The town of Ubud in Bali, Idonesia, is known for its jungles and wildlife - particularly monkeys. I had heard about this magical region before and was excited to explore all the rainforests, rice paddies, temples and shrines on offer.
As soon as I arrived, my friend and I were greeted by a family of 10 monkeys passing through. It seemed the pool in our villa was also their watering hole.
One animal, a large male, came right up to us and slowly reached out to touch me. This was just the start of an exhilarating trip ahead.
Which hotel did I stay at?
Alila Ubud lies above the flowing rivers of the jungle - waves and occasional screams of delighted rafters could be heard in the mornings.
It's just 15 minutes from Ubud town, which has reigned for over a century as the centre of Balinese arts and culture, so that makes it easy to get around.
The villas are simply luxurious. Located high above the Ayung River, they are laid out as a Balinese hillside village complete with their own community centre and pedestrian lanes.
The resort’s rooms and villas stand above a ravine on stilts like tree houses and are set into the banks of the river valley.
Try the Jackfruit coconut juice at breakfast or one of their eloquent creative concoctions off the menu. Fresh papaya juices, Marmalades and gluten free bread are available too.
I had a one-hour session of reflexology each day for only €26, as they know how to pamper you for great prices in Bali. Yoga is also available every day at 7:30am if you are a morning person.
What was the restaurant like?
Once a week Alila has a “Spice Market” to try out - a special traditional evening with entertainment.
It puts on a dance show with locals in Balinese costumes and has a buffet style BBQ offering tasty and spicy dishes, such as Nasi Goreng (Indigenous to this area) coconut or meat-based clear broths and fresh soups.
You can also try dim-sum style cuisine options that you can flavour with many sauces like homemade chlili and peanut accompanied by Krupuk, a shrimp or rice-based gluten-free cracker.
Sit or swim in your pool while enjoying a fresh orange juice, a local jackfruit milk smoothie or some tasty jams.
What is there to do in Ubud?
This is the place to see stunningly vibrant green rice terraces in abundance. I highly recommend the experience at Tegalalang rice terrace. If you’re the courageous type then try the swing over the terraces out into the jungle, it was such a cool experience and very freeing.
Or visit the monkey forest sanctuary to feed and immerse yourself.
We ventured north to Bratan into the mountain jungle area to discover the infamous waterfalls Fiji and Grombong, also referred to as Sekumpul. Plan for a 2.5 hour drive from Alila Ubud hotel.
Renting a nice comfortable large van will cost €150 for eight hours but taxis are cheaper. Make sure the taxi driver waits for you, as there aren’t any around when you come back up, tired from the hike.
At the top, you have various options of packages to select from. I selected the 175,000 option (approx €10) which includes a tour guide and moped one-way return ticket from the first parking lot at the top of the falls. Parents, I don’t recommend bringing young children on this trek.
What should I buy in Ubud?
There are many beautiful rattan products in Ubud, like simple, colourful bags and hammocks.
Balinese-style handmade umbrellas with tassels, pretty furniture or beautifully carved wood sculptures are also options to bring home as a souvenir.
I chose some white Kaftans with flower designs and stitching for my family. I really wanted to export a gorgeous cement Buddha but it was too heavy. I'll be back though - and next time I'm bringing a bigger suitcase.