You’ve seen the travel magazines right? The ones that feature tropical rainforests, gently rolling rice paddies and sacred mountaintops dotted with Hindu temples. These panoramas (along with the help of Elizabeth Gilbert and her famous novel Eat, Pray, Love) have made Ubud one of Bali’s most famous cities – and for a good reason. Aimee Ingram explores the quiet spaces and hidden gems that Ubud, Bali’s mountain village, have to offer.
Ubud, the heart and soul of Bali, is located around 35 km northeast of Bali’s International Airport and has an elevation of around 300 metres above sea level. This district is tucked away in the mountains, so you won’t find any beaches here. You will, however, discover an unrivalled, plethora of culture, arts, dance and spirituality. The surrounding local villages are renowned in Indonesia for their unique stone carvings, bamboo furniture and crafts.
Each year, people from all over the world flock to Ubud to escape the fast pace of western life. It is well known as the meditation capital of Bali offering a tranquil sanctuary, perfect for inspiration and rejuvenation. My adventure started early in the morning, I was a guest at a Balinese family’s house in Padangbai. As we ate our breakfast Putu asked me what I had planned to do that day? I hadn’t decided and so, he recommended we take a trip to Ubud. Up until this point I hadn’t even considered visiting Ubud, but Putu twisted my arm and insisted that it would not disappoint.
Nothing could have prepared me for the beauty I found in this city. Every corner of Ubud is laced with rich cultural history. The first stop was The Sacred Monkey Forest. As you walk through the forest your senses are ignited, it is peaceful, dark and deep. The soaring trees and thick canopy gently embrace the forest space and create a temple like aura. It’s not hard to imagine why Hindu temples draw their architectural inspiration from the sacred forests themselves. The climate is humid but the slight breeze released from the trees provides relief as you journey through the winding paths. It’s not long before you meet the monkeys. These guys are just the right amount of naughty and nice; however, if you linger for too long they become quite mischievous – so keep moving!
As you continue through the forest you discover a series of walking tracks. Some lead you to the ancient shrines and others guide you to the waterfalls. I spent my day getting absolutely lost in the best possible way. In doing so, I found the indescribable beauty of a sanctified forest. For hundreds of years this exact place has been a pillar holding up the spiritual principles of Hinduism within the surrounding community. This isn’t just obvious within the sacred forests; Hindu ceremonies, rituals and shrines are interwoven throughout the city. The spiritual energy from the locals is contagious, before long you find yourself waking up in the morning giving thanks for the beautiful day ahead.
I realised that Ubud had a hypnotic power that turned visitors into inhabitants. Many people I met explained how they had planned to stay for three days and were now going on three months. The growing numbers of the expat community is a testament to the charm and character of this unique pocket in Indonesia.
Beware, regardless of your reasons for visiting Ubud, you will fall in love with it, and when you leave you will take tiny pieces with you that will reappear the next time you’re feeling uninspired or disconnected. If you do get the opportunity to travel here do not pass it up!