26 Oct Ubud, the Cultural Heartland of Bali
Ubud Travel: What You Need to Know Before Visiting the Cultural Heartland of Bali
Once a sleepy Indonesian village, Ubud is today famed as the cultural heartland of Bali and is among the most visited places in Indonesia. Arguably, Ubud is the world capital for spiritual travels and retreats. Millions of travelers flock Ubud in search of relaxation, as well as physical and spiritual healing. Many others want to experience Bali’s rich culture and spectacular arts and crafts.
History of Ubud
The word Ubud derives from Ubad, a Balinese word which means medicine. It is no wonder then that Ubud has always been thought to be mystical and full of healing powers. Numerous archeological evidence indicates that Ubud was already a cultural center by 300BC. In the 8th Century, Rsi Marhandya, a Buddhist priest declared the region where the Wos Rivers meet at Campuan holy. As per Buddhist tradition, a shrine was built to mark the area as holy. Nirartha, a Javanese priest, later expanded this shrine. This priest is today revered as the father of Bali’s religion.
Hindu-Buddhist culture continued to spread in Bali. Between 10th and 12th Centuries, local rulers requested Shivaite holy men to build hermitages and teaching monasteries near Ubud. Ubud became a Dutch protectorate in 1900, but the colonialists didn’t leave a huge mark. In the 1930s, the royal family encouraged foreign artists to visit and live in Ubud. The rest of the world started flocking the town from the 1960s.
As early as the 8th Century, royal families sent their sick to Ubud for healing. The same tradition continues to date with the world’s ailing visiting Ubud for different forms of healing.
5 Major Attractions in Ubud
Ubud is rightly regarded as the center of Balinese culture, religion, arts and crafts. It’s a treasure trove of cultural landmarks, architectural masterpieces, and natural attractions. Without mentioning the beautiful beaches, there are spectacular ancient temples, majestic old royal palaces, gorgeous landscapes punctuated by green hillsides, forests, numerous rivers, and lush rice paddies as well as notable museums, art galleries, and zoos.
There are many worthy attractions in Ubud but here are five of the major tourist attractions:
Goa Gajah is a spectacular archeological site. The 11th-century temple complex is situated south of the famous Bedulu village. Apart from the stunning temple, other attractions here include art and souvenirs shops, lush rice paddies and tiny streams that form the Petanu River.
Ubud Monkey Forest/ Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal/Mandala Wisata Wenara Wana
Ubud Monkey Forest is a natural attraction that lies on the fringes of the town’s main center. The shady, green forest is a sanctuary of the grey macaques. The playful and interactive monkeys roam freely around the forest and temple complex. Ubud Monkey Forest is a place of modern scientific research. It’s also a site of Balinese religion and culture.
Tegallalang Rice Terraces
This scenic stopover is an excellent place to take some photos as you buy some souvenirs and sample a green coconut drink. The rice terraces are part of Bali’s ancient Subak cooperative irrigation system. The beautiful terraced landscape is also near Pakudui village. The quaint village is home to stunning ornamental woodwork and carvings.
Ubud Royal Palace
The Ubud Royal Palace is the focal landmark of Ubud. It’s near Ubud Art Market, Bale Banjar meeting hall and many local and international restaurants. The palace, built in the 1800s, is today a mark of Balinese architecture as well as a cultural repository of Balinese arts, dance, and literature. Tourists also come here to witness dramatic evening dance performances.
Blanco Renaissance Museum
This unofficial Ubud landmark was the house and studio of the famous Don Antonio Blanco. Tourists love a guided tour of the lavish studio as they enjoy thought-provoking collections and the lush garden surroundings. Inside the facility, there is also a fine dining restaurant established in the honor of the wife of the flamboyant maestro, a gift shop, and the Blanco’s family temple.
Essential Ubud’s travel tips: what to know before you go
Beware of the monkeys
The Macaque monkeys are fun to play and interact with. However, the monkeys have become too used to tourists. Mind your belongings and if the monkeys “steal” something, let a guide “ask properly”.
Wear Comfortable shoes that can withstand mud
A private guided tour through the villages and verdant rice field is an authentic Balinese experience. To manage the walk through the maze-like paths, make sure you have comfortable shoes that can withstand some mud.
Different places enforce a dress code. Confirm what’s acceptable. Modest dressing entails covering your shoulders and knees.
Respect religious customs
Religion is everything in Bali. To avoid embarrassing moments ask and follow a trusted guides advice. Conduct yourself appropriately especially when visiting temples and shrines.
Although Ubud has managed to retain its authenticity, it isn’t untouched. Expect to find throngs of tourists.
How to stretch your dollar when in Ubud
Bargain but respectfully
Many items and services in Ubud do not have fixed prices. Traders will always try to get a good price for their wares. Bargain for fairer prices but bargain with respect. Smile as you haggle and when unsure when to stop, walk away instead of pushing. Sometimes, the vendor will come after you.
Visit during the low season
The low season in Bali is from January to April as well as from October to November. While this low season coincides with the rainy season, it’s also a time for great discounts.
Transportation to and from Ubud
Ubud is in central Bali and approximately 13 miles from Denpasar (Bali’s capital). A trip from South Bali, along the Kuta-Ubud road takes between 30 to 90 minutes depending on traffic. Several tourist buses ply the Kuta-Ubud circuit. The buses charge around IDR 50,000.
If you prefer a hired car, expect to pay about $35-50 per day for the whole package. There are also vans (taxis) for hire. You can negotiate the prices but expect to pay between IDR 20,000-50,000. Ojeks (motorcycle taxis) can also give you a ride at a cheaper price. If you would love riding a bicycle, ask your Ubud hotel about bicycle rentals.
Ubud accommodation and dining options
Ubud features an excellent range of dining and accommodation options to suit all budgets and persuasions. There are different kinds of restaurants as well as hotels, villas and homestay options.