Bali Diaries - 5 - Ubud
Ubud is located In the middle of the hills in east side of Bali. It's quite famous for few reasons. The movie and book 'Eat, Pray, Love', the amazing yoga retreats, the arts.
The first time I set foot in Ubud I hated it. We arrived there after a pretty tiresome day under a tropical rain and we stayed there for just a couple of hours.
Thank god I decided to give it another shot, so me and my girlfriend at the time decided to spend there a long weekend. Ubud is just an hour away from Canggu, so we grabbed our moped and off we went.
Geographically Ubud, is quite far from the sea, on top of a hill, in the middle of the forest; that makes the weather there quite rainy but extremely hot most of the times.
The village is crossed by a crowded Main Street, were all the bad tourists are… I’ve even seen a Starbucks. But if you take one of the side roads, you'll discover a completely different universe. Loads a little art shops, nice cafes, interesting people everywhere.
Ubud is quite famous for its art scene. So when we arrived we decided to be proper tourists and walk around a bit. We visited the temple Param Saraswati, one of the thousands temples in Bali. And then we ended up in the local market.
Every time I visit a new place I end up visiting the local market, it's my way to connect with the locals I guess.
Anyway Ubud market was a bit overcrowded with tourists for our liking, so we ended up walking one of the side streets and discovered loads of really nice little shops and cafes.
In Ubud everything is organic and healthy and vegan that kind of put me a bit off as it's one of the western fads.
We walked around a bit and then we checked-in in our home stay. Home stay is a way to live cheaply and also embrace a bit the local culture. A local family rent out one of the rooms in their house, Balinese houses are pretty beautiful and every one of them has a little temple inside.
In the afternoon we went for a walk on the western side of Ubud, the famous Campuhan ridge walk. It’s a couple of hours hike but it’s quite relaxing and panoramic... just remember to bring mosquito repellent with you. I loved the peace out there, not many people and most of all no cars or motorbikes.
We spent our evening in one of the little restaurants close to our home stay, and went to bed quite early, as you do in Bali, go to bed early and wake up early as there's always plenty to do during the day.
The morning after we took our moped and drove 20 minutes north of Ubud, to visit the famous Tegalalang rice terraces. Quite stunning in my opinion. I had the chance to spend some time with a local farmer and it was quite an incredible experience, him explaining how to grow rice, how each rice paddies would feed a family for 6 months. Walking us around and show each family temple to pray the gods. Or how to get coconuts from a tree.
We spent the whole morning there and stopped for lunch in a warung near by.
The way back to Ubud was quite an adventure as we ended up in the middle of a tropical storm, I was driving the moped in the street that basically became a river as the rain was so strong that the earth didn't have time to soak it, and I ended up driving with water reaching my calves.
On our last day in Ubud we went to visit the famous Monkey Forest. Before going I did some research online, and found some horrific stories about the place: monkeys stealing things, monkeys biting visitors, monkey attacking people. A bit scared about the thing we decided to go with with only my camera, no back packs no water nothing with us, just the right amount to pay the entrance fee.
The place is a beautiful forest where more than 600 macaques decided to live. Walk around there it’s beautiful. Monkeys are not aggressive, especially if you don’t bother them, in fact they mind to their own business most of the times, unless you offer them a nice banana, in that case they’ll jump on you and steal the delicious fruit.
We were pretty surprised by the terrible reviews and the horrific stories, nothing bad happened to us or anyone else we meet there. I guess the secret is to simply respect the four rules written everywhere: don't use the camera flash, don't pet the cubs, don't look in the eyes the males and don't feed them anything else but bananas. Seems simple but trust me I've seen a lot of camera flash going off while I was there.
Another trick is to go early in the morning, but this rule applies to all the places in Bali, go early to avoid the hordes of tourists.
We did enjoy quite a lot our small adventure in Ubud. One thing transpire from it but again that's for all the places in Bali, the mass tourism is changing the island and it's removing its individuality. What strikes me is how religion is still so radiated in the culture, in a good way I have to say, as Balinese people are extremely peaceful and they don't look at you with envious eyes as people form other less rich country do.