For anyone keen on music, culture and the arts, a trip to Ubud is a must-do during your stay in Bali. The drive takes just over one hour from Denpasar and, as you gently wind your way up towards the central mountains, you will be treated to views of terraced rice fields, unspoilt countryside and rural scenes that literally take your breath away.
Ubud is a charming town, but not the quaint and remote place it was famous for in the 1930’s, when Western artists like Walter Spies, Colin McPhee, and Rudolf Bonnet frequented the town.
Ubud now has a mixture of trendy cafes, spectacular restaurants perched on hilltops overlooking ravines and jungle, arts and crafts shops, stylish clothing boutiques, antique stores, spas and many galleries. Shopping at the traditional market, a cluster of tiny shops at the top of Monkey Forest Road reveals a patchwork of stalls, art treasures, curios and batiks.
Music and Dance
Many people go to Ubud for music and dance – you have a choice of scheduled acts, which are posted daily. Bali’s unique and elaborate culture comes alive with a richness of colour, style and grace. Performances can be seen at the Ubud Palace, The Lotus Cafe, The Arma, Blanco Musuem and in the nearby villages of Peliatan, Batubulan, Batuan and Bona. Every Monday night at 7.00pm at Junjungan Temple (3 kms from Post Office) in a traditional village, outside an ancient temple,60 dancers from the local village perform the Kacek Fire Dance – don’t miss it.
Walks around Ubud
There are many interesting walks around Ubud and one easy self-guided walk starts at the old Dutch bridge on Jl Raya Ubud, opposite Murni’s Warung, at the Gunung Lebah Temple. It is easy to find the trail, which starts, at the back of the temple. Simply follow it uphill and walk the specacular ridge with jungle on either side. You will end up at Karsa Cafe (with Karsa Spa – top ranked Trip Advisor Spa of Ubud), a great spot for lunch overlooking the rice fields, three volcanoes and rice fields. Continue on to the village of Bangkiangsidem and through to Payogan Village where you can catch a ride on a bemo back to town. A 2 hour walk at easy pace.
Rice field walks with Su
An interesting 3 hour walk with Su, taking in forest trails, rice fields and interesting parts of Ubud. Su is very knowledgeable about rural life in Bali. www.balibirdwalk.com
Rafting & Jungle Trekking
River rafting at its best is offered in Klungkung on the Telega Waja River . This three hour trip will challenge your rafting skills with plenty of “boom-booms”, “paddle left” and “paddle right” instructions along with lots of laughter and hopefully good co ordination. Your trip down the river showcases rural village life, sweeping panoramic rice fields, thick jungle and dramatic gorges www.alam-amazing-adventures.com
Café Lotus – This delightful café can be found on Jl Raya Ubud (Ubud Main Road). This is a quiet place of contemplation and, if you visit early in the morning, you will probably be the only one there. The restaurant sits in front of a large stone pool, which is full of beautiful fresh lotus flowers. It is not unusual to catch a glimpse of a Balinese woman gracefully gliding by on the path to the temple, which is located behind the pool, filled with offerings and incense. Take your sketchpad and pencils or your favourite book. This is a time-out place. Dance performances are held most evenings at dinner time.
Murni’s Warung – located beside the old Dutch suspension bridge, overlooking the sacred Campuan River, Ubud Main Road. This is an old-time favourite, even before Ubud first got electricity in the 1970’s. Ibu Murni offers her guests a fine selection of good Indonesian food, a Thai menu and all the favourite Western dishes as well. Try the famous Balinese smoked duck. The restaurant has four levels and sits high above the river. Murni has been serving food to foreigners for over 30 years and many travelers who wander the globe cross paths again at Murni’s.
Indus – On Jl Raya Sanggingan, this restaurant has the best views over the valley and, in fact, you may see people walking the trail here from the temple, mentioned under Ubud Walks. The restaurant was named after the Indus, one of the oldest living civilizations on earth (5,000 years old). The Indus valley and river winds through Pakistan, Northern India, The Himalayas and China. The restaurant has a beautiful outdoor setting, the finest quality of food and a gallery as well.
A relaxing place to hang out for hours. Seek out the comfortable purple cushions.
Ubud Night Life
There is quite a lively scene going on in Ubud after dark. A few suggestions:
Laughing Buddha Bar is the place to be seen later in the evening. They bash out the latest tunes and serve great cocktails to a chic clientele.
Bar Luna is a cool little bar, now relocated to Casa Luna Restaurant and is a basement hang-out for poets, writers, artists and lovers of good music
Cafe Havana is the scene for salsa dancing. Music most nights and the waiters will dance with you if you show up without a partner. Great atmosphere.
Photos by David Metcalf
There are many styles of accommodation in Ubud to suit all budgets. You will find budget priced rooms to five star high end spa resorts.
Low Cost – My favorite is Murni’s Houses. The prices are very reasonable and the location is perfect. You are within walking distance of all the fine eateries, galleries and places of interest. The grounds are delightful and Murni’s is a quiet place. It is very restful, has a lovely garden and beautiful new spa facility (voted top spa on Trip Advisor) and, if you are after a real local experience, this is the place for you. The front desk will arrange tours and transport without the normal hotel booking charge. www.murnis.com
Medium Cost – Private Villa in the rice fields. This is a treasure of a find. Located 10 minutes out of Ubud, in a peaceful, quiet setting in an ancient traditional village area. 3 bedroom large spacious private villa with private pool, cook, driver and staff. Great for couples, family or group of friends. Complimentary village river walk to adjoining World Heritage Listed river. Yoga platform designed to catch the breezes. Yoga instructors on call, if you wish. www.villadamee.com
High Cost – Pita Maha – A stunning property perched onto of a cliff that overlooks the Tjampuhan valley in Ubud. 24 private villas and a stunning restaurant. If you can’t afford it, at least make it there for sunset drinks. Reasonable Indonesian menu, very expensive Western menu. www.pitamaha.com.
Ubud is a place of spiritual beauty. It simply unfolds around you, in subtle ways. Life moves at a slow pace and the joy of the experience stays with you long after you return home. Go discover for yourself the place where two rivers meet and allow the beauty of this very special place, located on the island of the Gods, to renew and refresh you.