Australians love holidaying in Bali – an extremely popular Asian holiday destination. If you’re looking for the ultimate cultural experience next time you visit this beautiful island, look no further than Ubud…
Just 1.5 hours drive from the city centre, you’ll arrive in Ubud – Bali’s cool, mountainous centre. It’s made up of 14 villages surrounded by tropical forests, steep ravines, and rice paddies and is Bali’s artistic heart – it has been that way for over a century.
Once a haven for backpackers, Ubud now attracts all sorts of travellers. It has become a centre for fine arts, dance, music and culture and the Balinese are committed to keeping its traditions alive. It’s highly unlikely anyone visits there without purchasing a treasure.
Carvings and paintings honour their gods and the Balinese way of life in general. Paintings are colourful and intricate and the western world has embraced them.
Of all the temples you can view, the most entertaining is the 17th century Bukit Sari temple, located in the six-hectare Sangeh Monkey Forest. It was built as a meditation temple by the son of the King of Mengwi. It’s an eerie temple, especially at sunrise when the monkeys come down to feed and the rays of early morning sunlight filter through the trees.
The forest is filled with giant nutmeg trees, some reaching 40 metres. The sacred nature reserve houses hundreds of crab-eating macaque monkeys, they are sacred, amusing and wise and will certainly approach visitors hoping for a bite to eat. Beware though, they are highly attracted to anything shiny, so hide your camera, jewellery, glasses and anything else they might admire. It could be an idea to hang onto your hat too!
The macaques are accustomed to tourists and for a rupiah or two, they will happily have their picture taken with you. If you’ve given them a treat, which you can buy at the temple entrance, they will probably even smile for the camera!
These markets greet diners with stunning aromas of curries, freshly cooked pork and duck, chicken and coconut balls, sweet cakes, fried bananas, tempeh and tofu. Babi Guling (suckling pig) is mouthwatering – it’s stuffed with a concoction of turmeric, coriander seeds, lemongrass, black pepper and garlic and is spit roasted.
Pull up a stool and tuck in with the locals. For around $2 you will be served an overloaded plate of food – but get there early.
Transportation is simple and inexpensive in Bali. Of course, walking is a good easy option – depending on where you are staying, you might be able to stroll to the beach, shops, restaurants and bars.
Renting a bicycle is a good way to get around. A trip around the island lets you take in the beauty that is Bali, plus you can enjoy the local culture in tiny villages. Traffic can be a bit off-putting, but it’s a great way to see things you may otherwise miss.
Some hotels have their own bicycles, but if they don’t, they’ll direct you to a rental shop. Don’t forget to apply plenty of sunscreen before you pedal off!
You can rent motorcycles and cars, but you may want to think long and hard about that option. Traffic can be very difficult to negotiate and in some parts of the island, there just aren’t any road rules. Bali’s city roads and main highways range from a four-lane bypass to single track lanes with potholes. If you really must get around by car, I recommend you hire a car and driver for around $50 a day.
Locals mostly take the bus, or ride in minivans and bemos (which are small minivans). They all offer unscheduled services. Bemos can be hired and are good for short distances within towns and cities. The idea is that the fares are shared – but in the case of tourists, the driver might only take single parties, making the rate comparable to that of a traditional taxi.
Taxis are quite common in the south of Bali and the rates are generally quite reasonable. Make sure the driver uses the meter and if your trip takes you further afield from Kuta, there could be an extra charge. Blue taxis are most reliable.
Depending on where you want to go, hiring the driver and vehicle for the day might be the best bet as getting a cab outside the resort areas can be tricky at best.
If you want to go to Java, ferries from Gilimanuk on the west of the island run approximately every half hour throughout the day. The crossing takes around 30 minutes. There are services to other Indonesian islands, check with your hotel for information and schedules.
Bring plenty of sunscreen
Choose the blue taxis
Keep valuables out of reach of sneaky monkeys!