31 October 2022

Four Days in Ubud: Temples, Shopping, Flower Baths and Monkey Selfies

After I left Munduk, my next stop was Ubud, a town in south-central Bali that is thought to date back to the eighth century, its name deriving from the Balinese word ubad, 'medicine'. Ubud has long been popular with the backpacker circuit and expats and there are as many yoga studios, co-working spaces and brunch spots as temples these days. Its central location also makes it a good base for visiting much of the rest of Bali: I took a day trip to East Bali, but the north is just as accessible on a one-day tour. 

The traffic and crowded streets of central Ubud were a bit of a shock to the system after the peace and quiet of Munduk, but I soon warmed to the town's charms and very much enjoyed the four days I spent in and around the area.


I stayed centrally so that I could easily explore the town on foot, dropping into the Puri Saren Agung (Ubud Palace) and other temples and historic buildings. My hotel was next to the small but lovely Komaneka Fine Art Gallery, and I spent a very enjoyable morning at the Agung Rai Fine Art Gallery, a beautiful collection of Balinese art set in leafy gardens in a former temple on the south of the centre. 

One day, I took a walk out to some of the nearby rice fields, following the signs from Jl. Kajeng. If, like me, you are there in the rainy season, you will want to wear good walking shoes as the paths became quite muddy and, in some places, precarious.

One of Ubud's main tourist attractions is the Monkey Forest in the south of the town centre. There are various trails inside where you can watch the many resident macaques play, fight, eat and pose for selfies. Unfortunately, there was a torrential downpour just after I entered and I had to quickly seek shelter; the monkeys didn't seem to mind quite so much, though! They were also willing participants in the 'monkey selfies' that staff can facilitate for a small fee. I was happy to observe from afar, however.

I also did some shopping while in Ubud and there are stores for all tastes and budgets. There were lots of clothes and accessories I could have bought had I had a bigger suitcase — I was also often surprised by the price of a piece of clothing I'd seen in a shop window, sometimes pleasantly and other times less so. I picked up a couple of cheap items, including a sarong to wear during temple visits, at one of the markets. I also enjoyed shopping at homewares stores like Ikat Batik, Balizen Ubud, and picked up some skincare products at Sensatia and some flip flops at Fipper. And I was entertained to see a tote bag pertaining to be from a top sight in my hometown, Oxford!

I wanted to indulge in a spa treatment while I was in Ubud and although my hotel had its own spa, I wanted to try somewhere else. My flower bath at Udaya Resort Kaveri Spa was quite the experience! I got to choose the pattern in advance and it was a wonderful way to cleanse myself after two busy days in town. I do rather regret that there wasn't some form of 'flower plunge pool' at the end, given it was 32C and very humid outside, but the treatment, the spa and the staff were wonderful. I arrived a little early and was able to sit by the hotel's gorgeous pool while I waited.

Day trip to East Bali. Short on time, I decided to book a small-group one-day tour to East Bali so that I could visit several sights in one day (I booked online and paid about £40). Our excellent guide, Guste, picked my fellow tour-goers (an Italian couple) and me up from Ubud at 6:00 am so that we could get to our first stop, Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang, as early as possible for reasons that will become obvious. The temple is famous for its 'Gate of Heaven' with a stunning mountain backdrop. 

Once arriving at the car park, you take a shuttle up to the entrance and your group is assigned a number with your place in the queue to have your photo taken. We arrived around 8:15 am and were given number 149 — they were on 60 at the time, and although you don't have to wait in line, it doesn't take very long to explore the rest of the temple and buy a snack. 

It ended up taking 2.5 hours for our turn (one number is given to each group, and some bigger groups wanted multiple combinations of people for their photos) and once it's your go, you hand over your phone to the people in charge of photos, walk up to the gate and can take four to five poses before it's the next person's turn. Luckily, both the photographers and Guste (using my camera) managed to capture my leap! Oh, and as you have probably read by now, there's no reflective pool at the temple — the photographers use a special reflective tool. Yes, the photos were pretty cool, but you will have to decide for yourself whether you think 2.5 to 3 hours of queuing time is worth it (with hindsight, I don't think it is).

After we'd got our prized photos, we headed to our next stop, Tirta Gangga, a former royal water palace whose grounds you can walk around. Thankfully, there was no more queuing, although still plenty of Instagramming (guilty, your honour). Later, we had a go on one of Bali's many jungle swings. This one, near Tegallalang, had a pretty good view of the mountains and valley and kudos to the guy who was putting all of his energy into giving the biggest pushes.

We then visited Tukad Cepung Waterfall, a waterfall inside a cave, which requires a steep and sometimes wet climb down from the car park. In the mornings, the light streaming through is especially beautiful but we were queuing for the 'Gram then. It was still quite nice in the afternoon. Finally, we paid a visit to Tegallalang Rice Terraces. A big shout out to Guste who had managed to navigate around the area with diversions thanks to not one but two broken bridges as a result of recent flooding! 

We spent 45 minutes or so here, which was enough for me given that I'd already spent several hours at Jatiluwih, which I preferred as it was much quieter and more peaceful (you didn't need to worry about overhead jungle swings every few minutes!). As always, I like chatting with local guides during tours and I learned a lot about Bali and its history from Guste, as well as the places we visited.


Looking for somewhere to get a great cup of coffee in Ubud? Don't worry, I have a whole post about speciality coffee in Ubud.

I left my Bali food and drink very late and couldn't get a table at Locavore, one of Ubud's most famous fine-dining restaurants. But I got a reservation at its sister restaurant, Nusantara by Locavore, where I enjoyed a seven-course set menu featuring dishes and ingredients from all over Indonesia, from comforting moringa leaf soup (jukut kelor mesanten) to braised duck (gulai bebek). In case that wasn't enough food, I also got a 'tasting platter' of nine snacks, which I soon polished off. The food was delicious and beautifully presented, as was the gin and kayu manis cocktail I enjoyed. All in all, it was a memorable evening.

Luckily my server at Hujan Locale talked me out of ordering too much food because the crispy Javanese fried chicken I had for my main course (served with salted egg yolk sauce, chilli and buttermilk dressing) was the single most delicious thing I ate all trip! The betel leaf salad I had to start was the perfect complement, as was the coconut cocktail.

Named for the sound of food cooking on a charcoal grill, Liap Liap is a casual restaurant that happened to be just across from my hotel on Jl. Monkey Forest. Some of the portions were on the small side, but flavours were great, especially the grilled corn with butter and nori. Another casual spot I visited was Kafe Batan Waru on Jl. Dewisita, a big and breezy eatery that's open all day and good for groups. I had the chicken sate and a refreshing mocktail.


My two main requirements for accommodation in Ubud were: must have a swimming pool and must be within walking distance of the town centre. Komaneka at Monkey Forest Hotel fulfilled both and so much more! Located near the Monkey Forest, south of the town centre, it has a surprisingly peaceful location tucked back from the road overlooking the forest, river and rice fields. The service was impeccable throughout — all the staff made me feel very welcome throughout my stay. 

The hotel retains a boutique feel, with villas spaced through the leafy grounds. I paid about £175 per night for my garden suite room: a huge, comfortable and quiet bedroom with both shower and a bath and a little private terrace. A massive (and delicious) breakfast was included in the price, along with bottled water, snacks and afternoon tea. The pool was small but lovely and very quiet throughout my stay.

Read my other Bali blog posts: Munduk; Ubud speciality coffee guide; Nusa Lembongan & Nusa PenidaCanggu & Seminyak coffee guideCanggu & Seminyaktwo weeks in Bali.

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