In this Ubud, Bali travel guide, we'll see why this island is a popular destination for Singaporeans. The beaches, spas, food and cheap prices make Bali an ideal holiday getaway destination. For those looking for a more cultural trip around the region, Bali is a place that comes to mind immediately. You've got beaches, volcanoes, temples and rice fields... and the best thing? It doesn't cost you a bomb. It's got a little bit of everything on the island, which means that there's something to do for any kind of traveller.
I see Bali as an idyllic escape from the concrete jungles of Singapore and I especially love Ubud, which is a town near central Bali. If you are looking for beaches and hedonistic parties filled with booze, Ubud isn't really the place to be. But if you are looking for a tranquil place to rejuvenate yourself a la "Eat, Pray, Love", then set your sights on Ubud and its abundance of serene rice fields for your next long weekend! In GET.com's Bali Travel Guide we'll show you the best places to see, shop and eat in Ubud.
Top Things To Do In Ubud, Bali
Ubud is pretty unique compared to other parts of Bali which are often associated with sun-bathing, surfing and crazy parties.
It's a little hipster in the way that it has gained reputation as a kind of modern day refuge – a place for one to take a break from the rat race of modern life.
That's why you can find many activities in Ubud that help to "purify" the soul – detox retreats, slow walks in the nature, meditation, yoga and healthy food.
Detox Retreats In Ubud, Bali
A body detox can mean different things for different people. Even from a health and science perspective, medical experts can't come to terms on whether humans really need a detox.
Proponents argue that it's a great way to clean out your body so that it can better process the food you ingest and absorb essential nutrients.
For others, a sedentary lifestyle of prolonged sitting in the office and eating unhealthy snacks in front of the computer have caused them to gain too much weight over the years.
If you are looking to "tune up" your body, a detox trip in Ubud could be a great way to kickstart your new diet programme.
There are several retreats in Bali that offers such detox programmes to varying degrees. I've tried out the one at Ubud Sari, where you can choose to have a detox programme of food-fasting (drinking vegetable broth or fruit juices).
While you are likely to feel tremendous after the programme, with heightened energy levels and a few kilos lost, I would say it's not for the faint-hearted.
You'd need to psychologically prepare yourself for it. If you think of the retreat as a "holiday", you are going to feel miserable because you are so weak and tired from having no food and it may come a point that you feel you are wasting your holidays by putting yourself through this "suffering".
My advice is to do it separately – do your detox and holiday on separate trips to make the most of either activity.
Rice Field Walks In Ubud, Bali
Rice fields are almost ubiquitous in Ubud and other than just sitting in a cafe/restaurant and enjoying the view of the rice fields, take a walk in the Ubud countryside to appreciate the real face of Ubud.
A great place to take this walk is at the Ubud Kajeng rice fields. Here's where you will see how the natives live – kids bathing in ponds, farmers working in the fields and motorists riding along the narrow and uneven roads.
It's also where you'll feel the warmth of the Balinese people - they never fail to smile when you pass them, children shouting the only English words they know to polite tourists and often trying to help if they feel you've gotten lost.
It's a beautiful walk to do either during sunrise or sunset, but give yourself about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete the loop.
Start by the road on the right of Starbucks (there's only one in Ubud) and you'll reach some rice fields after around 1 km.
The walk is easy and flat most of the way; just remember to fully engage your senses and take time to take in the sights and sounds!
Massages And Spas In Ubud, Bali
I'm a fan of massages and there's nowhere in the world you can get a better massage than in Indonesia.
In Bali's little village of Ubud you'll find a wealth of spas offering anything from one hour massages (starting at prices as low as 80,000 Rp) to facials and body scrubs.
Attend A Yoga Class In Ubud, Bali
As part of a wellness retreat, Ubud saw a number of yoga studios popping up in the last few years. Imagine looking out over the soothing farm fields and practicing yoga in the nature.
Ubud is home to the annual Bali Spirit, a festival of yoga retreat workshops, so if you are a yoga fanatic, do take time to attend a few classes here!
Even if you are new to yoga, there are always beginner classes to try out. Yoga Barn is pretty popular and it offers classes at two locations. Classes tend to be focused on a more relaxed form of yoga so if you are a beginner it will be perfect for you.
Top Things to See in Ubud, Bali
Ubud Monkey Forest
One of Bali's main attractions is the Monkey Forest in Ubud. It's a tourist must-see and you'll get to spot a lot of wild monkeys.
The Monkey Forest offers a short stroll through a small forested area with Balinese temples, animal statues and of course, playful monkeys.
If you love monkeys, here's the wilder version of Bukit Timah hill. Monkeys literally surround you and it is not uncommon for them to snatch your bags from you or tug at your clothes!
Make sure that you do not have food in your bag as well because they can smell it with their sharp senses!
For ladies, avoid any sequined clothes or dresses as they seem to love them. You really don't want to leave the place with your skirt torn!
Tegalalang Rice Terrace In Ubud, Bali
Tegalalang Rice Terrace is one of the famous tourist sites in Bali situated in Tegalalang Village in the north of Ubud.
Here, you'll see a stunning view of a rice terrace that is set 600 metres above sea level. It's a little far from town, so either hire a driver to take you there or if you are adventurous enough, rent a motorbike.
Try to go there during the earlier parts of the day so that you can eat at one of the restaurants with a view of the rice field for lunch.
What To Eat In Ubud, Bali
Being from Singapore, I'm no stranger to Indonesian food – nasi goreng, satay, tempeh and even gado-gado can be found in some of our foodcourts. But nothing beats eating from the source!
Here are some interesting restaurants and food to try when in Ubud.
Authentic Indonesian Cuisine In Ubud, Bali
In Ubud you will not find a lack of good Indonesian food for every kind of budget, you can eat at some of the "warungs" that serve local cuisine.
I was trying to look for a unique restaurant that serves good Indonesian food for our last night in Ubud and was glad to find Cafe Lotus.
Cafe Lotus is set along one of Ubud's busy main roads, Jalan Raya. What I love about the place is that it offers diners the choice of eating at one of its outdoor huts, sitting on bamboo mats and eating in a communal style on low tables.
Its surrounding is utterly tranquil – you will be dining by a large lotus pond with one of Ubud's main temple complexes, Pura Taman Kemuda Saraswati right behind the restaurant in full sight.
Food was of course delicious as well; as there were three of us, we took two types of platters that served a mouth-watering selection of Balinese and Indonesian delicacies that included bebek betutu (smoked duck), pork and chicken satay, sayur urap (Balinese mixed vegetables), tempeh and various types of seafood.
Raw/Vegan Food In Ubud, Bali
As mentioned earlier, if you had chosen to come to Ubud for a "detox" or a retreat in a bid to rejuvenate and cleanse your body, go all the way and dine at one of Ubud's hip restaurants that specialise in organic, raw or vegan food.
One of these restaurants that is always alive with buzz is Kafe. There's a chill-out vibe that's hard to describe around here and just the thought of it serving only healthy fare almost makes me feel much healthier psychologically.
Here, you'll find a consciousness that goes into the preparation of food that's hard to match anywhere else - "salads washed with purified water", "upgrade your egg dish to organic free range" and "wheat-free pasta" are just some of the phrases you'll see in their menu.
If you're up for it, go for its raw desserts such as raw chocolate spirulina mint slice or its date orange ball and you might just develop a new appreciation for raw food.
The great thing about the place is that even if your companion isn't into raw or vegan food, the menu is varied enough to find something palatable even for those who aren't necessarily as health-conscious.
You'll still find Indonesian favourites like Nasi Goreng, albeit with a healthy twist given by using red rice, or dry curry noodles made with organic green chilli.
If you become a raw-food convert after eating at these restaurants, remember to check out Down to Earth Cafe before you leave to stock up on some supplies since they are much cheaper here than in Singapore. I bought the raw falafel (pictured above) as a snack and I really loved it!
Bebek Bengil, also known as the Dirty Duck Diner serves a crispy duck that is famed throughout Bali.
The dish consists of half a duck steamed in Indonesian spices and then deep fried for a crispy finish. It is served with steamed white rice and Balinese vegetables.
The restaurant has been operating for more than 20 years and is now considered a must-go for foodies.
The crispy duck is indeed very succulent with a crackling, crispy skin. While I'm not a big fan of duck meat, I did enjoy it, though I do feel it's perhaps something good for sharing rather than as an individual portion as there are many other delicious items to try on the menu as well.
Where To Shop In Ubud, Bali
Bali is pretty touristy, and at their local markets you can find lots of Balinese art items that are great as a gift or for home decoration.
The main market here is the Ubud Market which is located just around the corner of the Monkey Forest. Its double storey of stalls are filled to the brim with batik clothes, sarong beach dresses, paintings as well as other craft pieces.
I actually go there to get a feel of the atmosphere rather than to buy anything. If you are looking to buy though, remember to bargain as the merchants here can most likely tell that you are a tourist and will not hesitate to quote a price that almost doubles the real price.
A good tip is to walk around the market as you'll almost certainly find similar items around so you can compare prices. To avoid the crowd, go around the late afternoon period between 3 to 5 pm, this way you'll avoid tourist buses that usually come near lunch hours.
Gianyur Street Night Market Close To Ubud, Bali
I love night markets and was trying to search for one in Ubud. I came across some travellers online recommending a Gianyur Night Market which is about half an hour drive out from Ubud.
Noted as a market for locals, we decided to hire a car to spend the evening eating and shopping there.
The market turned out to be quite a hidden gem due to its slightly less accessible location. You'll find lots of local peddlers selling Indonesian food staples on food carts at seriously cheap prices.
Other than food, you can find all sorts of fashion accessories, T-shirts, flip-flops and even a stall selling coloured chicks!
Because the market is targeted more towards locals, you might find yourself to be one of the few tourists around and that many of the stall owners will not be able to communicate in English.
As with every other non-English speaking country, simply point at what you want, smile and try your best with body language. When in doubt, a smile always helps.
While I wouldn't say the Gianyur Street Night Market can compare to the night markets of Bangkok (read our Bangkok travel guide here), it's still worth a visit if you have time to spend.
Money Saving Tips For Your Trip To Ubud, Bali
The reason that a rewards credit card is better than using cash is because this kind of card offers rewards (points, miles or cashback) when you use it to make travel purchases, and some cards even let you earn rewards on all local purchases or overseas purchases.
You can use the rewards you earn with your credit card to pay for part (or all) of your next trip, which will let you enjoy your next holiday for less. Here are 2 of our favorite travel credit cards for budget travellers.
To save money on accommodation, make sure to take a look at the cheapest hotel rates in Ubud here.