of jungle views or even immersion and the cicadas are a constant noise factor. As are the frogs. Whoever thought jungle sounds were soothing and perfect to fall asleep to has obviously never been in a real jungle. Those things are very, very loud!
But of course, that is all part of the charm and a reason why people come to a jungle hotel in Bali. And with that in mind, you won’t find a gym but rather bicycles to explore the surroundings and the bathrooms are outdoors and come with your very own frog resident. You know I dig that sort of stuff, even if it sometimes entails a wild goose/bug chase when one of you thinks it is a great idea to open the balcony door to let in the balmy evening air in.
With Julia not feeling so well we were happy to spend two days doing absolutely nothing. We realized that recuperating works much better when done by a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the jungle.
Here you can have a poolside lunch and if that is isn’t enough, the Alila serves a mean afternoon tea with all the coconut treats you can manage. And then, of course, they have monkeys. Because which self-respecting hotel in Bali doesn’t have their own troop to entertain the guests?!
We had been warned upon check-in to keep doors closed and no food lying around, something I was pretty sure Julia was keen to ignore. This girl loves her monkeys and has proclaimed on multiple occasions that the monkey was the best thing about Michael Jackson. I was equally excited though after seeing a phone and sunglasses stolen by monkeys at Uluwatu Temple, I thought I have had my share. Apparently, Hanuman decided I should have more, after all, Ubud is known for its monkey business.
This time I don’t even see them coming. I guess I am too relaxed and let my guard down. Big mistake. Big. Huge. Because all of a sudden there is shrieking and a bang and coconut water dripping everywhere – one of the little bastards has stuck its hand in my fresh coconut and emptied it. The most annoying part? He doesn’t even drink it! Next, are our coconut rice treats which I don’t mind so much as there is plenty more and they are part of our complimentary high tea.
After that, all bets are off and it is like a scene from the Jungle Book. Or that scene from Hunger Games. The clock strikes four, the treats come out and all of a sudden monkeys are everywhere. Running around, jumping on roofs, dropping from trees and us, the guests, are protected by one lone guard and his bat and our common sense.
The GM tells me later that they moved tea time by an hour a few months earlier. Apparently, the monkeys were confused for a week before cleverly recognizing the new schedule to steal treats and cause havoc.
For the best room follow the monkeys’ lead and choose a jungle-view villa in this Bali jungle hotel. They slide off the Alang-Alang roofs, jump around and give each other spa treatments, sometimes sharing too much of a view with the undiscerning bystander.
As soon as tea time is done the monkeys are gone, the guard can return to his usual guarding duties and the pool is once again overtaken by pale Englishmen.
For us, this means time for a nap and we wake up just in time for dinner and a concert of a special kind. When dusk falls the frogs start their reign. Cue any girl’s princess fantasies. From tiny finger-sized babies to big toad-like ones, frogs run the Alila at night so watch your step!
They even rival the cicadas when it comes to noise but a perfect backdrop when eating under the starry sky. For sleeping, I do recommend some pink Hello Kitty earplugs though. Just don’t go on TripAdvisor to complain about nature. After all, this is why you would choose a jungle hotel in Bali – nature is what you came for and nature is what you get.
There is nature and then there is breakfast and that is another excellent reason to stay at the Alila Ubud. Usually, I roll my eyes at the notion that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I don’t care much for breakfast. I care for dinner feasts, poolside lunches, teatime, cocktail hour, midnight snacks, and gummi bears. Breakfast, unless it is Sri Lankan, doesn’t get me out of bed.
Read more: A Foodie’s Guide to Ubud, Bali.
This changed when we learn that you not only order from an a la carte breakfast menu but that they highly encourage to order all the dishes (which change daily as do their fresh smoothies and juices!). Sizes are tiny so you can have your egg and eat pancakes too. There are also a few Balinese breakfast dishes on the menu, perfect for those curious but not wholeheartedly adventurous yet to try something local.
If someone tells you, you can order all the dishes on a menu and not be judged, who wouldn’t order all the dishes?! We do and so we leave our Jungle Book Ubud jungle hotel well nourished to go back to the city.
In Ubud, frog noises are substituted by traffic, jungle views by crumbling sidewalks, and getting wet in the infinity pool by getting wet in the rain. There was only one place that can make leaving any better and that is, of course, the Monkey Forest. You can take us out of the Jungle Book, but you can’t keep us away from monkey business. At least not when in Bali.