Ubud – cultural center of Bali?

Ubud is full of neat rice fields

Ubud – first impressions

We spent the first week of our stay on Bali in Ubud. From the airport in Kuta, we took a cab to our guesthouse. As soon as we left the terminal we had to fight for our lives with the swarm of taxi drivers. Ubud is located  1,5-hour drive from the airport. After Wiola’s strict haggling, the price went down from 450000IDR to 250000IDR. Not bad at all. After weeks of camping and intensive backpacking in Australia and New Zealand we needed some slow-paced, relax time. On the outskirts of Ubud, you can find a place to stay ranging from the cheapest hostels to luxury hotels. Sourrandings are charming with lush green plants and rice fields. We found a perfect place for us and delicious breakfasts served to the room and quiet pool next to rice paddock will be long remembered.

Ubud – center

We wanted to visit Ubud because it is known to be the art and culture center of Bali. Indeed, there is a lot of local artists, craftsmen, galeries and workshops where you can browse and buy whatever you like. Buildings are decorated in high detail and it was sometimes hard to tell when the temple ends, and the shop or guesthouse starts. Our place provided free shuttle service to the town center and all of the sudden we were inside a tourist trap. Main street was so crowded with cars and moppeds that crossing was often impossible. Plenty of foreign tourists were everywhere and taxi drivers were constatly trying to give us a lift.

King of marketing at ubud market
King of marketing

There were a lot shops of brands you can find back home and probably pay less as well. There is planty of cafes and food places where prices are as high as in, for example, Australia. Those establishments are aimed for foreigners only, and you can find a place to eat a few blocks away for 1/3 of a price in a local Warung (traditional indonesian food place). We visited famous Ubud market, where among billions of souvenirs we found a true gem – local coffee stall with local friendly prices. We could try amazing indonesian coffes and  we especially loved Bali coffee and Toraja. You can also try the world’s most expensive coffee Kopi   Luwak. On our way back we visited a palace and numerous temples. We wrote a seperate post dedicated to the Balinese temples. Feel free to check it out.

A beautiful side of the town

The amazing part is just outside of the town center. A popular place worth seeing is definitly Ubud Monkey Forest. We especially enjoyed the walking tracks among rice terraces and quiet cafes hidden among them.

Campuhan Ridge Walk is a quiet track which starts right of the main street. In west part of Ubud you need to turn just before the bridge and head down towards the river. Than walk around a temple and soon you will find yourself on the top of the hill, with stunning views all around. Noises of the streets are left behind, therefore it is a wonderful place to walk and relax. We walked pass some artist’s stalls and, at the end, we found a lovely cafe amond rice fields. You can chose to sit by the pond or at the panoramic terrace. It is a perfect spot to have a freash coconut and enjoy a sunset.

Second, similar route is a bit harder to find. A few hundreds meters back towards the center from Campuhan Ridge you need to turn and head for famous Ubud Yoga House. After few minutes, you will see nothing but serenity of palm trees and rice fields. There were very few tourists there in May, as it was right before the high season. Plenty of wonderful cafes along the way. It makes it hard to choose where to enjoy, somewhat already traditional for us, fresh coconut.

While choosing a place to eat or drink we always checked if they were adding tax and service fee extra to the menu price of an item. It is easy to compere as you will find fried ricce with egg – localy known as Nasi Goreng in alost every place. It can cost 15000 IDR in a local Warung and 60000 IDR in central Ubud.

Ubud neighbourhood attractions

Ubud is a major tourist center in the middle of Bali. Therefore, there is plenty of sightseeing options. You can choose to go with a guide and organized tour, or on your own. You can either rent a mopped or hire a driver with a car. We were terrified by the trafic, so we decided go by car. After a bit long negotiations we found a guy who was willing to take us to 3 places for 250000 IDR and wait while we do our sightseeing. Others were asking for 450000IDR, so we were quite happy with our deal. We went to the famous water temple Tirta Empul (you can read more about temples here), the amazing Tegallalang rice terraces and to the coffee plantation.

Coffee plantation

Firstly, we went to the coffee plantation. It is a bit north of Ubud. The place is famous for world’s most expensive coffee Kopi Luwak. This is a delicatesy with world wide appreciation, but it is made in an intriguing way. A guide showed us around the plantation and explained the process. The key is an animal – Luwak. This cat alike creature lives in the jungle and eats coffee fruits. They eat them whole and after a few weeks of fermentation in the animal’s stomach the coffee seeds come out, at the other end. Seeds are collected from the poo, washed, roasted and grained.

Extraordinery acidic flavours and mild taste of Kopi Luwak  source in that fermentation process. At the end of the tour, there was a free tea and coffee degustation.  However, for a “poo coffee” you need to pay extra 50000IDR. After the tasting we agreed that we prefer less acidic  blends with fuller body aroma like Toraja or local Bali coffee.

Tegallalang rice terraces

We stopped at Tegallalang rice terraces next. There was a village located on the edge of the vallley and down below there were incredible rice fields. You can walk around them in a search for perfect photo opportunity. The true magnificent beauty we saw only after we lunched our drone. Pictures from above are stunning and show a mosaic of fields and a jungle full of palm trees around. Amazing!

Even though Ubud and Bali, in general, are very touristy places, we think that they are worth visiting. This island is full of tradition, culture and religion. Together with wonderful nature and landscapes, it creates a unique experience. If one island is not enough for you, than it seems like you shoud join us on a trip to Java and volcanoes Ijen and Bromo!

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