Searching for unspoilt Ubud in Bali
WHEN I first arrived on a hot afternoon in the central streets of Ubud I felt disappointed. My first impression was that 30 years of headlong tourist development have left Bali’s artistic centre a noisy, polluted traffic jam.
Yes it is a fascinating mix of east and west, with all the energy that arises from that fusion. But much of Ubud’s charm and pride of place as Bali’s artistic heart seems overwhelmed by the rows of western-style shops, with expats and tourists jostling for space in cyber cafes.
Thankfully the serene roots of Ubud are still there, you just have to know where to look. Just a few streets away from the myriad of eating, drinking and shopping opportunities, normal Balinese life is going on. Life that is not focused on tourism. Two minutes’ walk from the main streets farmers are going about their work in the rice fields.
I took a wander along Jalan Hanuman first thing in the morning, before the businesses opened and the throngs of shoppers arrived. Amongst the western-style shops are still to be found Ubud’s traditional house compounds, serene behind their elaborate gateways.
At a temple groups of women were busy creating exquisite decorations for ceremonies that are a regular part of Bali’s unique form of Hinduism.
I think one key to experiencing unspoilt Ubud is not to stay in the town itself. In the Petanu River Valley a collection of luxury villas has natural thatched roofs and multiple private spaces for relaxing beside pools and the lush, palm-clothed valley.
Find accommodation in Petanu River Valley to suit your budget at Agoda.com
It also helps that the restaurant at The Viceroy has one of the best wine cellars on the island but it is the setting that makes it feel a world away from the traffic-choked town rather than just a few minutes in the hotel’s private shuttle.
Here it is still possible to enjoy Ubud as it is meant to be enjoyed: romantic, spiritual, sensual. In Ubud you can still enjoy watching the evening light reflected in newly planted rice fields; the graceful wafting of a hand through the incense rising from a puja offering; the distant sound of gamelan music played in a local temple.
Just to prove my point, on my last afternoon in Ubud I walked for 15 minutes up a very pleasant pathway off Jalan Ubud through rice fields to a café where I could lounge on cushions arranged on straw matting and listen only to the gentle sound of scarecrows spinning in the breeze.
Find accommodation in Ubud to suit your budget at Agoda.com