After five weeks of solo travel in Australia, I was excited to have a travel companion visiting from home for two weeks in and around Bali! Our first stop was in Ubud, the ‘cultural centre’ of Bali made famous (apparently) by Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. We based ourselves in a wonderful homestay (of which there are many) where we were treated like family by our hosts as we spent a few days exploring the area and enjoying Ayu’s scrumptious green pancakes.
After seeing a few too many people with their arms bandaged up in slings and an equal number of police officers demanding bribes from foreigners without international drivers licenses, we opted against renting a motorbike. Instead, we arranged a driver for a day to take us to some of the sites outside of the city. Hiring a driver is predictably more expensive than renting a motorbike (which can be rented for as little as $6 a day). However, paying $60 for a private 9+ hour excursion in which we visited five different sites still represents great value.
Ubud Monkey Forest
Equal parts beautiful and terrifying (for fear of getting swarmed by the critters!), the Ubud Monkey Forest is a top attraction in the city with a good mix of temples, nature and (of course) monkeys. With over 600 monkeys in the reserve, chances are high that at least one will try to climb on you. This is especially so if you are carrying a bag with food in it. For those looking for a photo op, they sell bananas inside that you can feed to the animals.
Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
The undisputed highlight of our day tour, this UNESCO Heritage Site will take your breath away. The terraces are impressive in their size and in the fact that something created to be functional can be so beautiful. We stopped here for lunch and then took a short walk through the paddies, where the views continued to evolve and impress. None of our photos even got close to capturing the true beauty of this site.
Ulun Danu Temple
As far as temples go, Ulun Danu has one of the most idyllic locations set on the shores of Lake Bratan. While the throngs of tourists take away from the otherwise peaceful setting, it is well worth a visit and was our favourite temple in Bali. We also paid a visit to Taman Ayun Temple, another UNESCO site.
Campuhan Ridge Walk
Located just on the edge of town, the Campuhan Ridge Walk offers stunning vistas and is an excellent way to spend an early morning or late afternoon. While the views will be just a nice during the day, the heat and humidity are worth considering. Here are some great instructions for how to find the starting point.
Other highlights of our time in Ubud included visits to the market, an evening eating and drinking on Jl. Gootama and a Kecak Dance performance. Keep an eye out for the hundreds of kites that float up in the air during the late afternoon as the Balinese kids engage in a favourite pastime!