With only 5 days in Bali and half of which would be spent in Uluwatu.. time was not on our side. Not to mention the fact that it rained and rained every evening. Still there were some great afternoons of sunshine. Upon arrival at Ngurah Rai International Airport, we immediately headed out by car to our first destination, Ubud.
Ubud is situated right in the middle of the island of Bali. For more than a century now, it has been the island’s centre for fine arts, dance and music. While it once was a haven for wandering backpackers, artists and bohemians, Ubud is now a hot spot for literati, glitterati and art connoisseurs but of course also for regular holiday goers like us. The town was originally important as a source of medicinal herbs and plants. Ubud gets its name from the Balinese word ubad (or ubat, meaning medicine).
Here are our 8 things to do in Ubud, which are by no means exhaustive but if you are pressed for time, great things to look out for.
1. Walk Along Hanoman Street
Starting in front of the Ubud Royal Family Palace, start walking and checking out the gorgeous boutiques that pepper the area. This was perfect for the shopaholic in me. Everything from contemporary, stylish goods to typical Indonesian clothing and handicrafts, with prices which can sometimes be negotiated in a less frenzied atmosphere than the central market, you name it, they had it. A lot of variety is packed into each single, artfully designed shop and things can seemed a little too commercial sometimes but hey, times, they are a changing and Ubud looks so much more trendy these days than say 5 years ago. Enjoy bargaining for your loot.. it’s part of the process.
2. Eat Babi Guling at Ibu Oka
Sandwiched in between Ubud’s central banjar and Jl. Suweta’s upmarket shops and restaurants stands the legendary Ibu Oka’s Warung Babi Guling. The food stall has stood here for the past 20 years, serving up what many say is some of the best roast suckling pig on Bali. How did Cumi and Ciki like it? Well, Ciki found it delicious and Cumi said it was pretty OK, but slightly overpriced. We don’t know if we arrived late, but for a rather small portion of the world renown pig , some vegetables, two small sausage cubes and just ONE serving of skin/pork crackling, the set meal set us back by more than RM20 bucks per head.
Back in 2006, when Cumi & Ciki were here last, we had babi guling in the Kintamani region and that only set us back by Rp12,000 (RM4) The Babi Guling at Ibu Oka is undoubtedly soft, supple and delicious.. but overpriced. That’s what you get for eating at the legendary as opposed to the undiscovered.Add: Ibu Oka
Jalan Tegal Sari No 2 Ubud Tel: (62-361) 976 345
3. Lose yourself in culture
The ARMA Museum, the Neka Art Museum and the wacky Atonio Blanco Museum are sights one must check out in Ubud. In the south of Ubud you can find the ARMA museum, which stands for Agung Rai Museum of Art. This is the place to go to learn about the history and styles of Balinese paintings. Besides a museum, ARMA is also a cultural center where theater performances and cultural workshops are held together with painting, dance and music classes.
Ubud has over the years acquired a reputation as an art mecca. It is easy to see why this quaint and quiet town is thought of as an “artists’ village” but today it is more of a township as people have increasingly seen Ubud as a place to live. Some believe the extent of this influx is actually jeopardizing Ubud.
Another gem to be found within Ubud, is undoubtedly the Neka Art Museum. The Neka Art Museum was established by Suteja Neka, a former schoolteacher, in the mid-1970s. Today it is an established and respected center for Balinese art. It is often referred to as “the heart of art in Bali”. Some of the highlights within the Neka Art Museum include a pavilion within a courtyard in the museum grounds. This pavilion also houses works of art including a large statue of Ganesha. Within the pavilion are a number of traditional instruments and from time to time you might here the chime of gongs and gamelans as soft Balinese sounds waft on a breeze through the galleries. Gorgeous!
The Antonio Blanco Museum is a homage to Bali’s famous Catalan expat. Born in the Philippines, Blanco arrived in Bali penniless, but eventually befriended the king, married and had children. He was the confidant of many powerful people on Bali and in Indonesia. This grand gallery houses a collection of his baroque pornography that depicts Blanco’s own sexual romps! Some paintings feature Blanco’s raunchy prose poetry. The museum grounds are a bit wacky, with Blanco’s dachshunds, monkeys, and exotic birds seen all over the place.
4. Eat a “dirty, dirty duck” at Bebek Bengil
Dirty duck, dirty duck.. what’s in the dirty duck? Bebek Bengil a.k.a. Dirty Duck Diner, is the best place to try Ubud’s famous dish.. a simple deep fried duck dish that is so tasty and crispy it will have you begging for more. First stewed in local spices, then deep-fried, the duck here is pretty delicious and not quite as oily as some places but again, our main complaint was the size and portion of the meal. When the waiter said HALF a duck for you is fine, I nearly passed out. How on earth can Ciki eat an entire half duck all on her own. When it was served, the portion was so small I could have eaten two half’s. As in a whole duck, all on my own. Hmmm, Bali fowl are really puny.
Top L – R: Nasi Campur a.k.a. mixed rice, Bebek with Chili, Peanut Chili sauce, Shallot and Chives sauce, Bebek Bengil
In Kuala Lumpur, the duck could be 3 times the size! Another way to go is the stuffed chicken with shiitake, sprouts, and spinach. The menu also features salads, sandwiches, and veggie options. The peanut Chili sauce was a big hit. Not too spicy, it had a rich flavour and aroma. We have not had anything like this in Kuala Lumpur. We managed to get a gorgeous table located deeper in the back of the restaurant which looked out onto the paddy fields. Very nice ambiance. We heard many a cry of the gecko and our friend from Bali told us that if the gecko cries and you listen closely enough, you can actually make out a 4D number in the cry of that lizard. Also, children are superstitiously afraid of the cry of the gecko.. yes, no, yes, no, YES! You will pass our exams! Even cries for bad news, and Odd cries for good!Add: Bebek Bengil Restaurant (Dirty Duck Diner) Address: Padang Tegal, Ubud. Phone: (62-361) 975 489 Fax: (62-361) 975 546
5. Visit the Monkey Sanctuary
The Ubud Monkey Forest is a nature reserve and temple complex in Ubud, Bali. It houses Crab-eating Macaque monkeys, of the Macaca fascicularis genus species. There are four groups of monkeys each occupying different territories in the park. The Sacred Monkey Forest is a popular tourist attraction in Ubud and also contains at least 115 different species of trees. The Monkey Forest contains the Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal temple as well as a “Holy Spring” bathing temple. Within Balinese Hinduism, monkeys play a pivotal, almost sacred roll. The dual nature of monkeys is especially reflected in the Ramayana (a very popular Indian epic poem) – isn’t the fight between good and evil an ongoing theme for so many things in life? For Malaysian who are used to seeing these friendly creatures, it really reminds us of home. Some may find these monkeys vicious, but we are totally at ease with these cute creatures.
6. Stay at Payangan Hideaway
For those of you who left Kuala Lumpur or your part of the cosmopolitan looking for some peace and quiet from the screaming traffic and pollution, this has got to be the place for you. The Payangan Hideaway that is only a year old, is about 30 minutes outside of the town of Ubud. Located in Ubud district, Payangan is a sub district in Gianyar Regency. If you are a nature worshiper, the seclusion of Payangan area is the closest one will get to a “silent green retreat” or perfect for getting away to do some inspirational writing/blogging. The story surrounding this place was that once upon a time, a royal Chinese family brought lychee and bananas to this community and you can spot a lot if these trees in its surrounding area . Plush villas overlook the relaxing lush green padi fields and make a good place to relax at, after a tiring day of shopping and sightseeing in Ubud.
The amenities include a restaurant that serves up superb local and western cuisine (Cumi loved the pasta and I loved the breakfasts and the nasi ayam bali!), a common swimming pool, or the option of your own private bungalow pool (high end on the price range) plus luxury massage services too. The staggered terrace lay out of the Villas also allows for a short hike down to a lovely river at the bottom of the valley. Totally gorgeous and serene surroundings that will make you forget the city life. One word of caution, if it rains and rains in the evenings (like it did for us), it is advisable to rent a car so that you can move around, as the Villas are located in the nethermost regions of the paddy-fields and getting out to Ubud town can be a bit of a performance. However, a supir (driver) and car are most easily arranged for you by the staff who are friendly and really helpful. It can get a little musty in the Villa if the weather is wet, as the Villas are located out in the padi terraces, so we recommend you go during the hot/dry season (middle of the year). All Villas come with it’s own kitchen so you may choose to cook your own dinners if you like.THE PAYANGAN HIDEAWAY, UBUD VILLA, BALI
E-mail : [email protected]
Phone : +62 (361) – 746 2268
Address : Dusun Selasih, Desa Puhu, Kecamatan Payangan, Ubud 80572
Contact Person : Jelyn
7. Massage that fatigue away
When all had been seen and done, and every last muscle screamed for rest, massage is the one thing on our list! For just Rp 50,000 you can get a 1 hour body massage in Ubud at any one of the shops along the main-street, Hanoman. It is inexpensive and clean enough. The skill of the masseuse might not be 5 star but it gets the job done. Opt for a foot massage if a full body massage is not your thing.
8. Mingle with the village folk
Mingle with the village folk and see how they really prepare babi guling, kampung style. Play with the kids and catch them in action whilst your at it, afterall, isn’t that were the true spirit of Bali resides?
Next stop.. Uluwatu and the beach!
Fantastic to see the two of you outside of Malaysia. Looks like you found a really great place to stay for your time in Bali.
Enjoyed seeing Bali food vs Malay food. That duck seems a little … well … your words 🙂
Looking forward to you guys on the beach in Bali!
OOh, love that shot of Ciki on the bed… looks comfy, can I hop in with ya? 😉
It was raining when I went there as well, just there. Loved the bebek there. Awesome list u got there!
Hi Wilson! Yeah, well, we were lucky. Sunny most mornings and afternoons:) Enough time to explore and get a tan! LOL
I loved my time in Ubud last year. Thanks for bringing me back!
You are welcome Terri!
We enjoyed our time in Ubud so much! We rented a motorbike and just rode around and get ourselves lost among rice paddies and small villages. It was amazing!
Did you take a photo of you & Antonio Blanco parrots? And wow..I didn’t notice lychee trees surrounding The Payangan Hideaway area! Any photo of it? Glad you loved your short Bali Trip, Ciki!!
Yes Gaby, Jelyn the owner is great! The perfect hostess and she helped us arrange so many things. Pros to her:) Missed you tho, but will definitely see you in KL in a couple of months. Time to extend Malaysian hospitality to you, Benny and family:)
i wanna come here!!!
to experience their culture!
Do go, the trip will be worth it and it doesn’t make a hole in your pocket either!
Wow. That Payangan Hideaway place looks awesome!
(And *wolf whistles* Wah. Got sexy shot of you hidden in the collage wan….)
Hi J! both you and Min should consider Payangan! Totally worth the money and a real chance to get away for it all! 🙂 Food’s great!
I visited Bali once about 2 years ago but I missed out on the Ibu Oka babi guling and Dirty Duck’s Diner! Can you believe it? I guess that means I should plan for a revisit!! And the Payangan place is as close to paradise as it can be! 🙂 Lovely post!
For a foodie, those two are a must:) I found the food really good, but Cumi has more western taste buds. he liked the western food in Ubud. Go figure!
Thanks for the insight. Shall keep those in mind if I’m going there!
oooh baby do you know what that’s worth? oooh heaven is a place on earth! 😀
btw, your bed at payangan looks super-comfortable!!!
oh how i miss Bali. The last time we went, we ordered a feast at Dirty Duck because they forgot to let us know that each portion of duck came with a host of side dishes. So we had side dishes on top of side dishes. Food was excellent, though! You’re right, the ducks are skinny, but sooooo tasty!
Oh you made me miss Ubud so much. And not to mention Bebek Bengil. Yeah I could finish two halves and lick every bone til they’re dry. Yummy.
Btw, are u sure it was raining at all? None of the pics suggest that at all.
Love Ubud! 🙂 Btw,when did you go to Ubud?
That bungalow looks gorgeous, and I want to visit the monkey sanctuary! Not sure about the “dirty duck” though 😉 Looks like a beautiful, exciting destination
Wah…so mahal already the babi guling?!! Overpriced indeed. Somehow, aside from myself, the other friends were not liking that. Comparing the pig to Chinese version of suckling pig. But so different, since this one prides on the spices and thicker skin generally; with robust meat.
Some great recommendations which come in very timely as I am planning a trip to Bali.
Girl, I’m so envy you right now because it’s freezing in NYC now. lol I love these amazing photos from Bali, seems like you had a terffic time there. Great pictures from outside, I always love to walk around outside the beautiful resort my fiance like to stay by the pool. lol
Resort looks really cool girl! 🙂 One of my pick is.. Walk Along Hanoman Street. I love walk streets and look at things. But the resort…. mmm! 🙂
Soooo cantik! Sexy pose by the way. LOL!
Love Ubud. I remember Allan and me having an argument whether it was Bu Oka or Ibu Oka. Hahaha! That suckling pig was super yum! 🙂
That Hideaway resort looks awesome. Have to make it there one day.
Velvet Escape linked to this and I had to have another look! That fried chicken dish is really scary– it looks like an alien fetus or something. Yikes!
Stopped by Bali on our way back from Shanghai. Loved Bali, especially Ubud which is a place we would come back to again and again.
This is our third visit to Bali so we decided to give Ibu Oka one last chance, in view of the many superlative reviews in guide books, travel channels and magazines. Reasoning: So many cannot be wrong.
But it looks like they can be. Although the meat itself which was served piping hot, was generally underwhelming, gamy but flavorful enough, the crackling was still as tough as old leather shoes! It really made my DW and me wonder whether those folks who write glowing reviews of Ibu Oka and their babi guling, including Anthony Bourdain and the food critic from The Guardian have ever tasted suckling pig in a Chinese restaurant? If they have, they would have tasted exactly how good suckling pig should taste like with crackling so crispy thin that every bite is to be savored! It is highly unlikely that after that, they would ever venture to describe babi guling as amazing”, “fantastic”, “best ever” and all the silly hyperbole that have come to dominate this debate and given Ibu Oka an undeserved reputation. I have nothing against Ibu Oka per se. It is the integrity of reviews that I’m concerned about!
To draw an analogy, if you live in a small outpost, say in the far reaches of Siberia, you may describe your local football outfit as “amazing”, “best in the world” or whatever superlative terms you may wish to employ, not out of intellectual dishonesty, but only because you have never been exposed to the silky skills of the likes of Barcelona or Manchester United.
That is probably how it is with this “amazing babi guling” nonsense! We were in Shanghai for 9 days and tried Peking Duck and suckling pig IN SEVERAL RESTAURANTS and the stuff that they served up were slices of culinary heaven!
As we live in San Francisco, we have developed an affinity for the dish. We know that everyone is entitled to their opinion. But how do you judge a dish when you haven’t tasted even remotely the best? It is really like the uncultured and the philistine trying to pontificate on high-brow literature and classical music!
I’m a fan of Anthony Bourdain and look forward to his witty presentations but on this occasion he has dropped the baton big time! I certainly hope that Bourdain will wise up and realize that he has to remain totally objective. At the rate that he’s going, I fear that his credibility will soon be shot!
Finally, we remain baffled over these superlative reviews, because when we compare Ibu Oka’s babi guling to the suckling pig we have tasted in Chinese Restaurants from this side of San Francisco to Melbourne to Hong Kong to Singapore and Bayswater in London, we have to say that if the Chinese version and Ibu Oka’s babi guling are compared and placed on a scale of 1-100, the Chinese version would easily place near a hundred and Ibu Oka’s would limp in below minus 10. That is the difference between a culture with 2,000 plus years of culinary development and a rank amateur!
My husband and I made an amazing discovery in Ubud=> a young Balinese biologist, who is actually a daughter of a rice-field farmer has started its own project in Ubud offering very informative rice-field walks and some natural classes for herbs and plant balms. Very authentic and not a tourist trap. Loved her philosophy about preserving the Balinese nature. Can only recommend her further.
Her name is Dewi: http://www.ubudbotany.com/
nice trips. good article. I love it. You are a true turist who likes walks and culinary connoisseurs. Very pleasant had been reading your articles. And a very interesting visit, I was very interested in the “Bebek Bengil”. Is it a resort or a restaurant with a view on the rice fields? thats a nice culinery. Very pleasant to enjoy a meal with a cool feel such a natural environment. Nice refference. thanks.
It is a restaurant:)