UBUD, CENTRE OF ARTS & CULTURE
Ubud is Bali’s centre of art and culture where some the islands finest painters and artisans showcase their skills and works of art. It is a charming, cool and hip town located among scenic rice fields and steep ravines in the central foothills of the Gianyar Regency. Workshops and art galleries abound in this town. There are also dance and shadow puppet performances every night.
The town is not just about arts and culture as it has numerous other attractions that include ancient temples and ancient sites dating back centuries, most with spiritual significance such as Goa Gajah, Gunung Kawi, Pura Kehen and Tirta Empul. Visiting these places will take visitors past the countryside, which is relatively unspoiled by the march of progress taking place in Ubud. Lush rice fields, quaint villages and locals practicing age-old customs and traditions show the other delightful side of Ubud.
Accommodations in Ubud are among the best in Bali – from ultra luxurious resorts and sprawling villas to more modest hotels and simple hostels – catering to a market mix of the super duper rich to backpackers and just about anyone who wants to see the sights and hear the sounds of Ubud. Most of the resorts have spas featuring the latest in therapy and holistic treatments. No visit to Bali and Ubud is complete without a visit to one of these spas.
Ubud is also a shopper’s paradise with goods from beautiful hand-printed local fabrics to art pieces and intricate jewelry. The main shopping areas are Jalan Raya, Jalan Hanoman and Jalan Dewi Sita. The Ubud Market is a must visit. This is a double storey warren of stalls and shops that sell everything, from wood carvings, batik shirts and sarongs to fruits and household utensils.
With so much to see and do, it is no wonder that visitors who intend to hop over to Ubud from Bali for a day visit end up staying for two or three!
PLACES TO GO, THINGS TO DO
Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave)
Goa Gajah dates back to the 11th century and is believed to have been built as a monastery. Carvings on the wall show a demon head over the entrance, flanked by two statues. The cave contains a statue of the Hindu god, Ganesha. Excavations have uncovered a bathing place with six statues of nymphs holding waterspouts.
Pura Tirta Empul Temple
The Pura Tirta Empul Temple, over 1,000 years old, is one of the holiest temples in Bali. Located about 20 kms northeast of Ubud, it is built around hot springs that still bubble in the central courtyard. The spring water is believed to have curative powers. The Balinese bathe in the water to purify them spiritually and physically during purification ceremonies.
Gunung Kawi (Poet Mountain)
This mountain is believed to be the burial complex of King Anak Wungsu who ruled during the 11 century, and his wives. Located at the bottom of a steep valley, about 18 kms northeast of Ubud, visitors have to walk down 371 steps to reach it. Surrounded by rolling rice fields the location is quite stunning. The re are two complexes – a large one that is the Kings residence and a smaller one to the south that housed his wives.
Pura Kehen (Kehen Temple)
This is one of the most attractive temples in the whole of Bali. As it is in the town of Bangli, about a 30-minute car ride away from Ubud, being a bit off the beaten track it receives relatively few visitors. The temple was founded in 1206 and has an especially impressive 11-tiered meru in the inner courtyard. A visit to Bangli is recommended as it is a quiet, attractive pleasant market town.
Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA)
A must visit for art lovers as the museum showcases works by well known Balinese and international artists who have made Bali their home, such as Walter Spies, Adrian Jean Le Mayeur, Rudolph Bonnet and Arie Smit. The only painting in Bali by renowned Javanese artist Radan Saleh is exhibited here. The artists conduct workshops in various forms of Balinese art and culture.
Museum Puri Lukisan (Museum of Fine Arts)
This was the first private museum in Bali. It opened in 1954 and housed in three buildings the museum displays traditional and modern Balinese art.
Neka Art Museum
This museum exhibits some of the most important art collections in Bali. Six pavilions house the various collections, which include dedicated rooms for well-known artists, Arie Smit and I Gusti Nyoman Lempad.
Ubud Monkey Forest
A nature reserve and temple complex, which is a popular tourist attraction. It houses about 340 crab-eating macaque monkeys and about 115 different species of trees. Within the forest is the Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal Temple, a Holy Spring bathing temple and a temple used for cremation ceremonies. The Monkey Forest is owned by the village of Padangtegal and elected villagers serve on the forests governing council. The Padangtegal Wenara Wana Foundation manages the Monkey Forest and serves to maintain its sacred integrity and to promote the sacred site as a destination for visitors.
Tegallalang is the place to be to see the stunning picture perfect rice terraces. Round off the tour with lunch in an open space overlooking the luxuriant rice fields. Arrangements have to be made in advance for this special lunch usually prepared by the villagers.
Bali Bird Park
A bird paradise with more than 250 species of birds spread over two hectares of land. The park is well laid out with open walk-in aviaries and free range birds. It also has a cafe.