Ubud is roughly 23 miles from Kuta but it took us almost two hours to get there because of traffic. The streets in Bali are clogged with cars and mopeds and it can take quite a long time to get anywhere. There is virtually no public transportation because everyone has a moped. In fact, Bali experimented with a public bus, but when nobody used it, they cancelled the service. The taxi ride was only 260,000 IDR ($18.20) which felt like a really good deal compared to the 20-minute taxi ride from the airport for which we paid 150,000 ($10.50). When we arrived in Ubud, the taxi driver dropped us off roughly half a mile from our hotel because of the network of one way streets and we walked up to the hotel.
We had chosen Yudha Guesthouse for its reviews and we were not disappointed. When we arrived there was no one there, but we called the number on our booking and the owner showed up quickly. He operates a little shop in front of the guesthouse. He showed us to our room which was very nice and had a nice patio with a beautiful view of the garden. Breakfast was included with our room and as long as we filled out our order sheet the night before by 9pm, he would bring it to us on our patio in the morning.
Since we only had 36 hours in Ubud, we dropped our bags at the hotel and went out to explore. This is what we found to do in Ubud:
- Visit Ubud Palace – Free to enter. There are temples and shrines everywhere in Ubud, but the Ubud Palace is worth a visit. There are elaborate stone statues standing guard and beautiful stonework throughout the palace. Fire dancing shows are offered in the palace on Monday evenings.
- Walk through downtown Ubud – Downtown Ubud is a hustling, bustling place of activity these days with tons of shops, restaurants and ice cream stands. There are sidewalks, but they are narrow, filled with people, and often have scooters parked on them. You constantly have to step down to the road and back up to the sidewalk to go around one obstacle or another. Go off the main drag for cheaper food.
- See the Kajeng rice field – Ubud used to be mostly rice fields, but so many of the rice fields have been taken over by commercial development for tourists that there aren’t many left. One evening while we were walking around, we crossed paths with a woman who had visited Ubud twenty years ago. She was disappointed to see the development of tourist infrastructure over the years and said, “tourists kill Bali, but without tourists Bali would die.” It is hard to know what the solution to that problem is. The best terraces are outside Ubud in Tegallalang about 15 minutes away, but you can still see some beautiful rice fields complete with ducks right in Ubud.
- Meet Nyoman, the coconut man – If you wander through the Kajeng rice fields you might find a special treat along the way. Nyoman, the coconut man, sells coconuts and coconut oil from a small shack on the side of the path. He climbed a tree to get us two coconuts, cut them open so we could drink the water, and then cut them in half and made us a little spoon so we could eat the flesh, all for 20,000 IDR ($1.40)
- Walk through the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary – Entrance fee: 80,000 IDR ($5.60) per person. This is a must-see in Ubud. Almost 700 grey long-tailed macaques (monkeys) live here amidst ancient temples dating to the 14th century, and they are a sight to see. They range freely inside (and sometimes outside) the sanctuary, and they are not shy about taking something they like, so watch your stuff. One monkey stole two pens out of a woman’s backpack and proceeded to try to eat them. They can become aggressive if you try to take something away, so once it is gone, it is gone. This was the second time in Bali someone told us not to panic. The taxi driver from Kuta to Ubud explained “if a monkey jumps on you, don’t panic! If you panic, he panic, and then maybe he bite” Luckily no monkeys jumped on us, so we did not have to test our ability to stay calm, but we did get some awesome photos!
- Take a yoga class – We took a hatha flow yoga class at Yoga Saraswati for 75,000 IDR ($5.25) per person and the class only had three people in it, so we got more attention and helpful adjustments than we are used to back home.
- Get a massage – Like in Kuta, there are tons of massage places. We wouldn’t particularly recommend the one we went to (Lily Spa) for a relaxing experience, but it was definitely cheap – 90,000 IDR ($6.30) each
- Stroll along the Campuhan Ridge Walk – The Campuhan Ridge Walk is a moderately easy 1.6 mile hike along a ridge with pretty scenic views of the nearby forest. We had thought we might be able to see the sunset from here, but our timing was off a bit and it was pretty cloudy.
- Look for new restaurants offering deals – We accidentally stumbled upon Pistachio on a commercial street with lots of new businesses opening or under construction. Pistachio was offering a 50% off deal for their opening month. The food was delicious and would have been well worth it full price (although we may have passed it by for budget reasons). It was so good we went back a second time the next evening.
- Watch a Wayang Kulit Balinese Shadow Puppet Show – Ticket price: 100,000 IDR ($7) per person. We saw a puppet show in the traditional Balinese style. We didn’t understand much because there were so many characters and the show was entirely in Indonesian except for a few English jokes, but the shadow puppetry was interesting to see. It seems there is usually a handout which describes the story being told, which would help.
When we first got to Ubud, we thought we might wish we had more than 36 hours there. By the end of our second day, though, we were tired of navigating through the throngs of people, hopping on and off the sidewalk constantly, leaping out of the way of mopeds, and watching where we stepped. We were really glad we had chosen a guest house away from the downtown area because it was nice to be able to escape the craziness in the evenings. In one day, we walked 12 miles and managed to see most of the sights in the city of Ubud. There are definitely a lot more activities a bit further afield we could have done if we’d had the time, but we were happy with what we saw.
After five days in Bali, we can tell we have barely scratched the surface. We can definitely imagine coming back again to explore more of the island. However, for now, we’re off to Singapore!