Ubud in Bali, a place I knew relatively little about, aside from what was portrayed in the popular novel ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert. I had planned to visit for a few days, on my way elsewhere, but ended up staying for 6 days.
However, Ubud wasn’t what I had envisaged exactly. I had imagined a peaceful, wee village, where yoga enthusiasts and hippies come to chill out among the many rice fields. Don’t get me wrong, Ubud does have that vibe to it, there are numerous raw, organic and nature shops, places you can go for a yoga retreat, massages, rice fields and cool eateries, as well as temples and museums.
What I was surprised by, was how busy it was. I got the bus with Ave my Estonian friend, I met in Sanur. No sooner had we got off the bus with our rucksacks and we were hounded by locals sitting on the side of the road. Shouting ‘taxi, taxi …. You need place to stay? Cheap room, come with me.’
However, you just need to keep walking, and say no thanks. There was a lot of traffic on the road, and it just seemed very chaotic.
Another thing that surprised me, was the poverty. In various parts of the main street, you’d have mothers sat on the road, with a child that quite frankly looked half dead cradled in her arms. She would look at you and stretch out her hand and say ‘please please.’ It was heart-breaking. Especially when you walking past holding a flashy camera, and eating an ice cream. Although it sounds cliché, but I am beginning to realise what a privileged upbringing I’ve had.
Aside from the busy streets, the constant hawkers hassling you to buy things, Ubud is a cool place. A lot of alleyways, amazing architecture, with cool doors leading to temples and gardens.
There are a number of things you can do in Ubud. Here is a selection of things I did, as well as a few extras.
1. Tours, tours and more tours – the main street in Ubud is filled with tourist agencies and the ‘taxi-mafia’ (private taxi companies). If you want to go anywhere, you won’t have a shortage in offers. If you’re sure you want to go to a certain, you can often bargain down the tourist agencies on the street. I did two tours from Ubud, one to Mt Batur, for a trek and the other to rice fields and a coffee plantation, just out of Ubud. I went with one of the taxi mafia for $20 for half a day, and I survived
2. Cultural dances – About four times per week, there are cultural ‘fire’ dances in Ubud. The cost is 75,000 Rupiah and you can buy a ticket from a vendor on the street. They are a set price, and you can’t bargain them down. I was due to go one night, but then had a bit of drama with my clothes going missing, so sold my ticket to another backpacker.
3. Yoga – There are a number of places you can do Yoga. Ubud Yoga House is popular and quite good. You don’t need to book, just show up. It costs 110,000 Rupiah per hour, they offer and sunrise and sunset class, as well as one in the day
4. Massages – Walk along the main street in Ubud, and you’re bound to end up with about 15 leaflets for a spa. There are numerous places that do Balinese massage starting from 90,000 for an hour and a half, to more upmarket Spa’s which offer packages.
5. Eating – I did a lot of eating in Ubud. I am in love with Balinese food. There are a number of cute cafés offering simple, organic Balinese food. Highly recommend is Kafe at 44 Japan Hanoman, and Tropical View Café on Monkey Forest street, which had views overlooking a rice field.
6. Temples – There are a number dotted around Ubud – just make sure you dress appropriately.
7. Adventure activities, including white water rafting, and visiting the Elephant Safari Park.
Ubud is about an hour from the popular beach destinations of Seminyak, Kuta, and Sanur. You can hire a private driver for the day, to take you there, go, on a tour, or jump on a Perama bus for about 55,000 Rupiah.
Ubud will certainly show you much more of Balinese culture, although it is showing signs of the tourism Web, but definitely worth a visit, even of you’ve only got a short time in Bali.