A Taste of Balinese Culture: One Week in Ubud and Canggu
My last trip before I returned to the UK after seven months south of the Equator was one of the most interesting. One week in Bali! I went with my best friend George, who was also a housemate of mine back in Adelaide. We planned to visit Bali for a week, as he had university classes to attend and I’d already booked my flight home. We did some research and decided a few days in Ubud and a few in Canggu would be the perfect mix.
One Week in Bali: Ubud
Our arrival in Ubud was hectic. Getting off the plane we were met with a face full of hot, humid air. In the arrivals hall we were bombarded with offers of taxi rides to wherever we wanted to go. We soon learned that taxis were the only viable transportation; the taxi mafia that operates throughout Bali is not to be trifled with. However, there are ways around their extortionate fees.
One terrifying taxi ride later and we were at our hostel in Ubud. The roads in Bali are barely big enough for one car, let alone two lanes of traffic that include mini-vans and mostly tourist driven motorbikes. The hostel was on Raya Ubud Road, one of the busiest in Ubud due to its proximity to tourist attractions, and was also a struggle to navigate. But oh, was it worth almost being run over (about 50 times)?
On the first day we explored the road itself, which is more like a high street. Bustling with activity of every kind, with the locals peddling taxis, restaurants, and touristy souvenirs. The tourists were just as annoying and loud, and the pavement was only wide enough for one person, so it took quite some time to get anywhere. However, Ubud continued to surprise; down every little alley lay a secret to be uncovered and enjoyed.
Rice Fields and Ubud Palace
The first one we found by accident was a path to some local rice fields. It was the most peaceful walk, away from the traffic and yelling, and was the most magical introduction to Bali. The fields were beautiful and green, and ringed with palm trees and native flora and fauna I had never seen before. It was breathtaking.
The next accidental treasure was behind a Starbucks. It was Ubud Palace, not hidden well from most tourists, who flocked for photos. The Balinese architecture is quite something to behold- with spectacular hand-crafted doors with intricate designs, and the popularity of the gold and red paints that brought it to life. The lily pond was perfect for an instagrammable picture, but we wished it had been less busy.
The following day we explored the Monkey Forest Road, a very popular tourist destination in its own right, which housed art galleries, high fashion outlets, and interesting hole-in-the-wall bars and shops. Every store front was different and interesting, and as a result we meandered down this road longer than we meant to.
Sacred Monkey Forest
Finally, we got to our original destination; the Sacred Monkey Forest, a monkey sanctuary in the middle of the busy city. Armed with corn on the cob and slingshots, the guards watched us wander around the open zoo, which was essentially a forest with two temples in it, overrun with Balinese long-tailed monkeys. At almost 750 monkeys, we saw them everywhere! We witnessed the fabled monkey pick-pocketing and gaped as a monkey clapped in perfect time in response to a keeper’s clapping.
Campuhan Ridge Walk and Ubud Art Market
Our next destination was the Campuhan Ridge Walk, which we underestimated. It is quite strenuous, especially in the Balinese heat. However, it also revealed some gorgeous views, and more rice fields, surrounded by interesting local art and food.
Ubud Art Market is open on the first Sunday of every month, and we were lucky enough to have come at the right time. Handmade crafts of every kind were on display, including wooden souvenirs, sarongs of every colour, and some amazing jewellery. Although we bartered, we still ended up spending more than we needed to!
We ate out for almost every meal in Ubud, as there are not many alternatives and it is cheap. Our favourite restaurant needs an honourable mention! Warang Boga Sari is a restaurant within the cook’s home, where you are surrounded by authentic Balinese architecture and tasty and reasonably priced food.
We spent our last day in Ubud at Kuta Beach, where we relaxed in the sun and watched people release baby turtles into the ocean.
To finish off our week in Bali, we also spent a couple of days in Canggu (pronounced chang-u). We lazed at Perencak Beach, and enjoyed various beachfront clubs and bars. For nightlife, Finn’s Beach Club was a highlight. At Brekele Beach Bar I had the best fish and chips I’ve ever eaten.
In short, Bali was fantastic. I miss Balinese cuisine already, and the architecture continues to fascinate me, even at home. Not one to miss!
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