You may recognize Ubud from the movie "Eat, Pray, Love" with Julia Roberts. This beautiful city is the cultural center of Bali and has some truly spectacular art. In the 1930s many European painters came here so there is a distinct fusion of local and foreign influences in the painting styles. Many galleries and art museums are open to visitors and there are also quite a few local artisans, including stonecutters, woodcarvers, etc. You will find these artisans throughout the city. Many work from home and sell their wares to passersby. You are sure to find figurines of all shapes and sizes: the Buddha (though Bali is Hindu), giraffes, elephants, people (in the typical form with no details) and much more. Prices are negotiable but you shouldn’t haggle too hard (even for the smaller pieces) because the figures are hand carved.
In the center of town is the Pura (= Temple) Taman Saraswati Kemude which lies behind a lotus pond ordained by the goddess of wisdom. The orange temple is a particularly popular photo spot. In the vicinity there is a famous market, the Umum Ubud, where you can buy all kinds of souvenirs. Here you will find figurines, modern clothing, and everything in between. In this corner of the city you will also find the Prince’s Palace Puri Saren where Balinese dances are performed every night, accompanied by traditional gamelan music. These dramatic performances take several hours and are composed of a variety of acts. In the program you will find a synopsis of the story being told so you can follow along. They are based on Balinese myths and history and the dancers wear beautiful, elaborate costumes.
Another highlight in Ubud is the monkey forest. You need to buy a ticket to explore this park but it is worth it as you will see numerous lively macaque monkeys. Leave sunglasses and loose items in your bag and hang onto your camera because the monkeys like to steal things. The Monkey Forest is a holy place for the Balinese so the mighty banyan trees grow here unimpeded.
Advice: The Casa Luna has delicious made-to-order meals and it is attached to a Cooking School where you can also take a cooking class. Every day they teach how to cook a different meal and this is one of the best ways to get familiar with the various ingredients used in Balinese cuisine. After your cooking class all the students will eat together and you will get a small booklet with the recipes to take home. Apart from the Casa Luna in Ubud there are countless other restaurants where you can relax and sample local specialties.
There are quite a few excursions available in town. You can take a hiking or biking tour, visit one of the nearby rice fields, check out some of the charming temples in the area, or more! We also recommend visiting the Elephant Cave Goa Gajah. The cave itself is quite small and dark but the outside is ornately carved. You may also like to explore the nearby jungle. One particularly nice excursion takes you to one of the coffee plantations where you can plant cocoa, coffee beans, and pineapples! You will also get to try some of the local produce and learn how the strange, somewhat controversial Luwak Coffee (Kopi Luwak) is obtained. This coffee is made from the undigested coffee beans gathered from the excrement of the Asian Palm Civet.
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