Bali: the four letters roll eloquently off the tongue, and immediately conjure up images of beautiful beaches, bronze bods, and bottled Bintang. But a stone’s throw – literally one hour by shuttle bus – into the island’s core teleports you to a different kind of paradise: the kind that featured heavily in Eat Pray Love, and the kind that continuously captures the imagination of yogis and chill-seekers from across the globe. And with its seas of green, cooler climates, and cultural delights, it’s easy to see why. Welcome to Ubud.
There’s much to be said for Balinese culture; the rich history, exquisite cuisine, and warm hospitality are all internationally renowned. They certainly set Bali aside from other obvious tropical holiday destinations, and help attract repeat visitors in their droves year-on-year. With that in mind, Ubud is undoubtedly the island’s cultural capital – a far cry from scruffy Kuta and trendier Seminyak in South Bali – and is thus the obvious location in which to explore the island’s cultural offerings.
Sights and attractions are dotted over a large distance in the town and surrounding villages, and given the lack of resident metered taxis the ojek (motorcycle taxi) rates are heavily inflated. So when you arrive, the first thing you’ll want to do is source a moped, which your accommodation will be more than happy to help you with. This should set you back around £3 per day, and is the perfect mode of transportation for getting lost in Ubud’s beautiful countryside, or stopping to check out whatever local art studio catches your eye. Furthermore, the area doesn’t have the usual reputation for bribe-thirsty police officers looking to extort cash from innocent tourists, so you should be able to explore unmolested.
Once you’ve dumped your bags and sorted a ride, Ubud’s your oyster. Fill the sunlit hours with the area’s outdoor sights. Start off your day with a morning stroll along Campuhan Ridge, a beautiful and relatively-chilled hike that stalks two rivers which eventually converge. This is the infamous spot where a Javanese priest once sat and meditated before deciding to construct a temple, around which the main town was first developed. The short walk concludes in a small village hosting several art studios offering more unique wares to what you’ll find in town, and at much
“There’s many a hidden gem to be found.”
better rates. You should also take a trip up to the Tegalalang rice terraces, which offer spectacular views of palm trees set against an epic backdrop of staggered rice terraces. Here it’s possible to take a tour or just amble through the paddies at your own pace.
No trip to Ubud would be complete without the obligatory visit to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, a nature reserve and temple complex that’s home to countless long-tailed macaques. Don’t let the ‘Sacred’ or ‘Sanctuary’ in the name fool you: I think of this more as chaos among tranquillity. While the temples and forest are certainly serene, any attempt at a peaceful walk is almost always interrupted by one of the four tribes of monkeys on regular patrol. Attacks occur daily, as a quick YouTube search will attest, and many of the monkeys are chock full of herpes B virus. Why parents let their young children feed the monkeys bananas is totally beyond me, but I guess this is just Darwin’s theory at work. On a related note, simian obesity in the forest has now reached epic proportions. It certainly is a spectacle; go and check it out, but be sure to keep any valuables secured.
Moving away from activities requiring zealous physical exertion, Ubud has a seemingly endless supply of galleries to keep you entertained. Your best bet is to amble through
“Amori Villa is nothing short of stunning.”
the side streets and see what you stumble across. Of note, the Agung Rai Museum of Art has an impressive collection of Walter Spies’ works, while the Neka Art Museum will take you on a journey through the development of Balinese artistic styles. Traditional Balinese dance shows can be found from a multitude of companies every night of the week; these are the perfect blend of costumes, choreography, and comedy, backed by the sweet sounds of Balinese gamelan. Obviously, yoga is one of the star attractions in Ubud; if you’re that way inclined, you’ve come to the right place. Competition is fierce, keeping prices reasonable and quality high; your best bet is to find out the situation on the ground once you arrive.
So that’s Ubud in a nutshell. These are, of course, just the highlights. There’s many a hidden gem to be found, especially if you’re feeling adventurous. I’d also say that the rainy season is somewhat underrated; the area is a lot less crowded, room rates are remarkably lower, and the rain itself is a minor inconvenience. Oh, and the rainy season coincides perfectly with the Christmas break and end-of-exams. For me it was a true highlight of Indonesia, and a destination I’d strongly suggest making a focal point of your next holiday agenda.
With seven gorgeous suites and villas set around a luscious infinity pool that cuts dramatically into a plush forest, this boutique resort is luxury at its finest. Carefully crafted to provide breath-taking panoramic views of the surrounding valley, accompanied by the soothing sounds of the river below, it’s no surprise that this paradise is a TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice 2014 Winner. And given it’s the brainchild of a couple well-versed in world travel you can rest assured that attention has been paid to the smallest of details.
The team of butlers provide outstanding personal service, whilst the chefs prepare a wonderful selection of local and international fare at bargain prices. The infinity pool is the perfect place to unwind after a stroll through the rice paddies, before retiring for a massage or Jacuzzi session. Individual villas can be booked but I’d recommend banding together and booking out the entire retreat; during my recent visit I ran into a group of young professionals who’d done just that for an extended weekend and seemed to have had the best time. Look no further for somewhere to unwind for holiday bliss: Amori Villa is nothing short of stunning.
Find out more at amorivilla.com.