I’ve heart so much before arriving to Ubud that I didn’t know what to expect other than that it was a little jewel of sophistication in the middle of Bali and putting places such as Kuta to shame.
It seemed Ubud had many expectations to live up to so I decided I would wait until I could judge it by myself as often words just don’t make justice for better or for worse to certain destinations and most bloggers we let our personalities and feelings get in the way when writing about the places we’ve been depending on our personal experiences.
I don’t think writing with your feelings in hand is a bad thing as much as the reviews are honest. As I have mentioned many times before through my posts, this is just my trip and yours won’t be obviously the same, therefore this is uniquely the way my eyes see the world based on my experiences. Said that, I hope I bring a new perspective to the way a place can be described/viewed.
Here’s is my tale of how I got to Ubud; the good, the bad and the really bad!
Where to stay:
As a personal routine during my travels, I never tend to pre booked accommodation. Many places (specially popular destinations) tend to have some sort of backpacking area and if they don’t, then chances are that a taxi driver or any other person hanging around the bus or train station will have some suggestions for you on where to stay. Udud is, however, an exception to that.
As per usual, I did my research prior getting there and got feelings that Ubud looked like the sort of place without much budget accommodation options for backpackers. Given my latest experiences with taxi drivers and their inability to help me out, I did not want to spend hours walking around Ubud carrying my increasingly heavy backpack under the sun or the rain (these days here you never know!) I decided it was wise to pre booked and I used Agoda to book a room in a homestay (Tu Eka Homestay for 5 nights for a total cost of $59.00).
With that sorted, it was time to research how to get there. At that point, I knew that I was going to get to Bali by local transportation, not easy private tour packages for me; the adventure had to continue, right? I felt that I could totally do it, at the end of the day, I had crossed the whole Java (and half world almost!) using local transportation. Well… it didn’t quite go the way I thought.
Getting from Java to Ubud (Bali):
mmmmm…only the memory of that day makes me still cringe, worse travel day of my trip so far! Of course I do not want to discourage anyone to do it and as a matter of fact, many before me have done it successfully so my conclusion to this date is that I was simply unlucky.
I woke up very early from my room in Banyuwangi and made my way to the ferry pier, just a few minutes’ walk from the train station. As soon as I approached the building, a friendly local escorted me to the ticket boot where I purchased my ferry ticket to Gilmanuk for 8.000 IDR. After I was done, the same man escorted me once again to the bus that would go inside the ferry and then drove us all to Denpassar. The bus ticket cost 150.000 IDR.
The ferry crossing was pleasant; most of us went to the upper decks and enjoyed the sun for the forty minutes that it took to get to Gilmanuk in Bali.
Once in Gilmanuk, we all had to get off the bus to have our passports checked (they didn’t even look at mine, the attention was on the locals). After that easy step, we all went back to the bus that drove for what it seemed to me about three hours until it stopped at the entrance of Denpassar. It then stopped and a local man came inside and spoke some words to everyone in Bahasa and the next thing I knew is that all the people started leaving the bus.
Luckily for me, I team up with a student who was as shocked as me and he translated in English for me that the man was saying that the government didn’t allow big buses to get inside the city. I thought it was very strange and even the locals were shocked.
After that, as I was the only westerner on the bus, the man tried to sell me a private taxi to Ubud for 200.000 IDR but I was determined to get there locally. He didn’t try to convince me but just said to me that it would be very difficult for me and it would cost me more.
I decided to ignore him….As I found out later, I shouldn’t have! They put a bunch of us in a minivan paying again (20.000IDR) and then dropped me shortly afterwards in the bus station, everyone else stayed in the minivan.
I will just summarized my traumatic experience in that bus station by saying that I was completely ignored by everyone there for almost an hour, no one bothered to talk to me or help me. I was going in circles and getting more anxious by the minute dreading that I would never get to Ubud at that point.
Eventually and I suppose seeing my desperation, a man approached me and pointed out an empty ojek and told me to wait. I waited for almost forty minutes more and eventually this very old man came and took me and two others. Following the man’s instructions, he said that the old man would leave me in another bus station where I could get another minivan to Ubud. I wasn’t very sure it was going to work but he was the only person there in almost two hours that bother to help me. I had no way out but to trust him.
The old man drove on and after a while, he stopped and told me to get off there. I quickly looked around but could not see any bus station. I tried to get more information but with his complete lack of English or any interest to help me, he just drove off and left me behind in the middle of a road.
The road was pretty much isolated and the few people I could find, they told me with gestures to keep walking up to the bus station. I walked and walked under the sun carrying my heavy backpack for almost an hour until I felt I was going to collapse; pure desperation.
When I decided that I would stop and cry my eyes out, I say a young guy working as a security guard in some sort of Art Gallery and asked him to help me. He called a friend who came with the motorbike and I ended up offering him 50.000 IDR to take me to my homestay in Ubud which he did, but unfortunately dropped me in the wrong one and from there, it still took me about forty more minutes to find mine that was hidden in a back street and had no signs whatsoever.
By the time I reached my destination, I could officially declare it as the worse day of my trip. Things could only get better.
Ubud; final destination
The first thing you notice of Ubud is that Bali is a world away from Java and it feels that you have crossed to a different country. Ubud throws you pleasantly in the face beauty, Balinese mysticism and sophistication.
I was shocked to realised that every Guest House, Home Stay or Hotel entrance looked like temples and I actually went inside a few of them thinking that they were until I realised that every single accommodation shared the same spectacular entrances. I was in awe and thought that it was unrealistic that every service building could be so beautiful.
Then I noticed that they were all decorated inside with different relevant sculptures of the Balinese culture; better accommodations, nicer sculptures. It explains why on the roads surrounding Ubud are hundreds of shops selling art or making them.
The centre of Ubud is purely designed and dedicated to the tourism, their number one business as restaurants, shops, coffee shops and everything else you may think of is widely spread through the city. The Ubud that you are likely to notice first is very exclusive and screams shopping. Little shops selling all sorts of clothes and crafts are absolutely everywhere, nothing to envy to Covent Garden!
There are only three things that you will notice first; shops, restaurants and accommodations temple style and I personally felt that Ubud was a little bubble of order and luxury that offered the westerners all the commodities of home away from home
I was hugely concerned that Ubud would break my budget big time based on my first impression. Beautiful restaurants with big menus and big prices were absolutely everywhere like those sort of places where people dress up to go? I knew that the locals had to eat somewhere and obviously would be in those places. With that in mind, I decided that what I had to do was keep walking pass the fancy streets which I did and I eventually reached the “real” Ubud. Then, I started finding warungs and other food stalls in the street. I was ready to enjoy a delicious meal for 20.000IDR…yes! That was more my kind of meal J
In Ubud any fancy street can easily lead you to the real local life if you have the patience to keep walking and look for the real Ubud which is Bali in its pure essence.
Should you rent a bike, bicycle or private tour? It is a very personal choice but you definitely will need one of them. Let’s be clear; you will not reach the beauty of the Ubud surroundings by walking, which leaves you one of these three options.
Since I cycled non-stop for three days, I can positively say that the roads outside Ubud are in not good condition and they can get steep without being too obvious, also it is important to remember that it is very hot and humid or even worse, very hot humid and wet (don’t even get me started with the rain pouring on me face just like if someone were literally throwing buckets of water at me!)
Many and I mean MANY tourist were renting bikes and I can positively say that there is no other better way to get to Ubud and surroundings other than with a motorbike. I tried renting one in a couple of places and they refused as I do not hold a driving license. I tried arguing that it was not possible that every single Westerner I saw with a motorbike hold one but it did not work and still they wouldn’t rent me one.
As a matter of fact, the guy said that some tourists pay more money to get the motorbikes. Whether that is true or not…I can’t comment on it. Maybe I didn’t sound too convincing that I wanted to rent a motorbike..?
In the streets every single shop sells tours and transfers, be concerned not, they are expensive but widely available. For your information, I paid 40.000IDR per day (I bargained a bit) for a bicycle and they were renting motorbikes at 60.000IDR per day.
When the heat of the day starts decreasing slightly and the evening approaches, as you walk around the touristy Ubud you will notice two things; every two steps a sweet lady will offer you a massage and men holding laminated pieces of paper with “Taxi” written on them will be absolutely everywhere offering you to take you somewhere, even though it seemed to me that most of us were staying in accommodations within those streets but man, they were persistent…!
Balinese people from Ubud are soooo friendly. Wow…that was an incredible nice shock when you start walking around the area and absolutely everyone says hello to you. First; it shocks you and makes you shy; then you just start enjoying this friendliness and it gets super nice if you respond back in the same way. There’s something about the Balinese hospitality that makes people want to remain for a long time.
Ubud is green, green and green and has the most spectacular rice fields; I never got tired of seeing them. I found them to provide the eye with a beauty of great intensity and the vivid colours that remain in your memory for a long time.
You should not stopped searching for them while in Ubud, of course you can reach to the most popular ones (Tegallalang) thanks to the popularity of movie of “Eat, Pray, Love” which and I must say that they are quite something to see!
However just wandering without much direction one day, I reached the Campuhan trekking (2 km total) just on the skirts of Ubud pass the market and once I reached the 2km, I kept walking until I reached open fields of extreme beauty, I could not get enough of them and the only reason I had to stopped myself to keep walking and walking it was a storm fast approaching. That was one of my most beautiful days in Ubud,
If my pics don’t make you rush to book you flight ticket, I don’t know what else will!