For most, travelling to the mesmerizing island Bali, the fun begins and ends at the beaches of Kuta, with its beautiful sunrise and sunset views, the night long parties and the list of water sports and activities that it has to offer.
But when one’s mind is saturated with all that the sun,sand and the surf has to offer, Bali offers the perfect getaway to recharge your batteries!
Ubud is a quaint, picturesque little village that lies about 40 kms north of Kuta, made famous by the popular Hollywood movie ‘Eat,Pray,Love’ being filmed in and around the town. The name Ubud is derived from the word ‘ubad’ which means ‘a place of healing’ and the town truly does justice to its name.
Getting to Ubud is fairly straight forward. You could hire a cab and drive up there in less than an hour or for the DIY type of traveller (like me) you can rent a motorcycle/scooter/car, and do the trip yourself. So we got ourselves a scooter and rode to Ubud.
Accommodation is easy to find and for every budget, from homestays to luxury hotels. Our stay was booked at Duana's Homestay, a charming little nest right next to the centre of the town.
Our perfect day in Ubud went something like this:
Breakfast: Duana Homestay offers complimentary western breakfast complete with toast, eggs and fruits and it packs all the energy you need for a great morning of sight seeing!
Visit to Monkey Forest and Goa Gajah:
The Monkey forest is a protected forest area which houses close to 400 monkeys living freely in their natural habitat. The place is also sacred grounds for the Balinese Hindus with 3 temples inside its premises. Walking through the forest with the dense canopy is as refreshing as it is peaceful. But ofcourse, the main attraction is the resident primates who, with years of human contact has grown increasingly bold and adventurous. So be careful with your belongings and never confront the monkeys! There are staff keeping constant vigil inside the park so help is never far away.
Next on the list was Goa Gajah or the Elephant Cave Temple, which is also a UNESCO Heritage Site. The uniqueness of the Cave Temple is the menacing face of a creature carved at the entrance, whose mouth forms the doorway into the cave. Inside the cave there are idols of Lord Shiva and Ganesh which are placed in pedestals carved from the walls of the cave. There are also bath areas that could be seen near to the cave.
After this extensive cultural and spiritual escapade, it was time for something more soothing to the eye and more importantly, something fulfilling to the stomach!
Lunch: Welcome to Cafe Pomegranate!
Set amidst the rice fields on a path that runs parallel to the famous Campuhan Ridge Walk, Cafe Pomegranate is the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon. If you are on a scooter and very confident of your riding skills, you could ride all the way to the cafe but bear in mind the pathway is only wide for one scooter and you will face quite a bit of pedestrian and the occasional local-on-scooter traffic. The ideal way to enjoy the locality is ofcourse by foot with the view of endless paddy fields till the eye can see. Total walk time to the Cafe from the nearest road was about 20-30 mins at a leisurely pace. And once we reached the Cafe, we realised that the effort was totally worth it! The experience of a sumptuous lunch while soaking in a 360 degree view of breathtaking paddy fields is truly maginificent! And the bamboo and tin sheet chimes hung all over the fields to ward off birds, ringing in unison, added music that blends perfectly with the green vistas.
Ubud Market, Ubud Palace and Saraswati Temple:
As the sun is slowly sliding towards the west, making the shadows longer and the air a little less warmer, it was time to venture out again! We got back to the city centre and it was time for some shopping! The Ubud market is setup conveniently in the heart of town on a single stretch of street. The shops are quintessential for a tourist town with money exchanges, souvenirs, artifacts and apparel consuming most of the space. Evenings are the busy hours in the market and bargaining is essential! After an hour of hard work (read bargaining like mad!), it was time for us to step out from the hustle and bustle of the marketplace.
The exit of the market literally gets you to the footsteps of the Ubud Palace which has a rich history of its own. The palace is small in size and grandeur but has a charm that is second to none.
Back on the main street and heading west gets you to Pura Taman Saraswati or the Saraswati Temple. The temple entrance has a beautiful lotus pond with the path to the temple going right through the middle of the pond. The temple front is beautiful and is a great place to have some quiet time just soaking in the spiritual ambience. Entry to the temple is prohibited for tourists and is open only for worship. We were in mood for some coffee and snacks, and the Starbucks in Ubud, which is right at the entrance of the temple gave us the perfect spot from where we could enjoy the view of the lotus pond and the temple while sipping on a cup of hot coffee. The view of the temple and the pond lined with lit oil lamps during the evenings is a visual treat and a photographers dream!
Our visit happened to be on Sunday, and there were many tour agents approaching selling tickets to the Kecak dance performance that was happening at the Ubud Palace that evening at 7.30. There are many dance forms in Bali and the most famous one is the Kecak dance. And its definitely a must-see! The performance we saw told the story of Ramayana and it was as brilliant as it was elaborate. The dancers took us back to the days of the ancient past with stunning attire, graceful dance moves and vivid facial expressions. Add to that the constant rhythmic chanting that accompanies the performance and it became a veritable treat for all the senses. A truly unforgettable experience!
The fabulous performance was an hour’s affair and it ended just in time for dinner. The main street in Ubud is lined with restaurants that serve to every palate and depending on what your heart desires, you can choose from the wide variety ranging from authentic Indonesian or Balinese cuisine to Continental to Chinese. Keeping up with our fairly strict policy of eating local as much as possible, we chose a local Warung (restaurant) and settled in for a long dinner with some delicious Indonesian food, copious amounts of Bintang (Indonesian beer) punctuated by flipping of pictures on our camera and happy contemplation of what had been truly a fantastic day in this magical town called Ubud.