Wake up to the rooster’s crow, catch the first rays of sunlight piercing through lush forests, caress the sparkling morning dews on the rice paddies, watch the town come alive and the locals go about their rituals… Ubud is a heaven on earth for travellers, a healing pit stop for wounded souls and a safe home to many hopeful dreamers. Let us take you to its heart; feel its pulsating core, leave a little love behind and take a piece of its magic with you.
- The Early Bird Catches the Locals
Tourists go to the Ubud Market to hunt for souvenirs. Travellers know better and wake up early to mingle and haggle with the natives for fresh produce and local treats. Head to the Ubud Market before 9 AM and embrace the hustle and bustle of an authentic Balinese bazaar. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture those only-in-Bali moments.
- Spice Up Your Morning
Some Balinese breakfast dishes are not for the faint-hearted. The traditional ayam betutu—a generously seasoned and spiced 24-hour slow-roasted chicken dish—is a popular morning meal in Bali. The best in Ubud is at Betutu Ayam Pak Sanur tucked in the centre of town. Your stomach might resent you for the initial spicy shock but if you are lucky enough to meet Pak Sanur, the lovely man behind the one-and-only dish, allow him to charm you with his stories. Go before 10 AM to avoid disappointment; they cater to the royal families and are often sold out by late morning.
- When in Ubud…
Use your time in Ubud to gain an understanding of the Balinese culture, learn some basic Indonesian words or pick up a new artistic skill. With over 30,000 books in more than 10 languages, Pondok Pekak Library & Learning Centre is a non-profit sanctuary in the centre of Ubud that provides a comfortable, creative space to explore Indonesian and Balinese classes in language, dance, music and arts and crafts.
- The Motorcycle Diaries
Assuming you are an experienced rider with a valid license and a solid helmet, Ubud and its surroundings are best explored on a motorbike. Follow our scenic off-the-beaten-track road-trip routes:
- The north road towards the Elephant Safari Park in Taro is a long, beautiful stretch of endless rice fields and terraces, stunning mountain range and sweet little villages.
- Riding approximately 10 km north of Jalan Andong, you will be greeted with the jaw-dropping Tegallalang rice terraces (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). On your way back into town, be adventurous and explore the numerous winding side roads, passing through local artisans’ villages.
- Work up a little sweat and head north of Kedewatan, make a left at the sign for Black Penny Villas, park, follow the steep steps down leading to vast rice fields and join the locals for a cool dip in the Ayung River. Watch out for rafting traffic!
- The Green Guerrillas
Support Bali’s green pioneers and initiatives through a unique half-day tour of Green Village, PT Bamboo Pure and Green School, located 30 minutes south of Ubud. See how humble blades of grass are transformed into bespoke bamboo homes at Green Village and unconventional eco architecture and designs at the world-famous Green School, and learn about the whole process at PT Bamboo Pure. Check website www.greenvillagebali.com to book a tour.
- For the Love of Bali Dogs
In Bali, you cannot cross the street without bumping into a street dog. As adorable as they are, the reproduction of these dogs is spiralling out of control. Many are destined to suffer from abuse, neglect, consumption, diseases or euthanasia due to lack of a loving home.
Help to improve the wellbeing of Bali’s animals by donating to Bali Pet Crusaders—a non-profit, locally run organization and a registered Australian charity on a noble mission to tackle the overpopulation of stray animals on the island through free sterilization of pets and strays and community education and engagement. A little donation goes a long way. For a more hands-on experience, visit Bali Dog Adoption and Rehabilitation Centre and volunteer to play with or walk the dogs.
- A Cup of Java
Rio Helmi Gallery & Café is a roomy, light-filled gallery-cum-café run by the eponymous Indonesian photographer, writer and one of Ubud’s iconic residents. Drop by for a stimulating conversation with Rio over his punchy coffee. Rio has spent almost four decades in Ubud and travelled extensively across Asia, capturing unique images that are now immortalized in his gallery. He also leads Ubud Now & Then, an interesting website packed with the latest info on Ubud now and Ubud as it used to be.
- Up the Lovers’ Lane
Imagine a traffic-free paved path with panoramic views of rolling hills, lush forests, rice fields, volcanoes and a river gorge. This is Campuhan Ridge, more commonly known among the locals as Bukit Cinta (Love Hill). Come for sunset and you’ll see why. Frisky Balinese teenagers stroll up and down the scenic path, dressed to impress in their heels and skinny jeans or doused in heavy cologne with a kretek in hand, giggling and flirting away or love-struck and cuddled up on the grassy hills. Ah, to be young again!
- The Ubud Hipsters and Twisters
Get on the digital nomad bandwagon. Whether you like it or not, Ubud is changing and embracing a new generation of hipsters and twisters, creatives and techies, entrepreneurs and socialpreneurs—all buzzing, tapping and Bitcoining away at Hubud [Hub-in-Ubud], an über-popular collaborative working space where its thriving members are cramped into a hot and crowded (but sustainable) bamboo building.
- Monkey See, Monkey Do
If you must see the notoriously cheeky monkeys of Ubud, we recommend skipping those lazy, obese macaques in the heart of town for a guided leisurely stroll in the serenity of Sangeh Holy Monkey Forest, a 30-minute drive from Ubud. The lesser-known haven is the biggest and the first monkey forest in Bali and home to 14 hectares of homogeneous pala (nutmeg) trees, three families of over 600 monkeys and the Pura Bukit Sari Sangeh—a mossy 17th-century Hindu temple from the Mengwi Kingdom.
This article was first published in Ubud Life — June-August 2015.
Photos by Meliana Salim unless otherwise stated.