Ubud probably gained international recognition due to Julia Roberts and the film Eat Pray Love. Its a lot different than the beach resorts and has many reasons why this should be on your trip regardless of your duration in Bali. First up was how to get to Ubud from Kuta. Reading many forums, it seems you could get a private driver who would then show you around Ubud, as I already knew Ubud fairly well we passed on this. You could get a taxi where the cost for the 1 hour journey could be anything from Rp250,000 to Rp400,000. We decided to get a shared mini bus which cost us Rp80,000 each. This was booked from one of the many tourist info booths around Kuta (Tanah Lot was also booked from there). Do not use Hotels at all to book trips in Kuta, they usually charge in USD and its many times double.
The only negative with getting the minivan was the central drop off. I knew Ubud pretty well but this drop off was in an area I had not been. However our hotel was only 10 minutes walk away so we headed off in the midday sun to find Sayong House. The accommodation in Ubud is very different to Kuta and Sanur, I’d say its more traditional. There was no TV or fridge but apart from that it was very cosy and certainly a very nice place to stay. Contrary to what I said about booking trips from hotels in Kuta, I did book our two trips from Ubud through the hotel as I couldn’t believe how low the prices where. Before we undertook these adventures we had a whole afternoon to explore the scenic town which although has a very backpacker vibe in places its full of families, single travellers of all nationalities all exploring and in some ways escaping the beach resorts. I took Aida first to one of the restaurants in the Rice Fields which I had been to on my G Adventures trip. Its about a 20 minute walk from our hotel but the views are tranquil and the food was pretty good as well.
After this a trip to the art museum before heading for a well earned massage. On the evening we went and watched the traditional Legong Dance in Ubud Palace. Just as the performance was due to start, the heavens opened and the rain came down meaning we all had to move quite quickly over the road to the Hall where the performance took place. At only Rp80,000 each its a fair price to pay. The show may not be quite your usual performance but its great to see the local cultures in action. Some of the performances where pretty spectacular, especially the eye actions of both the guys and girls.
The following morning we went to Monkey Forest which is a great trip even if you have seen monkeys as often as us. The Forest is now considerably bigger than when I last visited but the monkeys are still as mischievous (we saw one ruin the seat of a motorbike!). The entry fee is very low, less than $3 and you can spend a couple of hours here. Be careful as the monkeys are wild, although there are lots of park rangers around. If you have any food on you, they will take it – you have been warned!!
Once we finished here and had lunch we had a foot massage before retreating back to the hotel as the rain came down. On the evening, there are lots of different types of restaurants, some more upmarket where you will pay considerably more, or there are the bars which have live entertainment, cold beer and good local food which is what we prefer. We spent this evening in Buddha Bar which is a popular hang out due to the bands they have each evening.
The next day was the day I had been looking forward to; white water rafting! Aida was a little concerned about this as she was worried about falling out and not being able to stand up. I have been rafting in Canada, Chile and Thailand so knew that the aim of the guides was to keep you in the boat and not risk having you get injured so a little bit of reassurance was required. We paid only Rp300,000 each ($23), and they were charging you $70 when we enquired in Ubud!! This involved everything from pick up and drop off, plus guide and food. We were lucky that we had a very humorous guide who made Aida feel at ease and we had a great 2 hours on the river with great scenery around us. I’m not usually a tip person but I thought our guide made the trip even better so felt he deserved a little extra.
On our way home we found a frozen yogurt place which was 1/4 the price of KL so enjoyed a mountain of yogurt and all kinds of other goodies on top.
That evening we met a french guy named Laurent in our hotel so he joined us for dinner and it was good to have some fresh conversation with an older guy who had left his job for two years of traveling.
We went back home early as we were getting picked up at 2am to climb Mt.Batur. This is an active volcano, and although there was no real threat of it erupting, you just never knew! Again the cost was only Rp300,000 each and Laurent decided to join us. I had not woke up last time to do this trek so was determined to make it to the top on this occasion. At 3am before we decided we were given a banana pancake and the most horrible coffee I’d ever had in my life, at this stage I really wished I was back in bed. Obviously the aim of going so early is to watch the sunrise and the first part of the trek was quite comfortable. However 30 mins in and flashbacks of Mt.Kinabalu came flooding back to me. All my rugby injuries seemed to catch up with me and Aida flew up a lot quicker than me. The final part was just a mix of sand and dirt so you seemed to step 1 metre and slide back down 1/2 metro.
One at the top, the pain was worth it as we witnessed another lovely sunrise and where joined by a series of monkeys who appeared from nowhere. The walk down was considerably easier, for one you could see where you where going and secondly you could actually just slide down the mud embankments.
From here we reached our hotel at 10am which was crazy when you consider how much we had already done in this day.
We were to be picked up at noon to be taken back to Kuta. We had initially planned to go to Lake Brattan next and then finish in Sanur but due to the upcoming festivities we decided it would be best to be in Kuta and near the airport.
The following day was Ogoh Ogoh day where the local hindu’s celebrate the day with demons being paraded around symbolising the cleansing of the area, free from spiritual pollutants caused by living beings. From 1pm many places closed as the locals would go back to their villages to be with their families. About 7pm the fun really starts as the Town Square in Ubud becomes the centre of all the festivities. It is pretty crammed so expect to get squashed as people try and follow the demon structures along the street. Ogoh Ogoh is followed by Nyapi Day (Silent Day). On this day nobody is allowed to leave the hotel or homes (except the police). Therefore we were ‘trapped’ inside the hotel until 6am this following morning. Knowing this, I made sure we got a hotel with a decent pool and activities so Kuta Angel didn’t have this so we stayed at Grand Istana Rama on the Beach front. The day actually passed by quite quickly as we chilled by the pool whilst the younger Aussie contingent drank from 11am until the bar closed.
The final day was very quiet as well as many places only opened at 2pm, the time which we were due to head off to the airport. It just left time for a bit of sat minute shopping and one last stroll on the beach to see all the Ogeh Ogeh demons.
Overall a very relaxing yet adventurous vacation.
Chris – 8.5/10 Aida – 9/10