23 Feb Ubud, city living a holistic approach and celebrating life to the fullest
Everybody who has read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Eat, pray, love” or remember Julia Roberts in the same called movie recognizes Ubud as a wonderful place on Bali island where everything seems much easier and happier. Actually there is some sort of magic in this sweet, little, holistic city situated among serene rice fields and lush jungle.
When we talk about Bali holiday then many people would think about nice sandy beaches, rice fields and temples. But what many don’t know is that Bali has so many less discovered places on the east, west, north, and even around Ubud in the central part of the island. If you like to be lost and found, and fully enjoy your holiday in two different ways; connected to the world, and at the same time disconnected stay in Ubud. From here it will be easy to navigate your ways to the many beautiful places with not so many tourists around.
Ubud – place of healthy and holistic lifestyle
In Ubud there are many foreigners living their life out of the western crowds and western minds. Ubud is also the cultural heart of Bali where Balinese tradition is still living at its highest point. If you visit Ubud through one of the organized tours from south places of Bali you could easily think that this place is just some ordinary touristy town on the way to the north. But if you stay here for a few days you will be surprised how many positive stories you can find on just one place.
Creativity, spirituality and people who focus on a healthy lifestyle found their likeminded haven here. Organic food and organic drinks are at every corner. Even if there are many luxury restaurants and hotels around, you can still find many simple but very creative places with great food and a nice people gathering around.
Everything here looks so chic; from cafes, restaurants and small boutiques selling unique clothes, accessories, souvenirs… Ubud has a health-vibe going on, with some of the best spas, meditation and yoga retreats on Bali.
Tourism in balance with tradition
The sense of community in Ubud is something wonderful. Even as a visitor you are taken in, treated as a family and allowed to witness their ancient and fascinating ways of living. Even though Ubud has become very touristy last ten years, the locals have remained genuine and friendly. They always greet you with a smile.
Walking down the streets of Ubud it is impossible to miss traditional dance performances that they are so proud of. Even harder to miss are beautiful ceremonies that Balinese people dedicate to almost every part of their life. Traditional ceremonies such as births, weddings and cremations still remain the same as decades ago.
It is fascinating to be able to witness the devotion of the Balinese regard their heritage. Almost every house has its own shrine and looks like a temple in a small version. It is sometimes difficult to stop admiring those beautiful architectural scenes.
Find your peace in the rice fields
Only a short stroll away from the main streets of Ubud, you can still find peace and serenity. There`s nothing like a walk through the green and lush rice fields to find your mental balance.
If you are keen on practice yoga you can join classes in various studios with a great view over rice fields. Wish to discover meditation techniques? There are also studios that can help you understand the practice. Or you can just walk around as we did, and soak up the village lifestyle, delicious home-made ice cream, juice, fresh organic food… And the best of it, positive atmosphere balanced in open minded, enthusiastic people and beautiful landscapes.
Where to eat authentic Balinese food
Wish to taste authentic Balinese cuisine in Ubud then head to Sareng Sareng restaurant just five minutes drive from Monkey Forest. Their spirit of preserving traditional gastronomy with the best ingredients from the local farm is simply inspiring. The dishes are rich in taste with local flavors, and visual presentation is amazingly eye-catching.
Here you will not find a bit of everything mixed up, and presented as a traditional food, as in many other restaurants in Ubud. In Sareng Sareng the food is pure Balinese culinary journey with so many nice details. Beautiful garden makes the restaurant a perfect place for family gatherings, relaxing with loved one, or simply place to enjoy food with friends. Friendly staff is giving their best in preparing the authentic meals, and keeping the atmosphere totally homely and positive.
Organic food in Ubud
Healthy eating is easy in Ubud due to the countless spots offering fresh organic cuisine artfully prepared with local seasonal ingredients.
You can start your day with a nutrient-packed juice or smoothie, brunch on quinoa bowls and fresh fruit, and enjoy light salads, and vegan cuisine for lunch or dinner. If you want to prepare your own organic meals, there are even a few spots that sell take-away organic veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds and sauces.
For a quick organic snack and fresh juices don’ t miss:
Warung Bintang Bali
Organic gem is hidden among rice fields on the north part of Ubud. You should definitely come here if you want to chill on the terrace overlooking rice fields, talk to people who are really into local life, happenings and tradition, and enjoy simple organic food and drinks. The name of this small restaurant means “Star” and is given after founder’s son name. This place has a warm family story behind it, and that makes it really unique and cozy.
Organic cafe restaurant is located in the middle of the rice fields in central Ubud which is in a walking distance from Ubud centre. In the morning, from here you can usually see Agung mountain “the holy mountain” and Batukaru mountain. But one of the prime time is to see the sunset looking over the rice field towards the Camphuan river. Pomegranate is also a great place to chill after yoga class.
Learn to cook Balinese food
We learn to cook Balinese food at Ketut’s cooking class, and our experience was just amazing. Chef Ketut has a wonderfully positive spirit, and his smile is contagious! I would recommend it to everyone who is interested in a smaller groups, and aspire to learn the practise of Balinese food cooking.
The service was great; from picking up in hotel, visiting traditional market, and finally cooking process that was guided with perfection. At the local food market Ketut explained us everything we have to know about the most common ingredients. For lunch we prepared chicken soup, Sambal ulek, Chicken satay with peanut sauce, Ayam bumbu bali, Balinese fried noodles, Pepes ikan and Kolank pisang, and everything was more than delicious. Ketut and his staff were very helpful and very organized. Cooking stations were kept clean all the time, and you had enough time to learn the process, and to memorize all that fantastic taste and smell.
Where to stay in Ubud
We looked for a small hotel outside the main road, and uphill where you could easily experience traditional village life. Choosing Taman Amartha which has only ten traditionally decorated rooms, and beautiful stylish courtyard with a nice swimming pool was a great choice!
Another great benefit of the hotel is that most of the time you have swimming pool only for yourself. Staff and the owner are willing to help you and chat where ever you feel like, but don’t intrude your privacy in any way. From the hotel to the centre of Ubud it takes only 15 minutes walk. The place gives you a feeling like you are miles aways from any city and crowds. Around the hotel you can see a village people making barbecue, working in the rice fields, giving daily offerings in small temples and on the streets, and smiling all way round.
What you should not miss in Ubud:
- Driving scooter – The fastest way to move around, and to experience local life. It is also convenient and cheap. (One day rent with insurance and helmet will cost you aproxiamtelly 3 Euro.)
- Practise Yoga at Ubud Yoga house surrounded with a wonderful view
- Try cooking class, silver making class, wood carving class…
- Visit traditional villages producing handicrafts
- Eat and drink organic overlooking rice fields
- Visit local food market in the centre of Ubud early in the morning
- See performance of Bali traditional dances – Kecak, Barong, Topeng, Jegog, or Janger which are taking places every evening on the main Ubud street but also outside the city centre. There are many restaurants which offer traditional dances in the evening hours.
For trekking lovers – Campuhan Ridge Walk
Only 15 minutes walk from Ubud Palace you can have a fanstastic trek at the Campuhan Ridge Walk. The hike follows the Campuhan river, and pass through villages, a forest, rice fields, luxurious villas, and charming local houses. The hike offers marvelous views over the hilly countryside. It is a free and easy nature trek, an approximate nine kilometers long.
For monkey lovers – Monkey forest
If you like monkeys, wish to laugh a lot, and maybe get a little angry then you have to join and enjoy monkeys and their wicked business in the Monkey Forest.
It si situated close to the city center. Just take off necklaces, bracelets, sunglasses and other shiny things before entering. Monkeys sometimes don’t ask for things they like on you, they just take it.
For culture lovers – Visit Ubud Royal Palace
It has well-preserved Balinese architecture and charming garden settings. Among lovers of Balinese art it is famous as one of the main sites to view dramatic evening dance performances.
The Ubud Palace was built during the lordship of the late Ida Tjokorda Putu Kandel (1800-1823). The palace’s stage and meeting halls also host international events, such as the opening ceremonies of the annual Ubud Writers & Readers Festival.
For organic food lovers – Ubud Organic Farmer’s Market
If you want to cook by yourself then don’t miss the Organic Farmer’s Market in Ubud. This is the place where farmers and green business owners sell organic produces at fair prices. You can find everything from fresh seasonal fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, natural soaps, and chemical free beauty products.
The market takes place from 9am – 1pm at UFC Tebesaya ( Next to Wantilan Tebesaya Village – Ubud) every Wednesday, and 9am – 2pm every Saturday at Pizza Bagus ( Pengosekan Street – Ubud).
For perfect photo opportunity lovers – Head to Bali swing
Overlooking the jungle, abundant river canyon and waterfall Bali Swing is the place to be if you want to catch some adrenaline, admire breathtaking landscapes, and take unique photos as seen in journals and famous Instagram galleries.
Here you can swing on 5, 10, 15, 20 and 78 meters swings, take photo with somebody in two cute nests, and amazing stone over the edge above the picturesque valley. When tired of positive shock you can also have a nice lunch or snack. After paying entrance fee you can swing as many times you like, again and again. Just try to come early in the morning, if possible not latest than 9.30 am to skip crowds.
Places to visit around Ubud:
Jatiluwih rice terraces
The site is one of the island’s must-see natural panoramas at the foot of Mount Batukaru, and the caldera of Kintamani covering the region of the upland village in West Bali.
Once a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site candidate. The cool highlands and the breathtaking scenery of this village is made for wonderful photo opportunities, and serves as a soothing retreat away from the island’s tourist crowds.
Tegalalang rice terraces
The most famous and most photographed rice fields in Bali are twenty minutes scooter drive from Ubud. The main difference from Jatiluwih rice terraces is that Tegalalang is a commercial and touristy place with many cafes and souvenir shops. But the view is still amazing and worth visiting.
Tirta Empul means “holy water spring”, and is the name of a water spring located within the temple. Holy complex is located in the village of Manukaya in central Bali. The site serves as a legendary setting of a traditional tale about good versus evil. It is also a national cultural heritage site. The spring feeds various purification baths, pools and fish ponds which all flow to the Tukad Pakerisan River.
When in Ubud, you will have to take a taxi or drive a scooter to the spectacular waterfall spots. There are three waterfalls around Ubud: Dusun Kuning Waterfall, Waterfall Kanto Lampo and Tegenungan Waterfall. A little further out is the Nungnung Waterfall. Tegenungan waterfall is the most famous, but you have to go here as early as possible to avoid the crowds. Cross the river and climb up the second level where you can try the 10m cliff jumps, if the water level is high enough.
Oka Agriculture Bali
Beautiful place to taste famous Indonesian coffee and tea. The staff is welcoming and shows you a nice garden with local fruit trees, coffee trees, cacao. Afterwards you can enjoy on a beautiful terrace with terrific views over the jungle tasting free samplings of coffees, cacao and traditional tea flavors.
If you like any of this, and you will for sure like almost every taste, you can as well buy them in a different size packages. Of course, her you can try and buy the most expensive coffee in the world – famous Kopi luwak. Nobody urges you to buy the products, they will still smile if you don’t buy anything.
Gunung Kawi temple
One of the most beautiful and less crowded temple around Ubud. It is located near Tampak Siring village, around 5 km from well known Tirta Empul Temple. Gunung Kawi Temple is one of the oldest and most remarkable archaeological temple complexes in Bali.
Situated by the Pakerisan River and carved into the mountain, these impressive temples are still used as a place of Hindu worship. Built in the late 11th century, the ruins have a beauty that has captured international attention, and was featured in the nature film Baraka. Legend goes that these are the memorials of the deified Balinese King Udayana, his concubines and family.
Some hour and a half drive from Ubud you can experience outstanding volcano scenes. The Kintamani volcano or Mount Batur. Mount Batur is popular for climbing. You can observe the sunrise from the ridges of this Bali volcano on early morning treks.
From high, you can enjoy the view overlooking the large and beautiful Batur caldera to its northwest. Lake Batur is on the southeastern side of the volcano. The lake is 16 kilometers wide and is a popular fishing spot. Although this is a very popular trekking area, you can just come, sit, enjoy delicious food and drinks, and admire mighty volcano.
If you want to learn more about Balinese culture and tradition, Kintamani Area has some beautiful villages to visit such as: Kedisan Village , Buahan, Abang, Trunyan, Songan, South Batur, Middle Batur, North Batur, Sukawana and Kintamani Village.
One of the most distinguished art market in Bali. Here you can purchase handmade Balinese art items such as paintings and sculpted wooden figures, jewelry, and million other beautiful decorations for home.
Compared to other art markets in the island’s main tourism areas the prices offered here are much cheaper. Sukawati Art Market is located along the Jalan Raya Sukawati main road 20 km northeast of Denpasar, and 10km south of Ubud.
Photo credits: magic4.club, Marijana Brdovnik