Bali has traditionally been known for its beaches and famous Kuta Beach on the coast was a part of the three K’s of the hippy backpacker trail (alongside Khao San Rd in Thailand and Kathmandu in Nepal). Now today, that hippy spirit has moved inland into the central highlands, especially the town of Ubud about an hour drive from Kuta or an hour and half from the airport.
Filled with artist workshops, art galleries, yoga studios, spas, funky cafes, delicious restaurants and shops and surrounded by rice paddy fields, Ubud is a great place to wander around in.
One of the highlights was definitely the Sacred Monkey Forest where there is a distinct feeling that visitors have entered the realm of monkeys for a very up-close-and-personal experience as I wrote about in a previous blog entry. Here are a few other highlights of our few days in Ubud:
Saraswati Water Temple
On the busy main road, tucked in behind Cafe Lotus and the huge Starbucks, the serene Saraswati Water Temple is a beautiful oasis. Honouring the Hindu Goddess of Knowledge and Art, Saraswati, the temple entrance features a pathway through two pools filled with blooming lotuses and intricate carvings around the door. There are cultural performances here in the evening though we were too jet-lagged to attend them. A reason to come back!
Campuhan Ridge Walk
The Campuhan Ridge Walk is a free and popular walking trail through the green countryside and a lovely break from the busy central Ubud. It starts right before the bridge on the main road in Ubud by Warwick IBAH villas and spa, where there is a sign “Going to the Hill” with an arrow pointing left. From this point, it is about 2km to Karsa Cafe where most people call their destination though the trail does continue through little villages and rice paddies.
Best in the cool early morning or in the glow of late afternoon just before sunset, the trail climbs a small hill from a temple to a paved trail on the ridgeline surrounded by tall grasses and a steep slope down. The surrounding valley is covered in lush green jungle. I really enjoyed how the trail was popular with both tourists and locals alike and there were many young Balinese hanging out with friends or running back and forth on the trail.
The trail goes through some small villages where vendors sell refreshing young coconuts and other drinks and there seems to be many artist workshops. Around 2km is the picturesque Karsa Cafe surrounded by rice paddies.
A sate tour
Some travelers love to shop, others love to visit sacred and/or historical sites, and still others love to relax and pamper themselves at the spa. I love to do all of these things but something I really love to do is to EAT! One of the classic dishes is Sate Ayam – chicken satay. We fell in love with it at first taste and embarked on a satay tour across as many restaurants as we could feasibly eat at. One of the days we spent in Ubud was a 5 satay day as we managed to try 5 different restaurants!
The most common sate (or satay) is chicken but also found pork and beef sate as well. The meat is marinated in a sweet soya sauce and grilled. It is served with a rich, spicy peanut sauce and of-course rice. A meal in Bali isn’t a meal unless it includes rice!
While we tried sate dishes in many different restaurants, our favourite was a small warung (local cafe) named Ayu Warung on Jl Bisma right off the main road in Ubud: Jl Raya Ubud. The satay sauce was thick and rich and an explosion of ginger, garlic and peanut flavours. Delicious!
Another highlight of Ubud was simply relaxing. There were many spas where an hour long Balinese Massage was between 80,000 to 100,000 IDR ($8-10 CND). Balinese Massage felt like a combination of Ayuvedic and Thai massages using long strokes to apply pressure along energy lines in body and limb. After a long day of walking around in the heat, it was also amazing to relax by our guest house pool. Ubud was a perfect first place to visit after a long flight from Canada!