One thing I’ve noticed when travelling is that pending your destination, the name of your accommodations change; hostel, pension house, guesthouse, and so forth. In Ubud, most places were referred to as “homestays” and it is quite a fitting name, as the accommodations were very home-y, alluring, and comfortable.
When walking through the streets of Ubud you will notice steps leading up to a narrow passage with an over-arching frame and usually a statue of an elephant or some other symbol at the front. These are what the entrance-ways to most homestays look like, which is very different from other accommodations I’ve stayed in. Once stepping through the entrance, it felt as though I was transported to a different time and place where I was surrounded by the beauty of Balinese architecture and the simplicity of a far-off time. Finally. This was the Bali I was looking for (you can check out my opinion on Kuta, our first stop, here).
One thing I did not realize about these homestays was that we would actually be staying within a family compound. For some, this might not be appealing, but I think it made our experience much more authentic. We were able to see, to some extent, what life was like for local Indonesian families. A typical compound consisted of a religious area (the majority of people in Bali practice Balinese Hinduism), communal area(s), housing for the family members and for guests, and -depending on the homestay- a pool, chicken and rooster pens, and/or a breakfast room.
I found it interesting how in the communal area, there was “everyday” items we would have at home. For example, kids’ toys, a television, and so forth. This made for an interesting contrast between traditional Balinese architecture and Western modern amenities.
I stayed at Gunung Merta Bungalows, just outside of the main center. Upon arrival, the staff greeted us with smiles, offering us welcome drinks while we waited for our room to be ready. The staff remained in traditional wear, which added to the local-feel of the place. Another thing that made this accommodation enticing was that when we returned to our room each night, the lights were all turned on. Initially I had thought that we left the lights on before leaving for the night, but the next night we came back and the lights were on again and this time the incense was burning. I was definitely not losing it – the staff would come into our room each night to turn on the lights in lieu of our return.
Another thing I had yet to experience when budget travelling was that within about five minutes of walking into our room in the evening, we had a knock on our door. Two staff members were there to take our breakfast order for the next morning. During our three night stay, we had really come to appreciate this type of personalized service, despite the low cost of the homestay. At the end of a long day, it felt as though we were returning “home” instead of returning to our room when the lights were all on. It’s the little things that make a difference when travelling.
The compound itself was breathtaking; filled with greenery, beautiful sculptures, an inviting pool, lush views from the room balcony, and Balinese touches everywhere you turned. Though this was no 5-Star villa, it encompassed Balinese traditions and lifestyles in a way that the former would probably not be able to.
Needless to say, this homestay hit the spot.