48hr travels: 5 overexposed things in Ubud that are still worth your time
Ubud is more often known as the arts and cultural centre of Bali so anyone lacking research wouldn't know that Ubud actually has plenty to offer beyond arts and culture. If time is on your side there's nothing better than hunkering down here for a few days of yoga, nature, rafting and non stop food. There's a peace and relatively unspoiled feel of original Bali still in Ubud that you won't find in Seminyak now (they built a tiny mall! Gasp). However if 48 hours are all you have to give, here's a few things I cannot recommend enough to do at least once. They've all been designated the unsightly "tourist trap" term but don't let that spoil your enjoyment of them!
1. Mount Batur
This wasn't necessarily a very pleasant climb because of the loose volcanic grit. It's very dark going up and very slippery coming down. But as far as climbs go, I really enjoyed myself. Once you've booked a tour, depending on where you're departing from, the pick up is about 2.30am. It's an hour's drive to the foot of the volcano and you start ascending at about 4am. 2 hours later, you're breathless - because you're tired (hello, thigh muscles!) and also in anticipation of a glorious sunrise. The guides pack you a simple breakfast which we ended up giving to the monkeys who climb up every morning for handouts. This beautiful view and early start really made our day.
2. Tegallalang rice terrace
This rice terrace is beautiful and although there are now roads, cafés and shops built next to it, it's a shame to miss. Just avoid coming in too late as it gets crowded after 11am. You'll still enjoy the beautiful views. If you're super early you can climb up to the opposite end where there's a bamboo swing. Pack a light breakfast, drink in the scenery, and watch tourists scamper in from the opposite end. As a bonus: wander far enough to the right side of the fields and you'll find an ENTIRE OTHER rice terrace at the back where no one ventures deeply into. There's something about the beauty of the layers, the knowledge that this is rice hand harvested by farmers, that really kicked off for me a fascination with rice terraces which I will spend future trips searching for.
3. Ubud monkey forest
I've been to Tanah Lot in Uluwatu where the monkeys are known for stealing your hats, glasses, and what not which you would sometimes be scammed into buying back. Here in Ubud I didn't get the sense that these monkeys were trained for that purpose. They're well fed and looked after by very attentive forest staff who patrol the whole area to make sure monkeys (or unruly tourists) don't get out of hand. The sanctuary is very spacious and it's quite an enjoyable stroll through the natural grounds.
4. Bebek Bengil (Dirty Duck Diner)
This place may be expensive but they've been around for a decade and built their restaurant into a lush little enclave with fountains, a tiny rice field, and very comfortable dining areas including huts with long tables for large groups. I was a little disappointed that "dirty duck" was nothing more than in name (based on actual ducks who tracked mud through the diner when it first opened), but the food was wholesome and very good. I'm not a huge fan of duck though I'd say it's worth trying once.
5. Babi Guling Ibu Oka
My food highlight in Ubud has always been Ibu Oka. And I don't just love the babi guling (roast suckling pig) with their secret sauce. I love everything that makes up their spesial (special): rice, vegetable, fried meat, blood sausage, and the pork itself with crispy skin. And then MORE of that saucey goodness please. I could easily eat this more than once! They're so popular now and have expanded into 3 outlets, but it's very, very delicious and definitely worth having.
What we'll be going back to Ubud for
Rafting, for sure. We didn't get around to doing this on our last trip since we were short on time and our post volcano climb warranted more "float by the pool" scenarios rather than "be thrown off raft" ones. The most famous rafting activity is by the Ayung river, but locals told us that the best is up north where the waters are more pristine.
The Campuhan Ridge Walk was something lovely we didn't want to miss but eventually did in favour of not waking up at 6am. It's about a 2 hour walk so fairly enjoyable before a nice big breakfast.
We'd set aside more time in Seminyak so we had to miss cycling through the bamboo forest which we thought was quite unique.
Speaking of the overexposed, we also love Seniman's Coffee. It's a lovely spot in an alley away from the main road near the Ubud Art Market. We had breakfast here after Mount Batur which was nicely relaxing.
What we'll happily miss
Goa Gajah. This feels more like a tourist trap than all other attractions. The temple has a wonderful history which you should spend time reading up on. And if you must go, find a guide who will be able to properly do justice to this site's history since there is nothing much to actually see.
Food-wise, Naughty Nuri's. This place was the original warung for the best barbecued ribs. As someone who eats ribs only when they're labelled "must try" because it certainly isn't my comfort food of choice, I can definitely say they're very addictive. But while Nuri's is good for ribs they're almost terrible for everything else. We had a huge meal including other grilled items and were so disappointed we had no desire to put it on our return list must eats.
That's our pick! Anything in Ubud you'd definitely recommend as a must do at least once?
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