Ubud Bali: Things to do

April 12, 2019

Rice cultivation terrace farming with palm and coconut trees in Ubud Bali Indonesia
Tegalalang Rice Terrace
The things you can do to Ubud, Bali vary from cultural, shopping, eating, rafting and so much more. Ubud takes you back to a simpler Bali, away from the bustling Kuta and Seminyak. Ubud has always been known as the cultural hub in Bali. You'll see temples in streets, people heading for functions and prayers with family. Ubud is also known as the handicraft hub of Bali.

When in Ubud, scooter, move around and stay out of the city if possible. There is much to see of the local people away from the city area. Rent a Villa if possible, Ubud has a large number of villa rentals and most of them are tucked away near paddy fields where you can enjoy a quiet night out swimming in your own pool.

We stayed at The Sawah Villa, among the paddy fields, with our own private pool to lounge around and in an area that had 3 beautiful temples and local people to interact with.

It has been 15 years since I returned to Bali, and much has changed. Gone are the quiet drives and small highways. The main roads are filled with outlet malls and big brands. It was a little difficult to get used to. I miss the old Bali... but change is inevitable wherever tourism touches. It was safe to say, I didn't recognise this new Bali and I wanted to search for a little bit of the local culture and the people I had grown to love when I spent months living here while I was growing up.

Ubud is a place I will always come back to. It to me, still has the essence of the Bali I remember.

While staying here, it is best to hire a scooter to get around as there is much to see and you'll need to access places away from the main area to really see what Ubud is all about.

While we initially went to Jalan Hanoman to check out the shops and restaurants, we quickly started settling for food outside of the main areas.

1. Goa Gajah

We tried a touristy place and were not impressed. Besides the cave, there is a short hike up to a pretty scenic vantage point. But other than that, there isn't much here. There aren't many boards with information of the area. If you wish to learn more, you'd have to get a guide to explain the significance of the place.

goa gajah with people and water spouts in ubud bali indonesia
Goa Gajah
2. Visiting an Artist in his Home

I Wayan Mardiana - painter and art collector located at Br Jeleka, Batuan, Sukawati, Gianyar

He had an amazing collection of paintings and his family members were nothing less than hospitable. If you're headed to Bali, don't just buy a painting at the local market from the shop, head over to an artist and buy what he has to offer. You'll be helping the local artists and going home with a memory to remember this country by.

3. Ubud Wood Carving Village

Forget the Ubud Art Market and head here if you're serious about buying home decorations. It is a good 2 kilometres of shops selling decoration items and furnishings for your home. You'll need a taxi or a scooter to do some serious shopping here.

4. Ubud Art Market

ubud art market with people and shop vendors in ubud bali indonesia
Ubud Art Market
A great place to pick up handicrafts and souvenirs. This market has food, coffee shops, paintings, home deco, shoes, bags and everything else. Bargain hard for what you want. There's a thing to the bargaining, never back off if the seller agrees to your price so make sure it is an item you really want and then start bargaining. You'll find that prices start to reduce when you walk away. Also, the prices here will be far cheaper than what you'll find in Kuta and Seminyak so shop here before you head off to other parts of Bali.

5. Stay in a Villa in Ubud

villa with a pool and compound in ubud bali indonesia
Villa in Ubud
Stay in a private villa in Ubud, set among paddy fields and quiet nights under the stars. Ubud doesn't have a great night life scene and you'll find the time to sit around in the evenings enjoying your wine and beer. Ubud also has villas at a much cheaper rate compared to the touristy Kuta and Seminyak. It is also far quieter at night and we found that we enjoyed the villa experience far more in Ubud than we did elsewhere. 

6. Local food in Ubud

people sitiing on table and chairs at street food vendor in ubud bali indonesia
Street food in Ubud
Avoid the commercialized streets of Jalan Hanoman, instead, head just outside the main areas and try the local stuff. We had ayam bakar from a local seller in his make shift night food stall along Jln Goa Gajah, roti bakar from a stand and soto ayam from a small shop. We never suffered from stomach issues and the food was phenomenal. Take note though, if you're eating at local stands they don't cater for cutleries and you will find that your skills at using your hands will come into play here. I'd carry a wet wipe and sanitizer just to be safe. Although most places will have a sink and soap handy so you'll be safe.

Eating at these places did have their advantages, we met the locals and had some pretty great conversations. You'll also find lots of people eating here after their temple visits, all dressed up in their traditional clothing’s and catching a bite before they head home. It is one of those things I love about being in Ubud and staying farther out away from the main town area.

7. Balinese Home Cooking

ubud eating places balinese home cooking in ubud bali indonesia
Balinese home cooking in Ubud
When in Ubud, you must head over to this place. It has amazing food. It is located in the house of a Balinese family which is a great way to see how Balinese people live. The owner is very chatty and loves to come by to see how you're doing. The food does take time but you won't notice it. We met other couples and had great conversations. Most people we met had been over a few times during their stay in Ubud. So, grab your scooter, and head over to this place to try out their food. 

Balinese Home Cooking is located at 20, Jl Rsi Markandya 2 Br. Payogan Kedewatan, Ubud.

8. Kecak and Sanghyang Jaran Dance

kecak dance at batubulan ubud bali indonesia
Kecak dance at Batubulan Bali

Catching a dance performance at the Sahadewa theatre is pretty worth it. Located a bit further off but accessible if you have a scooter, it is located in Batubulan in Gianyar. The theatre is spacious, clean and the performance well executed.

They also perform the Sanghyang Jaran Dance which was mesmerizing and a great photo opportunity for those who want some great photos.

9. Tegalalang Rice Terrace

You'll have to pay an entry fee to see this. While we felt it was not quite worth it, others might find it appealing. If you've never seen terrace cultivation of paddy, then this would be a relatively interesting place. You can walk down to the fields and get up close and personal to the paddy. It is quite a walk though. Growing up in South East Asia, I've seen far bigger cultivation in Malaysia and wasn't quite as impressed. If you want to appreciate it all from afar, there are cafes along the road overlooking the fields, where you can grab a coffee and take it all in. Most cafes have set up swings where you can pay to have a swing over the paddy.

10. Tegenungan Waterfall

Tegenungan Waterfall with people aerial view at ubud bali indonesia
Tegenungan Waterfall in Ubud
Yet another place accessible by paying an entry fee. It is quite a walk up and down via staircase to access the waterfall. While it was a nice experience, we didn't quite get the need to pay to see and swim here, considering you'll get to access loads of free waterfalls in South East Asia.

To sum it all up....

Ubud is a fantastic place to stay at while in Bali. I'd suggest to stay away from the touristy stuff if you don't want to be too disappointed. Instead, head out and explore the area.

Other places you can access from Ubud which we didn't cover on this trip are Besakih Temple, Tirta Empul, Monkey Forest and Ulun Danu Beratan Temple. Some of these places will require that you hire a taxi and head out.

Check out my other blog post on Bali.....

Want to know more about Seminyak? Head over to my other post on Seminyak: Seminyak Bali: Things to do

Travelling to Bali and want a short run down of the positives and negatives of the country, visit my post: What to do in Bali

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