Bali’s sun and surf wore me out. Even after applying generous amounts of sunscreen, I was roasted after my first day on the waves. A trip to the artsy town of Ubud, in the center of Bali, saved me from sun stroke. And I was able to understand why non-surfers planted themselves there for weeks or even months. Here’s a list of the best things to do in Ubud:
Yoga in Ubud: There are a few places in town to take yoga classes, but the Yoga Barn is Ubud’s most popular and trendiest location. The studio looks like a treehouse for adults and there is quality instruction all day long. While my wife, Marissa, did her downward dog, I downed a coffee beside a dog that sat beside my table at the Yoga Barn’s outdoor cafe.
Ubud’s Monkey Forest: I didn’t go into the Monkey Forest. And you don’t have to either to enjoy the uninhibited macaques. By twilight, hundreds of them climbed the trees and jumped the wall of Monkey Forest, sitting in the parking lot outside. Monkeys were crossing the road, walking electric tightropes, digging through trash, trying to nab decorative sarongs from the shops lining the road. I felt rain and I thought it strange because the weather looked fine. I was right, the weather was fine. A gray macaque was urinating on my head from the phone lines above. (Note: Monkey piss is not lucky. After my golden shower, a vendor selling bags ripped us off.)
Market Browsing: Travel Southeast Asia for long enough and you’ll come to realize that every peddler sells the same crap. But if Bali is your only stop or you just can’t get enough of those markets, the narrow alleys of Ubud’s multi-level Central Market offer many deals. Here’s a strategy for securing a good price, since Bali’s markets are expensive, even by Western standards: Show interest in a product, thank the vendor, walk away, they’ll beg you to consider their next offer, refuse it, then they’ll lower and lower and lower the price until you finally reach a fair one. It’s usually half of their initial offer.
Eating: For a pork feast, head north of the market to Ibu Oka. For about $5.50 you’ll get fried pork, babi guling (roast pork), loose pork sausage, pork soup, pork skin, and a mound of rice. The large portions at this side of the road institution are half the price of the finer dining establishments, but twice as good.
Walking Tips: Why do I need walking tips?, you–the competent walker–might ask. Because Ubud has the worst sidewalks in Bali, maybe even the world. In Ubud, walking can be hazardous to your health. There are huge sections of missing sidewalk and falling into one would be akin to plunging into an open manhole. If you’re a risk taker, try hitting up the bars and then walking home at night. It’s like bungee-jumping with a homemade cord.
The best day trips from Ubud are to the rice terraces (though they’re not as impressive as the ones in Sapa, Vietnam), the bathing temple (where Hindu worshippers bathe themselves in holy water beneath the spouts in koi-filled pools), and Volcano Batur. Just make sure to bargain with the cabbies before leaving Ubud. Again, they’re probably quoting you double the three hundred thousand riel that they should be charging for the day.