Ubud is the cultural heart of Bali Island in Indonesia. It is also a favorite destination for travelers like me who like to soak in the culture. Traditional Balinese architecture can be seen anywhere on the island. The statues of deities inhabit most spaces including the traffic circles. Rice terraces intersperse the villages. Evenings are meant for lovely performances that can leave you in awe. The markets are brimming with funky stuff – both new age and traditional crafts. Here are a few Things to do during your visit.
Things To Do In Ubud, Bali
Take a walk in Ubud Monkey Forest
The Monkey Forest is full of, what else – Monkeys. You can see the monkey sculptures just outside the park. Walking in the Monkey forest can be both exciting and unnerving. If you have any food on you, it is a simple invitation to the inhabitants of this forest to come and take that food. They think this is a gift you have carried for them. Incidents of monkeys jumping on you or sitting on your shoulders are not uncommon. They probably assume you are a part of the forest.
If, like me, you are scared of monkeys jumping on, hire a bike Taxi and ask them to take you around the monkey forest. You would see the beauty of the forest without the fear of monkeys. The forest is quite dense and green – hot & humid. If you plan to walk – carry water. If possible go for a morning walk.
Visit Pura Taman Saraswati, Ubud, Bali
This lovely temple dedicated to goddess Saraswati is one of the most beautiful temples you can see. Designed like a lotus flower with the temple at its core, with lotus ponds on each side, it is a sight to behold. As you walk on the path leading to the temple you know you are entering a special place. A Yaksha is holding the lotus flower on his shoulders.
Entry to the temple is free but you must wear a sarong to go inside. Cafe Lotus just outside the temple is a great place for casual fine dining. You can watch the evening performance at Lotus Temple.
Pura Taman Saraswati is a water temple like Pura Taman Ayun.
Watch Ramayana the Kecak Way
Streets of the town will remind me you epic Ramayana all the time. I have not seen a Hanuman Road in India but there is one in Bali. Ramayana is an integral part of Bali’s culture. Every evening at various places Kecak is performed. You can buy a ticket and see these mesmerizing hour-long performances.
Kecak performance involves the enactment of the story of Rama. The characters come and play various scenes from the epic. Men in white and black loincloth sit around them and produce music with their sounds. I found it very intriguing that no musical instrument was used and all the sounds were created by the synergetic chanting of men as they moved around in various formations. Most of the times, they are like a frame around a painting.
There is a fire dance at the end with burnt coconut shells. It is amazing to watch the dancers perform so effortlessly with fire.
Watching a Kecak performance is a must-see during your trip.
Tickets cost between IDR 80,000 – 1,25,000 & can be easily bought outside the venue.
Visit Ubud Palace
Ubud Palace or officially Pura Marajan Agung is the residence of the royal family. They still continue to live here although a large part is open to the public. I visited this one morning after a long morning walk in the streets of the town.
In the compound, on a platform, a group of young girls was engaged in a dance class. It was lovely to watch them prepare for dance class as they helped each other get into the traditional attire that must be adorned before you dance.
In a courtyard with stone carved panels on ochre walls, sat a group of men cutting vegetables. In our broken English exchange, I gathered that they are preparing for a feast that will be held later that day to celebrate a birth-related ceremony of a newborn child in the community. It reminded me of village feasts in India where everyone in the extended family or neighborhood works for the ceremonies. A visit to the Palace is one of the important things to do.
Listen to the local music
Met this musician in Ubud Bali as I was walking back to my guest house after the morning walk. She said playing music in the morning is her way of meditating. I must admit it was meditative for me too as a listener. We exchanged a polite conversation and when I told her I am from India, she asked me if I have seen River Ganga. She said it with the utmost respect for the river. When I told her that just before coming to Indonesia, I was in Varanasi on the banks of Ganga – she took my hand and asked me to describe Ganga to her. I told her about Ganga and she said it is her life time dream to visit Ganga before she dies. She has been saving for many years for the same.This was my most touching moment in Indonesia.#travel #IndiTales #TravelVideo #MusicVideo #Ganga
Posted by IndiTales on Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Music is an inherent part of all old living spaces. As I was returning to my guesthouse on Hanoman Street after my long morning walk – I stopped in front of a small shop. There was lovely music being played there. I tiptoed to step in – careful that I should not break the Sadhana of the musician. This was not a performance but this was a piece of meditative music that someone was playing for self. I was right, a lady was lost in playing a metallic instrument. She did not even notice my entering the shop. She kept playing, and when she stopped, she looked at me and smiled. We spent some quiet moments before she said Hello to me while adjusting the instruments around her. She then played some other instruments to show me how they work.
We made some polite conversation and as I was about to leave, she asked me if I have been to Ganga River. I said, yes, several times. In fact, I was at Varanasi just a couple of weeks back – she ran out held my hands and asked me to describe Ganga to her. She said – she has been saving for years so that one day she can visit Ganga.
It was the most touching experience I had during my visit.
Go for Campuhan Ridge Walk
The Campuhan Ridge walk is a small easy trek that shows you the nature that exists in the close proximity of Ubud town. Wherever you live in the town, you need to walk to the Campuhan River. From Hanoman road, where I stayed, I walked a little more than a kilometer, passing by a canopy of hanging roots of Banyan trees to reach the ridge on Campuhan River. You can see the river down below and a ramp leading to the river from the side.
Take this and see the valley surrounding the river. Bali is hot and humid, so try and do this walk early morning or late afternoon.
Admire the Rice Terraces
Rice Terraces are the key landscape feature of Bali island. Take a walk out of the main town and walk along the roads surrounded by rice terraces and soak in the refreshing green color of paddy. I had limited time, so I chose to stay in a guest house facing the rice fields. Every time I stepped out I could see the rice terraces.
Rice terraces reminded me of similar terraced fields that you see in hills of India like Mukteshwar.
Visit Agung Rai Museum of Art
Located in the middle of a garden, this museum introduces you to traditional Balinese architecture. It showcases the work of many renowned Balinese and Indonesian artists. You can see the diversity of art that exists in the painting styles from various regions of the country. At the museum, you can learn about art forms like wood carving, traditional dance forms, and Gamelan orchestra. You can even take some workshops here.
Live performances happen at the open stage. Check the timings of these performances before you go, there are different timings on different days.
Eat Back to Basics, New Age Food – Organic and Raw
The town belongs as much to the tourists and expats as it does to the native Balinese. It is full of all kinds of cafes. As a vegetarian, I noticed a lot of vegan and raw food cafes. Most cafes offer free wi-fi connection.
It is ideal to do activities early morning and late afternoon, and during the day sit back at one of the cafes and do your work while munching some healthy food.
Visit the Goa Gajah Temple
This is a cave temple located close by. Read more about this in detail – Water Temples of Bali
Do Window shopping
The city center is full of souvenir shops and cafes. You are spoilt for choice. My experience says that if you walk around, you end up discovering a gem or two. There are always corners that showcase creative stuff.
Read my post on Best Bali Souvenirs to Buy
Being a tourist place, it has all ranges of accommodation to offer. You can stay in small guest houses or well-designed boutique hotels.
I stayed at Kunang Kunang Guest House overlooking the rice terraces off the Hanoman Road.
Three Dewi guest house in another favorite guest house with Bali Visitors.
Apart from this, you can take art classes, yoga classes, cooking classes or the famous Balinese Massages.