The central part of the island is the one that most of all contains the essence of true Balinese culture, the one that has kept alive its rural spirit over the centuries but also its artistic soul, which finds its best in paintings, sculptures, textile art and silver objects. The fulcrum around which all this revolves is the village of Ubud, which deserves surely the appellative of artistic and cultural capital of Bali. As we have already pointed out in other articles, travel in this part of the island is quite difficult because the attractions are far from each other and you have to rely on expensive private drivers, with whom you will have to negotiate prices. For a day, forget about driver and car and enjoy this itinerary, that could be done by feet, in complete autonomy, in order to discover the secrets of the small town of Ubud.
It is undoubtedly the main attraction of Ubud, you can not miss it! The monkey forest is a sacred place where a colony of about 700 specimens of long-tailed Balinese monkeys live. From the center of Ubud, it is just a few minutes of walk along the Jalan Monkey Forest. The most exciting and fun thing about this place is that monkeys tend to interact with humans: it is not rare to see monkeys falling down on your shoulders, especially if you have food to offer. Although monkeys are used to the presence and contact with humans, it is good to remember that they are wild animals and some simple rules will be necessary to enjoy the visit having fun without annoying the animals or have unpleasant surprises:
- do not bring with you objects that the monkeys can easily grab, especially sunglasses (from which these animals seem to be particularly attracted), purses, caps, small valuables easily removable from the wrists, neck, pockets, the risk is that they will go lost forever; it is better to store everything safely in a backpack or in a well-closed bag;
- do not stare the monkeys in the eyes, it’s a challenge for them and they could attack you;
- do not try to grasp or block them, feeling in danger they might bite you;
- avoid to caress them, they may not like your intrusiveness, if you really can not avoid it, be very prudent and delicate;
- do not feed the monkeys, except bananas.
Along the way to the Monkey Forest you can stop in some shops to buy bananas and we suggest you to do it: we have bought bananas in large quantities and we had a lot of fun distributing them to the little monkeys during our visit. Just a trick: hide bananas in your backpack before you get to the entrance or you will be assaulted by the monkeys even before starting the visit! If you do not have the opportunity to get the bananas in advance, know that there are also special stations inside the park where you can buy them, obviously at a higher price. Do not be afraid to let the little monkeys on your shoulders, they are not dangerous and they can be extremely delicate, if you will be lucky they will stay on you while they eat their banana…take the chance to take some funny photos. Admission to the forest costs IDR 50,000 per person, about 3 EUR, opening hours and other information are available on the official website of the Monkey Forest. How long the visit takes, it depends on you, consider at least two hours.
The Puri Saren Palace
Also known as the Ubud Palace, the ancient residence of the royal family, today is the most considerable historical-cultural structure to visit in Ubud. However, despite its importance, it is a stop that takes only a few minutes: it is an ensemble of temples and buildings in which tourist are not allowed, so once inside the stone walls you can walk around the courtyard, take some pictures to the suggestive (and finely decorated) temple doors or sit in the shade for a walking break. Since admission is free, it is worth looking into, because often you can find some show of the local population. In the evening it becomes the place par excellence in which enjoy the Balinese dance shows, the appointment is every day at 7.30 pm and the payment of a ticket is required.
The Pasar Ubud market
It consists of a series of fixed stands inside a two-level pavilion and then continues outside along the neighboring street, the Jalan Karna, with a lot of small shops and stalls that follow one after the other, on both sides of the road. Given the great quantity of curtains and umbrellas, it seems to walk through a long endless tunnel of objects, clothes and colors. It is a market mainly thought for tourists, in fact you will find most of all souvenirs as well as small local handicrafts in bamboo, wood, mother of pearl and cloth. The thing we noticed is that almost no one showed the prices. In this case, be very careful, it means that you have to ask the price and then negotiate it, because the sellers try to earn as such money as possible from the tourists. Be patient because the traders are very tenacious and insistent: you can not slow down the pace to observe more closely the exposed merchandise that you will have immediately them next you. All in all it is worth a visit because it is very folkloric, but honestly we did not buy our souvenirs here because we do not really love this way of shopping.
The Pura Taman Saraswati Temple
Hidden behind other buildings, you accidentally discover it during a lunch at the Lotus Café or a “frappuccino” break at Starbucks. The temple was built in honor of Saraswati, divinity of knowledge, study and arts. It intrigues and enchants thanks to the charming artificial lake full of lotus flowers that surrounds it, creating an amazing frame for your souvenir photos. The temple is almost always closed, but it deserves a visit for the refined and finished exteriors and for the small aquatic garden. In the evening it hosts local dance shows.
Puri Lukisan Museum
If you want to enjoy Balinese culture through paintings and sculptures, you can not miss the Ubud Museum. It is located at the end of the Jalan Raya Ubud, the main street of Ubud, and inside there is a very nice garden where you can relax and forget about the traffic and the confusion of the road. Born in 1953 to collect and safeguard Balinese artworks from continuous foreign raids, today it even holds works of art for sale. In addition to permanent works, you will also find temporary exhibitions by emerging local artists. The tour lasts about an hour and the admission ticket costs 50,000 IDR (about 3 euros). For more information, see the museum’s website.
In addition to the places listed above, it is worth taking a walk through the main streets of the center of Ubud, full of shops and cafes. The alternation and contrast between the Balinese products shops and the international brands shop is curious. We suggest you take a route through the few main streets: Jalan Monkey Forest, Jalan Raya Ubud, Jalan Hanoman, Jalan Dewi Sita so you do not leave anything out.
A suggestion we give you is to be curious: you will find pretty altars adorned with flowers, statues dressed with the typical checkered fabric and small temples hidden among the houses, which can be seen from the open doors that face the road. Also do not be afraid to follow those timid “rice fields” signs that are located at the entrance of small narrow streets, they will lead you to wonderful views. A further idea that we suggest you concerns the countryside around Ubud: it is a walk that can be done by feet or by bike through many green rice fields of the area, if you have enough time, it worths it.
Among all the points of interest that we have listed above, the one that has most impressed us is undoubtedly the Monkey Forest, for the opportunity to interact with the little free monkeys. If the time you have is short and you can not make a complete tour of Ubud, we recommend you not miss the Monkey Forest. If you want to discover the surroundings of Ubud in an itinerary to do by car, do not miss our next article.
See you soon