- 28 Aug 18
Boasting incredible scenery and sundry cultural and culinary delights, the Balinese town of Ubud in Indonesia is a brilliant tourist destination. By Alva White
Where exactly is it?
Nestled between rice fields and steep ravines in the central uplands of Bali is the town of Ubud. Originally it was an important area where medicinal herbs and plants were sourced and got its name from the Balinese word for medicine (ubad). These days wellness is still a major tourist attraction, with Westerners on Vespas and yoga mats under their arm being a common sight. Ubud is the Balinese hub of culture, a true hotbed of valued traditional arts and crafts.
How do I get there?
There are no direct flights from Ireland to Bali, so connecting flights are needed. Most times you will have to fly to England or Dubai first and then get a flight to Denpasar (Ngurah Rai International Airport). Ubud is about an hour-and-a-quarter away from the airport, so you will need a taxi to get there. We recommend booking a taxi beforehand, either by yourself or through your accommodation to prevent inflated costs.
What languages are spoken?
The majority of Bali is trilingual (Indonesian, Balinese and English) and they understand most tourists very well. But it’s handy to learn small phrases, such as Terima Kaish (treema kasi), which means ‘thank you’.
What’s the transport like?
Due to Ubud’s small size there is no public transport in the area, but don’t let that deter you as there are plenty of good, relatively cheap taxis - including Ubud Scooter Rental (Jl. Sri Wedari No. 19, Giri Putri Cargo Office), and Taman Kaja Ubud (Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571). Also, it’s easy to get around on foot.
What’s the nightlife like?
Nightlife in Bali is all about atmosphere and ambience. The Jalan Raya Ubud (Jl. Raya Ubud Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia) hosts numerous international restaurants and bars, such as the Fly Cafe & Cuisine (Jalan Raya Lungsiakan No.2C, Kedewatan, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571), where you can indulge in great food, beer and conversations. If you’re interested in more upbeat partying and cocktails, check out Bridge Bali (Jl. Raya Campuhan, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571) and No M‡s (Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia).
What is the drink like?
Finding a nice cold beer is easy in Bali. If you enjoy a good lager, both Bintang and Bali Hai can be found almost everywhere. Bintang is reminiscent of Heineken, but with more hops, while Bai Hai is more like German lager. Travellers who prefer liquor should visit The Night Rooster (Jl. Goutama Sel., Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571) and enjoy their selection of tasty cocktails. For those under 21, Ubud has many refreshing non-alcoholic alternatives. Fresh juices, smoothies and mocktails are available pretty much all over. Definitely order some coconut water, as it is usually fresh and served inside a young coconut.
What’s the food like?
In Ubud, good food is never more than a stone’s throw away. Ubud caters for all diets and tastes, with its mixture of Balinese and Western cuisine that can be found at affordable prices throughout. If you are staying in or near the Penestanan area, head over to Café Vespa (Jalan Raya Penestanan Kaja, Sayan, Ubud, Sayan, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571).
It serves a variety of cuisines for breakfast, lunch and dinner to please anyone. The Earth Cafe & Market (Jl. Goutama Sel., Ubud, Bali 80571) is perfect for any health fanatics, serving only organic plant-based meals. For good measure, it’s only an eight-minute walk from The Yoga Barn.
For those on the go, street vendors serve cheap and delicious traditional Balinese dishes such as Nasi Goreng and Sate, which is sure to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. Or if you’re looking for a sweet treat, try Tukies Coconut Shop (14, Jl. Raya Ubud, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571). Their coconut ice cream is a dairy-free option that rivals even gelato.
What are the touristy things to do?
Ubud’s most popular tourist attraction is the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary (Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia). Based on the grounds of a stunning ‘Holy Spring’ bathing temple, the Monkey Forest is an area where monkeys can roam freely with the people. Ubud Bali White Water Rafting Adventure (ubudraftingadventure.com) is a great activity for families and adrenaline junkies. Speed down the Ayung River, stop at a waterfall and be mesmerised by an intricately carved stone wall.
A great activity for later on in the day is Legong of Mahabharata Epic, a traditional Balinese dance in Ubud Palace (Jl. Raya Ubud No.8, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571). Tickets can be pre-booked online or bought on the street. The event is extremely popular, so in order to get the best seats, arrive around seven o’clock and don’t forget to read the programme for the story of the dance.
What should I bring home?
If you’re interested in original artwork, make sure to visit Museum Puri Lukisan (Jl. Raya Ubud, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571), which exhibits generations of Bailinese artwork. If you’re lucky you might find an exhibiting artist creating some work and pick up a small piece to bring home for about €50. Or go around the numerous stalls in Pasar Ubud (the Ubud market), where wood carvings, baskets and other trinkets are available in abundance. Or check out the kite shops on Jalan Hanoman and get yourself a handcrafted one to enjoy one of Bali’s favoured pastimes at home.
When should I go?
Most people go to Bali in July or August, but if you want to avoid the crowds, you should go in April to June or September to October.
What’s my challenge?
Day trips out of the town can be arranged by vendors on the street, but you can sometimes get a better deal by booking through your accommodation organisers. The Sunrise Hike to Mount Batur (balitrekkingtour.com/mount-batur-trekking/) might pose a personal challenge in scaling the active volcano in the dark (the trek starts at 4am). But reaching the summit at 6am to watch the sunrise over Lake Batur with the infamous Mount Agung in the background will reward the strenuous two-hour climb. Local guides ensure your safety and happily chat about the intriguing farming culture of the surrounding area. Don’t forget to tip on your descent!