Stay-Cations in Bali. Story by Steve Castley.

A stay-cation is a vacation where you stay at home. Is this such a crazy idea when we live in one of the world’s great tourist destinations? Many of us are busy with work and life in general, and only remember to recharge our batteries when we go away for a holiday. A stay-cation allows us to recharge more regularly without breaking the bank. We get to enjoy the pleasures of Bali and at the same time become a better and more knowledgeable host for when our friends come to visit.

The beauty of a stay-cation is you are already here. You don’t pay for airfares, accommodation or travel costs. As a KITAS holder, you may actually get considerable discounts on entrance costs, meals and services; remember to always ask. A stay-cation is cheap, but certainly not nasty.

Stay-cations need to be planned. If you don’t do this, they will be like your normal weekend and they are meant to be so much more.

Step 1. Reflect on your last vacation and list what made it special.
My partner and I went to Sri Lanka for our last holiday and here’s my list.
It was just the two of us and we met new and interesting people. Friends were left at home.
Most days we indulged in massages.
We walked for at least an hour daily, either sightseeing or getting about, instead of using transport.
We ate out for every meal at restaurants and cafes new to us but revisited a couple of favourites.
We visited many tourist attractions.
We rarely used our phones, and I attended to work emails quickly each morning and the last thing at night.
I wrote or read for about an hour each day.
We had quality time together.
I want our stay-cation to be every bit as good as our Sri Lankan holiday, so we planned to do the same sort of things.

Step 2. Revisit that mental list of places you’ve heard about and list some that you want to try.
We all have a mental list of:
the new restaurants we’ve heard of and want to try, but haven’t got around to visiting;
Tourist attractions that we’ve been asked about but haven’t yet tried;
Places of indulgence that we’ve yet to sample, because we’re always too busy, or stuck in the rut of our regular haunts.
Now is the time to get your list on paper. You’ll need it to plan the next step.

Step 3. Decide on the number of days you can take for your stay-cation and start planning your full program.
I decided on an Ubud stay-cation for three days. I figured this would be nine meals, three walks, two attractions, and a couple of pampering sessions.

Step 4. Set the dates for your stay-cation.
We decided on the 25th to the 27th May inclusive.

Step 5. Enjoy your stay-cation.
Here’s how our Ubud stay-cation worked out.

Day 1.
I woke early as usual and said excitedly, “We’re on holidays.” My partner opened one eye, looked at me as if I was crazy, rolled over and went back to sleep. Not easily deterred, I bounced out of bed and spent the next hour answering email inquiries related to our villa rental business. As I shut down the computer and headed for the bathroom, I shouted, “Now we’re really on holidays!” I got the, ‘you’re crazy’ look, but Bayu was dressed and ready for the day’s program. Half an hour later I was ready and we were heading out the door at eight o’clock, just as our staff was arriving at work. “See you later,” I said, “We’re off on holidays.” They had different plans for me and the next half hour was spent answering questions and handing out money.

Shortly after eight-thirty we were doing a thirty minute walk from Penestanan to Ubud for breakfast. Rina, our miniature poodle, was with us and more excited than both of us put together. She loves any sort of outing. Clear Café (0361 8894437) in Jalan Hanoman was our destination. It had few patrons, and I don’t know why. The décor is a wonderful blend of traditional Bali and sleek modern, the food is deliciously special and the service great. From their menu which includes a large range of both vegetarian and vegan food, I chose the Hanoman Omelette and Bayu had the Nasi Goreng. My meal was large and delicious, but I still suffered food envy as I looked at the huge prawns that came as a part of Bayu’s fried rice. Their coffee was superb and served in large cups, just perfect for the addicted. The whole meal cost 140,000rp. It was great value and I sure will take visiting friends there.
Weighted down by breakfast, we strolled down Jl Hanoman to Bugar Sehat Reflexology (0361 977613) for an hour’s foot and leg massage. We didn’t have a booking, but it was only 10:30, so they had no trouble fitting us in. Yono was my masseur and he’s the real deal. He worked on every tender spot helping me feel rejuvenated. Why had I waited years to have reflexology in Ubud, when I always have it on holidays? It was certainly worth the 75,000rp for the hour and I decided to try reflexology again before my stay-cation was over. The only disappointment was the two work-related phone calls I received while enjoying my massage.

On healthy feet we headed to Ubud markets to buy a memento of our stay-cation. I settled on postcards to send off to family and friends, wondering if people really sent letters any longer in this email-age.

It was nearly time for lunch, so our next walk took us back to Penestanan and Warung Vespa. Passing my home, I was again stopped by staff to check on a villa booking. Bayu got nabbed too, to answer a question about his restaurant. Escaping work on a stay-cation was not proving as easy as I’d hoped.

Warung Vespa is right in the heart of Penestanan village and a delightful find. They have blackboard menus and there is a focus on fresh, healthy and tasty food. Their flier promises; “Great coffee, excellent food, freshly baked bread, homemade pastries and cakes, and a daily selection of salads and rolls.” They are telling the truth. They also should have included their fresh juices as these too are wonderful. With tax and service we only paid 130,000rp and Rina was also made most welcome. We’ll be back.

From here we walked back to The Blanco Renaissance Museum (0361 975502) next to the bridge on the edge of Ubud. It’s only 300 meters from our home, but somehow I hadn’t been there since that magnificent domed building was constructed. It was amazing in all possible ways and I should have allowed a full day to enjoy every aspect of the museum, gallery, studios, gardens, bird-park and family home. I’m heading back with friend but we’ll make a day of it. At 50,000rp for tourists and half this for locals, it is excellent value.

The rest of the afternoon was spent reading and writing and unfortunately dealing with a couple of work phone calls. I’d predicted correctly that work demands would intrude on our stay-cation, so fortuitously had booked a night away for Day Two.

By seven o’clock we were ready for dinner and on the motorbike headed to Warung Mina Ubud (0361 976504) in Jl. Gunung Sari No.2 Ambengan, Peliatan, Ubud. It is one of our favourite restaurants and Rina loves it too. They are dog friendly. As always we sat on a balè amongst their tropical gardens, enjoying their super fresh fish. At less than 150,000rp for all we could eat, it was a bargain. Then it was home for a bit of TV and sleep.

Day 2.
I woke, did emails, showered and met with staff. Determined not to have work intrude on the rest of our stay-cation I handed my phone to the company director, left my laptop in the bedroom and headed off.

The first stop was The Round Bar (0361 976738) in Jl. Raya Penestanan, Ubud, Bali. It is just over the road from my house and I’d never breakfasted there although I’d tried it for an evening drink on a couple of occasions. Today was the day for breakfast. The menu is small and simple, the food tasty, staff attentive, and the ambience splendid. It cost us 160,000rp. and we were the only patrons. This isn’t surprising as most accommodation in the area provides breakfast as part of their room price.

From here we walked to Ubud and enjoyed another foot massage at Bugar Sehat Reflexology (0361 8870012) on Jl. Raya, Ubud, across from Jl. Bisma. Again the massage was wonderful. Window shopping followed until we arrived at The Melting Wok Warung (082 153 666 087) in Jalan Gootama, Ubud for lunch. This restaurant is nothing short of spectacular. Geraldine meets and greets, while her Laotian husband performs his magic in the kitchen. It is not surprising that this restaurant has shot to position No. 1 in the restaurants section of Trip Advisor. I’ll definitely return, but will remember to make a booking if I want to dine at night time.

Our driver met us after lunch and drove us to the Elephant Safari Park at Taro, just 20 minutes, but a world away from Ubud. We dropped Rina off at a friend’s place as we decided miniature poodles and pachyderms don’t mix. From the time we arrived at 2:00 p.m. until our departure at midday the following day we bathed in perfection. Our room in the lodge cost us $280. Included in the cost was breakfast, an hour safari ride on an elephant, entrance to the park and all its amenities, opportunities to feed and bathe elephants, entrance to the elephant talent shows, use of the gym, an elephant ride from our room to dinner, a welcome drink and a fruit basket in our room. Over the nearly 24 hours of our stay, I realized what exceptional value it was. Work was not allowed to intrude once and the tranquility of the park was pervasive. We paid an extra $30 each for the buffet dinner and it was great value too. I’ll be including this venue again on future stay-cations and will certainly recommend it to visiting friends.

Day 3.
I expected to wake up to the sound of trumpeting elephants but this was not to be. I had a sleep in, ate breakfast, washed an elephant, enjoyed an hour safari ride on Daisy, and checked out the park again before our driver collected us and took us to Waroeng Bernadette (0361 971852) in Jl. Raya Mas for lunch. They claim to be, ‘The Home of Rendang’, so, of course I had this while Bayu chose the Soto Ayam. We were both impressed and at 85,000rp the price appealed too.

Arriving home, having collected Rina on the way, no one presented me with work problems; they just wanted to know about the safari park. I happily shared all our adventures.

The afternoon was given over to reading and writing and for our final dinner we went to Siam Sally (0361 980777) in Jalan Hanoman, Pengosekan, Ubud. We always enjoy their Thai food and the way they fuss over Rina. They’re really attentive to us too. As we ate and I enjoyed the 2 for 1 cocktails, Bayu and I revisited our Ubud stay-cation. The verdict came down in favour of having another one, and soon.

Our three day stay-cation was a chance to explore and discover our local area and to recharge our batteries. We now know firsthand, lots of great places to recommend to visiting friends. Because we holidayed in Bali, Rina got to come with us most of the time. This sure was a bonus.

Try a stay-cation; you won’t be disappointed.

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