Ubud, The Best Way To Observe Bali’s Traditions And Culture
If you’re looking for peace and quiet, then Ubud is the place to be. Steeped in culture and enhanced by magnificent vistas, Ubud offers a respite from the humdrum of your busy life. In the past, Ubud was just a small village, but now it has grown into a thriving yet laid back cosmopolitan community. Ubud pampers visitors in body and soul. Fine dining restaurants and spas here will delight and relax the senses. A walk through the lush paddy fields, watching colourful processions of women gracefully balancing piles of fruit offerings on their way to the temple, are lasting impressions and simply breathtaking.
The best way to observe Bali’s traditions and culture is through mingling with the locals and watching their daily routine. In this town, you can visit the temples and villages that have remained relatively unchanged through the years.
Art galleries are also abundant. Masterful paintings and sculptures are waiting to be admired and appreciated, for who knows you may find the perfect painting or statue to grace your own living room?
This region is steeped in history and culture. Many remains from the old kingdoms of Bali can be found here, and unique arts and crafts are just waiting to be discovered. Known for its tranquillity, Ubud offers several natural retreats. The lush, green views and cool atmosphere makes morning and afternoon strolls most pleasant.
It’s no surprise that many people come to Ubud for a day or two and end up staing longer, drawn in by the culture and activities on offer. Ubud is where famed Elizabeth Gilbert found peace and her love as written in her best selling memoir “ Eat, Pray, Love”, which is now made into a film featuring Julia Roberts. Indonesia’s own celebrity Christine Hakim plays Wayan, the local alternative healer.
On the Monkey Forest Street and Jalan Hanoman you’ll find many choices of restaurants, from western cuisine to Balinese dishes. Sample authentic Balinese dishes made from fresh ingredients at the local warungs (street stalls). Or indulge in a gourmet meal at one of the classy cafes or restaurants.
For keepsakes, make sure to visit South of Ubud. You can find hundreds of craft shops offering art products and handmade souvenirs, especially made of stone or wood. If you are planning to stay for a while, ask the artists to custom make your order. If shopping is your middle name, then Pasar Seni (Art Market) at Jalan Raya Ubud, the Monkey Forest Street, Jalan Hanoman and Jalan Dewi Sita must be included in your itinerary.
From simple bed and breakfasts to beautifully laid out luxury hotels, all types of accommodation can be easily found here. Modest accommodation or even homestays are available for those who would prefer to watch Balinese daily life up close.
Go back in time and see the heritage of Bali’s ancient kingdoms with a visit to the temple of Tirta Empul, only 15 km away. Here, in the temple complex, are the holy springs of Tirta Empul. Some 8 km from here lies Pejeng, where you can visit the museum and temples and the “Moon of Pejeng” the huge prehistoric kettledrum. While here why not complete your tour visiting the archaeological sites of Bedulu which is only 3 km away.
Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) is also worth visiting. Located about 1 km from Teges, legend says that it was created from a giant’s fingernail. It was probably built in 11th century, during Majapahit occupation of Bali. Dutch archaeologist rediscovered Goa Gajah in the 1920’s but the bathing area was not found until the 1950’s. It’s interesting to note that the entrance of this cave is carved in the shape of a demon-like creature. The statue of Ganesha adorns the inside. Bathing pools with water spouts are found nearby, and it is believed that the water will make you look younger.
Ubud is the perfect place to enjoy cultural events and performances. The Kecak, Legong and Barong dances are performed weekly as are the classical Ramayana and Mahabharata dance-dramas, gamelan recitals (orchestra comprising traditional musical instruments) and the wayang kulit (traditional Indonesian leather puppets) performances. If you are too tense and caught up in the humdrum of daily life, indulge in the spas around Ubud that use exotic spices to tease your senses, and ensure complete relaxation.
Stroll through the cool and dense jungle of the sacred monkey forest where there are three ancient temples to explore. The Pura Dalem Agung (Temple of the Dead) is an like something out of an adventure movie. Look out for Rangda figures devouring children at the entrance to the inner temple.
Adventurous folks may want to try white water rafting down the Ayung river. Other outdoor activities including golf are equally available, contact the local tour agencies. Why not pump up your adrenaline while your spouse relaxes in the spa!
If the artist in you just yearns to rise to the surface, then why not take an art class. Ever wondered how batik is made, or how rare masterpieces can be created? Or perhaps you would love to design and create your own silver jewellery. You can learn these here. For those who are more interested in culinary skills, cooking classes are also available.
FESTIVAL & EVENTS
Ubud is the home of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (www.ubudwritersfestival.com) where book enthusiasts, writers and readers around the world gather annually and share their experiences and of course, stories. This festival is usually held in October every year.
Since Ubud is relatively small, you can explore the town on foot or hire a bicycle or motorbike. Bear in mind that as this is hilly terrain, so do ask locals first which places are easier explored on foot, by bicycle, motorbike or by car.
Various modes of transport are available from all over Bali. If you decide to visit Ubud directly from the airport, you can hire prepaid cabs but the fee may be quite hefty. You can also take regular taxis or rental cars. Public transportation such as buses can also take you to Ubud.