Bali – the island conveys different perceptions to different people. If you’re an Aussie, booze and partying probably come to mind. If you’re from North America, or even Europe, images of an exotic tropical paradise register in your head. If you’ve seen the movie, or read the book “Eat Pray Love”, for you, Bali is a place for meditation and yoga, and ultimately, a place to find balance. And if you’re a Millennial, I’m sure you’ve seen so many photos of the island on social media: the stunning waterfalls, the impressive swimming pools, the spectacular beaches, the Instagram-worthy food, and of course, the private villas. So, for you, Bali is the place where people indulge and pamper themselves. For me, Bali is a combination of all those things, and more. While on the island, I stayed in different places – Seminyak, Canggu, Kuta, and Ubud. Each one has a different flavour. However, if you’re looking to appreciate the true essence of the Balinese culture while experiencing a sense of tranquility, Ubud is the place.
The town of Ubud is located closer to the centre of the island, surrounded by lush forests and rice paddies. To properly experience what Ubud is all about, I suggest spending a few days in the area. The pace of life is slower in Ubud, so just take your time and appreciate the break from the daily grind. Here are some of the things you should do in Ubud:
Achieve inner peace by attending yoga and meditation classes
As cliché as it sounds, Ubud really is the place for yoga and meditation in Bali. There’s just something about the surroundings and scenery of the town that calms you down. I highly suggest the popular Yoga Barn for both yoga and meditation classes. I know this place is so popular but I found that the classes there lived up to the hype. They offer different types of classes and workshops throughout the week. There’s something for everyone at the Yoga Barn, from beginners to full-fledged yogis. Also, don’t forget to check out the café at the Yoga Barn; I had some of the best food in Bali there.
Feel good by eating healthy
First, a little confession, I didn’t always eat healthy in Ubud. I tried the bebek bengil or dirty duck (crispy, fried duck, so good!) while in Ubud. But I’d like to think it was just me trying to find balance. In all seriousness, Ubud is packed with healthy cafes and restaurants so it’s so easy to eat right. Some are more expensive than others but I suggest you try a few. One of the best-looking cafés in Ubud is Clear Café. The food is good as well, but on the pricey side. However, from the entrance to the interiors, this café is top-notch. Another one I recommend is Atman Kafe, also located on the same street. This café has a cozy atmosphere and the vegan and gluten free food are excellent.
Explore the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
The lush and refreshing Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is conveniently located in the town itself. Go for a stroll and explore the sacred temples within the complex. Be warned though, the monkeys here can be aggressive. Do not make eye contact and don’t wear or bring any lose items such as sunglasses or food because they will steal them. They may even climb on your shoulders or head but don’t panic and be very cautious around them.
Go on a day tour of the surrounding areas and attend a cultural show at night
Most, if not all, day tours from Ubud will take you to the remarkable Tegallalang Rice Terraces, one of Bali’s most iconic scenery. It might be a tourist trap, but still worth going. Other places where tours will take you include the Tirta Empul temple, which is a Balinese Hindu water temple and the beautiful but crowded Tegenungan Waterfall. Wherever your tour takes you, you’ll feel the slower pace of time in Ubud as you drive around this region. You’ll also get a better appreciation of the beautiful landscape of the area.
At night, don’t forget to attend a cultural show. There are a few options you can choose from and some are conveniently located in centre of the town. It’s another great way to get a taste of the rich Balinese culture.
Go to the market
Whenever you visit a town or city for the first time, it’s always a good idea to visit the markets. Browsing through the market stalls is a nice way to interact with the locals and learn more about the culture. Ubud’s Art Market isn’t particularly big, so navigating through it isn’t so daunting. It’s also not as chaotic as other Asian markets so you won’t feel overwhelmed there. According to my guide who took me around Ubud, many of the goods sold here are made in the neighbouring villages. Even if you don’t intend to buy anything, it’s a nice place to people watch and take photos.
Immerse yourself in the culture by staying in a homestay in the middle of the town
The homestays in Ubud are mostly located in the centre of the town so everything in the central is walking distance, from the Yoga Barn to the market. The architecture and design of the homestays are also traditional. You’ll find that the hosts are warm and welcoming and they can help you with different things, such as arranging your tours, finding transportation and food recommendations, just to name a few. Spending a couple of nights in a homestay will give you a taste of how the locals live. I booked my homestay through AirBnb, but you can also easily find a place to stay once you get to town.
Indulge and stay in one of the beautiful resorts in the area
Some of the world’s most beautiful resorts are in Bali; and some of them are located in Ubud. If you want to experience ultimate relaxation, pamper yourself and stay in one of the resorts in the area. You can also rent a villa if you want more privacy. I stayed at the newly opened Sthala. Situated next to a river, the resort has two outdoor pools, a rooftop bar and offers complimentary guest activities such morning yoga and luwak coffee excursion. The resort also provides free car service to town, which is very convenient. Let me just say, it was hard to leave the resort after a couple of days of total relaxation.
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