Disgiovery.com | UBUD is well known as the cultural heart of Bali. Although some say it’s now become more touristy and expensive, but people are still attracted to come. I’m one of them. I love Ubud. Nothing can beat the natural beauty, the friendliness of local people, and the artistic way of life of it.
This post is dedicated to you, dear travelers, those who seek the other free & fun parts of Ubud. Those who are willing to spend some more time and get connected with the locals. Those who’d like to absorb the Ubudian atmosphere.
This is definitely for people who would pay some patience, commitment, and respect for some ultimate Ubudian experiences at the island of the Gods. Something that general cheap tourists cannot afford.
1. Enjoy the festivity
The town center of Ubud is the main junction where Monkey Forest street and Jalan Raya Ubud intersect. This is where you can see the crowd and the hustle. It’s dynamic.
Take a look around, observe. Be unseen. The people, the foreign language spoken, the scent of burning incenses, the colorful flowers, the smile, the royal palace, the art market, and many others regarding to human interest. Including street fashion. Look how Japanese female tourists seem to love big hats, or some Caucasian male tourists try to look more local in white shirts and udeng (Balinese head-cloth).
I always love to see the parade of Balinese men & women in their ceremonial costumes marching to the temple. Balinese music playing in the background. It’s amazing how women carry huge offerings on top of their head. These offerings are called gebogan/pajegan, usually consists of fruits and combination of flowers, sweets, even cooked chicken.
Religious rituals are constantly being performed around town. Ask your host in Bali if there is one going on in Ubud. You are welcomed to attend the ceremony. The entrance is free, but make sure to follow temple etiquette.
2. Go see galleries
Take a stroll down Monkey Forest street (it will intersect with the streets of Dewi Sita and Hanoman, which is good because they are all worth to visit). These streets are particularly lined with small art galleries, shops, boutiques, and cafés. Most of them have large glass displays that make window shopping a breeze. Some have unique exterior (and great interior design as well!). There are also some art studios/workshops for you to visit free of charge.
You better do it in the early day or late afternoon to avoid the heat. Just be careful not to step on canang sari (religious offerings consists of incense, rice, and flowers in a small basket) strewn along the sidewalk.
3. Explore the market
Ubud market is located next to the main intersection. An authentic Balinese market experience only happens early in the morning (or around breakfast hour). In fact, the first truck delivering fresh products always arrive before sunrise.
Fresh fruits, flowers, vegetables, and fresh smiles are guaranteed! First buyer of the day is the lucky charm for the sellers. Interact with locals, they love to talk and smile, you may even find out the best local food from them.
At around 9 AM, tourists begin to rush in. Traditional market slowly turns into art & craft market. Home décor & houseware, batiks & sarongs, incenses & fragrances, wall hangings & picture frames, you name it.
Decide to buy something? Since the price is rather high, you must have some bargaining power. Ask for the half of the given price. Usually it works.
4. Visit the royal palace and the temples
With the ornate temples and intricate architecture, Ubud is the perfect place for the art lovers. There is this Ubud palace where the royal family lives, but you can still stroll the grounds and admire the buildings. Across the road there is Puri Saren Agung where dance performances usually take place in the evening (FYI it’s not a free show). But if you wander around in the late afternoon, there is a chance for you to stumble upon rehearsals in progress.
You can also visit the majestic Pura Taman Saraswati, a temple that is set within a beautiful water garden with thousands of lotus flowers (these flowers blossom from Dec to Feb).
Want to trace back the time? Pura Gunung Lebah will suit you. This temple is located on the banks of Campuhan river. Some say this is the oldest temple in Ubud, built by Rsi Markandya more than a thousand years ago. Yes, it’s about time to explore the history.
5. Stroll down Kajeng street
This little street of Kajeng is unique yet beautiful. The road is made of cement tiles inscribed with names, signatures, and art work. It’s pretty much alike the walk of fame of Hollywood. You can also have your own name written down there just by donating some thousand hundreds rupiahs to the local community.
Kajeng street is quite fun to explore. You can challenge yourself (or your friends) with this ‘walk of game’. See how many western names can you find? Is there any local names? How many countries represented? Which quote is the best?
You can stroll Kajeng street down to the rice fields. Don’t worry, the walk is a loop that ends up back down in Jalan Raya Ubud.
6. Take a shortcut from Monkey Forest to Nyuh Kuning
Visitors should pay some 20,000 rupiahs to enter Monkey Forest Sanctuary. Don’t worry, monkeys are free of charge! 😉 But if you want to experience the other side of Monkey Forest, just follow the motorbike path by the gate. Yes, it’s free for humans! Actually this is a shortcut from Monkey Forest street to Nyuh Kuning street.
Best time to walk the path:
– In the early morning, where the macaques are coming from the surrounding forest and sitting & playing by the sidewalk, grooming & preparing themselves before ‘officially’ enter the sanctuary. Just hold on to your belongings and don’t feed the monkeys.
– In the night, where you can challenge some adrenaline by walking down the path in total darkness. I don’t want to scare you, but just don’t go alone. I did this once before because our hotel was located in Nyuh Kuning, and we needed to take a shortcut from Monkey Forest street.
The track enters the village of Nyuh Kuning, a respected center for woodcarving and site of a few cafés and small hotels. Nyuh Kuning street is also worth to take a stroll down.
7. Hike the hill of Campuhan
Campuhan ridge walk is nestled between two rivers. The trail starts at the right side of Pura Gunung Lebah. It will soon climb up onto grassy hill and offers stunning views of the ridge lines running parallel to the hill. Each side is dense with thatch grass, and as the wind blows it creates the waves of grass.
Ever dreamed about being in a beautiful landscape of your desktop wallpaper? This is the right place! The sky, the clouds, the thatch grass, all so rich in vivid colors.
The path ends after 1 km distance as it meets a village street at the crest of the hill. Welcome to Bangkiang Sidem, the artist’s village. This is an area of small villas, guest houses, private homes, and small art galleries before emerging into stunning terraced rice fields.
Backtracking the same trail to central Ubud is the quietest, most scenic route. Besides it’s an easy downhill stroll.
8. Go birdwatching
Do you think birdwatching is some kind of boring activity? I did think so, until I came to Petulu. This village is located about 2.5 km north of Ubud, and famous for its white herons (Kokokan birds) habitat. And I was quite amazed seeing these birds could live peacefully near human population. Later I found out that Kokokan are considered sacred by the locals.
Every afternoon at around 5 pm there are thousands of herons arrive at the village after spending day in the rice fields. It is an impressive sight to watch the herons landing on top of the trees. Sometimes they walk on the ground too. These Kokokan birds are about the same size as adult cats so you don’t need to use binoculars to observe them.
9. Get lost to the countryside
Just step off any side street or alley to wander into Ubud’s lovely countryside. You’ll first pass Balinese homes & villages, then eventually reach vast stretches of lush rice terraces that climb the steep hillside. The tropical rain forest in the river valleys provide a picturesque setting.
Tegallalang is the most famous rice paddies in the Ubud outskirts. If you think it’s too far away (especially when you go walking or biking) then another option is just to go exploring the rice paddies surrounding central Ubud. The nearest one is by following the path of Kajeng street.
It’s not only about rice terrace views, but you can also get another experience by wandering Ubud’s villages. Ryan Ver Bermoes, a Lonely Planet’s coordinating author once said: “It’s a matter of just wandering around and going down these little dark lanes, then you’ll come to a public stage and hear beautiful Balinese music playing and come across people dancing and practicing. It’s really part of their livelihood and that’s just magical.”
10. Become a volunteer for stray cats & dogs
Ubud warmly welcomes visiting volunteers. Actually, this is not for free. Because you have to pay with some commitment and fully attention.
There are some amazing non profit organisations that take care of the stray animals (especially dogs and cats). Duties include dog walking, bathing, playing, feeding, socializing, cleaning and also helping traumatized animals to trust humans once again.
Don’t have that much time? You can make a short visit to drop a few supplies off (such as rice or medical stuff), or spend some time playing with the kittens or puppies. Read more about volunteering in Ubud here.
These are some non profit organisations you can contact:
BAWA (Bali Animal Welfare Association)
BARC (Bali Dog Adoption & Rehabilitation Centre)
Yayasan Villa Kitty Bali (a shelter for cats and kittens)
What about you, guys? Any additional free things to share?