How time flies. Feels like only yesterday that I was packing and preparing myself for my two weeks in the beautiful land of Bali. But here I am already at home wondering whether I really did visit, or if I had instead been hallucinating. For me Bali is a small, characteristic and flavourful taste of such a diverse country of Indonesia. Having visited Bali two years previous, I was aware of my surroundings in Ubud and sights I intended to visit. All helping me to fully experience and immerse myself in the intriguing Balinese culture.
From the moment I stepped off the air-conditioned plane I was hit by the humidity and the strong smell of incense, both features which after backpacking round South East Asia leave me with a strong sense of security and familiarity. The feeling of familiarity dramatically increased after arriving in Ubud. Having visited Ubud briefly in the past, I was looking forward to re-exploring and re-discovering the town which I regrettably spent so little time in before. After one whole week of sitting in comfy cafes, browsing alluring art galleries and strolling round striking temples, I was a little sad to leave for the beach resort of Jimbaran.
In this blog post I will be sharing what I believe are the top ‘must-sees’ for when in Ubud.
1- Visiting a Balinese dance performance.
Around Ubud you will often be approached with the offer to purchase tickets for these evening performances. Performances are held every night and for the duration of an hour. Each theatre may perform different types of traditional Balinese dance. A popular choice of venue is the Ubud Palace, performing traditional Barong and Legong dances. Having seen this performance twice at the Palace, the Barong, a magical creature is my highlight of the whole show (dance 3). For me, the Chandra Wirabhuana performance located next to Café Lotus was enchanting. Performed in front of Pura Saraswati temple and surrounded by lotus ponds the setting for this captivating show is unbeatable. Chandra Wirabhuana Orchestra may have been formed in the late 2000 but it has become a top favourite and a top alternative to the often packed Ubud Palace.
Top tip- Make sure to arrive at least 20 minutes before the start of the show to ensure good seats.
2- Visiting one of Bali’s many temples.
Visiting a temple whilst in Bali is a must. With over 20,000 puras in Bali, choosing which temple to visit may be the hardest part. Whilst in Ubud we rented a car and a driver choosing to visit: Pura Tanah Lot, Pura Taman Ayun and Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. Each of the chosen temples has their own unique settings. Bratan is situated on a large lake with a striking mountain in the backdrop. Whilst visiting the temple on the lake; although the weather was sunny, clouds scattered at a low height gave the bustling temple an eerie feel. Tanah Lot was the busiest of the three temples. With a makeshift market outside and around the site, thoughts of this spectacular cliff temple is replaced with constant pestering to buy cheap souvenirs. Taman Ayun was the simplest and most striking of our chosen three. Our visit to this temple was quiet, due to the low numbers of visitors. Benches are located around the site allowing you to rest and fully immerse yourself in the surrounding beauty, and with steps to a viewing point, you can view the temple from a different perspective.
Ubud is perfect for a spot of shopping. Being Bali’s cultural hub there is no shortage of funky boutiques, art galleries and bustling markets. Hours can be spent browsing through the many shops, bargaining for your chosen item. The streets dotted with silver shops, handicraft stalls and large art galleries; with most of the produce made in and around the surrounding area. Whilst down Monkey Forest Road I brought a medium sized hand painted canvas for a bargain of 100,000 Rupiah, that’s £10, no haggling was required. Another great spot for a good deal is the Pasar Seni market. Here on the corner opposite the Ubud Palace, you can find everything from clothing, silver, handmade scarfs to imitated designer bags and sculptures.