Despite having visited Bali on two previous occasions this was my first visit to the town of Ubud in Bali. I cannot believe I have not been before! Ubud has become one of my favourite places in the world! I loved the food, stunning rice field views, fascinating Hindu culture with many temple ceremonies, and the friendly people.
I enjoyed Ubud so much I ended up extending my stay here. Unlike the main hub of Kuta and Legian, Ubud still has that ‘hippie’ vibe. That air of coolness. That flavour that Kuta must have had back in the day before mass tourism tarnished the town.
Ubud is about an hour and a half drive North inland from Kuta. Always take a Bluebird taxi. They tend to be regulated better than others. I had to barter heavily over the taxi fare! In fact I had to jump out of 3 taxis (despite agreeing a fare to then have the driver change his mind) before the final price was agreed.
Most taxi drivers will quote you over 400,000IDR (GB£21/US$28.50) but I managed to negotiate on my third attempt a fare of 250,000IDR (GB£13.50/US$17.80). As it happened the driver had forgotten to turn off his meter and by the time I arrived in Ubud the meter read 241,000IDR. This made me feel the 250,000 initially quoted more palatable.
There is a huge range of accommodation in Ubud from budget homestays to luxury resorts. I stayed in a beautiful little hotel called White House Bungalows. It is sandwiched between Monkey Forest Road and Hanoman Road; a little oasis hidden behind the shops and busy main roads, with its own swimming pool.
WHAT CAN UBUD OFFER?
Ubud is not the kind of place where you need a long to-do list. None of the sights or activities are “must-dos”. If all you do during your stay was eat, walk through the rice fields, and perhaps get a massage then that is a successful Ubud visit in my opinion. That said, if you are feeling more active there are plenty of things to do in Ubud to occupy your time.
RICE FIELD WALK
Another pleasant walk is on a path through the rice fields towards Sari Organik farm and restaurant. There are lots of cafes along the way where you can enjoy a drink or meal with a view. You can also start at the far end of Jalan Kajeng and loop around to Sari Organik. The downside is that motorbikes drive on these narrow paths.
SARASWATI TEMPLE and LOTUS POND
The centre of Ubud is busy but you can find beautiful tranquil spots. Located right behind Starbucks you will discover the Hindu lotus pond at Saraswati temple. Entry is free. Take the time to wander around and you might be surprised by what you find.
RENT A SCOOTER
This is by far the easiest and cheapest way to see the surrounding countryside. You could walk or cycle, but it is much cooler on the back of a bike. Scooter rental is so cheap. It cost me 50,000IDR (GB£3.00/US$3.55) for the entire day, and, I did not have to produce my licence or leave any deposit.
Fuel for the scooter is cheap too. Along the roadside you will find vendors selling fuel for around 10,000IDR (GB0.50p/US$0.70)
The traffic in Ubud can be crazy so if you are a beginner practice on the quieter streets outside town, and ask someone to show you the basics.
THE MONKEY FOREST
I was a little worried about braving the famous monkeys, but it turned out to be an enjoyable walk through the forest with temples and banyan trees that felt like an Indiana Jones set. Be mindful of the monkeys. They can be a little aggressive. Do not have anything loose on you (a bag, sunglasses, camera, etc) and the monkeys will not bother you.
PURA GUNUNG KAWI TEMPLE
This 11th Century temple features shrines carved into the rock at the bottom of a river valley. The walk is not for the faint hearted. It is an intense walk down the steps to the valley floor, and, even harder to ascend the steps again!
It is a 30 minute drive from Ubud and is worth combining with Tirta Empul (below). Get there early to avoid the crowds and souvenir sellers. Entry is 2,000IDR (GB£0.10/US$0.15) for parking and 15,000IDR (GB£0.80/US$1.00) to enter the temple.
TIRTA EMPUL WATER TEMPLE
The water temple Tirta Empul is close to Gunung Kawi. Balinese Hindus go here to bathe in the holy waters. Its quite a spiritual place to visit. Dress code is a must here. All shoulders, especially women, must be covered and knees must be covered.
At the entrance to the water temple staff hand out sarongs, for a donation, before you can enter any of the temples. Entry is 2,000IDR (GB£0.10/US$0.15) for parking and 15,000IDR (GB£0.80/US$1.00) to enter the temple.
The waterfall is not huge but the scenery is lovely and I enjoyed a paddle in the pool. Once more arrive early to avoid drones of tourists. It is a 25 minute drive from Ubud. I combined this with Tirta Empul Water and Pura Gunung temples.
There are plenty of tacky souvenir shops in Ubud but there are also high quality boutiques selling clothes, jewellery, yoga gear, and home furnishings. You will find plenty of options on Hanoman, Goutama, and Monkey Forest Roads.
For cheap clothes and souvenirs head to the central market on Jalan Raya, but be prepared to barter over the price.
For grocery shopping on Hanoman Road is a large grocery store called Coco were can purchase all things from fruit to bread, to toiletries to alcohol.
Anyone who makes the effort to visit Ubud will certainly fall in love with the place. Once you have got past the peak hour traffic that can clog the main roads of Monkey Forest and Hanoman the town is just magical.
The town is cheap in general in comparison to those resorts of Kuta and Legian. The air smells fresher and the restaurants and cafe’s are far more relaxed. Make time for Ubud. Unlike me, I did not plan a long stay. Thankfully, I had time in my itinerary to extend my stay.