Bali Hai

Continued (page 2 of 3)

I head next to the highland village of Ubud. This area has always been a magnet for artists, poets and romantics. I check into Uma Ubud, a boutique hotel that's low on flash but big on serenity. Suites are set in gardens and are outfitted in a palette of cream and white, with local touches such as intricately carved wooden door frames and embroidered and beaded silk runners. The Zen continues at the restaurant, Kemiri, a bale seemingly floating in a serene pond filled with carp. Illuminated by burning candles at night, it's like a secret garden where couples can gaze into each other's eyes in between perusing the menu, which runs the gamut from subtle to fiery.

From Uma it's a short walk to the village of Ubud, although the hotel also organizes shuttles several times daily to town and the nearby monkey forest. The narrow streets are lined with artisans displaying goods, from vibrant silk scarves to carved wooden animals, silver jewelry and paintings. It's all good fun, and the vendors love to chat and bargain. On my last day in Ubud, I opt for an early-morning walk through the rice paddies with one of the hotel's informative guides. The walk, while a trifle muddy, offers an invaluable insight into the agrarian life in Bali, largely unchanged over the centuries. Farmers still work the waterlogged rice paddies by hand (although occasionally oxen, or in the rare instance, mechanical harvesters, are brought in to lend a hand) and let their prized ducksloose into the neat rows to feed. As the sun climbs, the terraced rice fields are turned a dazzling jade green, and I'm touched once again by the complex and unexpected range of beauties to be found on this island.

Uma Ubud, rooms from $245, uma.como.bz/ubud.

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