Before we visited Bali for the first time, I researched 'til my eyes ached for the best places to stay in Ubud, the cultural heart of the island. I wanted to stay in a place that had just the right feel, and reflected the quiet serenity and traditional design of Bali. A tall order I know, but after months of researching, I found what I was looking for at Alam Shanti, a place whose name means “peaceful nature”.
We arrived at Alam Shanti in the middle of the night, bleary-eyed and half asleep, after two long flights from the U.S. and twenty-two hours of flying. Our driver unloaded us and our bags at 3:00am and quietly closed the door behind him. This place would be our home for the next week and after that we’d move to a sister property just down the road.
Ah, sleep... at last. We were beyond exhausted.
A few hours later we awoke to this....
... a welcome sight on our table outside - our first breakfast in Bali. I was as if it had magically appeared...we'd heard no one outside our door setting up this feast. I felt outside of my body, which often happens with super long flights and radical time changes. We gazed around at our sumptuous surroundings, taking it all in, and though I felt numb, I was in heaven.
The Best Places to Stay in Ubud
There are many lovely places to stay in Ubud. But if you're looking for a more traditional Balinese feel, check out the family of small hotels in Ubud and the Gili Islands owned by Ibu Wayan and Pak Ketut, owners of the famous Café Wayan in Ubud. Alam Shanti is part of the family. The hotels reflect a peaceful ambience and the beautiful and serene nature of Bali. We enjoyed a week long stay at Alam Shanti, and then moved a few doors down the street to their sister property Alam Indah for a few more days. Both properties were similar in their quiet, natural settings. Our suite at Alam Shanti had a beautiful long view over rice fields, while Alam Indah overlooked the tranquil, and somewhat mysterious Wos Valley. In addition to these properties, Alam Jiwa and the original guesthouse of Kebun Indah are also nearby. Alam Gili is the only property not in Ubud, or even on Bali. It's located on Gili Trawangan off the east coast of Bali near the island of Lombok.
The Accommodations at Alam Shanti
Every room in Alam Shanti was serene and unique in its design (and we saw them all over the course of a week). We were in Yamuna, a large suite with an ensuite bathroom, and outdoor covered terrace even larger than the bedroom suite itself. Yamuna and Gangaa upstairs essentially made up one large house, and shared a private pool between the two.
Outside, each step I took through the property revealed a view more beautiful view around every corner. The air was filled with the fragrance of incense and jasmine, and mourning doves echoed their somber song throughout the trees.
The sound of trickling water is also an ever-present sound at Alam Shanti.
Occasionally we heard the faint sound of gamelan music floating across the rice fields each day, a soothing and peaceful sound. At times it was so soft you could barely hear it, but together with the incense on the breeze, it added to the sensual experience of this place.
Everything around us was a feast for our senses - sweet and peaceful.
Every morning, employees (mostly women) at the hotel made canang sari, small baskets of woven palm fronds that held offerings for the gods. Fresh flowers, rice, incense, betel leaf, and rice wine were set at every entrance and doorway in the morning and throughout the day.
It's not often you can escape the noise of the world and hear yourself....just breathe. I found a stillness at Alam Shanti I never knew before. A stillness so sharp it cut through the noise in my head, and let me hear what was real….
What We Loved About Alam Shanti
The Balinese Design
Balinese design incorporates open air living with the outside and Alam Shanti was a great example. Houses are constructed of concrete, native hardwoods and bamboo, with low-pitched rooflines made from tile or sometimes thatch. Organic design elements like bamboo and carved teak furniture, silks and batiks, tropical garden statuary, and water fountains feature prominently in Balinese style. The look and feel is just heaven to me.
The Food and the Alam Wangi Cafe
Breakfast is included with your room and was always varied and delicious each morning. We loved the black rice in coconut milk with sliced bananas, the Nasi Goreng (fried rice), and Banana crepes with coconut. Their small poolside cafe has really good fresh juices and light fare.
Proximity to Ubud
The walk to downtown Ubud is an easy one and lies just past the Monkey Forest Sanctuary, which will tie you up for hours if you let it. If you don't, it's a 10 minute walk. The village of Nyuhkuning is not just a good base to explore Ubud, but also Northern Bali and the beautiful lakes, temples, and rice terraces you'll find there.
The Daily Ritual
Offering baskets and blessings are a part of daily life in Bali. Until you visit, it's hard to imagine the level of daily devotion that goes into preparing them.
Imagine depetaling flowers, weaving small offering baskets from palm fronds, then gathering the various kinds of petals into little piles in the offering basket, along with other gifts. Dozens of these baskets are set at entrances throughout people's homes and properties to give thanks to the gods. The baskets are then ransacked by monkeys, run over by cars and motorbikes, and eventually swept away to allow for new baskets the next day. It's a true devotion.
The Alan Wangi Spa at Alam Shanti offers a variety of body scrubs, salon treatments, manis/pedis, facials, even a head massage. I loved the full body massage with essential oils I had. There soft music, trickling water, and relaxing zen atmosphere all made for a totally relaxing experience. After a light snooze, the shower right off the massage room felt so refreshing.
The Peace and Privacy
We loved the quiet setting at Alam Shanti, away from major roads and traffic noise. People working in the fields or around the grounds were quiet as church mice and respected the privacy of the guests, even with all the doors wide open in our suite and in our open-air shower. We always felt completely secluded from staff and guests.
Service at Alam Shanti was excellent, and little extras added to the level of attention to guests, like bringing coil pots around at night to help with insects and mosquitos.
Probably the only drawback worth mentioning are the monkeys who can get aggressive at times especially when there's food involved. At breakfast one morning on our terrace, a large male was making me a little nervous as he tried to get in our suite while we were eating. We just went inside and took any food along with us. The Staff did a good job of trying to manage the monkeys and run them off from guest areas where they may have been a nuisance.
We loved our stay at Alam Shanti and their sister property Alam Indah just down the road. Both settings reflected the peaceful feeling that stayed with us throughout our visit, from the fragrant scent of incense on the breeze, the sound of trickling water everywhere, and the soft exchanges of "Selamat Pagi" each morning. It almost defies explanation. So I'll just say this. If you're planning a trip and wondering where to stay in Ubud, stay here. Alam Shanti is one of the loveliest places to stay in Bali.
Among the best places to stay in Bali are the Alam hotels in Ubud. The family of five hotels include four in Bali and one on the Gili Island of Trawangan:
Nyuhkuning, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
- Alam Shanti - 8 luxury accommodations set in lush Balinese gardens. There are also two houses with three rooms set further back in the rice fields.
- Alam Indah - The first of the Alam properties to open in Bali combining traditional Balinese architecture with modern amenities. Check rates and availability.
- Alam Jiwa - 11 luxuriously appointed guest accommodations complemented with beautiful carvings. Set back in the rice fields of Nyuhkuning Village in a quiet part of Ubud. Check rates and availability.