Ubud, Bali

Our trip to Bali wouldn’t have been complete without spending some time in Ubud. I had read so much about this area and couldn’t wait to see it for myself. Having done lots of research beforehand…and having made a couple of pre-bookings of tours, we were ready to enjoy our time here. We booked ourselves for 5 nights at the Saren Indah Hotel. This hotel is located just the other side of the Monkey Forest in Ubud. There is a trail that goes along the side of the forest and the hotel also offers free transport to and from the village if needed. It was a lovely, peaceful place with rice paddies on both sides of the property.

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Pool area at Saren Indah Hotel

We had been staying at Nusa Lembongan and arranged our transfer from there by boat and driver to the hotel. When we arrived in the afternoon we unpacked and walked into town. Definitely a busier place with lots of shops and restaurants, but it is also very laid back. The trick we found was to wander around later in the day when the tourist buses had departed.

We ate at a restaurant called Three Monkeys Café and I would highly recommend it if you are in Ubud! Not only is the food delicious but the view from the tables will make you want to stay. 

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View of rice field from Three Monkeys café.

Our first full day in Ubud we had prearranged a temple tour. I’ve included the link here as Ari was the best! We got picked up in the morning from the hotel and started our tour at Goa Gajah, which means Elephant Cave.

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Entrance to Goa Gajah

This UNESCO site was built in the 9th century as a sanctuary for meditation and is one of the holiest Hindu sites in Bali. The weather wasn’t very cooperative when we first arrived, but before long the sun came out. This site is truly gorgeous with water features, carvings, statues and a lush forested area. A favourite spot for me.

After lots of picture taking it was off to Candi Gunung Kawi (Candi means shrine) temple complex. After descending about 300 steps, with views of rice terraces on either side, you reach the entrance where you sprinkle yourself with holy water before entering the site.

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Rice terraces on the way down to Gunung Kawi

This temple and funeral complex has 10 shrines carved out of the rocks. These shrines are thought to be dedicated to a former king, favourite queens, and family members. The shrines are cut into the rock face and stand about 8m in height. At the bottom of each shrine there is a place where offerings would have been placed.  Such a unique archaeological area!

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Candi Gunung Kawi

Our last temple stop was Pura Tirta Empul where holy spring water bubbles into pools located. This water temple complex, built in the 1st century, is another very sacred site to Balinese Hindus who come here for purification from the holy water.

There were people lined up to be washed by the water flowing from the spouts and although we weren’t able to go through the whole ritual, we were able to splash some on ourselves before leaving.

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Apparently this is no longer a good idea as the water is actually becoming contaminated from nearby garbage and sewage…such a shame!

Now it was time for something to eat. Our driver took us to a café called Boni Bali that overlooked the rice terraces of Tegallalang. The food and the views were both amazing. What a fantastic first day in Ubud!

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Rice terraces near Tegallalang

Remember…as with all visits to temples and holy sites in Bali, proper dress is required which means a sarong and sash. These can be rented at the sites or you can purchase your own. Women must also be aware of visiting during their periods as this is forbidden. Please respect local cultures and practices when travelling.

On our second full day in Ubud it poured in the morning! We had planned to do a bike tour of the countryside, but rescheduled it for tomorrow. We made the most of the day though by grabbing two umbrellas from our hotel and exploring the Monkey Forest.

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Temple in Sacred Monkey Forest

This is a really wonderful place to meander around. We took our time and didn’t let the weather deter us from sightseeing and having some fun!

We walked all over Ubud and bought some souvenirs for ourselves and people back home. Lots of wooden statues and bowls, t’shirts, pillow cases and table linens, and yoga products to choose from!

Our third day started bright and early…it was time for our bike tour. This was something we booked ahead of time and I was really looking forward to cycling through the countryside. We got up bright and early to be picked up by our tour guide. We stopped to catch the rising sun over some rice terraces on the way to Mt. Batur for our breakfast.

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Beautiful sunrise!

After breakfast we drove to a plantation that made a variety of coffees and spices. We were able to try some of the different coffees, including Luwak coffee (look up how that is made!)

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We then made our way to our bike pick-up spot, put on some helmets, and headed down the hill. We stopped at a temple where a cremation ceremony was being prepared.

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 For most Balinese families this ceremony is too expensive to afford immediately after death and so it can take up to five years before the body of the deceased is dug up, the bones are burned and blessed by a priest, and the ashes are placed in the sea. The cremation ritual is believed to help the deceased family member continue onto the next stage of the birth, death, life cycle where reincarnation will now take place. 

The next stop was a family compound where we learned a little bit about family life and the importance of children, as they will inherit the land and the compound where the family lives.

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Part of temple wall at family compound

We then rode to a working rice mill and a rice paddy where we got to cut the rice stalks and beat them to remove the rice grains. Different families will often share the work on the rice fields and then split the rice amongst themselves.

It was a lot of fun to wander along beside the rice paddies and then to get a chance to see what it takes to actually harvest the rice.

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Family shrines at rice paddies

We continued downhill past villages where children were playing and waving “hello”, women were walking with their babies, and the men were working in the stores or sitting and socializing. It was a truly amazing way to see the countryside and to meet some of the local Balinese people who were always gracious and greeted us with smiles. At the end of the bike tour we were treated to a delicious feast with local food.

Our last day in Ubud was here and after breakfast we walked through the Monkey Forest one more time taking more pictures and checking out the monkeys. Be warned…they are sneaky and will grab anything that is loose!

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We walked through town again and ended up at Pura Taman Saraswati Temple (Ubud Water Palace) in town. This is a lovely complex filled with blooming lotus flowers in the ponds. The temple has some intricate carvings and in the evenings there are dance performances. It provides great photo opportunities!

 I loved wandering around Ubud and felt like there was always something to see. There are also numerous walks just outside of town that you can easily access if you want to. 

For me Ubud provided the best of Bali…the busier village life with shops and cafes, and the calmer countryside with rice paddies and temples to explore. Definitely a place I’d love to go back to!

Places I would recommend eating at…

Three Monkeys Café for salads, pasta dishes, and appetizers to share

Laughing Buddha for a great selection of rice and noodle dishes, as well as amazing desserts and drinks

Bali Buda for fresh organic meals and healthy drinks and smoothies

Juice Ja Café for healthy juices and delicious baked goods, as well as a store where you can buy health food

 

 

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