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25 Things To Know Before Visiting Ubud, Bali (Indonesia)


Health Issues?
Toya Clinic in Pengosekan and Ubud Clinic in Campuhan have English-speaking staff and extensive experience providing medical aid to foreigners. The prices for consultations, minor tests and treatments are reasonable and you can fill any necessary prescriptions at the nearby Kimia Farma in Peliatan. If you need urgent dental work done, head over to the plush surroundings of Sayan Aesthetics at The Mansion in Penestanan.


Taxi Ibu, yes? ...
It's a rarity to walk down a street in Ubud without being propositioned - by a taxi driver (car or motorbike), a souvenir seller or a massage therapist. Taxi miss, yes? Balinese massage? Best in town? Morning price, ok? Transport? Cheap price? If not today, maybe tomorrow? Keep in mind that many goods and services are negotiable in Ubud, especially with these transport-hawkers. They'll try to charge you upwards of 20,000 Rps (about $2.25 US) for a trip inside city limits (one driver asked for 40,000), but a more reasonable fare should not exceed 10,000 Rps. Private taxi fares from the airport hover around 200,000 Rps; but if you don't mind joining others traveling to Ubud, head to the shuttle pick-up point where you'll pay about 50,000 Rps.


Ceremonies galore...
It's hard to plan ahead if you're interested in observing a uniquely Balinese event, the unforgettable cremation ceremony; but ask at your hotel or the Tourist Information office in front of the Royal Palace in case your timing is right. Otherwise, you might be lucky to stumble across one of the many temple festivals, weddings, cock-fighting (and gambling) gatherings, tooth-filing and baby-touching-the-ground ceremonies that are held nearly every day and night in Ubud. Many take place within the privacy of family compounds so though more difficult to find, it's worth the effort to try and locate them via word of mouth.


Festivals for movers and shakers ...
The Ubud Readers & Writers Festival, a popular literary event, is held every October. Authors, aspiring writers, editors and publishers descend on this city in droves from around the world. Participants attend workshops, lectures, readings and panel discussions covering a wide range of themes and topics. Book your trip now if you want to attend next year's event because accommodations are hard to find at this Festival time. If your tastes lean more towards moving than reading, you'll have to wait for the next incarnation of the annual BaliSpirit Festival. This highly-touted celebration of yoga, dance and music returns in March with presenters and yoginis arriving from near and far. You'll get your body pumping (or relaxing) and your creative juices flowing in no time when you register for a day-long schedule of Kundalini, Power Yoga, Yin Yoga, Ashtanga, Hoop Dancing, NIA, African Dance and Watsu. And finally, the Bali International Meditators Festival is held in Ubud every September.


Get out of town for the day...
A short drive from Ubud's center brings you to Goa Gajah, a.k.a the Elephant Cave, a site covered with finely carved relief images. Goa Lawah is a temple in East Bali set inside the front entrance of a cave covered in bats. From there, it's a stone's throw to one of only two sea-salt making workshops. Stop in and watch the workers dredge salt from the sea, it's quite a sight (you can actually see the small salt-making huts and coconut-drying trunks from the road). A visit to Tenganan in East Bali gives you a peek into a secluded village where the Balinese still live much as their ancestors did. The White Sand Beach (Pantai Putih) close to Candidasa is situated in a bay at the bottom of a winding road, but well worth the effort getting there; take a dip, lay back under the shade and sip from a coconut, then top off your day with a grilled fresh fish of the day. If your tastes lean towards wood and sculptural carvings, the village of Mas is the place to go. Take a boat from Sanur or Padang Bai to Nusa Penida where you can explore the underground holy caves where priests and healers are known to go to strengthen their spiritual energy. Spend a day surrounded by lush greenery at the Botanical Gardens in Bedugul or visit the Green School, recently anointed the Greenest School on Earth, for its eco-environmental philosophy and all-bamboo architectural design. The school's campus is also home to Big Tree Farms' Bamboo Chocolate Factory, producers of high-quality, locally-grown organic cashews, coconut palm sugar and cocoa powder.


Explore the outdoors ...
Rent a motorbike and scoot around town, stopping in at Café Vespa in Penestanan. Join a bicycling adventure tour to the volcanic Mount Batur. Take a rafting trip down the Ayung river. Stroll through the rice paddies on the way to Sari Organik and Cantika Spa. Climb the small hill to the Campuhan Ridge, enjoy the 360-degree views and feel like you're on top of the world. Keep your wits about you while you amble through the Monkey Forest down to Nyuh Kuning, the monkeys are plentiful (some more friendly than others) and happy to rustle through your bag for food if you make it too easy for them. A trip to Bali is not quite complete without a visit to some of Bali's holiest sites; the water temples of Tirta Gangga and Tanah Lot, the towering Mount Agung, or its most important temple, Besakih.

Please Note: It's my personal preference to walk to most places but nearly all my friends here in Ubud rent motorbikes. They are affordable (typically ~$5/day) but, without experience and a helmet, it can be tricky to maneuver the pot-holed and partially unpaved roads. Accidents can happen. Caution is to be exercised at all times. P.S. When I need to get somewhere farther away, the taxi driver I usually hire is Joni and his number is +62 (0)812 4667 1020


Spa Central ...
When you're done with all that outdoor exploring, you'll need a place to unwind. You cannot walk more than a few meters anywhere in Ubud without passing a seated woman handing out spa brochures. Just a sampling: Cantika (2 locations, both of which overlook rice fields, and Fresh (Dewi Sita) use only herbal and organic products. Try the traditional Balinese massage or Javanese Lulur Scrub. For that ultimate splurge, try the Five Elements resort, the Tjampuhan Hotel grotto where you can slip from freezing cold waters to a hot pool (which is, apparently, a boon to circulation), then follow up with a massage overlooking the river . Ubud must have the highest proportion of massage therapists to tourists anywhere in the world. Some of the reputable places include Bodyworks on Jl. Hanoman, Body and Soul on Jl. Raya and Kayma Spa on Jl. Monkey Forest. Then again, why not treat yourself to a more hedonistic four-handed massage at Spa Hati on Jl. Andong, or seek out a sensual chocolate massage available at various spas in town.


Healing Haven ...
Ubud is best known as Bali's center for healing (Ubud originates from the word Ubad or Obad which means medicine) and a hive of creativity that attracts practitioners, healers and yoginis from around the world. If that's not enough, you can always check into Alchemy or Ubud Wellness Centre for a spot of colonic therapy. The Ayurvedic Health Centre and Yoga Barn's Kush offer hot oil treatments or panchakarma programs. Give your body a break, give it a detox at Ubud Sari Health Resort. If you don't cringe at the mere sight of needles, take a stab at an acupuncture session at Ubud Holistic. If that's not enough to whet your appetite, there is a constantly revolving door of expat practitioners offering crystal bowl tuning, tarot card readings, raw food courses, chiropractic, cranio-sacral therapy, and a vast array of healing modalities, some of more questionable value than others. If you have serious health issues, you may also want to consider seeking out a bona fide Balinese healer (balian). A word of warning: Ketut Liyer (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) has amassed a considerable following and fortune, but he has also been known to dole out the same pricey prognoses and prescriptions to dozens of women. Editor's Note: As in all things pertaining to your health, none of these places are sanctioned by Journeywoman. We ask each reader to carefully research each center and each practitioner and to make their own carefully reasoned choices.


Visit Museums ...
Stray off the beaten arts path with a visit to the Blanco Renaissance Museum (where quirky, eccentric, baroque and overstated works take center stage.) The late artist Antonio Blanco established this studio and museum to display his grandiose paintings and artworks. Worth a visit even for the pleasure of strolling through the grounds, and inviting a Bali Starling to perch on your shoulder. Other notable museums and galleries include Puri Lukisan (Jl. Raya), Komaneka Gallery (Jl. Monkey Forest), Gaya Fusion Art Space (Sayan) and the Tony Raka Gallery (in Mas). The Neka Museum. in Sanggingan now boasts a collection of over 200 traditional ceremonial daggers (kris) and is one of the most visited museums in Bali Why not combine gallery-viewing with your lunch by stopping in at Café des Artistes or Adi's Gallery and Komang's Café on Jl. Bisma, or Il Giardino, a spacious Italian resto set amidst the lush tropical gardens of Galerie Han Snel on Jl. Kajeng.


BONUS Tip - Shops to look for ...

At Momo's store (Kunti St No. 20, Seminyak ) you'll be able to order beautiful handmade leather and suede shoes in many colours, for both men and women. In fact, if you bring a favorite pair from home they will copy it exactly! Want a leather coat, skirt or boots made? That's no problem either. Tel: 0361-732-361. Tailors/seamstresses abound in Bali and JourneyWomen can get clothes made for very reasonable prices. Visa & Mastercard are both accepted in tourist areas, and you can get cash out at most ATMs. In smaller villages moneychangers will cash travellers cheques for you.

Handpainted scarves & sarongs are in abundance in Bali. Visit Gorim's shop in Ubud (Penestanan - Klod, Tel: 80571) for the most exquisite shawls, scarves and sarongs -- approximately US$5-6 each. It makes sense to buy half a dozen for Christmas and birthday gifts.

Check out the Kites Shop On Monkey Forest Road. If it fits in your suitcase, what a great gift to bring for a special kiddie at home!

Important: There are so many beautiful inexpensive items to buy in Bali, but be sure to check on what you can bring back to your country. For example, Australia has to screen every wooden item as well as leather products, very carefully. Woven handbags could possibly be contaminated with tiny little bugs, so shop with your eyes wide open. Ubud is definitely Bali's shopper's heaven, but many other wonderful treasures can also be found in the tiny little out-of-the-way villages.

P.S. You might want to pack an extra shopping bag or small suitcase so you'll be able to bring back all your extra goodies.

Submitted by Teena Hughes, Australia



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