If you’re planning to make a getaway to the exotic island of Bali, then it’s a must to make a stop at Ubud. Bali isn’t just about white or black sand beaches and turquoise blue waters. It is brimming with culture and the best place to get a taste of it is in the central town of Ubud.
Ubud is known as the arts and crafts center of the island. The landscape is decked with artist’s workshops, museums and various galleries alongside rice fields and lush rivers. It’s often not enough to just spend a day in Ubud because of the wealth of culture and activities that beckon visitors.
There is something for everyone
Ubud has so much to offer its visitors. Whether people want to take pictures of the spectacular scenery, learn about traditional Balinese healing, relax under the expert hands of a Balinese masseuse, have a taste of authentic Indonesian cooking or want to immerse in history, Ubud is the place to be.
There are even tours that allow visitors to take a rice field walk, so you can have the unique experience of walking through the rice fields, climbing a ravine and ending the trek with a drink fresh of coconut juice, straight from a coconut tree that a young Balinese will retrieve for you. Aspiring artists can take classes at the Bali Center for Artistic Creativity or take up a ceramic class at the Gaya Ceramic and Design studio. Those who want to learn how to whip up those delicious Balinese dishes, such as Babi Guling (roast pig), bubur injin (black rice pudding) and nasi campur, can take cooking classes in Laplapan village.
A town of 14 villages
Ubud is deceptively small but is in fact a complex little town comprised of a number of villages. The history of Ubud can be traced as far back as the eighth century. A Javanese Hindu priest named Rsi Marhandya settled in the area and thus began the development of Ubud. Back then, it was known as a healing center. In fact, the name Ubud translates to the word medicine in Balinese.
Today, Ubud is further divided into 14 different villages that radiate from the town center or main market. There are also just three main roads in Ubud and each village is headed by a banjar or a village committee. Many of the temples that were built some four centuries ago still stand today, such as the temples at the Gunung Kawi and the ones found at Goa Gajah. Tourists often buy their trinkets at Tegallalang, while others go to the Monkey Forest, Botanic Garden of the Bali Bird Park.
The Elephant Cave, which has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is best known for having an ornately carved entrance that dates back to the ninth century. There are various statues inside, but the centerpiece is the state of Ganesha, guarded by a number of carved statues.
The Poet Mountain dates back to the 11th century and is known as the sacred burial ground of King Anak Wungsu and his wives. There are carvings right on the side of the mountain and the royal palace complex is also there. The view of the verdant valley is spectacular, since to reach it, travelers must first climb 371 steps.
Watch the dances
Ubud is the perfect place to watch authentic Balinese dancers perform. The best dances are said to be at Puri Saren Agung, which served as the royal residence until the Second World War. In fact, it still serves as the home of some royal family members.
Dances in Bali aren’t just a form of self-expression. They are a way of communing with the gods and finding divine inspiration. It has deeply religious roots and it is also the way the Balinese narrate their history and tell stories. The elaborate costumes and intricate moves of the dancers are certainly nothing like it on earth.
There are shows at the temples of Ubud featuring Balinese dances like Legong (individual dances), Ramayana (a ballet dance depicting the story of Ramayana family) Baron, or Kecak performances (which is performed by men). The Barong Dance at Batubulan can be seen daily recounts the constant battle between good and evil. On the other hand, one of the most popular dances in Bali is the Tari Panyembrama, which is a welcome dance performed when welcoming and honoring guests. This dance is performed by young girls and involves scattering of flowers and using a silver bowl called bokor and is a type of Legong dance.
Commune with nature
Ubud is the perfect place to replenish your soul. Eco tours are available in Ubud, and photography enthusiasts will find that just about every corner is picture perfect.
There are many healing and massage centers in the area, which have gotten an upswing in business ever since the Julia Roberts movie “Eat, Pray, Love” was shown in cinemas. Balinese massages, hot stone massages, reflexology, body scrubs, flower baths, facials and other spa treatments are readily available at the various spas in Ubud, where travelers can leave refreshed and relaxed. Yoga classes are also offered. The scenery and quiet ambience are certainly conducive to meditation and quiet thought.
Easy to get around
Many travelers find that spending a day in the Ubud area is the best way to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of the cultural scene. However, many keep returning to the town because a day simply isn’t enough to take everything in. Taking leisurely strolls allows people to savor the scenery, though renting a bike is another option, which allows visitors to visit the various shops and cafes to get a sampling of the local cuisine.
These are just some of the reasons why Ubud is the cultural center of the exotic island of Bali. Whether it’s history, drama, spirituality, food, nature or art, Ubud has it all!