5 Essential Travel Experiences in Ubud, Bali
Bali is truly the Island of the Gods, and one of my most beloved travel destinations. Ever. Between the majesty of it’s crashing surf, and the most extraordinary sunsets I’ve ever seen, there’s endless landscapes of verdant vegetation, and this is where I always find myself. Blissfuly lost amongst the easygoing green of the rice paddies that surround Ubud, Bali’s cultural and artistic beating heart.
When I do venture into town though, I seem to end up in the same places over and over again. Here’s my list of can’t miss travel experiences in Ubud, Bali.
Try Babi Guling at Ibu Oka, but Eat at Kafe Ubud the rest of the time
Ibu Oka is an Ubud institution where you can try babi guling or roast suckling pig that has been marinated in spices and religiously turned on a spit for 6 hours. Open only at lunchtime or until the oink runs out, get there early and order a “special,” to get a taste of everything. If you want an extra order of pork cracklings, get there ultra early, or miss out. (And trust me, you don’t want to miss out). ;p
When you’re all porked out, head over to Kafe Ubud for the freshest, organic juices and meals. It’s where we end up eating nearly every day, whether we mean to or not. It’s just that good.
Our tip: Try the roasted beet and walnut salad. You won’t be disappointed.
Dare to Feed the Macaques at the Sacred Monkey Forest
Based on the philosophy of Tri Hita Karana (3 ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being), the Sacred Monkey Forest is populated by 600 (sometimes) warring macaques, 115 different species of trees and 3 magnificent Hindu temples.
There’s no doubt it’s one of Ubud’s most famous tourist attractions, but it’s also an integral part of the local community’s economic and spiritual life, and an important centre of research and conservation efforts.
If you’re brave, you can buy bananas to offer the monkeys at the entrance of the forest, but do not fool yourself into thinking they’re tame. They’re used to humans, but most definitely wild and sometimes aggressive, especially during mating season. I, for one, wasn’t allowing a single banana anywhere near me.
Our tip: If you’ve got a bit of monkey phobia, but still want to visit, don’t buy the bananas. And don’t carry any other food on your person. Oh, and make sure you strap or hide everything on you that you don’t want stolen by aggressive monkeys. Because they WILL climb on top of you to get it.
Pamper yourself at Shangrila Spa
The streets of Ubud are as choked with spas, as they are scooter traffic, and in truth, you’ll leave satisfied from pretty much any place you walk in to. They all have gorgeous environments, silent masseuses completely focused on what they’re doing (yes, I’m talking to you Thailand), and a massage style so filled with love, you’ll never want to get off the table.
Despite the plethora of choices though, the place I return to again and again is Shangrila Spa. Tucked away on a small side street, partly hidden behind gorgeous vegetation and decorated in colourful fabrics, the place positively screams relaxation. Or rather, whispers it in waves of ultra calming bliss.
And with a 4 hour spa package including multiple massages, reflexology, facial, and pedicure costing a mere $40? You really can’t lose, can you?
Our tip: Book in advance and try to have your massage with Rama. I’ve never had a better one. Period.
Caffeinate at Starbucks before being Awed by Pura Saraswati Temple
Getting your java at Starbucks might seem strange in a place where you’re absolutely spoiled for cafe choices, but the decor of this one is unique. Serene and minimal with lots of stone and wood accents, it’s a peaceful spot to take a break from Ubud’s noisy scooter traffic.
Add in the fact that there’s an incredible Hindu temple with lotus pond, gorgeous flora, and carvings that honour Dewi Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and the arts, located right behind it, and there’s really no excuse not to grab a drink and take a stroll. Seeing Pura Saraswati for the first time took my breath away. Literally.
Our tip: Visit after dark, when the temple and lotus pond are lit up. You might even chance upon a traditional dance performance in progress.
Get Outta Ubud
It’s counterintuitive, but to truly appreciate Ubud, you gotta get outta Ubud. Otherwise, all you’ll remember is tour buses on parade, congested traffic and enough souvenir stores to make you feel trapped.
Take the 5 minute ride out of town though, and you’ll be surrounded by blue skies, fluffy clouds and rice paddy vistas as far as the eye can see. It’s tranquil perfection and just the counterpoint needed to make you thankful for everything Ubud has to offer.
Our tip: Rent a scooter and let the road take you where it may. You’ll chance on glorious scenes, surprise temples, and strange happenings.
Have you visited Ubud? Do you have any must-do experiences to add? Tell us all about it in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!