Ubud is where you go to escape the hustle of Bali's popular beach resorts. About an hour's drive out of Denpasar, it's a more sedate destination in the hills that emphasises its cultured side.
Don't expect a secluded village – there are plenty of tourists thronging the streets when you get there, and shops selling kitsch souvenirs. Yet Ubud does have its own laid-back pace and magic, which is easily discovered as you wander around. The huge range of accommodation ranges from backpacker haunts to posh resorts. Honeymoon Guesthouse sits somewhere in between.
Part of Honeymoon's appeal is staying in a traditional Balinese family compound. It is owned by Ketut Suardana, an Ubud local, and Janet de Neefe, originally from Melbourne, who married in 1990 and have brought up four children here. They live at the back of the property, but most of the free-standing bungalows are for guests.
It's the kind of place you feel your blood pressure instantly drop as you sip a delicious hibiscus tea, served in the lobby before checking in. Along the winding route to my room, up and down steps and along paving stones, there are stone gates, graceful water features, weathered stone carvings, Hindu statues and trailing flowery vines, with green foliage everywhere. The swimming pool is lovely. I'd like to live here.
The pavilion where I'm staying has two guest rooms, Rama and Sita. Mine is Sita, to the left. The large, cool verandah at the front has marble floors and the most ornately decorated ceiling I've ever seen. I stand and stare up at it for a while before entering the room.
It is simple but Balinese-stylish, with no television or electronics, just a beautiful teak four-poster bed draped with mosquito netting, some wooden furniture and a small bar fridge. There is airconditioning, but the temperature is perfect without it. The shuttered windows open to the outdoors, no glass; your sitting room is the table and chairs outside on the verandah.
The bathroom is smart and spacious, with minimal guest kit. Honeymoon has an eco-conscience, with refillable toiletries and a water dispenser in the room, discreetly covered in calico, instead of the ubiquitous bottled water.
Breakfast is included, served upstairs in the open-air dining room, surrounded by more greenery. In a low-key order of fresh fruit, croissant, juice and coffee, each simple element is lovely. Suardana and De Neefe also oversee two Ubud restaurants, Casa Luna and Indus, plus a bar, a bakery and a cooking school, which offer Honeymoon guests a discount.
De Neefe, clearly the industrious type, also founded the Ubud Writers Festival in 2004, and launched the inaugural Ubud Food Festival last year. Everywhere I eat in Ubud is excellent, from the touristy Cafe des Artistes just down the road from Honeymoon, to blow-your-mind degustation at Locavore (warning: it's hard to get a booking). Even the Starbucks here looks classy, but if you're a bean hunter, seek out Seniman Coffee Studio. Oh, and kopi lewak (civet poo coffee) is pleasant but overrated.
Ubud has some obvious attractions, such as the famous Monkey Forest, the spectacular Campuhan river gorge and temple, the colourful central markets and nearby Bali Zoo Park. Don't miss seeing a traditional dance performance with gamelan orchestra. The one at the royal palace has an impressive orchestra and a comic turn for kids. But the best thing about Ubud is not doing much though you may want to book a treatment (I recommend Honeymoon's Traditional Javanese Lulur, a massage and body scrub that costs about $10 for 1½ hours).
If you're a resort kind of person, Honeymoon Guesthouse lacks wide-screen TVs, reliable Wi-Fi in your room (it works at reception) and ginormous white fluffy towels. But if you like to soak up local culture and appreciate its artistic sensibility, it's a lovely spot.
Beautiful art, carvings and Balinese artefacts are everywhere at Honeymoon; it's like staying at a very comfortable art gallery with a pool.
Not the place if you need high-performance Wi-Fi, or like to channel surf.
Doubles from $60 a night.
Jalan Bisma, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia 80571. Phone +62 361 973 282. See casalunabali.com.
Jacqui Taffel was a guest of the Ubud Food Festival.