Photos by Sylvia Le Dung
It might not be too far off to suggest that Ubud offers the quintessential Balinese experience. The sheer sophistication and diversity of this small yet charismatic town entice travelers worldwide to visit every year. Most recently, Ubud’s popularity has been further enhanced by international bestseller and Hollywood blockbuster, “Eat, Pray, Love”.
Widely regarded as Bali’s art and cultural center, Ubud boasts a remarkable number of art galleries, museums and workshops; as well as historical temples and sites featuring stunning traditional Balinese architectural design. Ubud also offers numerous dining and shopping options by way of her vast array of restaurants, shops and markets. With her magical blend of easy small town charm and international flair, Ubud is indeed an exciting place to be; whether you are a first time visitor or a veteran traveler.
While there are many ways to explore Ubud, here are some evergreen, crowd-pleasing attractions, which are centrally located and easily accessible from the town center. Most hotels/resorts/villas provide courtesy rides to the town center, which is the junction of Jalan Raya (aka the main road – jalan literally means “road”) and Jalan Monkey Forest. And this is where we will start our day trip.
(I highly recommend a visit to the Ubud Tourist Center (at the junction just mentioned) to get the most up-to-date map and directions, before commencing your trip.)
12:00 pm – 1:00pm
Babi Guling (roast suckling pigs) Lunch at Warung Ibu Oka
Location: Jalan Suweta, Tegal Sari No 2 (Jalan Raya @ Jalan Monkey Forest). Phone: (361) 976-345
A must stop for anyone visiting Ubud. Babi guling is a ceremonial dish served with rice and Ibu Oka serves some of the best on the island. This warung (family restaurant) has always been popular but has become even more so when Anthony Bourdain proclaimed their offerings as being, “the best (roast suckling pigs) he’s ever had” in his show, “No Reservations”. Ibu Oka is always busy, so it may take a while to be seated. Make sure to also indulge in a bottle of Bintang beer for a complete Balinese gastronomic experience. The suckling pigs are very fresh and deliciously prepared. The pork is tender, moist and succulent, while the skin is very crunchy. The accompanied rice and finely diced mixed vegetables match perfectly with the slightly salty pork.Ibu Oka does not make their suckling pigs on the premises but rather they are delivered over every morning, so come early to avoid missing out.
Museum Puri Lukisan (Museum of Fine Arts)
Location: Jalan Campuhan
Ubud is an art and cultural hub and it is imperative for any Ubud itinerary to include a museum or gallery visit. Museum Puri Lukisan, located just a short distance away from Ibu Oku, is an ideal place to explore traditional and modern Balinese art. Art classes and workshops for mask painting and woodcarving are available but require advanced booking. The museum has the distinction of being the oldest one in Ubud and also features a beautifully manicured garden. Museum Puri Lukisan opens daily from 8AM-4PM.
2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Location: Jalan Raya @ Jalan Monkey Forest
The bustling and colorful Ubud Market is conveniently located at the junction of Jalan Raya and Jalan Monkey Forest, and is literally steps away from the two places mentioned above. Local people come to the market for daily groceries such as fresh fruits, flowers, and cakes, as well as clothing in the early morning. Throughout the rest of the day, however, the market magically transforms itself into a popular tourist hotspot showcasing a huge selection of souvenirs: from traditional handcrafted masks and sculptures to Balinese Sarongs, toys and even knives. One could easily spend a day strolling this market. Even if you are not a shopper, the market is worth a visit.
Gelato Secrets by Maria & Carlo Lentini
Location: Jalan Monkey Forest. Phone: (361) 977-899. www.gelatosecrets.com
After leaving the market, walk further south (of Jalan Raya) on Jalan Monkey Forest and you will arrive at Gelato Secrets in a few minutes. Gelato Secrets serves some of the best gelato in Ubud. Very limited seating is available on the store’s outdoor patio which, admittedly, is basically a few tables and chairs set up on the street but surely nice enough. Take your time and sample their various creative offerings of, “Pumpkin Hazelnut,” “Gingerbread” and kid favorite, “Peanut Butter” – all freshly made with premium local ingredients and served atop a crunchy handmade cone. Find yourself and your companions a table and chill out with your favorite gelato in hand. Watch people, scooters, and cars slowly passing by on the Monkey Forest Road – life doesn’t get much better than this. Opening Hours 10:00-22:30
3:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Strolling on Jalan Monkey Forest en route to Sacred Monkey Forest Ubud Sanctuary
After a nice gelato break, we will continue our trip and walk further south on Jalan Monkey Forest. This will lead us to the famed Monkey Forest (namesake of the road, obviously). This vibrant road features many shops, galleries, restaurants, boutique hotels and temples and is a pleasure to stroll along. Depending on your strolling style it may take anywhere from 40 minutes to 1 hour to reach the Temple. For those who are less inclined to walk, taxis are always an option.
4:30 pm – 5:45 pm
Sacred Monkey Forest Ubud Sanctuary
Location: Jalan Monkey Forest
Warning: if you choose to visit the Monkey Forest be sure to stay alert and exercise extra caution at all times. This is especially true if you have small children with you. These monkeys are wild and untamed and may carry diseases, such as rabies. They could also become aggressive towards visitors.
Sacred Monkey Forest Ubud Sanctuary is a very popular attraction due to its proximity to the town center. It is comprised of temple structures and a nature reserve, which is home to four groups of a total of 340 Macaque Monkeys. Reportedly, the Forest attracts over 10,000 visitors every month. The star is obviously the Macaque but the Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal temple (Padangtegal Great Temple of Death)is also worth seeing. Monkeys in general are well behaved but can occasionally become overly aggressive – especially if they are triggered to believe you want to feed them. So refrain from putting your hands in your pockets or opening your bag/purse in front of the monkeys. I have seen monkeys jumping and hanging onto the head of a visitor, although the park’s guard quickly arrived to the rescue. The forest is otherwise a fun place to see. After your visit take a taxi (or walk back) to the main junction to Cafe Lotus.
6:00pm – 7:30pm [longer if you stay for the dance (extra cost)]
Cafe Lotus restaurant: Dinner and optional Balinese dance performance
Location: Jalan Raya. Phone: (0361) 975-660. www.cafelotusubud.com
Cafe Lotus, located at Jalan Raya, has been around since 1982 and was originally a popular gathering place for artists and backpackers alike. Nowadays, it has gone considerably upscale and the ambiance, food quality and price certainly reflect the change. The cafe features a beautiful lotus pond amid the magnificently designed Pura Saraswati Temple, which turns into an incredible stage for the traditional Balinese dance performance in the evening. The large menu offers an eccentric mix of Western and Balinese style dishes, which will surely make everyone in your group happy. The food is consistently above average, and the restaurant is a safe choice to relax after a long day of exploring. Viewing the Balinese dance performance is optional and not included in the menu price.