What to do in Ubud in 2 days.
Without doubt though, Ubud is gorgeous. It really is, featured in Eat, Prey, Love it has attracted middle aged women trying to find themselves for the past few years and with them, naturally prices have risen. But, standards have remained consistent with even the stingiest of rooms being of a decent standard.
Accommodation in Ubud is largely homestay based and local Balinese are proud people who work hard, and aim to please. For those with cash to burn Ubud is also home to some of the most luxurious and most beautiful hotels in Asia. Think spas, tea light candles and massages for breakfast surrounded by rice fields. Then add ten thousand vehicles to roads designed to take a hundred and your first, and last memory of Ubud will be the torturous traffic that brings the entire place to a complete standstill.
The main road in the town is aptly called Monkey Forest rd due to the monkey forest at the end, which up until recently was a great value place to come face to face with Balinese monkeys, but now charges 70k per person., All the parallel roads leading from that eventually encompass a few other once independent villages. Temples dot the streets and in terms of Balinese culture it is perhaps as good as it gets.
Mainly Hindu, temples saturate the locality and offerings fill the streets. Everuy now and again you momentarily forget you are in Bali but have been transported to a cultural and beautifully manicured paradisiac of nature. High priced food, £2 for a can of coke and taxi fares to make your eyes water (read Grab in Indonesia) dominate this once sleepy village. Once perfect and quiet temples are now magnets for touts looking to exploit their own religion and a tenner might get you a traditional dance. But dig a little deeper and step beyond the tourist filled joints and you will find local Warungs trading great food for good prices. Warung Sun Sun was our favourite with mains from 22K.
Ubud and its surrounding villages sort of straddle ridges and there are many walks you can talk, such as the heavily congested Campuan ridge walk, first made famous by a few lines in a Lonely Planet guide book, and now a pilgrimage for every tourist in Ubud. But there are many more, most have trailheads marked on google maps.
Years ago on my first visit to Ubud I reflected on the hike:
As we passed scenery that would make it onto the pages of National Geographic we played games, kicked coconuts and sang songs whilst skipping through rice fields on the sly. It was perfection in a perfect place and we had finally found the side to Bali that people crave. We passed abandoned temples, walked through tiny villages and were the only foreigners in sight. Suddenly, a place we just could not love became paradise and nothing mattered. We had discovered that magic piece of something that had first drawn tourists to Bali in the seventies, that special moment and magical view that lives with you long after you have left. We found a local shop and I convinced the woman owner to make us a late lunch which cost us pence, and as we sat eating perhaps the cheapest meal on the entire island we looked out across rice fields and Jack (my son) did his gangam style dance. The kids played with a tiny dog called La la and free lollies were handed out. I realised that this was Bali, this was the Balinese and as much as I knew it was a temporary high and that we would soon head back to reality I knew this was a moment we should cherish.
Sadly hiking it again did not offer those feelings of enjoyment due to the sheer number of people.
Pretty much every local on the streets of Ubud is either a taxi driver, masseuse or offers a tour. And it seems the most popular tour is the ‘Instagram tour’. An overpriced, 6 hr jolly through the best places to take photos in Bali, starting with the so called Bali swing which will set you back 200K. However, if you head to Tegalalang and the rice fields you can get a go for 50K. Ignore anyone who tries to sell you a ticket to the area. It is completely free but again difficult to get a good photograph due to the amount of tourists.
So is it worth a visit to Ubud? Absolutely. So many people are there because it is that good, that beautiful and you are never far away from somewhere where no one is, but that is stunning and green. Taxis from Kuta should be around 250K, but like everything else in Bali, good luck.