Ubud, Indonesia: Capital of Balinese Culture
Balinese Cultural amid Indonesia's Tropical Forest
Ubud is considered the artistic and cultural capital of Bali, one of the seventeen thousand islands of Indonesia. In spite of being in the small group of islands of the Indonesian archipelago (you can drive its entire coast line in one day), Bali is one of the most famous islands because it puts forward a good balance between its incredible natural and environmental beauty and its interesting and exuberant culture.
Being the artistic capital of Bali, Ubud focuses on the remarkable Balinese culture, expressed in myriad forms of art and traditions. From architecture and landscape design, to the most exquisite and delicate art of Balinese dance and music; from its flavorful gastronomy to the religious rituals devoted to their Gods, Ubud has the rich cultural baggage that showcases the artistic creativity in all aspects of life and allures every traveler.
Ubud is also where the modern Balinese art movement started; where local artists first used modern materials, were influenced by foreign styles, and began to depict scenes of everyday life. This explains why, in Ubud, there are multiple art galleries and private collectors, as well as Museums.
Balinese Culture: Ancient ArchitectureClick thumbnail to view full-size
Ubud, Balinese Architecture
Contemporary architecture, ancient sites and Hindu temples offer a rich visual interest to the town, for those who like modern design with a twist and warm touch, as well as historic and religious architecture.
Ubud has many artful, serene restaurants and places to stay in, all creatively designed with an ingenious blend of modern and Balinese architectural styles with open spaces, which encompass the tropical flora and pleasant environmental conditions it has been blessed with, always including a charming, evergreen garden.
Alternatively, Ubud has multiple ancient architectural sites and Hindu temples within and around town, which make interesting targets for the visitor who likes to indulge in Balinese history and native traditions. These temples also offer the opportunity to witness some of the current religious rituals and beliefs that are part of Balinese religious practices.
Temples in and around Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
- Ancient site of Gunung Kawi (carved temples) in Tampaksiring, 18km northeast of Ubud.
- The Monkey Forrest Sanctuary officially called "Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana", has various temples within its premises, where a band of grey-haired, long-tail macaques live and sometimes terrorize the area (one of them snatched the water bottle from the side pocket of my backpack).
- Ancient site of Goa Gajan or elephant cave (Buddhist hermitage).
- Ancient site of Pura Penataran Sasih, State Temple of the Pejeng Kingdom.
- Sacred spring and temple of Tirta Empul, a few kilometers north of Tampaksiring.
- Hindu Temple of Pura Ulundanubatur.
Balinese Culture: Gamelan Music
Ubud, Balinese Dance Mecca
Ubud is also the Balinese Dance Mecca of Bali. It has many dance performances and music shows all throughout the weak, presenting multiple traditional dance styles developed in Bali throughout the history, which include Kecak, Legong and Barong dances.
Few travel experiences can be as fantastically magical as a Balinese Dance performances, especially in Ubud (which translates: If you are visiting Bali and are interested in experiencing Balinese Dance, you should experience it in Ubud). Theaters also present gamelan orchestras (Balinese percussion instruments) and wayang kulit puppets.
Balinese Culture: Wayang Puppet Theatre
Balinese Culture in Ubud, Art in its Myriad FormsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Where to go in Ubud, Bali Checklist
- Visit the ancient sites and Hindu temples in and around Ubud.
- Visit the Monkey Forrest Sanctuary.
- Visit Tirta Empul sacred spring.
- Drive around Ubud and take in the awe striking natural exuberance of its vegetation, including its beautifully green rice paddies.
- Assist to one or two Balinese Dance Performances.
- Enjoy the romantic and serene Indonesian dining offer.
- Go window shopping for charming and delicate art and handicrafts.
- Visit the multiple Art Galleries.
- Visit the Arts Market "Pasar Seni" and the "Bali Cares" Art store, which sells handicrafts and paintings produced by local people to benefit several local charities.
- Visit the Puri Lukisan Museum, which displays items of all schools of Balinese art in a lovely garden setting; the Neka Art Museum; the Agung Rai Museum of Art; and/or the Seniwati Gallery of Art by Women.
- Visit the Gunung Batur & Danau Batur viewer and take in the landscape and natural scenery of Mount &Lake Batur.
- Treat yourself at a Balinese spa.
Ubud, Bali Exuberant CountrysideClick thumbnail to view full-size
Ubud, Lush Rice Paddies amid Tropical Paradise
One of the strongest attractions of Ubud, besides its art and cultural richness, is its beautiful beyond words countryside, composed of impossible green rice terraces, banana and coconut trees, a great variety of different palms, ferns, and just lush vegetation thriving with life.
When visiting the different ancient sites and Hindu temples around Ubud, one travels through this tropical paradise and feels the luxurious abundance of fertility, and awe-inspiring diversity of nature. This experience in itself is one of the highlights of Ubud and its surrounding area.
Gunung Agung is Bali’s highest and most revered mountain. Usually hidden under a thick layer of fog, it is a rare feature of Bali’s skyline, but when uncovered, it is quite an impressive view. Gunung Agung shrank by 126 meters after a powerful eruption in 1963; even so, it now stands at 3,142 meters above sea level. At the mountains summit, there is a 700 meter wide crater.
There are several possible approaches for hiking up to the summit, the most usual being a hike from the village of Besakih. It is a challenging hike that takes approximately 6 hour going up and 4 hours coming down (best endeavored during the dry season, which goes from April to September, to avoid slippery routes).
Places to Stay with Websites
Ubud, Accommodation and Food
Bali in general is a very visitor friendly place that offers a vast array of accommodation range, which goes from surfers hostels where the fun never stops, to hidden retreats in the lush mountains. Ubud is no exception and has nice boutique hotels as well as more private and traditional bungalow style rooms, with threaded bamboo tapestry and terraces (family lodges).
If you arrive without accommodation settled, you won’t have trouble finding one that suits you.
Ubud is also home to a surprising number of chilled-out restaurants with delicious, high quality food, including traditional Indonesian dishes and Indonesian fusion cuisine.
Classic Indonesian Food
- Great Satay Recipes for Grilling
Chicken and Shrimp Satay recipes for the grill, with their corresponding peanut spice sauce.
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