Ubud, Bali’s cultural capital

I think for many people Bali sounds like the most exotic place on Earth. You hear about it in the movies, books, travel agencies or from newlyweds who spent their honeymoon on the island. Bali is so famous worldwide that it was impossible to travel to Indonesia without visiting Bali first, before any other island.

I wrote a different article on how to plan your trip to Bali, so this one will be about Ubud and its surroundings.

Ubud city

Ubud is the cultural heart of Bali, renowned for arts, crafts, beautiful landscapes, nature, rice fields, coffee plantations, monkey forest, temples and yoga centers. First thing to check when you arrive in Ubud is the city itself, with its beautiful temples, markets, dance shows and traditional restaurants.

Temple in Ubud

Ubud city

Monkey Forest

You should definitely visit the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, more commonly known as Monkey Forest Temple. The entrance fee is 80.000 IDR (5 Euro), which is quite low compared to other attractions in the area. Monkey Forest is very popular among tourists and can be easily found near the city center. What I enjoyed the most is that the monkey are not enclosed at all and walk freely wherever they want to. They can explore each corner of the forest and sometimes they even leave the area and go outside, in the city. The monkeys can get aggressive and bite people, especially if you carry food, wear flashy accessories, sunglasses or use the flashlight while taking photos. Try to prevent these incidents by following the rules mentioned at the entrance.

He looks like an Alpha Male

This cheeky monkey didn’t put that bottle away until it broke it and drank some water from it

How can I get to that banana?

Best friends

No, I’m not afraid of monkeys!

Rice fields

A trip to Bali is incomplete without visiting a rice terrace. Tegallalang rice plantation, situated in the north of Ubud, is one of the most famous and visited places in Bali. It might get very crowded during high season, so you’d better visit some smaller rice terraces that aren’t so popular. We were very lucky to meet only a couple of people on the plantation.  The place is very scenic, with terraced hillsides, rice paddles, lush greenery and some jungle wings. The quietness, interrupted only by the singing birds, made the experience ten times better. When we visited the rice fields, it was very hot, high humidity, so we finished the tour by being not only tired, but also very sweaty! I recommend you to avoid wearing flip-flops when visiting rice terraces.

Welcome to Tegallalang!

Rice fields

A different perspective

It was heartbreaking to meet poor locals who live on the terrace and help with the rice cultivation

He seemed happy

Kopi Luwak coffee plantation

We also visited a coffee plantation, close to the Aloha jungle swings. Avoid paying for these swings – they’re a tourist trap, not worth the money (300.000 IDR – 17 euro). They’re nice for pictures, but that would be all. The coffee plantation was also very small, dry, opened just to make some money from tourists. Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world, made by coffee beans eaten by a catlike animal called wild civets or luwak. The civet only goes after the best and ripest coffee fruit that he partially digests and then eliminates. The fermentation process gives the coffee beans a different flavor that makes this coffee the most expensive in the world. We tried one, but I’m not a coffee drinker, so I can’t say I liked it. It tasted differently, but it was too strong for my taste. The unseen face of the coffee tasting experience is that they had a wild civet enclosed in a cage. They keep it there for tourists to see it and they feed it heavily just to produce more beans…which means more sold coffees, which means more money.

Kopi Luwak coffee tasting. And some VERY SWEET tea as well.

The wild civet / luwak

Roasted coffee beans, eliminated by the civet

Jungle nest

Tirta Empul temple

Tirta Empul is one of the busiest and largest Hindu Balinese water temples. It’s a national cultural heritage site, famous for its holy spring water. The temple is famous worldwide and even Barack Obama visited it a few years ago. Many pilgrims and religious people visit the temple to perform their purification ritual by bathing in its holy spring water. They believe that the sacred springs possess curative properties. There are also tourists who perform the purification ritual. The entrance fee is 50.000 IDR (3 Euro). You can’t go inside without covering your body, but you will be given a sarong at the entrance.

Purification ritual

The traditional sarong

Kanto Lampo waterfall

Out last stop was the Kanto Lampo waterfall, a much needed break on a hot day. We paid a fee of 20.000 IDR (2 Eur), if I remember correctly, and took no pictures. 🙂

The tour to the coffee plantation, Tegallalang rice fields, the water temple and the waterfall costed 500k IDR (32 Euro) for four persons.  Our driver Dani was very nice and he speaks English fluently. I’m sure he would be happy to show you around sometimes. You can contact him at the number : +62 896-8833-6033.

Other places to include in your tour, if you have more time: the Tirta Gangga temple, the Lempuyang gate, a hike on Batur volcano, the beach from Karangasem.

Food

And now, time to think about our tummies! In Ubud, you’ll find local food, European food, American food, whatever you dream of. My recommendations: Nasi Goreng, an Indonesian traditional dish that consists of rice, meat and vegetables and the healthy fruit bowls, so popular in South-East Asia.

Coconut milk, dragon fruit, strawberries, cereals, mint – so yummy!

Nasi Goreng

Accommodation

The guesthouses, hotels, villas in Ubud can be considered an attraction themselves. They are meticulously built, trying to preserve the traditional architecture and offering the tourists all they need for a perfect vacation. Even if you travel low cost, you can still find a nice house with luxuriant vegetation and an amazing outdoor pool.

Ubud was a wonderful discovery and, as many other places in the world, it has something that must be seen, lived, experienced. It gives you a feeling, a peaceful state of mind that’s hard to talk about.

How was your Balinese experience?

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