Ubud was the only place we decided to revisit on our return trip to Bali. Having visited back in 2008 in a wedding/honeymoon daze I was excited to be back in the lush, green rainforest but also slightly nervous having heard many a story of how it has become over developed, commercial and full of tourists! They do say ‘Never Go Back’ and I can say on first judgement yes, it was all of those things, probably heightened by three gloriously, balmy days up in the sleepy North West of Bali at Puri Ganesha. But after scratching off the surface, I can happily say we yet again found the peaceful, cultural and artistic side. So Ubud stays untainted in our memory, equally as special as our time before, if not even better!
A three and a half hour journey from Pemuteran back through the mountains and rice fields we arrived to a super charged, massively busy and motorbike haven. We were staying at The Purist Villas (more on this next time) which was about a half hour walk and six minute taxi into the main town. There are plenty of lovely places to stay in and around Ubud centre but I really recommend staying out a bit, not only as it is quite manic and there are a lot of people, the heat is intense but the surrounding district of Ubud is really one of the most beautiful highlights and among Bali’s most famous landscapes. You wouldn’t want to miss waking up surrounded by utter peace and quiet, terraced rice paddies, hindu shrines and temples and cooling off in the infinity pools looking over the rainforest. Swimming pools, they do well in Bali and I think in Ubud they really out do themselves.
What is great about Ubud, the Cultural Capital of Bali, known for traditional crafts and dance, is you can do as little as possible or as much as possible. I think we sat somewhere in the middle maybe leaning a little more towards the former, but also as this was our second trip we felt we could justify lazy days by the pool. We had three days, three nights in Ubud at the end of our beautiful trip around Indonesia. After staying very close to the coast, we hopped inland for our final days. Being beach, coastal, sunset nomads we are, we usually end a trip near the water, but I really enjoyed a different vibe to end a holiday, just as peaceful and just as beautiful.
Ubud Centre really was a fusion of old and new Bali. Beautifully carved temples, shrines and houses, families all in traditional clothing, streets covered in colour, scattered from the left over offerings, and families piled high onto mopeds complete with their belongings balancing on their heads. With the mopeds, mopeds and more mopeds (the dutch influence) clogging up the traffic, along with the hoards of tourists which jam up the skinny pathways and busy construction sights, making it all rather chaotic. A positive was the array of restaurants and culinary delights of Bali, tucked away in such unexpected places, hidden gems if you will. Markets of colour, clothes, bronze, straw bags, on repeat, and some really lovely boutique shops, with handmade jewellery and art. It really was a tapestry of senses, crazy busy but also really good fun and all a stroll away to the quiet and slightly calmer villages.
We tended to spend our mornings out and about and then afternoons by the pool, before heading back out for drinks and dinner. I think wherever you go the best way to get to really see a place is to just walk, albeit it’s pretty hot in Ubud but there are so many amazing cafes and bars to stop off at to cool off with a smoothie and recharge with a piece of cake, honestly we had some of the best food in Ubud. We stumbled across the Lazy Cats Cafe whilst getting a little lost, and completely lucked out with a seat on the veranda, people and moped watching whilst supping on smoothies. This is a beautifully decorated cafe, lots of the good old shabby chic!
We wondered around the temples and shopped for straw bags galore at the Ubud Traditional market. We didn’t get to go to the Ubud Morning market, known as Pasar Seni Ubud, which is supposed to be full of action, get there between 6am-9am, absolutely worth doing if you are heading to Ubud, we will just have to do it next time. We walked all the way down to the Pasar Seni Ubud, hoping to get a massage or take a class, alas it was closed but still lovely to take a wander around, a moment of peace hidden away from the outside. The walk was completely worth it just to pop into the lovely boutique shops en route along the Jl Hanoman, which I think is one of the best streets for shopping.
If Ubud wasn’t busy enough, the weekend we were there coincided with the celebration of the new moon, Purnama, bringing more colour, smiles and people to town the as they headed to the temples and The Royal Palace. Known as Puri Saren Agung, the palace is really the centre piece of the town where you can wander around and explore the beautiful, and traditional, buildings. You can also come and watch the Balinese Dancers which we did on our first trip, it is a really lovely thing to see.
After lazy afternoons chilling by the pool, we ventured back into Ubud every night. This was what we both loved about Ubud, after a week of pretty much always eating at the hotel we were staying at and although all incredible, it was really fun and a change to go out and eat and experience a different atmosphere each evening. I love when you holiday in Italy or Greece and you can take your time deciding where to eat, it’s part of the fun, so it was great to be able to do this in Bali. Favourites being the bar at the Nomad, for the simple open aired, relaxed vibe. The food at Arang Grill was delicious and good fun and opposite the palace crossroads, so we sat back tucked in whilst watching the ceremony rehearsals at the Royal Palace.
On our final night in Bali, we ventured to the stunning Hujan Locale, the most beautifully created restaurant, with a fabulous cocktail bar. We actually sat by the window in the bar as the restaurant was busy. You could see the opulences of the Jazz scene of 1930’s Indonesia, fans spinning, with beautiful hanging chandeliers, a hint of Paris and tasty cocktails. It was the perfect spot to delve into our Indonesian feast and to spend our final evening in Bali. I long to go back already and hugely recommend stopping by.
You could argue that that Ubud has become a classic case of consumerism taking over a place that perhaps wasn’t ready for, it or doesn’t quite have the infrastructure to deal with the speed of change. But if you look hard enough and scrape past the surface the people haven’t lost their warmth, or their happiness, or their interest in you as they share their stories and want to hear about yours. They are generous, kind, accepting and oh so smiley and so be it if they are surrounded with an in-cohesive but wonderful chaos, and a slightly out of place Starbucks, because after all it’s the people you meet, their culture, their spirt and their warmth that make somewhere special….
….So I defy those that say ‘Never Go Back’, always go back as it can make not only old memories precious but new ones equally treasured.
I for one will keep going back and back and back…….
We ate at :
The Lazy Cats Cafe, The Arang Grill, Hujan Locale, The Black Beach,
We drank at:
Copper Kitchen & Bar at Bisma Eight, Nomad, Oops Bar
We slept at The Purist Villas and Spa
White Cami: Zara
White T-shirt: Zara
Black Cut offs: New Look
Blue spotty Dress: Old Urban Outfitters.
Round Woven Bag: Ubud Market
…More from Bali soon
Thank you for reading x
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