Around the World: Ubud, Bali and Nihi Sumba Island

Is Bali and Sumba a perfect Indonesian Island duo? We certainly think so. We spent three nights in Ubud followed by four nights on Nihi Sumba Island and thought we were in heaven. It was our happy place.
In Bali we stayed in Ubud as we had been before and prefer it over the beach. The Beaches in Bali are not the most beautiful in our opinion and we prefer what Ubud has to offer as the cultural and arts center of Bali. The terraced rice fields and valleys create a stunning landscape. 

Entrance to our villa at Amandari

We stayed at Amandari and find that Aman is an exceptional choice for those who appreciate style and unpretentious luxury. Amandari is located outside of the center of Ubud but as they provide complimentary car service to and from the town, it is a way for you to have it all. Amandari works well for young families as each room is a stand alone villa. We stayed in villa 24 which it is rumoured to be the same villa Mick Jagger stayed in. There are many roosters and geckos making noise in the night so if you are a light sleeper, bring a pair of earplugs. If you want a kids club and an active environment for little ones, I would advise we book you elsewhere such as the Four Seasons or Mandapa. Though Amandari was wonderful for us in so many ways, we would still recommend it more for adults or those families with at least slightly older children given the serene and quiet environment. You can hire a babysitter for the cost of about $10 an hour and we took advantage of this to go to yoga in the morning and dinner one evening. 

If you like yoga, you will love Ubud! We visited the studio at Yoga Barn and in particular enjoyed Carlos as an instructor as his classes are energetic. We experienced his class in Ubud five years ago and were very happy to find him still teaching there. You can experience yoga at Amandari as well and there are plenty of additional options, including retreats, in the area.

If visiting Ubud, make sure to have a massage.. or five! Massages are inexpensive in Indonesia and we thoroughly enjoyed a foot massage during our date night in Ubud. There are plenty of places to choose from and we chose to step into one of the shops on the Jalan Gootama road where we could watch the people walk by. We bought a beer and a young coconut next door to sip on which was heavenly.

If you appreciate art, this is also a place for you as there are numerous art galleries in and around Ubud. Many artists have moved to the area to set up studios and if we had more time, or were without children, I would have visited the galleries.

We saw numerous references to Balifornia and could see why. From the style of clothing to the vegan restaurants, yoga, and laid back style, it felt a bit like when I lived in Santa Monica. 

There are some lovely choices for coffee and restaurants. John is a bit of a coffee snob and did plenty of research to find the best places for Balinese coffee. Two of his favorites were monkey cave espresso and Seniman Coffee Studio.

As for food, we would suggest that you eat at a local warung. A warung is a local small restaurant or cafe. We like Melting Wok which has been around for some time. There are some other trendier options such as Pica (Peruvian) or Hujang Locale that we would recommend.

Taking our toddler to the town was a challenge as it is very busy and the sidewalks are not always in tact. If you have a stroller, leave it at home as there is not a chance you will be using it! We carried Julia most of the time and it certainly would have given my own mother a heart attack! Ideally the town is best suited for babies carried or older kids. If our children were older we certainly would have also taken advantage of the hiking, white water rafting and biking in the area.
Some of the kids at Kesayan Ikang Papa
During our stay we made sure to visit the orphanage that Amandari supports in a nearby village. Kesayan Ikang Papa (which means passion for the poor) is essentially a home and school for physically and mentally handicapped children. Amandari started to support their work in 1988. On our way to visit the home we stopped to purchase some rice and school supplies to bring with. They have many children to feed and we were told that they can always use the food. Our driver from Amandari also acted as a host for us during the visit as he translated for us. We had a quick tour of the small home and then our children played with the kids. It was a good thing we brought a ball with as sport and game is such a fantastic connector. If you are visiting Ubud and wish to visit any type of charity, we suggest you bring at least a gift as you are visiting their home and taking their time. We find that bringing a toy or ball to play with always help to establish a quick friendship.

A very interesting project that is worth a visit is Green School Bali. We sadly were unable to make it there during our stay, but if you can, a visit to this non-profit school that focuses on sustainability is worthwhile.

Saying goodbye to Amandari and Ubud was made easier knowing we were headed to Nihi Sumba. I knew Nihi Sumba was going to be wonderful with a description of having a destination with meaning, a vacation with purpose and a haven for the wanderer on the edge of wildness. It blew us away and was a great fit for Purposeful Wanderings clientele.

Our villa at Nihi Sumba
Your time with Nihi Sumba starts from when you arrive at the Bali airport. They have representatives from the company meet you upon arrival and even take your bags so that you do not worry about them again until you enter your room at Nihi.

Landing on Sumba you notice right away that the airport is small. We were the only plane and upon disembarking you walk freely on the airport taxiway. We had a car and driver meet us on arrival to drive us the one hour and 45 minutes to the resort. You get the feeling immediately that Nihi has a special relationship with the airport as the only true hotel on the island. After speaking to others in the industry, we learned of plans for additional luxury hotels to be built and so we would recommend you visit sooner rather than later to experience Nihi Sumba as the remote and exotic location that it is.  

Our villa, Lulu one, was a dream for our family. It has two bedrooms, a living room and a large outdoor space. We were spoiled and didn’t want to leave. Tinus, our host, made sure we were taken care of and even helped with the kids.

Sunset horseback ride
Surfing is a main attraction for visitors and that is how the resort originally came to be. However, there are many other activities to take part in from trekking to waterfalls, yoga, horse riding, spa, paddle boarding, fishing, chocolate making, cooking classes, village experiences and more. I was able to experience a sunset horse ride on the beach and it was stunning. To experience a ride on a horse with no one else around and miles of beach in front of you is something spectacular, and I am not even a horse person!

Approaching the spa

The Nihioka spa safari was my absolute favorite and such as wonderful surprise as I had no idea what to expect. You start the day early by trekking 90 minutes through the rolling hills, rice fields and villages before reaching a private spa oasis on a cliff above an empty stretch of beach. Upon arrival we were handed cold towels and a refreshing green juice. From there we were given breakfast while watching the waves crash below. After breakfast we relaxed by a pool overlooking the ocean before our spa treatments began. You get to choose three treatments and they are experienced in a private bale overlooking the sea. They even thought of having a mirror under the bed so that you can watch the waves while having your massage! They truly thought of it all and this was my piece of heaven. After traveling for days with my family and having little free time, I could not have thought of a better treat. It was the most unique and special spa experience I have ever known. I hope it never changes. 
an open air and secluded spa in paradise

During our stay we were lucky enough to take part in a turtle release as hundreds of eggs hatched while we were there. We released the turtles just after sunset with the other guests.

The Sumba Foundation is clearly as first class as the resort itself. We were thoroughly impressed by our experience when we spent a day touring their projects. The Sumba Foundation was established in 2001 and their aim is to provide humanitarian aid by fostering village based projects that impact health (including access and malaria control), education, water and income-generations, while preserving and respecting the culture and traditions of the Sumbanese people. 
The Sumba Foundation clinic
Kenny, the Sumba Foundation General Manager brought us first to visit the clinic nearby in which they provide treatment for Malaria, ultrasounds for women and other health care services. From there, we were taken to visit a farm project that they have established. The farmer and his family help to grow crops that are used for school lunches for children in need. He also has a water well on his property that has been tremendous help to the community.

James and his new friends
After our tour in the morning we rested at the hotel before heading back out to visit an English class with a young woman named Daya from the Foundation. We drove in the coolest open air safari style jeep through hills and rice paddies of Sumba with local villagers waving as we would go by. James was able to practice his Bahasa as he would wave and say "Selamat Siang (good afternoon)" to the kids. Many kids even ran along the car just to wave at us! We drove over an hour to reach a outdoor class with kids that have walked up to 5km to learn English. The teacher, Ms. Asti, is a Sumbanese  teacher who came from a poor family and is passionate about providing English classes to children in the villages so that they can have a good future. She goes village to village to tell them of her classes which the Sumba Foundation supports. The passion and love for her community was so strong that you could practically see it radiating from her. She is one of those people that makes you want to be a better person and I will remember her forever. During our time with her we were able to watch her teach and then we sang English songs and practiced English with the kids. James made a good friend and they played tag together with the others. It was an incredibly special experience and one that I hope my clients can experience. 

Participating in English classes for the children
In our search to find the best in legacy luxury travel, we are thrilled when we come across places such as these to partner with. Should you wish to book a stay, please do reach out to us as we have a special relationship with the hotels and charities which ensure you have the best experience and added amenities as well.


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