From being the sleepy cultural hub of Bali, Ubud has morphed into a busy town where you’ll find lots to do, and plenty to buy. However, you can still step just beyond the main streets and find rice fields and stunning scenery – where the more traditional Bali carries on in much the same way as it always has.
The main part of Ubud is vibrant and it’s a hive of activity with tourists and travelers coming here from all over the world to soak up Balinese culture, colour and beauty and let’s not forget the traditional healing such as meditation, massage and yoga that Ubud is also renowned for.
We stayed at Samkhya Villas – you can find details and photos here, Where to stay in Ubud, Bali – and often walked into town – it took about 50 minutes. The road was quite busy with taxis, cars and motorcycles and we walked along a rutted pavement, which at best could be called ‘intermittent.’
Step away from the road through ornate Balinese doors and you’re transported into another world; the old, traditional Bali – where fine art, contemporary art, and artisan crafts jostle for space in ancient courtyards and crumbling buildings, where temples (and cockerels and songbirds in cages) take centre stage.
Then again step off the road and wander around luxury hotels with bright blue pools and views across farmland – perhaps check out a gorgeous quiet room with a balcony that looks out onto rice fields maybe.
Perhaps have lunch or an iced ginger tea and poppy seed cake in an open sided restaurant, and look forward to finding another new and interesting place to eat in the evening.
What’s lovely about Bali? You’ll continually be greeted by smiling and oh-so-friendly Balinese people anxious to spend the time of day with you.
So without further ado, here are some of the things which will keep you busy on a trip to Ubud (besides ancient sights and temples). I haven’t included the Monkey Forest because personally I don’t like it, and if you get bitten by a monkey (I know someone who has) you’ll be up for rabies injections.
Tip: Stay more than a couple of nights – Ubud is a great jumping off point too for day trips to the East of the island, and to places such as Besakih Mother Temple below.
1. Antonio Blanco Gallery
This is much more than a gallery. It’s called Blanco The Renaissnce Museum – The grounds are beautiful and Antonio Blanco has a fascinating history with Ubud.
2. Spa – Wellness – Yoga
There are plenty of spas and yoga centres in Ubud. If you’re at a 5 Star hotel you may well have them conveniently situated on the premises. Otherwise never fear. Grab a copy of the Bali Advertiser (free) or Ubud Community (also free) which you can pick up from restaurants (I picked them up at Murni’s by the bridge in Ubud) and you’ll find helpful information at the tourist information centre in Ubud.
3. Relax and Recuperate
Laze by a pool and read – nearly all hotels and villas have lovely pools. If you are staying in budget accommodation, you could have lunch at a hotel with a pool, and ask if you could maybe laze by their pool for a couple of hours. If not, join a host of other travelers who sit and drink lassis and ginger tea or Bintang beer under cool swirling fans in any number of quirky restaurants.
4. Go Walking away from the crowds
Walk through rice paddies and lush countryside – Although Ubud main streets are busy, you are only a short hop skip and jump away at any time from rice fields and beautiful country scenery.
5. Get Arty
Check out the art galleries – there are so many.
From classic Balinese scenes to contemporary art to fine art. If you’re in the market to purchase you’ll be spoilt for choice. At some galleries you can watch artists at work.
6. Cycle Ride
Quite a few companies are now offering cycle trips. One is a popular ride down the hill from Mount Agung stopping at places of interest along the way.
7. Traditional Dance Performances
In the centre of town at Ubud Palace there are traditional dances every day at 7.30pm. You could choose to watch Legong Dances, Ramayan Ballet, Shadow Puppet performances, or Barong Dances. Other places you can book to watch dancing are at the Ubud Water Palace and the Monkey Forest. Pick up a map from the Ubud Tourist Information on Ubud Main Road (almost diagonally across from Ubud Palace) and you’ll find a list of the daily performances.
8. Go on a tour
There are day tours to all sorts of places – from river rafting, to hiking, to the elephant park, to stone markets and batik factories.
9. Classes and Workshops
Sign up for a cooking class – you not only learn how to cook Balinese dishes but you’ll also be taken to the fresh food market to buy the food and get some behind the scenes insight into unusual food choices, and their preparation.
Enrol in a photography class – I’ve noticed that a couple of photography tours have started up. I also picked up a brochure for a bird watching tour, Bali Bird Walks. Ask at the tourist info centre for more up to the minute recommendations.
10. Visit Petulu Gunung
This is a small village about 3kms north of Ubud which is renowned for its Egrets which come to nest in their thousands around 5.30pm each night.
It’s an astonishing sight to watch the birds coming in and the noise (and the smell) is quite something too!
Take an umbrella if you’re worried about bird poo!
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Have you been to Ubud, or Bali? What would you recommend doing?