We spent two weeks in Ubud, Bali relaxing and enjoying the many delicious vegetarian restaurants. Most of the time consisted of swimming at our guesthouse’s pool, eating delicious food, doing yoga, working and reading books. The amount of “tourist” activities we did could have fit into a four day visit, but we were happy slow down and just do an activity every couple days. While we weren’t interested in some of the main attractions (Monkey Forest or Museums) we did pick a few fun activities to mix into our daily routine.
1. Traditional Dance
Ubud has a large variety of traditional dance performances advertised around town. We ended up going to the Kecak and Traditional Ubud Fire Dance show because a worker at the guesthouse we were staying at was in it, so he happily sold us tickets. The dance conveys a story from the Ramayana, the scene where Sita is kidnapped by Rahwana so Rama and Laksamana (with some monkeys) go searching for her. The music is created by a group of 100 men who make music with their voices. Sometimes sounding quite funny. During the last 10 minutes of the show a man dances on coals. I wouldn’t sit in the front row during that part, a few people nearly got singed, but no one seemed to be hurt. I wasn’t a massive fan of the show, but Aurelien enjoyed it. He liked seeing the Hindu culture expressed in a slightly different way compared to the way they depict it in India.
I (Annalisa) got a week-long pass at the Radiantly Alive yoga studio and went to classes each day. It was a 15 minute walk from our guesthouse through narrow alleys, dodging motorbikes and people. The studio itself was peaceful, serene and beautiful. It is four levels, each studio open to the rainforest below. The bamboo and rainforest view reminded me of Nosara, Costa Rica, where I got my yoga teaching training. They also have free water and tons of props, but bring a towel! It was hot in Ubud and I have never sweated so much in a yoga class before. Because the windows were wide open, I got a “hot yoga class” regardless of the style. Sweating is really good for you, but my mat would get slippery! After the class go across the street, turn right and walk a few shops down. You will find a tiny shop on the left selling massive coconut water (for half the price of other places). Coconut water is wonderful way to replenish electrolytes and hydrate your body. You can also go to Bali Buda which is also across the street, to get some food or snacks. I even managed to get Aurelien to join me for one class!
3. White Water Rafting
I didn’t go on this because I didn’t want to get my ear wet due to an ear issue (that is now resolved) so Aurelien can tell you about his time.
Aurelien: Since Bali has multiple large volcanoes which dominate the island, and it rains there a lot, it is no surprise that there are some nice whitewater rafting experiences. I had already been rafting a few times so it was not at the top of my list of things to do, but then I got an offer I couldn’t refuse from one of the workers at our guesthouse; $30 for the 16km trip down the rapids at the Ayung River east of Ubud. My trip was run by Alam Amazing Adventures and “retails” for $88/person! This is just another reason why you should seriously negotiate the price of any activity in Bali. Most are completely overpriced because they know that a subset of the tourists are used to Western prices and don’t realize that they are paying way too much. There is no reason you should be paying more than $50/person.
Getting into the actual rafting experience, I highly recommend it for anyone that hasn’t tried rafting before, and for people that enjoy tamer rapids. Pretty much the entire trip is one whitewater section after another, but they are all pretty small, so you get to enjoy the whitewater experience, without the worry of falling out of the raft. The picture above shows the highlight of the day, a 15 foot drop down a small waterfall; it was a lot of fun, but nothing to be worried about doing. Being the type that enjoys Class IV rapids, I did start to get a bit bored toward the end of the ride. But again, this is a great place to get a first experience of this adventure sport! Our guides at Alam were great and at the end of the trip there was a nice lunch setup for everyone that even had a couple vegetarian options for me.
4. Rent Bicycles (with caution)
Our friendly guesthouse neighbor lent us his (and his friend’s) bike for the afternoon when he heard we were going to Taco Casa, a Mexican restaurant a few miles away. We really enjoyed zipping down there and back and decided to rent bikes for a few days (a nice mountain bike cost 15,000 IDR, about $1.25/day). The second bike ride was different. I normally love biking; we have done some really fun bike rides in San Diego along the pier, in Chicago on the path near the lake, in Taipei in the rain and in Bagan when touring the temples, but Ubud was a different story. I consider myself an adventurous person, within reason, but found the experience biking in Ubud stressful and somewhat terrifying. The problem with biking around the town was the narrow streets and the crazy drivers. A few times I almost got hit, at one point a dog got very close and looked like it was going to bite me, and it was hot and sweaty. Having said that, I would rent bikes again, go out early into the morning and ride somewhere through the rice fields or in the countryside. That will be for next time. As usual, Aurelien had no problems with the traffic whatsoever, as he enjoys weaving in and out of traffic, hopping up onto the sidewalk to avoid a car, and generally doing things I consider crazy.
5. Tree Top Adventures
One day we rented a taxi to bring us to Bedugul, about three hours North of Ubud. We went there for the Tree Top Adventures, a ropes and adventure course where you go through different obstacles up in the tree-tops. We had done something similar in France and really enjoyed doing it again. They have courses set up for all skill levels, so you can progress from the easier courses to the more challenging ones as you get used to the activities.
6. Rim Walk
We had planned to go to the rim walk early before it got too hot, but alas, we didn’t start until 9:30am, a mistake in my mind. The sun was blaring and the heat was intense, but the walk itself was still lovely. I guess heat is relative though, it always cracks me up when I am sweating like crazy and then a local passes me wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt. This happens everywhere we go in Asia. To get to the rim walk base we biked to the bridge just west of downtown Ubud and parked our bikes. If you are coming from Ubud town, the walk starts on the right-hand side of the road before the bridge. Walk down some steps through a schoolyard and then cross a separate bridge to get across the river. You then do a short climb to get up onto the rim. From there you walk along the rim with two vibrant green valleys on either side of you, it’s stunning!
At some point you will get to a tiny town, with little shops selling art lining the road. We ended up buying some (guaranteed we paid too much money for it). We then got a little confused; we thought we could do a loop to get back to our bikes, but ended up walking on a road with cars roaring by. After about 30 minutes we did make it to another peaceful path that went through a village, but then ended up on a road again. It you are doing the walk, maybe ask your hotel if there is a loop, or just turn back after the art shops. There are also a few cafes and spa just past the art shops.
7. Get Massages
You can’t go to SE Asia without getting massages! They are very cheap, starting at $6 dollars for an hour, but are excellent quality. You can find small hole in the wall parlors or fancy spas (these are more like $20 an hour), or anything in between. Just find whatever floats your boat. If you are worried about finding a massage place, don’t be, women sit outside the shops and call out to you offering a massage everywhere you go.
I didn’t take advantage of shopping in Ubud. We had no room in our suitcase and I would rather spend money on traveling, but Ubud is a great place to get furniture, art and textiles. They also have gorgeous stone statues for sale. If it had been possible to bring home a 100 pound stone statue I would of bought one! I loved how the humid climate fostered the growth of moss on the stone.
9. Pool Time
I would recommend finding a place to stay with a pool. First off, it’s vacation right? After your massage, go to your pool and read a book! Secondly, it is hot and humid, so after walking around in the afternoon you will treasure the cool body of water at your disposable. We thanked our lucky stars everyday when we went swimming. The lovely guesthouse we stayed at which has this pool is called Pering Bungalow. Its down a quiet alley right downtown.
Last but not least, enjoy the amazing variety of restaurants that Ubud has to offer. It will be easy to find a place you like and want to go back countless times, but I promise you most places are just as good, if not better! We have our vegetarian Ubud guide, so check it out!