Ubud – Bali Indonesia
Ubud is known as the arts and crafts center of the island. Different districts in the area concentrate specifically on their particular discipline. An example: you may walk down one street that only works on stone carved objects, and the next street could be oil paintings.
You’ll quickly notice that many of the shops sell the exact same mass produced items. They’re not any less beautiful because of this, but if you’re looking for more unique items, you need to shop around. We found some beautiful wood carved masks in a shop that we didn’t see anywhere else in Bali. The lady said her friend is the artist and these pieces are not found in many places. She was right. They cost more than the other mass-produced masks, but they were also more unique.
Haggling is not an option… it is a necessity. Always ask for ½ the price they’re asking for. Sometimes the shops will have fixed prices, but most stalls and shops will come down in price. They may seem offended if you ask for ½ off, but you’ll be surprised how many will go down to around that price. If you don’t feel like paying the price that they’re stubbornly holding to, then politely say thank you and walk out. Most likely, they’ll physically stop you.
There’s no such thing as window-shopping in Bali. Vendors are persistent and will get in your face whether you want it or not. Be prepared to say no thank you and ignore them again and again and again.
If you can’t handle this, then we suggest you not come to Bali… or any Asian country for that matter.
Bali Temple Tour
From Ubud you can easily travel to many incredible temples. It’s worth staying in Ubud for a couple of days to experience all of them. You can see most of them in a day tour. Ask your hotel, resort or homestay to set you up with a driver, or go to the street and find a driver for the day. They’ll take you to all the temples and most will guide you around giving you a bit of history. If the historical aspect is important to you, find a driver that speaks English. Keep in mind that most of the Temples charge an admission fee.
Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave)
In Bedudu, Goa Gajah dates back to the 11th Century with a cave carved out of stone. The face is a Boma figure designed to frighten away evil. Around the face are animals and people running in fear. Inside the musty cave are two areas – the first, to the left, is a carving of Ganesha, son of Sewa, while the right side has 3 Lingga phalluses carved from one block of stone. These chambers were thought to be for meditating or sleeping.
The area is surrounded by waterfalls, lush forest, lotus ponds, ornate trees with intricate roots, rice paddies, and tourist stalls at the entrance. Once you’ve passed them, the area has many spots for meditating and is quite serene.
When arriving, there are many tourist stalls with very pushy vendors. At the entrance we saw a tattooed man with a wild looking boa constrictor. He put the snake around my wife for some photos. Of course, like many businessmen in Bali, he didn’t tell us that it would cost us or how much until afterwards. It cost us $2 which was a joke (we should have asked beforehand and haggled.)
Looking over the Pakerisan River, Gunung Kawi is a rock-hewn complex of carvings set into the cliffs. The area is made up of drop-dead gorgeous jungle with some of the lushest greenery on Earth. Waterfalls and green rice paddies surround the area. The walk down is long and not for the wary.
Also dating back to the 11th Century, the cliff carvings are well-preserved memorials built for the royal members of the Warmadewa Dynasty. There are meditation alcoves and other rock carved rooms around this area.
Pura Tirtha Empul (Holy Waters)
One of the more mesmerizing spectacles in Bali can be found at Pura Tirtha Empul, built in the 10th century. Here, enclosed inside the walls of the temple, is a holy spring, which marks the source of the Pakerisan River. It boils up through black sand in a hypnotizing way. No bubbles are released, and the surface of the water stays relatively still. Many Balinese travel to bathe in these waters for their curative powers. They believe Indra, a Hindu God that pierced the earth at this location to create the holy waters, built the spring. Indra wanted to revive his soldiers that had been poisoned by the demon king Mayadanawa.
During the full moon, there is often a very large religious gathering that bathes here at night. Each bather places an offering to the spring’s deity, usually a grass basket with incense and herbs. The area surrounding the spring has koi ponds, grass hills, and beautiful trees.
If the weather will allow a clear view, making the trip to Gunung Batur is worth a stop. Gunung Batur is an active volcano at 5,600 feet in height, completely surrounded by crater walls. This caldera is 7 miles wide and up to 600 feet in depth.
On the South East side of the volcano is the largest freshwater lake in Bali, Danau Batur. This lake is 4 miles long and 1 mile wide, which feeds the entire East side of Bali. The lake has hot springs that you can swim in, though the public area is polluted from too many people washing themselves and their clothing with soap and chemicals.
Penelokan is a small village on the rim of the caldera with great views of the volcano and lake. Here you can eat at some restaurants that serve decent (just OK), but expensive, buffets with a view. There’s also a bunch of vendors selling fresh fruit and veggies as well as souvenirs. VERY PUSHY!!
See if your driver will take you to a coffee farm. At these small local farms, many grow coffee, cocoa, and various spices. Most likely, your driver will get a kickback for bringing you to a particular farm. The one I went to had the nicest people I’ve ever met. They sat us down and served us sample cups of coffee, ginger drink, and hot chocolate, among other things. It was wonderful to sit and speak with such happy forest people.
In their shop, they sold inexpensive locally grown items. The ginger drink was incredible! There were bundles of fresh vanilla, all the spices you could imagine (including cheap saffron), coffee, chocolate, and more.
They also had Kopi Lewak (cat poop coffee made famous in the movie The Bucket List.) We bought some for the novelty. The cost was only a tiny fraction of how much it costs in the US. It’s the most expensive coffee in the world, because of the process.
The cat-like creature eats the beans, digests them, poops them out, then they wash and roast the beans. Apparently the digestive enzymes break down the beans and make them less bitter. We tried it, and it was honestly the best coffee we’ve ever had.
Legong Dance & Ramayana Show
If you have a chance, check out this show. It runs a little long, but it’s worth it. The show is like no other on the island. Great dancing, unique music, and fantastic costumes will entertain you in the open air of the Ubud Palace.
Watch a video, see beautiful photos, read tips and find more in-depth information on the Legong Dance.
Sacred Monkey Forest
For the brave, the Monkey Forest is one of the most entertaining places to visit on Bali. Located in Ubud, you’ll enjoy all the wild antics and fun of the forest monkeys.
See video, view great photos, read tips, and learn more about the Monkey Forest.
There are plenty of places to stay in Ubud for all price ranges. If you’ve rented a car or moped, you can stay out of town, but it’s really convenient if you get a place in the middle of Ubud.
If your budget will allow, we suggest staying at the Sandat Glamping Tents or Komaneka Monkey Forest Resort.
More Photos from Ubud, Bali