Ah, the paradise of Bali where western hippies and vegans go to retire. This small in-land town has been rapidly developing into a complete foreigner zone, but the kind that suits my heart.
Largely known for its spectacular Monkey Forest sanctuary (which I highly recommend), Ubud’s charm lies in the rice paddies surrounding the town. Despite the large influx of foreigners, the Balinese life seems to be going on as usual.
The hard-work of farmers is difficult to miss when cycling through the paddy fields and seeing the carefully designed waterworks along the leather-skinned man walking behind an ox in the swampy fields. The smiles are genuine, the food is fresh, and the religious beliefs wrap this beautiful town in a golden shimmer of warmth.
There is a stark difference between the foreigners in this town and the foreigners you would find in Kuta Beach. These travelers have reached their destination and don’t care for boom-box blasting, fire-throwing parties, but rather, have adapted their lifestyles to reflect their adoration of the Balinese. Many are deeply religious, most are free-spirited, plenty are total yoggies, but all are loving, accepting and inclusive to one another.
It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows my very own hippie boyfriend that I was ecstatic to discover this town anew with him by my side. There wasn’t one portion I wouldn’t be willing to do for a third or hundredth time if the opportunity arose.
So, if you’re looking for a more relaxing, cultural experience here are some tips for making the most of this charming town:
1. The ultra-prepared should get an international driver’s license, because the best way to explore Ubud is via Scooter. It’s cheap, fast, and fun.
Failed step one? Get a scooter anyway. Stephen and I did encounter law enforcement officers who were on a raid of busting foreigners driving without a license in attempts of pulling out a hefty bribe. Don’t feed into the corruption, ask for a ticket and tell them you would like to go to the station and pay the fine.
Regardless of how much more the fine may seem versus the bribe, there’s a high chance they will back out and just let you go, as they did with Stephen and I. They tried to bluff it for a while, but eventually told us to “just go.”
Alternatively, prepare that license and avoid the hassle all together. Though they still may try to get you to pay fines for other traffic “violations,” in which case refer back to the original advice – demand a written ticket.
2. For the most delicious, affordably-priced meals and deserts, check out Dayu’s Warung (Jl. Sugriwa No. 28X, Padang Tegal Mekar Sari, Ubud).
The staff was kind, the atmosphere chill and the food to die for. In fact, we liked it so much we went there several times. The smoothies, main courses, and deserts are
the perfect blend of home-cravings with local flares.
Things to avoid in the food department are the more foreigner-run food businesses which are popping up all along the busy streets. Though undoubtedly good, many struck us as being unreasonably over-priced, regardless of how “highly-recommended” they came. Just head into the more residential areas and you won’t struggle to find the more authentic gems.
3. Find a boutique hotel outside of town after your first pre-booked night.
We simply stopped in a few different spots, compared prices and settled for a beautiful apartment-style room with a kitchen, whih overlooked the rice-paddies from two attached private balconies. Usually the place would go for double the price, but as it is was last-minute we were able to snag the place for less than $30 a night!
Ask the staff if they can set you up with a scooter and dodge the hassle of dealing with a business downtown (just know the cost ahead of time). If they don’t have any on-hand, chances are they know a friend who owns a scooter and wants to make a few bucks.
4. Beat the tourist tides at the Monkey Forest which flood in at noon by heading there early in the morning.
Hop on your scooter and head on over, it’s ashort ride from anywhere in Ubud. Be sure to travel light though as the monkeys are highly intellectual and will gladly rob you of anything shiny, tasty or fun looking. They are not confined to the forest either so store everything away in the scooter seat.
5. Head to the market near the end of daylight for the best shopping prices.
The tourist crowds have for the most part retreated to their respective beach towns by this time and the store owners are wanting to make a few extra bucks before closing. So, know what you want ahead of time, know what you want to pay for it, offer the price and walk away. At this time of day the haggling process is short and sweet.
I hope these tips can help you navigate your own adventure, have a wonderful time and as always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me or comment below.
Safe travels millennials!