Claudiaexpat sends us a postcard from Ubud, with tips and infos on one of her favourite places in Indonesia.
I have already been to Ubud three times, I adore this little city plunged in nature and with its relaxed and respectful atmosphere. What I like about Ubud is that it has developed (too much, many would say) so as to offer something for all tastes: there are ancient temples, modern shops, endless art galleries, restaurants, museums…People, like anywhere else in Indonesia, are warm and kind. There are flowers, plants, lianas, offers to the Gods on the pavements, views where temples elegantly mingle with nature.
Last but not least, Ubud is home to the Ubud Literature Festival, which takes place every year in October, and that I attended in 2015 – an event absolutely not to miss if you are fan of literature, or simply interested in the world.
How to get there
By plane to Bali, at the Denpasar international airport (there are flights every day from Jakarta), then by taxi (present tariff 250,000 rupees) for about an hour.
Where to stay
I tried three different accomdations in Ubud:
Ananda Cottage Ubud, a lovely place immersed in paddies. It has a restaurant, two swimming pools, a reading corner, the Balinese-style bungalows (everything is Balinese here 🙂 ) are beautiful and spacious, though some rooms are a bit run down. It is located at ten minutes on foot from the Blanco Museum, towards the north, http://www.anandaubud.com/
Bale Bali House, this is located in the heart of Ubud, some hundred meters from the Ubud Palace. Very good location, then, and it is nice, the rooms are beautiful, even though a bit crammed in a limited space. It has no restaurant, but breakfast is included and served in the room. It has a small but lovely swimming pool. The owner is a trifle invasive, http://balebalihouse.com/
Bliss Ubud & Spa Bungalows, absolutely the best for me, though a bit decentralized. It is located ten minutes on foot north of Ananda, hence quite far from the centre. However, it has a free shuttle service to the centre (not the other way around), three times a day, at 10am, 1pm and 6pm. The shuttle can take you to the center at any time for 50,000 rupees (about 3 euros) if you don’t take advantage of the free ride. Rooms are beautiful, the welcome supreme, there is a lot of green, even though spaces are smaller than at Ananda. It has a very nice swimming pool, but the greatest thing is that it has a spa inside, where you can book a massage any tim, http://www.blissubudbungalow.com/
Where to eat
Ubud has plenty of restaurants for all tastes and pockets. Amongst those I tried:
Café Lotus, http://www.cafelotusubud.com/, in the centre, very close to the Ubud Palace. The dinner has not been particularly enthusing, but the place is wonderful, in front of a temple and a pond full of pink lotus flowers.
Tartufo, https://www.zomato.com/it/bali/tartufo-ubud/menu, Italian, great pizza (wooden oven) and ice-cream, open air, modest prices
D’Alas, http://d-alas.com/, a bit outside Ubud, but if you are around visiting some attractions, this is a really delicious restaurant, surrounded by wild nature, natural food, really nice.
Mozaic, http://www.mozaic-bali.com/, very expensive, but if you want to offer yourself a unique culinary experience, book and enjoy! High cuisine, in a wonderful garden, explanation of every single dish and all the products used, high class treatment.
Naughty Nuri’s Warung and Grill, https://www.tripadvisor.com/, you like grilled meat, do not miss this place where you can eat delicious pork ribs and steaks.
Sayan House, http://www.thesayanhouse.com/, I tried it the last time I was in Ubud, and really enjoyed it. It is outside town but the ride is worth the while. Lovely food, kind staff, and a beautiful view on rice fields, and totally quiet.
Hujan Locale, http://hujanlocale.com/, in the centre of Ubud, to eat super healthy.
Bali Buda, http://www.balibuda.com/, suggested by our friend Chiara, it is centrally located in Raya Ubud. A cozy little place, with a beautiful terrace on the street and a garden full of stupas…It offers biological, organical, vegetarian, vegan and detox dishes. All super nice, healty and wonderfully presented. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, the menu rich and varied, presented like a newspaper, with pages full of useful and eco-friendly addresses.
How to move around
If you can drive a motorbike, this is the best, cheapest and nicest way to move around. If you prefer, you can rent a car, but calculate well how much you really want to visit because a driver costs you 500,000 rupees (33 euros) per day (10 hours), and takes you everywhere. I used Arim, (+62)(0) 8123771735
What to see in Ubud
Ubud is a tiny town, and you can visit it all in one day, unless you want to visit all of the art galleries and museums, that are really a lot. The Ubud Palace is nice but quickly done. The central market can take a bit more time, depending on how long you want to stay. The center of Ubud is full of nice little shops, where you can do your shopping. My favourite is Street 278 (http://www.street278.com.au/about/bali), which sells bags, purses, beauty-cases in different sizes and coulors, made from recycled mosquito nets. There are many shops of clothing, accessories, crafts. If you like shopping, give it a bit of time. I am no fan of shopping at all, but I never leave Ubud without popping in at Biasa, an Italian stylist who has two shops in Indonesia, one in Jakarta and one in Ubud. Despite high prices, there is always something to take away, the shop assistants are very kind and participate with enthusiasm to the choice, http://biasagroup.com/
Museums and art galleries
The Agung Rai Museum of Art is rather simple, but it contains interesting pieces and explanations about the history of Ubud you don’t necessarily find elsewhere.
The Antonio Blanco Museum (http://blancomuseum.com/) is one of my favourite. The building is an experience in itself, it contains a circular structure on two floors, where paintings (mostly naked women) and scrapbooks of the artist are exposed. Indipendently from the style, which one can appreciate or not, the museum is an experience in itself. After the visit you can refresh on the restaurant’s terrace, which has a nice view and is windy.
The traditional Kecak dances are really worth the while. There are shows almost every night in one or two locations on the main street. They are clearly marked with panels on the street, you can opt for anyone, they are all nice.
There are plenty of art galleries in Ubud. If you like painting and sculpture, take your time to visit them well.
What to see outside Ubud
There are very many temples, panoramic points, caves and other attractions outside of Ubud, I list those I have seen, but I recommend you a good guide book to discover more.
The monkey forest
This is a beautiful forest, which contains a couple of temples (though closed to the public) , and dominated by an impressive quantity of monkeys. It is a nice experience, monkeys live amidst the tourists, sometimes checking them thoroughly to find out whether they hide a banana in their pockets. Don’t be afraid of monkeys, you just need to adopt a few behaviours, all clearly explained at the entrance, to fully enjoy the visit of this beautiful forest, http://monkeyforestubud.com/
A cave dedicated to the elephant, more interesting for the external carving than for its interior. From there you can walk along the paddies (or being taken by car) up to Yeh Pulu, a rocky wall with interesting bas-reliefs. The walk is very nice, http://www.bali-indonesia.com/magazine/goa-gajah.htm#promo
Very suggestive, but I suggest you not to do it when the heat is at its peak, because you reach it through a long flight of steps, and climbing it on your way back is really heavy when it’s hot.
Pura Tirta Empul
It is a sacred source, regularly used by locals who bath in its waters to increase fertility. A part from the questionable show of tourists that bath with the locals, the place is highly evocative, one of my favourite, http://www.bali-indonesia.com/attractions/tirta-empul-temple.htm
Bamboo chocolate farm
If you have never seen how chocolate is done, a visit to this original farm is certainly worth the while. Founded by a Canadian and an Austrian, and built exclusively in bamboo, the Big Tree Farm produces chocolate in full respect of the environment. Its peculiarity is in its seat, completely built in bamboo, from the production area to the offices, to the meeting rooms. They organise nice tours (I repeat: if you have never seen how chocolate is done). Lovely tour for children.
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple
The temple in itself is nothing spectacular, but the road to get there and the surroundings are beautiful. Placed on a lake, which you can also navigate with a small boat, it is a Hindu temple represented on the 50,000 rupees notes. If you go, stop and eat strawberries in one of the many restaurants in the area – they are served in many ways, and they are delicious.
What to do
Rafting, bike tours, walks in the paddies, yoga classes, cooking classes, massages, shopping…you can do all this and even more in Ubug. As far as massages are concerned, I must warn you from the cheapest places you find in the centre. I was attracted by the low price, and had a terrible experience. Better to spend something more (which remains very affordable compared to European standards), but go to a decent spa to fully enjoy the experience.
Claudia Landini (Claudiaexpat)
Updated: May 2017
Translated from Italian by Claudiaexpat