Ubud and Surounding
Ubud Village is also well known as a culture village where we easily find the local community presenting traditional cultures from the ritual up to the traditional dance performances. Famous for its painter’s community, Ubud is special in more ways than one. It has its own magic, and its particularly beautiful surroundings. The magic is easy to find – just take a walk south of the village through its terraced paddy fields to the monkey forest. Fresh water spouts out of the sheer rock at the base of the ravine, and a bath in a secluded, shady spot is purifying.
If shopping is your interest, Ubud has a myriad of shop – Sumba ikats fashioned into wallets, backpacks and dresses are available in the small kiosks near the Puri Lukisan Museum as are typical souvenirs such as silk-screened T-shirts, baskets, colorful batik clothing and linens. Antiques (or at least old looking artifacts) are sold in shops along the road to the Monkey Forest.
Ubud is a picturesque township and visitors have been attracted by its charm and beauty for decades. It now boasts a post office, telegraph and telephone office and is home to at least one international hotel. Yet despite its growth and the large influx of foreigners who live or pass through here, Ubud still retains its charm. In the ’70s, it was a sleepy haven with a few losmen. Now it has become a mecca for foreign artists and business people alike with hundreds of inns, cafes and restaurants to soothe weary traveler.
In fact, Ubud comes from the word “ubud”, Balinese for medicine, stemming from the healing properties of a certain herb growing near the Campuhan River. Many of Ubud’s aristocrats were (and some still are) renown for their healing powers. Yet their powers went beyond health. Even into this century and long after the Duct invasion of Bali and Indonesia’s independent, Ubud’s royal families have commanded great respect from the people.
If shopping tires or bores you; there are innumerable nature walks one can take. Virtually any of the major paths leading out of Ubud will lead you through smaller villages and acres of paddy fields or you can rent a pushbike or motorbike and do part of your exploring on wheels. The Bali Pathfinder sells a map with suggestions for outings which take you into some stunning countryside. Their umbrella agency, Bina Aksara Parta, a printing press; print name cards at a cheap rate.
One of the many unique things about Ubud is the establishment of the Bina Wisata or local Tourism Bureau. The creed of Bina Wisata is the preservation of Ubud’s natural and cultural beauty. Therefore instead of simply encouraging tourism on a grand scale, they are striving to unify the tourists’ and locals’ wishes. Visitors are asked to respect the local ceremonies, wear traditional clothing when appropriate and in general, learn more about the Ubud is crammed with interesting anecdotes. There is a massage board, small bookstore and a printing press on the premises as well – definitely worth a visit if only to discover the week’s special happenings in the area. It’s about 500m (550 yards) past the market.
On pasah, which takes place every three days. Ubud market is like Grand Central Station. Produce, dry goods, linens, even traveling medicine men appear here. Be sure to get here early in the morning – after two o’clock the market looks more like a ghost town. If you’re tired of looking at exotic fruits, try some of them in a juice drink at one of the cafes lining the streets.
Just down from the market is the Puri Lukisan (Museum of Painting). Established in 1954, it is dedicated to showing the work of local painters. It is an excellent place to get an overview of the stylistic differences between artists. Other galleries are the Neka Museum and the Agung Rai Gallery in Peliatan.
One short walk is to the Monkey Forest. At the main crossroads take the southern road all the way until you get to the woods. Just before the forest is a small and wonderful spring-fed pool just right for cooling down in the heat of the day. However, it’s best to do this walk in the early morning or late afternoon as the midday sun beats down unmercifully.
Once in the forest, hold onto your belongings – the monkeys are fast and love to run off with cameras, glasses, purses, food! Speaking of food on your way back to Ubud, have meal at café Wayan, one of the most popular eateries (for foreigners) which serves delectable sea foods, Wayan’s special salad and a fine garlic wheat bread. You can continue up out of monkey forest and turn right to Pengoseken. A lovely view of the rice fields is just behind the modern rice mill. At the T-junction, stop for a drink and dessert (the best in town) at the Bebek Bengil (”Dirty Duck Diner”). Be sure to stop at the basketry shops along this road.
An art form which utilizes bright and gay colors is the paintings of Penestanan – called the Young Artists style. This tiny village is just past the Campuhan bridge and up the steep stairs on your left. It is fast becoming the new Baliwood Hills where the chic and hip stay. Down by the Campuhan River (”the place where three rivers meet” – a sacred site) is a small temple built by Mpu Narada. A bamboo spout pours out pure mountain spring water and many Balinese come here to bathe in the evening. More well known at Campuhan now is Murni’s Warung, which serves hamburgers, local fare and the best poppy seed cake in town. Another place to get sweets (and maybe even a sweetheart – it’s the place to be seen) is The Lotus Café in the middle of town. Just past the market, you can sit outside by the large lotus pond and sip cordials while chatting to visitors from all over the world. The specialties here are homemade pasta and cheesecake.
Just west of The Lotus Café, Griya’s Restaurant serves fabulous grilled foods; Cacik has a non-meat egg lawat; Ari’s a dynamite gado-gado, fried eggplant fingers, crème caramel and a wondeful coconut pie (and a new cook in residence); Nomad’s a lovely salad and live music. If it’s Japanese food you’re after, the Ubud Raya Café across from the Post Office can satisfy your desires. Run by a Japanese woman and her Javanese husband, specialities include both Indonesian and Japanese food. One table is reserved for tatami-like seating. For Indonesian and Balinese food, try Ibu Satri’s behind the bale banjar of Ubud Kelod. There are so many places to choose from that you could spend all your time eating!
If it’s solitude you’re after, then head up the hill at Campuhan and bear left to Sayan – the former village of composer Colin McPhee and still home to a spectacular iew of gorges and palms and rice fields. You can take any of the small paths on the right side of the road to get to the ridge and then walk along it. There are a number of small losmen here and no electricity or TVs to wire you up.
Backtracking north along the ridge (via the main road) is Kedewatan – another village privy to an outrageous view, which you can enjoy from your table at the Kupu-Kupu Barong restaurant. Alternatively you can stop by the market in Payangan – a rather large gathering of vendors but not nearly as commercial as the Ubud Market. There are also vanilla and coconut plantations up here.
Coming back down the hill to Campuhan, drop in for a quick dip (for a nominal fee) at the Hotel Campuhan’s swimming pool. This hotel was the “luxury” hotel in the area years ago and its rustic charm still remains. Walter Spies used to live here in the 1930s.
In Ubud and the surrounding areas are numerous temples; festivals occur frequently throughout the year. One interesting ritual is in the village of Kutuh, just north of Ubud. The people here originally fled from the area of Singaraja up on north coast when their kingdom (also called Kutuh) was defeated. At the village’s Pura Dalem Alit festifal is a special ritual called Mesiram Agni or “Bathing the Fire”, which is held on every other Anggara KasihI (a Tuesday) in the week of Prangbakat. Sacred Baris dances from both Kutuh in Singaraja and the local Kutuh are performed nightly during this celebration.
Petulu is known for many things but the most spectacular is the kokokan or white herons. Every morning at dawn and in the afternoon around three or four o’clock, you can see them circling the trees in droves. To get there, head north out of Peliatan past the drugstore. After about half a kilometer (1 mile) on your left is a wide asphalt road – follow that until you come to the bird sanctuary (there will be signs and you can’t miss the birds if you look up). This is best done by motorcycle or pushbike; it’s a long walk from Ubud or Peliatan. Seven km (4 miles) further north are the villages of Pujung and Sebatu. This is where the Balinese themselves go to but exquisitely carved and painted Garuda birds. Returning now to Peliatan, we travel east – past the statue of the dancer. About 500 m (550 yards) up the road on the right are two small stone statues-these statues mark the banjar of Teges Kanginan.
This banjar has one of the few remaining Semar Pegulingan gamelans in Bali – Tirta Sari in Peliatan is the only one around for miles. Most clubs have Gong Kebyar which is distinctly different in sound – and a delightful state space in front of the main temple complex to watch performances. Here in Teges, prepubescent girls still dance the traditional Legong. The seka (club) also does its own version of the Kecak monkey chant, which Sardono Kusuma, nationally known choreographer from Java, set on this group in the mid ’70s.
Ubud boast many gamelan troupes; on Monday nights, the puri sponsors its Legong show, and the “Release from World Disaster Drama” is held in Petulu. On Tuesday, the Shout Ubud Club (across from Canderi’s on Monkey Forest road) holds its Rajapala revue. Thursday is the Gabor dance at Ubud Kelod, Friday is the Calon Arang dance at Pure Saren and Sunday is the Kecak in Padang Teges (see Entertainment in Travel Tips). From the living traditional of the arts, les up now move back in time in several thousand years. Just a few miles from Ubud sits the former capital of Bali – Pejeng – and around it the most densely packed area of antiquities on the entire island.