Oh, Ubud. Where do I start?
From many, many places to visit, we chose Ubud for our first stop. The place itself has established a reputation as the center of art and culture in Bali, as well as being tourist-friendly. I don’t think I could ever get bored of Ubud, given the vast array of options for things to do there.
We were quite lucky to have gotten a place to stay on Jalan Bisma, which is a street just off the main road. The great thing about this place was that even though we were located right in the center of Ubud, we were still tucked away from the hubbub. It was beautifully quiet, and we woke up every morning to the sound of roosters. When we got out of the house, we were greeted with the view of a small rice field on one side. Without a doubt, it was a great way to start the day.
Three days are not enough to explore Ubud, and I wish we’d had more time. But in that time, we managed to explore a few places.
The Streets of Ubud
I didn’t really think to put this as a ‘place’ on my Ubud list, but then I realized something: when we were walking on the streets, we couldn’t not stop. There was always something that made us pause and turn around, either to take a closer look or snap a few shots. Rich-colored paintings and fabrics, intricate details of doors, or people offering massages, everything looked so appealing and interesting. My favorite, Monkey Forest Street, is located in the center of Ubud, lined with beautiful shops and restaurants. Being the main street in Ubud it was quite busy, buzzed with excited tourists and shoppers. While I’m usually averse to this kind of place, the crowd here somehow added to the charm, completing the lively ambiance of the center. I really enjoyed going through this street, from Ubud Market on one end and the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary on the other.
I have a penchant for markets, any kind. Farmers market, traditional market, art market, anything goes. So of course Ubud market was the first place we went to, and while this place was filled with bits and pieces of Bali, it somehow reminded me a lot of Portobello Market. You can find almost everything here, from souvenirs, clothes, hats, postcards, paintings, homeware products, groceries, you name it. The thing is, there’s no fixed price and the sellers tend to give you much higher prices than the original, so you have to up your bargaining game here (this actually applies to almost all places in Bali). The rule of thumb is to bargain for half the price the seller give you, but I found this rule didn’t really apply, as when I was there, I once found a lady who tried to sell postcards for IDR 20,000 each, while the original price in the shops nearby was just IDR 5,000. With that being said, always compare with other shops and don’t be afraid to walk away. You can always find similar (if not the same) things in other shops, and more often than not, the moment you walk away is the moment the seller is willing to give you the price you’ve asked.
And photographers, this is a paradise for you.
We stumbled upon Saraswati Temple on our walk, and to be honest I don’t remember anything special about this place. It’s situated just across the street from Ubud Market (which was how we found it). It was packed with loud tourists who were busy taking pictures (to the point that it was annoying), and as there wasn’t much to see, we left after only a few minutes.
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
I have to admit, at first I was a bit reluctant to go here, given my awful experience at another monkey forest in Sangeh. I’d been there years ago, but the memories of how the brutal monkeys grabbed my glasses and hat were still vivid in my mind.
But to my relief, the monkeys here were different. They were much calmer and didn’t really pay attention to the visitors (unless you bring interesting stuff like food, plastic bags, water bottles, etc.). They were just happily munching whatever people gave them and doing their own stuff.
Let me introduce you to this cutest pair in the forest, the true-love couple (yes, I just made that up). One monkey painstakingly picking fleas off his partner, while the partner waited patiently. In a strange way, it warmed my heart.
And this couple… I don’t know, to me they looked like they were doing something inappropriate haha.
After a few minutes there, I began to feel at ease, until suddenly a monkey jumped onto my shoulder. I was petrified at first, but after getting over the initial shock, it was actually nice to have a monkey on you. They were warm, furry and so cute.
Why they were so obsessed with water bottles, I have no idea.
The walk around the forest was leisurely. The hanging roots of the old banyan trees formed beautiful curtains above our heads, the bridges across the river offered nice views of the forest, and the smell of the soil make me relax.
Toward the end, we passed Padangtegal Great Temple of Death, one of the temples in the forest. We were lucky that we got there just in time for the daily offering, and so we spent the next few minutes watching in awe.
It was a great afternoon. We walked many miles that day, and came home with sore legs, a ridiculous amount of monkey pictures, and big smiles on our faces.
Just a few meters away from the forest, there’s Hubud, a co-working space that’s been gaining its popularity in the recent months. Despite that, I hadn’t heard about this place until Katka mentioned it to me. She needed to gather some materials for her article, so we went here to do a bit of research (well, she did. Lukas and I were just wandering around). I don’t know if you’re aware of my dream about being a digital nomad, but it’s a dream that had been sitting quietly on the back of my mind for some time now. And after visiting Hubud, I have a burning desire to make that happen, somehow (I’m still trying to figure out a way to get there!). By this point, I was already deep in love with Ubud, and the thought of living in such a beautiful place with this amazing space to work made me want to pack my bag and move to Ubud right away.
You can’t really see from this picture, but outside in the garden, there’s a hammock and big pillows. Yep, it’s a dream office.
There’s an abundance of things you can do in Bali, and we went to Jungle Fish after hearing about it from our host. He highly recommended this place, and he even mentioned it to us several times to make sure we didn’t skip it. So off we went, and I’m so glad we did! Perched on a ridge somewhere just outside Ubud, Jungle Fish was a perfect place to escape the humdrum of the city. On the way there, I could see the transition from the city to village, with buildings getting sparser and trees getting more and more dense. Getting into this place felt like entering a whole different world, where everything was set on relax mode. I was in my own little vacation bubble, away from the reality.
The entrance fee is IDR 100,000, which I think is a good price. There’s a bar and restaurant inside, with good cocktails, dishes, and coffee (yes, we stayed there long enough that we had the time to try those all). All the time we were here, we felt peaceful and serene. So much so, that it was really hard for us to leave.
On our last night in Ubud, we decided to go for a drink in Bridges, where our host worked as a sommelier. The place was amazing, with multiple levels for a restaurant, wine and cocktail bar, and art gallery. The ambiance and the well-thought design of the interior were perfect for a romantic night out and also for relaxing. We went straight to the bar, and I tried the cocktails that our host had explained to us earlier, mangosteen martini. When I heard him explaining how they made it, I knew I had to try (because, seriously, where else could you get mangosteen cocktails?). He proved his prowess by making our cocktails for the first round, and it was divine. Smooth, unique, and delicate. I’d love to come back here again to try more cocktails and the dishes (I’ve heard good things about them). Unfortunately, I don’t have good photos of the place since iPhone was little use in low light condition, but you can see more on the website.
From there, we walked back to our place, crossing the bridge next to the restaurant (hence the name).
I couldn’t imagine a better way to kick off our vacation. We were really lucky to have found such a lovely place to stay, with an incredibly friendly and warm host. Not only he gave us recommendations for great places, but he also introduced us to Komang, a tour guide who later became our favorite guy. Right from the start, Ubud gave us nothing but wonderful memories. From our first night when we met our host and sitting outside on the porch, drinking and chatting well until 4.30 in the morning, until the last day when we packed our suitcases to move to the north, our days were filled with amazing experiences. I was constantly touched by the sincere kindness shown to us, amazed at the rich culture and traditions that stayed strong for all this time, and stunned by the beauty which could be seen in every little thing, in every corner of the town.
Needless to say, I left my heart in Ubud, and now I’m pondering the possibility of moving there for a while.
*some photos were taken by Katka and Lukas.
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