Five cool things to do in Ubud (and two that we avoided)
Frequently named as the cultural hub of Bali, Ubud has seen a tremendous growth in popularity over the past few decades. It is one of those places that people fall in love with, and you'll meet many who end up staying for weeks instead of days. For some, weeks turn into months and months turn into a lifetime.
We enjoyed our time in Ubud immensely, spending five nights in the centre. We experienced more than is on this list, but we've put together five things we recommend to do, three things we wish we did and two things were are very glad we didn't do...
Nº 1 - take a walk among the rice terraces
There is no denying that the visitor numbers in Ubud are high. Walk off the main streets, though, and you can find yourself a small patch of quiet, and if you're lucky, enjoy it with no other tourists in sight.
Most tour buses and many tourists visit Tegalalang Rice Terraces. We heard from a number of locals that the rice grown is of poor quality and the design of the terraces is kept prim purely for tourism. We decided not to visit Tegalalang in favour of Jatiluwih on our day tour with a private driver and instead took our walks not far from Ubud town centre.
The Kajeng Rice Fields Walk is easy to reach from the main street - just follow the sign west of The Paon Restaurant. Otherwise, hire a bicycle or even a scooter to reach rice fields further afield. The Campuhan Ridge Walk is another nice walk, although we found it more popular.
It's best to walk early in the morning or later in the afternoon when it is cooler.
Nº 2 - ATTEND A COOKING CLASS
With so many cooking classes to choose from, and many of them being rated highly in guidebooks and online, we were initially overwhelmed and unsure which school to go with.
We ended up attending the morning cooking class with Paon Bali, hosted by the wonderful Puspa and husband Wayan in their family home in Laplapan village, about a twenty minutes drive from Ubud centre. Starting with an early morning visit to the market (locals use this time to buy food and there's few souvenirs in sight) before cooking eight different dishes, it's great value for money and very fun.
A mixture of comedy, cooking and authentic cuisine, this was one of our favourite things that we did during all of our time in Bali.
We paid IDR 350,000 per person, which is about £20.
Nº 3 - Visit a Spa
You will find a lot of massage parlours along the main streets in Ubud, some more professional than others. It is worth doing your research if you want a specific type of massage or a certain quality of experience. We took the twenty-minute Campuhan Ridge Walk to Karsa Spa, and indulged in a ninety-minute Balinese traditional massage. The location is serene, there's a cafe next door and the staff are skilled.
We paid IDR 220,000 per person, which is about £12.
Nº 4 - EAT!
Indonesian and Balinese food is seriously good. From the famous babi guling to popular mie goreng, roadside warungs and upmarket restaurants have some tasty local grub on the menu.
Besides serving some delicious meat dishes, Ubud is filled with a lot of vegetarian and vegan establishments. For picky eaters, there is also a wide range of Western fare available.
We've written a separate post about our favourite restaurants in Bali, including Locavore, as featured in Asia's 50 Best Restaurants. We've also written a quick guide to local food to try in Bali.
Nº 5 - TAKE A DAY TOUR WITH A PRIVATE DRIVER
If like us, you want to see more of Bali but do not the courage or experience of riding scooters, then taking a tour with a private driver is the way to go. We went north to Munduk and back, seeing temples, waterfalls, lakes and local villages along the way. We've written about our experience here.
We paid IDR 700,000 for a ten-hour day. You can expect to pay between IDR 500,000 and 800,000 for a day tour.
THREE THINGS WE WISH WE DID...
•Yoga! Rachel practised Ashtanga yoga for one year in London and we were keen to visit the Yoga Barn or Yoga House. Unfortunately, we run out of time.
•White water rafting. When we stayed at the Alila Ubud, we saw the rafts being transported into the valley and were tempted to try it out. As we've already tried it a few times in the French Alps, however, we thought we'd save our cash for something else.
•Visited more art galleries and museums. There are so many dotted across Bali and Ubud in particular, and we didn't reach nearly as many as we wanted to on this visit
...AND TWO THINGS WE'RE GLAD WE DIDN'T DO
•The Monkey Forest. We did not see the appeal in watching other tourists feed wild animals. Vendors sell bananas and peanuts at the entrance, and as these foods aren't in the monkey's natural diet, it can be very unhealthy for them. Feeding monkeys can make them aggressive and stories of macaques stealing cameras, phones, etc. are common. The risk of getting bitten and potentially becoming infected with rabies is another important reason why we avoided the area!
•Visit a nearby Civet Coffee Farm. Many producers or marketers of the world's most expensive coffee claim the droppings used to make it are picked from jungle floors. More commonly, however, civet cats are caged and kept in horrifying conditions. This article gives an insight into the disturbing nature of the industry.
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