Rice Paddies in Ubud, Bali

Our Ubud Highlights

Ubud became, without a doubt, our favourite place in Indonesia – a cool, leafy haven away from the strangeness of Java, the bars in Kuta and the fierce heat of the beaches in Lombok and the Gili islands. Overall, we had a pretty tough time in Indonesia; the six weeks we spent there were marked with struggles, tears, illness, frustration and plenty of soul searching. Ubud, however, became a kind of refuge for us and we look back on our time there as the most serene during our six-week stay – here are the highlights of our time in Ubud Bali.

Ubud Bali

The Campuhan Ridge Walk

It can be easy in Bali to get lured to the beautiful beaches and neglect to spend time exploring the countryside but Ubud is the perfect place to get a taste of the real Balinese landscape; all you have to do is take the Campuhan Ridge Walk. The trek lasts a couple of hours and takes you  through stunning rice terraces and small Balinese villages. We stopped in a café overlooking one of the paddies to enjoy refreshing lime juice and marvel at how the scene before us looked just like a perfect painting.

Rice Paddies in Ubud, Bali

Lime Juice in Ubud, Bali

View on the Campuhan Ridge Walk

As a side note, if you plan to do this walk, leave at around six or seven in the morning when it’s cooler – we left it until 10 and suffered in the heat. The walk from Ubud along the Campuhan Ridge is great, but coming back along the main roads can be a bit hairy, so consider walking back the way you came.

Shopping at Ubud Market

After only three months on the road we were already desperate to make some changes to our packing list. The extreme heat in Indonesia meant we needed to get rid of some of our thicker clothes and replace them with lightweight alternatives; Ubud market was the perfect place to do this. We spent a few hours browsing and bartering with the market-sellers and came away with three new tops and two pairs of trousers to replace old or lost ones – all for only £15.

Ubud Market, Bali

Visiting the Bali Animal Welfare Association

One of the things we noticed almost straight away in Indonesia was the stray animals – in particular the hordes of skinny dogs. It’s hard to come from a country like England where animals are (mostly) so well cared for and see animal neglect and cruelty.  However, we realise this is the reality in many parts of the world, including Asia, so we were interested to discover the Bali Animal Welfare Association during our trip to Ubud. We took a trip to their local shelter and were shown around by a member of staff. As an animal lover and an ex-volunteer for the Mayhew Animal Shelter in London, it was a really interesting and heartening experience.

Stray Cat on Gili Meno, Indonesia Stray Dog in Ubud, Bali

Marvellous Massages

It was only during the last week of our stay in Indonesia that we finally got around to having a massage. I still have no idea why it took us so long; especially given that we were asked so often whether we’d like one as we walked around Bali. It was however, worth the wait. For only a few pounds we got a relaxing back, neck and shoulders massage; it was so good we went back twice more before we left the country. My back let out an audible crack each time, which obviously means I really needed massaging, right?

Ubud Restaurants

I have to confess, I’m not much of a foodie. I don’t eat meat and am not a fan of spicy foods and things I don’t like the look or smell of – I definitely won’t eat a dish unless I know exactly what’s in it. Back in the UK I survive by rotating the same three or four meals continuously and bringing all my own food to work with me. So, while Andrew is far more adventurous, I always knew that travelling would be a bit of a nightmare for me food-wise. I coped well in New Zealand and Australia as we could cook our own meals, but as soon as we hit Indonesia things changed drastically for the worse.

Nasi Campur in Ubud, Bali

Suddenly we were in Jakarta and I was confronted by nothing but strange smells, unidentifiable plates of food and stacks of greasy-looking meat everywhere. Suffice to say that, during our week in Java we ate three times in Pizza Hut, visited Dunkin Donuts four times and lost count of the amount of Mcflurries we consumed. Normally we don’t touch this stuff in the UK and were left feeling queasy and exhausted from our new diet; I was also becoming steadily more terrified that this would continue for the rest of our stay in Indonesia. Thankfully, things improved once we got to Bali and I was surprised to find that I actually began to enjoy the vegetarian food on offer in Ubud.

Stuffed Eggplant in Ubud, Bali

Getting Chased out of the Ubud Monkey Forest

I’d been so looking forward to the Monkey Forest in Ubud but as you can see from my previous account, we ended up having a pretty scary time there. Even though for most of our visit to the forest I was worried we’d get mugged or that Andrew would get bitten by a rabid monkey, it has become an experience we look back on with amusement. While I’d still recommend being extremely careful if you decide to visit the Monkey Forest, it’s worth a look as you’ll see many monkeys (usually nursing babies)  amongst the gangsters who  simply hang back and go about their business.

Macaque at the Monkey Forest. Ubud

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  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    Posted at 10:25h, 07 July Reply

    Really interesting write-up guys. I wonder how much your experience in Indonesia would have been different if you had been traveling for a couple of months in some of the more “tourist friendly” countries in Asia before tackling it. I often wonder if we would have liked China more if we had visited it after 5 months rather than 5 weeks of traveling in this part of the world.

    How long did you wind up spending in Ubud? We will be heading to Indonesia in a few weeks and I’m still not sure where exactly we’ll spend our time while on Bali, or even how much time to afford the island. We hear such mixed things about it (obviously you guys really loved Ubud, but we’ve heard a lot of people complain about how touristy it is) that I suppose we’ll just have to wait until we get there to see which camp we fall into.

    • Amy
      Posted at 05:14h, 09 July Reply

      I also think we would have had a completely different experience in Indonesia as a whole had we visited it at a different point in our trip – by comparison we absolutely love Malaysia, but maybe we wouldn’t have had such a great time here had we not just come from Indonesia. I’m conscious that some of our posts about Indonesia may come across quite negatively because of the hard time we had there but it is a really beautiful place; on reflection I think a lot of the troubles we experienced were less to do with the country and more about everything that was going on in our heads and all the realisations we were trying to come to terms with at the time (more on this later). We spent just under two weeks in Ubud altogether at separate points during our trip. I think you may find it a bit touristy – we thought it was too, but that turned out to be just what we needed at that point. I hope you like it there and I’m interested to hear your take on Indonesia and what other places you visit while you’re there.

  • Brent
    Posted at 12:39h, 01 May Reply

    After close to a month in Philippines, 20 days in Thailand, and month in Malaysia mainland and Borneo, my wife and I thought we were ready for the challenges of Sumatra. While I can t say it was a complete disaster, it will go down as a place better left to others to visit. It’s hard to say what has been most disappointing.

    Islam / Aggression / volume – non issue in south Thailand and Malaysia, the Indonesian brand was uncomfortable and off putting. Even the children seemed laced with resentment rather than curiosity and shyness..

    Transportation – van + bus travel was cast aside as impossible after first experiences could only be described as riding in a hearse/ash tray with complete ambivalence and discomfort. Seats so small and surrounded by smokers no matter what class of bus we caught. The streets choked with traffic even in the smaller towns and the exhaust blowing rancid monoxides that suffocated us for hours. We eventually admitted defeat and started taking private cars and flights at extra expense.

    Hygiene / Food Prep / service expectation – from hotels to guesthouses to restaurants to airports and especially buses. We were continually tested as to what level of filth we could endure before pulling the plug and hitting eject. From slippery bathroom floors with slimy molds to dishes and cups served with remnants of previous users food or body fluids, to the seemingly endless number of employees of establishments seen just lounging around, smoking indoors, using the trickle of wifi to play loud horrible atonal repetitive “music” while we struggled to book a flight standing underneath the router (where there always seemed to be the most smoke).

    environmental disrespect and utter indifference toward maintaining the incredible natural beauty of the parks and treks. From fish farming tilapia in Lakes that used to be clear blue, to lines of bottles, wrappers, and haphazard fires of burned plastics and noxious chemical laden products along the hikes Toba, the climbs of berastagi, and the beaches of pilau Weh, we had enough and just booked a flight from Padang to Bali… We’ve read similar reviews of Mt Kerinci and Bromo. The two goals of our trip to Indonesia have been forgotten and we only hope to salvage some sort of respect for human nature in Bali. We aren’t optimistic though and will head to Australia if we encounter more of the same.

    It’s sad. We speak to other travelers and they don’t seem to mind. We feel like we are encouraging the people to continue this line of behavior and disrespect by visiting. Indonesia needs an intervention because this is rock bottom – or as I said to myself looking out our private car ride through Medan on the way from berastagi to the airport “hell on earth”.

    We hope there is light at the end of this tunnel! We love Hawaii so much more than ever after this experience.

    • Amy
      Posted at 13:54h, 01 May Reply

      Hi Brent, thanks for your comment. It sounds like you’ve had a tough time in Indonesia, I hope things get better for you in Bali. We also found Indonesia one of the more difficult places to travel around in South-East Asia but we really enjoyed our time in Ubud. I agree about the environmental problems, I was also very saddened by the animal cruelty and neglect, but this was present in many of the countries we visited in that region. I hope you find some peace in Ubud, just be careful if you visit the Monkey Forest…

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