Ubud, located in Bali’s cool hilly central, is well known for ancient temples, royal palaces, scenic rice terraces and steep ravines. The town in the central foothills of the Gianyar regency is also one of Bali’s major arts and culture centres. The word Ubud originates from the word Ubad or Obad which means medicine which might explain why tourists looking for some “Eat, Pray, Love” have been flocking to this part of Bali in recent years.
Here are 10 things you can do in Ubud, Bali
1. Go to an Art Market
If shopping is your thing, head down to Ubud Art Market located in the central region of the island. Locally referred to as ‘Pasar Seni Ubud’, the market is opened daily from 8am to 6pm, with some stalls opening late into the night. While you won’t find Chanel or Celine, Ubud is a great place to buy Balinese souvenirs and memorabilia like silk scarves, hand-woven bags, statues and a hosts of other hand-crafted goods. This is also the place where Julia Roberts met her ‘love’ in the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”. So if you are a fan, even visiting the market and retracing her steps could be more than worth the while. Bargaining is a must at the market.
2. Take a stroll in Ubud Monkey Forest
Ubud Monkey Forest is home to a group of Balinese grey long-tailed macaques. Although feeding the animals in the forest is not advised, it doesn’t stop the locals setting up stalls at the entrance to sell bananas to cater to your urge to feed these playful monkeys. The monkeys are known to snatch the bags of tourists, so be alert and hold on to your belongings.
Other than monkeys, you can also visit the historic Pura Purana temple built in the mid-14th century as well as the Pura Dalem Agung or ‘The Temple of Death’ associated with the Hindu god Shiva in the forest. Admission tickets are priced at an affordable IDR 10,000 – 15,000 (S$1).
3. Stay in a spa hotel
There seems to be a spa tucked in every corner of Ubud. From traditional Balinese massage or Javanese Lulur Scrub to places that use herbal and organic products or rich chocolate, there is no lack of places to pamper yourself with and unwind. Alternatively, you can bring the spa experience to you by staying in a boutique spa hotel like the newly opened SenS Hotel & Spa Conference Ubud. Erected on part of the grounds of the extended royal family of the Peliatan Kingdom, the hotel is strolling distance to the famous sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud Royal Palace, Ubud Market and a host of museums, cultural attractions, galleries, shopping hotspots, dining and bar options. A night stay at Sens Hotel & Spa Conference Ubud is now going at an opening promotional price of US$60 (S$83). You can book your stay here.
4. Visit the rice terraces
Ubud is popular for its rice terraces. And the most photographed and visited rice paddies in the Ubud area had to be the Tegallalang Rice Terraces. The beautiful Tegallalang rice paddies uses a traditional Balinese irrigation system, forming a spectacular terraced landscape.
5. Herons watching at Petulu
A 15 minutes drive north of Ubud will bring you to Petulu village, home to the legendary white herons. Every evening at slightly over 5pm, thousands of herons ‘fly home’ from all over the island and settle in this small village. Villagers believed that the Kokokan birds or herons guard the village from pests and evil spirits and are said to be the lost souls of those massacred in Indonesia in the 1960s and buried without proper funeral rites.
The breath-taking scene of the returning herons in Petulu lasts around 2 hours and species include little egrets, cattle egrets, and Javan pond herons. Words don’t do justice to this amazing phenomenon. It’s an event best appreciated on location.
6. Visit a museum
For art lovers, Ubud has plenty to offer. You can visit the Setia Darma Masks & Puppets House, a unique museum that houses over a 1,000 masks and over 4,000 puppets from all over the Indonesia, Africa, China, and Europe. Located in Tegal Bingin in Sukawati, the district is also famous for its community of Balinese woodcarvers, mask makers and sculptors.
Another popular museum is the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA), an art museum that features works from Indonesian artists as well as works from painters like Walter Spies, Rudolf Bonnet and Adrian Le Mayeur. There are also many activities held in the museum for visitors to learn more about the Balinese gamelan orchestras, woodcarvings and Balinese history.
7. Visit the Ubud Royal Palace
A good place to add to your Ubud itinerary is a visit to the Ubud Royal Palace. Located near Ubud Art Market, the Puri Saren Ubud palace is known for its well-preserved Balinese architecture and charming garden landscaping. Don’t miss the dance performances with the accompanying gamelan orchestras that take place at 7.30pm every evening.
8. Go hiking at Campuhan Ridge Walk
Campuhan Ridge Walk is a 9 kilometres track in the central highland town of Ubud. The fresh air and lush greenery is a refreshing change for city dwellers. Along the track, you will pass the Pura Gunung Lebah temple, known for its intricately carved walls and brightly coloured gold and red statues. If you are thinking of entering the courtyard, it is advisable to bring along a sarong (traditional garment).
And needless to say, the best time to hit the Campuhan Ridge Walk is early in the morning for the cool climate and fresh air.
9. Get ‘healed’
For a lot of tourist, the main reason for going to Ubud is to de-stress and get a mental and physical detox before diving back into work back home. From healers to yoginis and Ayurveda to acupuncture, Ubud is a melting pot of wellness practitioners. If you are going to Ubud to see some ‘celebrity’ healers, do note that there is a rise of bogus healers and the dubious prescriptions. Be careful and research carefully each centre and practitioner before making your choice. By the way, word has it that healer Ketut Liyer of Eat, Pray, Love fame who has amassed a considerable fortune is now in and out of hospital due to dementia. Probably taking a photograph with him is a wiser choice than hoping to receive any spiritual insights from him.
10. Learn to cook Balinese
Take a cooking class! A class normally starts with a visit to a morning market to pick out the ingredients followed by an introduction to Balinese cooking techniques. Prices range from IDR 350,000 to 450,000 (S$34 – S$44) and are typically held in restaurants. Some popular places include Casa Luna Cooking School, Bumbu Bali Cooking School and Mozaic restaurant.