10 reasons why you should visit the Batu CavesMay 3, 2017
Ubud is the cultural heart of Bali, home to some of the finest museums, craftsmen and artisan studios who thrive under a community that uphold strict laws to conserve and nurture traditional Balinese art and traditions. However, past the ijuk thatched roof of the orange brick houses is a rapidly growing migrant community of alternative spiritualists and leggings cladded yoga enthusiasts.
There is now so many more things to do, eat and shop at in Central Ubud and I hope this guide will help narrow your choices down.
Cultural centre of Bali
Founded in: 8th Century
Climate: It rains… alot.
Language: Balinese, Indonesian
Where to stay
- Luxury or Traditional – Ubud offers the best of both worlds. For a complete cultural immersion, stay at a local guesthouse where you get to live in a local’s family compound. Staying at a guesthouse is also the cheapest option when staying in Ubud. Otherwise, you can stay at some of the world’s best luxury resorts to relax and unwind.
- Teja Guesthouse – Best guesthouse in my opinion. It is very well located to everything in Central Ubud and is a comfortable, new and clean choice.
- Bisma 8 – One of the top hotels that is near Ubud central. Bisma 8 is a new and trendy hotel that looks like something out of a Kinfolk or Monocle magazine.
- Uma – A little bit out of Ubud Central but honestly one of the best hotels around.
- Evitel – Though it defeats the purpose of getting the traditional Ubud experience, Evitel does offer the cheapest rates for a nice clean city-hotel styled rooms. The rooftop pool offers a great view of Ubud.
Things to see
- Monkey Forest – Feed them bananas or be attacked/molested/glared at by the adorable monkeys roaming around the very popular Monkey forest. Guaranteed to be a fun and memorable getaway (being shat on by a monkey as he ate a banana on my shoulders).
- Museums – Ubud is the cultural capital of Bali, so you’re bound to come across museums that houses some of the island’s finest artworks. My favourite ones are:
- Blanco Renaissance Museum – The provocative artworks of Spanish painter Antonio Blanco is showcased in one of the most beautiful European styled museum mixed with a fine touch of Balinese architecture.
- Neka Museum – A curated collection of artworks from island’s best of the best. Definitely a must visit to those that love and appreciate Balinese and contemporary Indonesian art. The museum itself looks rather run-down but the art is unrivalled.
- Ubud Palace – Roam around the small palace grounds and appreciate traditional Balinese architecture at the Ubud Palace. Perfect place to take a selfie or to just sit and enjoy the atmosphere.
- Campuhan Ridge Walk – If you’re up for a quick hike and to be surrounded by nature, the ridge walk is available within walking distance from Ubud central.
- Goa Gajah – Just a few kilometres outside of Ubud is the ancient archaeological site of Goa Gajah, or ‘Elephant Cave’ temple. One of the most historically significant sites in Bali dating back to the 8th century!
What to do
- Yoga retreats – Ubud is one of the world’s centres of Yoga and meditation. Take up a beginner group class from international renowned yogis for as low as $10 for a session. Recommended places: Yoga Barn, Radiantly Alive and Taksu.
- Paradiso Vegan Cinema – Imagine sitting down on your self-assigned couches inside an eco-friendly building waiting for your movie to start by eating your sweet potato French fries whilst sipping on your health juice called ‘menstrual cramps’ as a lady executes a perfect ‘Ardha Adho’ (Halfway downward dog – yoga move) in front of the movie screen. They don’t call it a vegan cinema for no reason!
- Roam around Jalan Hanoman, Gootama and Monkey Forest – Eat, shop and heal at the many cafes and shops dotted along these main streets.
- Eco-shopping – Ubud is home to some of the most innovative eco-friendly products. Many shops and even restaurant also donates their proceeds back to the local community, which is a huge plus!
- Herbal & health food – You will be overloaded with detox drinks, gluten free cakes and vegan food options to the point that you’ll be dying for a McDonalds burger.
- Kecak dance – Otherwise known as the dance of a thousand hands, you can find some local village communities hosting these performances which start roughly after sunset.
Where to eat
- Ibu Oka Babi Guling – You haven’t been to Ubud without sampling some of the crackling pork skin and lawar at the legendary Ibu Oka. Babi Guling is arguably the most famous Balinese dish and this particular restaurant was even featured on Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ TV show.
- Warung Siam – Best Thai food I have had in Bali so far. Craving for that Pad Thai as we speak!
- Clear Café – If you’re all about that raw and vegan food, look no further.
- Confiture de Bali – Try out some French jams with traditional flavours ranging from jackfruits to tamarind. Though I personally come here just for the Kombucha drink, highly recommended.
- Melting Wok – I come here for the crème caramel with coconut lime and for the warm hospitality of the French and Vietnamese owners.
- Kismet – Melbourne brunch meets Balinese health food.
- Gelato Secrets – Best gelato in town.
Best place to drink coffee and chill
- Kakiang Bakery – A Japanese styled bakery selling some of the most delicious cakes and pastries in Ubud. Easily one of my favourites.
- Seniman Café – Learn to appreciate coffee as you sit on a swinging chair, my go to coffee spot in Ubud.
- Tutmak – Order a nasi goreng (fried rice) and juice as you look over local kids playing soccer on the field. Pass the time at Tutmak.
- Murni’s warung – A classic Ubud establishment overlooking a densely forested valley. This legendary café decorated in antiques has welcomed the likes of Richard Gere and Richard Branson since 1974. Have a black rice pudding coupled with Balinese coffee and get lost in your own thoughts.
Best place to drink coffee and work
- HUBUD – Located near the Monkey forest, Hubud have been rated as one of the world’s best co-working spaces by such publications as Lonely Planet and Forbes. A vibrant bamboo padded co-working space, incredibly popular among the digital nomad community.
- Starbucks – Though every fiber of my being tells me to only recommend local businesses, I can’t help but put Starbucks Ubud on the list because it’s the most comfortable place to get some work done, but it’s also very well located and is it also a minus to mention that it’s air conditioned? Sue me.
Where to shop
- Bali Buda – Bali Buda is my favourite health food supermarket where you can find things like fresh coconut juice, kombucha, delicious gluten-free cookies and their broad selection of seeds and organic supplements.
- Ganesha Bookstore – Half of the books in my bookshelves come from this second-hand where the proceeds are donated to support local schools, libraries and charitable organisations. You can find a great selection of old, but mostly new second-hand English, Indonesian, French and German books.
- Coco Supermarket – Simply for being the largest supermarket in Ubud central and has a great variety of products on sale.
- Ubud Art Market – Test out your bargaining skills at the colourful Ubud art market where you can some great deals on souvenirs or perhaps the perfect decorative piece for your home.
Events to watch out for
- Ubud Writers and Readers Festival – One of the world’s most celebrated literary and artistic event, hosting local and international guests to discuss, share and collaborate a wide range of topics… or about their book.
- Bali Spirit Festival – The ultimate yoga, dance and music festival in Bali, where you can experience performances and masterclasses ranging from forest yoga, self-development seminars, breathing fest and dance/martial arts extravaganza.
- Royal funerals – Experience one of the world’s most unique and grandest funeral procession. Seeing that it’s a funeral, this is something you can’t really plan your trip around, so make sure you follow local news updates before flying in just to see it.
- New Ubudians – I’ve always thought that those hippies or ‘earth loving’ stereotypes you see in movies was just an exaggerated depiction of the culture, but from the things I’ve experienced in Ubud so far, they weren’t far from the truth! In recent years, Ubud has become a place where people from every corner of the globe gather to share, learn and practice yoga, eco-living, an organic diet or to simply find themselves, which in turn attract a different crowd of tourists that you would ordinarily find in Seminyak or Kuta. I’m talking about the kind of crowd that would do handstands in the middle of the street or eat vegan gelato made of Irish moss and crystals (Kokolato Gelato).
- Ubud overexposed? – I honestly feel sorry for the locals, I really do. I read so many reviews online about how the ‘charms’ or ‘magic’ of old Ubud is gone but seriously, what do you expect? Thousands pour into this small country town each year expecting to get the same cultural and spiritual experience they read about online. How can they keep doing things the way they did 20-30 years ago when their environment is constantly evolving and turning into something that they have to continuously adapt to.
I’m not saying that the old charms of Ubud is gone or anything, but you may have to dig a little deeper to find it. Get lost in the small winding roads away from the main streets, go to a local ceremony and eat at a warung. If you still can’t find that ‘magic’, then I honestly don’t know what it is that you were looking for.