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Ubud, Bali

9 November 2010 One Comment

ubud rice field

Rice fields around Ubud

The quaint village of Ubud is often purported to be the cultural capital of Bali. To many (the Travcult crew included) this seems to be a cheesy claim. Yes there indeed seem to be a large number of local artisan shops around; but these, together with the plethora of Balinese spas and daily dance performances do not necessarily define a culture, much less a cultural capital. The main thoroughfares of Ubud are touristy, strikingly different from the typical Indonesian or Balinese village. This is where one can find handicraft stores, restaurants, and other tourism related businesses, but not much of anything else.

ubud rice field

Farmers working on their crop

Puri Saraswati Ubud

Puri Saraswati, an example of local architecture

We think of Ubud as more of a showpiece of Balinese culture. To the vast majority of travellers, seeing locals in their traditional costumes going about doing their daily activities is about the right dose of culture needed in their holiday. Some increase their intake by sampling local cuisine and attending cultural performances. This may not be ‘real’ enough for some; but ask this question, how many of us would enjoy a holiday in a ‘real’ village with little or no tourist amenities (no English speakers around, no internet, no beer, etc.)? Where Ubud and its inhabitants excel (a fact often overlooked) is balancing the interaction between tourism and the local community.

Ubud Market

Ubud Market

Ubud is still largely an agrarian society, rice fields are abound just minutes away from the main streets. Traditional values are still deeply ingrained in the minds of the locals. Temples are fully functional and the locals are serious with their religious rituals. Most shops close early and the kind of crazy nightlife often associated with other tourist destinations is unheard of here. Last year, while walking back to the hotel after a Kecak dance show, we were delighted to see the night sky lit up with so many stars, something city people (like this crew) seldom get to experience.

shops along jalan raya ubud

Shops along Jalan Raya Ubud

Shop on Jalan Hanoman

Cafe on Jalan Hanoman

At the same time Ubud is very international. Pizza, sushi, yoga classes, spa; you name it, they (probably) have it. Today’s Ubud is not the same with the one we saw on our first visit some years back. There are more businesses around (especially yoga courses and spas), the streets see more traffic, and the tourist crowd is much larger.

Swans in Ubud

We noticed these swans wading through an irrigation ditch

Travel Info

Accomodation:
Cheap – a number of family owned Bed & Breakfast establishments are available along Jalan Hanoman. Prices from Rp. 150,000 (approximately USD 18) in 2009.

Activities:
Cycling tours. The adjoining villages around Ubud are much less touristy, and are easy to explore on a bike or motorcycle. The hilly terrain and rice fields along the way provide stunning view.
Handicraft Shopping. A range of stores can be found on Jalan Hanoman and Jalan Monkey Forest. Ubud market is also a good place to shop. Bargain hard.
Visiting the Monkey Forest. This mini forest sanctuary hosts a number of temples as well as a colony of playful monkeys. Beautiful place to visit early in the morning.
Dance shows. These happen on daily / nightly basis. Different dance troupes have their own schedule of what to perform. Enquire at your hotel for the list and how to book tickets.
Spa / Yoga. This is the ‘in’ thing to do in town. Many hotels seem to do their own or have tie-up spa services.
Eating. Ubud has a good range of eateries, serving good local and international food. Cooking classes (typically half day) are also available from some of them.

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One Comment »

  • minority scholarships said:

    Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

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