Famous for its artist's community, and as the cultural heart of Bali, Ubud is special in more ways than one. It has its own magic, and its particularly beautiful surroundings and gracious way of life have drawn celebrities and artists from all over the world in recent decades; some have even adopted Ubud as their own home. Ubud is now more than ever in the spotlight due to the famed book by Elizabeth Gilbert and movie "Eat Pray Love".
If I have to describe Ubud Bali in one word I would say "idyllic". Despite large numbers of tourists visiting this little village with streets that are too narrow for touring buses, Ubud has been able to maintain its traditional life. It is the healing capital of Bali, many people come here purely to recharge their batteries from the past paced western life, and here you just surrender to the energies and let go.
Ubud has been voted the top city in S.E. Asia in January 2010 by the Condé Nast Traveler, it is not hard to see why; everywhere you look is paradise with dense green jungles, myriads of rice fields and beautiful tropical gardens. Here Balinese men and women still place offerings gracefully on the side of the road and at temples and shrines everyday; you will see them riding attired beautifully in traditional dress on motor scooters to temples and ceremonies while holding offerings in colorful woven baskets, sometimes you can witness even up to four on a bike.
This is not a village were you should be up and running...the order of the day is to RELAX and live in the NOW. It is more a place where you'll want to stroll around or just sit with a book and observe the delightful sights as they pass by. If you can’t resist some action though, there is the Monkey Forest where you’ll be greeted by the many Macaque monkeysor you may wish to visit the Ubud Market. This market is a maze of shops that sell everything a traveler in Bali can imagine…and more.
The village is surrounded by fertile land that has resulted in the beautiful rice field terraces you always find featured in pictorialand travel books on Bali. This is also an ideal location to explore the terraces and take photographs while standing in the middle of the fields. In the past the rice fields and ideal irrigation systems have provided the people with a surplus in rice yields. With time to spare the king of Ubud ordered the rice farmers to dedicate their time on paintings and wood and stone carvings for the temples and palaces.
From these origins a unique place has emerged into a artist’s village that has attracted many people, including foreigners who have played their part in forming various creative styles adopted by local artisans. It is not surprising to see that many artists feel at home in this village considering the mystical and inspiring setting.
Today painting still plays an important role in Ubud and the surrounding areas and there are many galleries where painters sell their work. Additionally there are several important art museums that show unique paintings and wood carvingsthat create greater appreciation for these expressive forms of art.You can continue your cultural adventure in the evening where you can choose from many Balinese performances such as the graceful Legong dance, the dynamic Kecak trance dance and the funny Wayang Kulit shadow puppet plays to entertain and inspire you.
Ubud is an ideal place to walk around, especially if you check out the small streets and alleys on the side of every road. They lead you to amazing places such as rice fields, river valleys, temples and Balinese family compounds. Ubud Bali has three main roads that are all one way-streets. So you will definitely drive through them regularly if you are finding your way through Ubud by car, bike or motor scooter.
The busiest is the Monkey Forest Road. This road starts in the south when you come into Ubud, passes by the famous Monkey Forest Reserve and ends all the way in the north at the bustling Ubud Market. This street is overdeveloped with shops, restaurants and places to stay. Monkey Forest road already looks cramped, but there is even more development behind the many buildings along this road. The many alleys (gang) on both sides of the road are passages to tucked away hotels (many cheap homestays), spas and restaurants.
Jalan Raya (the main road) is a road that crosses Monkey Forest Road in the center of Ubud Bali. To the left, this road leads you to Campuhan. Within these sacred grounds you can start a rice field walk that goes on further north of Ubud, past Samadhi Retreat and the ancient-looking villa complex of Ibah Hotel.
Another road that you’ll certainly come across is Jalan Hanuman. Like Monkey Forest Road, this street is long and it has many shops, restaurants, hotels and homestays. Going towards Monkey Forest Rd, Jalan Hanoman comes to a fork, the right veers off to Monkey Forest Rd, whilst to the left is still Jalan Hanuman and goes on passing the ARMA museum then becomes Jalan Raya Pengosekan that takes you on to the Lutundoh village.
Ubud is relatively small so if you have the time you can easily walk around and see a lot. The streets and footpaths are a little bumpy, occasionally you might find a hole or two or some loose pavement so be careful (Hati Hati) of your footing and also please look out for the colorful offerings which are placed along the streets and in front of shops. You will easily crush them with your feet while window-shopping, which is insulting to the Balinese...and we don't want that.
Along Monkey Forest Road there are many bicycle and motor scooter rentals, usually the price drops the longer the term you wish to rent them. Before you hop on, check that the tyres are good, it can get really slippery when it rains andan accident is the last thing you need during your well-deserved holidays.
Everywhere in town you will find many private drivers sitting in the shade of a tree only to jump up when you come in sight. Instantly they will make driving movement with their hands. ‘Taxi?’ is the first thing they say. If you are not interested reply: ‘No thank you...’ or 'Tidak Terimakasi.
But if you are considering touring around for a day then a private driver is what you need. Check out if you like their car and then bargain for a price that suits you. Usually it is around Rp.400,000 per day (8 hours) including a chatty driver and fuel.
The Post Office is located on Jalan Jembawan on the east-side of Jalan Raya. If you don't feel like walking all the way you can always leave your postcards with the hotels' concierge service.
The Ubud Clinic, 24H (0361-974911) can be found on the west-side of Jalan Raya before the Campuhan bridge and here bilingual staff is also available.
If you need the Police (0361-975316) you can find them on Jalan Raya Andong in the north-eastern part of Ubud. Turn left at the traffic lights at the end of Jalan Raya near the huge statue.
The Tourist Office is open from 8am-8pm daily and located on the crossing of Jalan Monkey Forest and Jalan Raya, just across the Ubud Palace. Here they can offer you some maps, brochures and the monthly issue of Ubud Community with useful articles and a calendar of events.
Foreign Consulates in Bali
Netherlands, Jl. Imam Bonjol 599, Denpasar (tel. 0361-751904 or 751497, fax 752777)
France, Jl. Raya Sesetan 46 D, Banjar Pesanggaran, Denpasar (tel. 0361-233555)
Japan, Jl. Moh. Yamin 9, Renon, Denpasar (tel. 0361-231308 or 234808)
Germany, Jl. Pantai Karang 17, Sanur (tel. 0361-288535); Italy, Jl. Padang Galak, Sanur (tel. 0361-288996 or 288896)
Switzerland/Austria, c/o Swiss Restaurant, Jl. Pura Bagus Taruna, Legian (tel. 0361-751735)
Sweden/Finland, Segara Village Hotel, Sanur (tel. 0361-288407 or 288408)
U.S.A., Jl. Sanur Ayu 5, Sanur (tel. 0361-288478
Norway Denmark, Jl. Jayagiri, Gang VIII/10, Denpasar (tel. 0361-235098 or 233053)
Australia, Jl. Prof. Moh. Yamin Kav. 51, P.O. Box 243, Renon, Denpasar (tel. 0361-235092 or 235093, fax 231990).
In Ubud and its surrounding hamlets cultural influences and artifacts are still found. Besides absorbing the cultural beauty of Ubud there are many other things to do which always seem to be intertwined with the daily village life. For instance the nearby temples show you the historical and religious influences that are still present today while the many museums offer you the opportunity to learn about their Bali paintings, drawings, carvings and statues. Besides this you can also actively learn about the village's culture by participating in dance, paint, mask-making and cooking classes, for which you will do some shopping at the local Ubud market.
These courses are pretty exceptional for Bali and the tourism foundation of Ubud Bali encourages this as this is one of the ways to create a balance between tourism and the locals. Only through this balance can the natural and cultural beauty of the village be preserved.
The stunning location of the village also provides enough opportunity to explore the rice terraces or the river valleys that are found in and around the village. When walking through these panoramic sceneries you will find yourself up close with the local people who are working in the fields throughout the day.
Ubud is full with all types of restaurants and cafes. After just a couple of meters you will bump into one again. So no chance of getting hungry here... There is a mixed choice of restaurants such as the classy modern looking restaurants, restaurants that only serve organic food and drinks or restaurants that have a gorgeous garden where you can sit on a big pillow on the floor. But there are also the basic ones (but always with some nice decoration) that just offer you what you're looking for: good food.
Below is a list of recommended Restaurants & cafes; it gives you a taste of what you can find in Ubud.
Of course there are far more, too many to mention, you can find relatively cheap cafes in and around Ubud and get a fair proportion of tasty, healthy and above all safe food....just walk around, talk to people and see what takes your fancy.
If you are into shopping, well, look no further, there are so many shops and shopping experiences to be had in Ubud and beyond. Below is a list of shops and comments:
NOTE: When visiting temples be aware that you should wear long pants or a sarong with a selendang tied around the waist (men and women). Whilst you can take your own every major temple has selendangs to borrow for a small donation. It is extremely bad form (in fact it’s taboo) for women who are menstruating to enter a temple.