Away from the tourist bustle of Bali’s beaches, Ubud has forged a reputation as the island’s cultural heart. Here, nature and tradition meet modern art and dining. Take note of this whistle-stop tour.
Day 1: Nature Adventures
Bali Toekad Rafting
Trade the waves for some white-water rafting on Ubud’s Ayung River, the longest in Bali. Several companies operate rafting services; we tried Bali Toekad Rafting (balitoekadrafting.com) who offer all the necessary gear, meals, lockers and showering facilities. The river winds its way through scenic rice fields and offers class II rapids so all you need are basic paddling skills (though beware they can rise to class IV during the reainy season from Nov-Mar). Along the route, you will witness beautiful waterfalls, dense forests and giant rocks carved with the Ramayana epic. The white water rafting trip starts at US$75 ($103), including lunch, or you can go tubing for US$69 ($95). Try both adventures for US$95 ($131).
Tegallalang Rice Terraces Credit: Aleksandr Zykov
Afterwards, enjoy the more peaceful views of the nearby Tegallalang Rice Terraces. These iconic rice paddies are a result of subak, a Balinese irrigation system dating to the 9th century. This system is even heritage-listed by a UNESCO, though this officially refers to the original subak system at the 18th-century Royal Water Temple of Pura Taman Ayun to the southwest of Ubud.
Monkey Forest Sanctuary Credit: Fabio Achilli
If you still have energy, spend your afternoon at The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary (monkeyforestubud.com). This large, garden-like sanctuary aims to conserve the area based on the Balinese philosophy of Tri Hita Karana (“three reasons for prosperity,” which refers to harmony among people, nature or environment, and God). Though the sanctuary offers a tranquil escape, just be aware the monkeys can get aggressive if they see you carrying food.
Fire dance at Laka Leke Credit: Taradol Chitmanchaitham
One of the greatest dinners on the island can be found at nearby Laka Leke Restaurant (www.lakaleke.com), which serves the likes of bebek putu (roasted duck with sauteed vegetables served with rice at a well-priced IDR 105.500 [$10.67]) alongside a variety of superb Balinese dance performances. The fire dance is stunning, in particular.
Day 2: Art Exploration
Don Antonio Blanco Museum Credit: Taradol Chitmanchaitham
Start your art wanderings at The Neka Art Museum. Founded by Balinese teacher Suteja Neka, the museum is the place to go to trace the origins of Balinese painting, with one piece even dating back to the 19th century. Next stop is Don Antonio Blanco Museum (blancomuseum.com), whose founder, Spanish painter Antonio Blanco, was dubbed the Salvador Dali of Bali. Known for sexually-charged, often-controversial depictions of Balinese women, the painter used to live in this giant mansion with his Balinese wife and four children.
Take lunch at Rondji Restaurant (rondjirestaurantubud.com), which is situated at the entrance of Don Antonio Blanco Museum. They serve fine modern Balinese and European dishes with wonderful terrace views of the rice fields. If you head there on Sunday, you can enjoy a barbecue brunch, too.
Just 10 minutes’ walk away is Museum Puri Lukisan (museumpurilukisan.com). Opened in 1956 by Dutch artist Rudolf Bonnet, Tjokorda Gde Agung Sukawati, the former Prince of Ubud (1910-1978), and his brother, Tjokorda Gde Raka Sukawati, the museum hosts a one-of-a-kind collection of Balinese paintings and woodcarvings. Now, it’s also active in hosting exhibitions for emerging artists. The museum’s cafe and bookshop are well worth a look too. Another art-centric venue nearby is Agung Rai Museum (www.armabali.com/museum), which gathers works from Balinese, Indonesian and foreign artists amid exquisite botanical gardens.
After all that browsing, spend some money wisely at Ubud Market. Recently in the headlines for the wrong reasons (one section caught fire in March), the market is packed full of arty souvenirs and real-deal artworks. From there, you can easily head to Ubud Palace to witness its gorgeous Balinese architecture.
For dinner, make your way to Bridge (bridgesbali.com), one of the most reputed restaurants in Ubud. Serving mostly modern Balinese cuisine, the restaurant’s highlights include the mixed vegetables and marinated tempe with green curry and lontong (pressed rice) at IDR125.000 ($12.65). They also have a gluten-free menu.
Mandapa – A Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Where to stay
Mandapa – A Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Opened last September, this luxurious resort consists of 60 suites and pool villas all decked out in contemporary Balinese decoration. It offers a wealth of holistic and wellness programs, from Balinese spa to detox. Room rates start from US$670 ($922) for the Reserve Suite. Try their signature spa programs for two, such as Royal Spice Ceremony (2.5 hours, IDR 9,000,000 [$910.90]), which is inspired by a 17th-century Indonesian royal wedding ritual. Couples will be treated with herbs and spices, and undergo a seven flower cleansing ritual with four-hand synchronized massage, followed by oils with a warm river stone rub.
Also launched last year, this modern hotel offers 38 spacious suites in a canopy forest. Cool packages include the four-night honeymoon deal at US$1,335 ($1,837), which includes Champagne dinner, massage, afternoon tea and airport transfers, or the three-night Foodie Frenzy package at US$985 ($1,355), which packs in a coffee tasting session and a visit to an organic farm. Room rates start at US$234 ($322) for the garden suites.
IDR 1.000 = $0.10
Singapore citizens can stay in Indonesia without a visa for 30 days along with some 45 other nationalities.