Ubud was the beginning of our adventure in Bali and after 33+ hours of traveling we finally arrived at 1 pm at night. We had reservations at an AirBnB called Sayan Terrace Resort. (Sayan is a quieter neighborhood west of central Ubud.) The owner of the AirBnB set up a driver to pick us up from the airport. Our driver, Malin, was amazing and we wound up hiring him to drive us for 2 of the 3 days we were there. We arrived to the resort late at night and when we got there Malin showed us to our beautiful room with a large living room, king size bed, and a huge bathroom.
(Pictures of our accommodation provided by our AirBnB)
When we woke up the next day our jaws dropped at the view from our terrace that we missed in the darkness.
Green. Everywhere. Palm Trees. Mountains and Volcanoes. There was a river down in the ridge. HELLO BEAUTIFUL!! Also this is interesting but our resort was right next to the Four Seasons.
Price of Four Season: starts at $497 USD per night
Price of Sayan Terrace Resort: $84 USD per night
You get the same view that the Four Seasons has for a very small fraction of the price. Yes the Four Seasons offers you ridiculous luxuries like your OWN LILY PAD, culinary chefs that come to your villa and cook for you, and complimentary overnight shoe shining but c’mon your mom can do two of those three things for you anyway if you ask nicely.
Okay back on topic.. Ubud was easily my favorite out of the three places we stayed in Bali. It’s the cultural center of the island or the heart of the jungle as I like to say.
We woke up at 7 am, grabbed a box breakfast the resort provided us (hard boiled eggs, banana, and a piece of bread), and met Malin at the front desk. Our first destination was the Tegallang Rice Terraces – about a 40 minute drive from our place. There’s a bunch of small cafes and shops on the side. We got there so early that we were the only ones there so GO early!! There are a few smaller swings and they will probably ask for a small fee to get pictures on them (5,000-10,000 IDR which is less than a dollar in USD). Also if a worker asks for a donation just give them a small amount as well. You can just walk around and along the terrace edges and enjoy the lush green and beautiful few. We only spent 30 minutes there at most but you could easily wander around for an hour or two depending how crowded it gets.
After appreciating the Rice Terraces, we drove two minutes down the road to the Ubud Swing. These swings are a lot different than the smaller swings at the Rice Terraces because… well… they’re three times the size. There are two different companies that run these more extreme swings. The more popular and slightly more expensive one is ran by an English company and the not as popular but just as cool and slightly cheaper swing is run by the Balinese so we went with supporting the local people and I don’t regret it at all.
You know you’re at the Balinese run swing if there is a big Luwak Coffee sign outside. When you arrive, someone will take you through and show you how they make their signature Luwak Coffee. Pretty much they feed the coffee beans to the Luwak’s who eat it and poop them out, then they take the coffee beans, clean them a lot and then they roast them. That probably grosses some people out but apparently its the best coffee in Bali. Malin liked to call it cat-poo-ccino. They show you all of the spices, how they crush the beans, and then they even give you a free sampling of tea and coffee. After this you can make your way down to the swings. There are three different swing options: couple swing, extreme swing, super extreme swing. Of course we decided to do the super extreme because go hard or go home. It was about $15 which is over priced in my opinion but SO worth it and its also a few bucks cheaper than the English run swing apparently. Overall: 9/10
Next stop was the Campuhan Ridge Walk. Now by this point it was about 10 am and it was hot and humid. Meg and I walked the ridge for about 20 minutes before dying of heat exhaustion and heading back to the car. If it happens to be somewhat cooler weather, it’s a nice relaxing place to head for a stroll but there’s nothing to exciting to see besides a few chances for some ~artsy~ pics for the gram.
(Campuhan Ridge Walk)
Next stop was Tegenungan Waterfall. You have to pay 10,000 IDR to enter which is about a dollar. There were a handful of stores on your way down to the waterfall. Be warned: there are steps.. lots of steps.. I think 160 steps to be exact. Bring plenty of water and make sure your glutes are prepared to put in some serious work when you’re heading back up from the ‘fall. There is a small waterfall to your left and when you get to the very bottom, there is also a temple you can stop at. At Tegenugan, you can usually swim in the water (so bring a bathing suit) but when we went the water was very rough and no swimming was allowed.
You can also get pretty close to the waterfall but you have to cross to the other side which of course means you have to cross the rough water I just told you about. And guess how you cross rough water like that in underdeveloped countries? Bridges. Bridges made out of sketchy wood. Bridges made out of bamboo limb tied together. Really really sketchy bridges that are guaranteed to get your heart racing while rough water is rushing through underneath you. BUUTTT its worth it. You also have to pay a small extra fee to climb more stairs to the top but hey your bum is going to look glorious.
Next, we headed to Batuan Temple. There is a small donation and they will lend you a free sarong if you don’t have one (Malin brought two for us cause hes the best). It’s a quiet and well kept temple that you’re free to roam around to take pictures of. It could be considered small compared to other temples in Bali and there are no tour guides. I enjoyed the architecture of the temple but if you don’t appreciate art or you’re not appreciative of Hindu culture, this might be slightly boring for you.
After Batuan, we were exhausted so we headed home, cleaned up, ate at our resort and spent the rest of our day enjoying our super relaxing infinity pool and pretended that we were models. Don’t judge us.
We got to start off our day by waking up at 1!!! AM!!!! ok I’m being overdramatic because our jet lag was so bad we fell asleep at like 6 pm and waking up at 1 am would be noon in Eastern Standard Time. Why would we wake up this early you ask? To hike a volcano in the dark to see the sunrise over another volcano.
(Sunrise over Mt Agung from Mt Batur)
We booked our Mt Batur hike through Bali Trekking and we were super happy with them! Our driver picked us up on time and we arrive to the base of the Volcano around 3:30 am. We met up with our tour guide who was AWESOME. This hike is no joke and he made sure we had water and hiking sticks – you need them. The climb is more than 5,000 ft and there are breakpoints along the hike every about every 20 minutes. When we got to the top is was so worth it. Our tour guide made breakfast for us (egg sandwich, banana sandwich, snake fruit, and a candy bar) over the volcanic steam rising from Mt Batur. We got there just in time as we watched the sunrise slowly rise over Mt Agung which is the largest volcano in Bali and also very active.
We relaxed and ate our breakfast before our descent back down the volcano only to be surprised by monkeys. It was a hilarious first interaction with the wild animals as they bothered countless people looking for food, especially bananas.
After getting a few laughs in at the ridiculousness of the situation – we just climbed a 5,633 ft volcano on the other side of the world at 3 am to watch the sunrise over another ACTIVE volcano that was only a mere 11 miles away and now we had to fight a band of monkeys trying to steal our beloved breakfast – we started out trek back down to our driver. Solid.
You would think after dealing with the monkeys we’d try to stay away from them, right? NOPE. We went to the Sacred Monkey Forrest Sanctuary back in Ubud. This was simultaneously one of the coolest and scariest experiences of our life. There’s multiple entrances and exits but you pay a small fee to get in and then you can stay in the sanctuary for as long as you want – its a lot bigger than it looks so make sure you explore it all. You should beware though that some of the monkeys can be very very aggressive and will attack if you have food or something it wants. A monkey almost stole Megan’s camera and while it was a terrifying experience for her, I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. Just be very weary and follow the two main rules: Don’t look the monkeys in the eye and don’t run.
At the Forrest there are ladies selling over priced bananas but buying the bananas are the best and pretty much only way to get a picture with a monkey without them biting you or stealing your belongings (at least they didn’t do those things to us PRAISE THE LAWD). We didn’t buy the bananas at first but we did before we left because we adopted the “oh well f**k it, we might get rabies but hey at least we’ll have a cool pic” mindset. And here’s how that turned out:
The monkey on my head liked me so much it literally wouldn’t get off AND it got banana stuck in my hair. Very nice monkey. Would highly recommend. 10/10.
The Sanctuary is right near the village so we walked around until we were exhausted and hiked a taxi back to our resort to end another great day in Ubud by our pool.
This was our last day in our beloved Ubud so we had to get done whatever we could in the small amount of time we had left. Our first stop was the Ubud market to get souvenirs. I didn’t take pictures of the market but it is very large and there are hundreds of vendors. If you want to get a good deal, you need to be able to barter prices. They will notice you are foreign and will try to rip you off with right away. Whatever their first price is, divide it by two and start from there. They want 250,000 IDR? Start at 125,000. If they don’t give you the price you are looking for, don’t be afraid to walk away. There is bound to be someone else who will give you the price you want and possibly even cheaper.
Master hack: download a currency converter app before you go so you can quickly see how much you’re paying in USD. You will also need cash for the market.
After the market, we were a short drive away from Saraswati Temple. Now you probably wouldn’t even notice this temple if you were just walking down the street but it honestly was my favorite looking back at it. Its small and quiet compared to the noise and hustle of Ubud outside its walls. The walkway to the temple is lined with lotus flowers and lily pads which make the whole landscape look peaceful. I’ve never seen a lotus flower in real life so to see a flower that has been sacred to so many cultures and religions for thousands of years was moving.
Our last and final stop in Ubud was Tirta Empul or better known to westerners as the Water Temple. This temple is famous for its holy spring water where Hindus go to bathe for ritual purification. It was constructed in 942 A.D. and is dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu, God of Water. It is 15,000 IDR to enter (~$1 USD). Its a very large temple and it could take you anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to embrace it all.
In the main section of the Temple there are two large purification pools with sprouts flowing with the holy water. You’ll notice them do a ritual under a spring and when they’re done they will move to the next sprout to their right. Malin told us that each spring has a different meaning so they might not wash under each one. For example, if you bought a new home, or you’re expecting a child, or you’re starting a new job there are different sprouts for that.
In the back of the Temple, you can see the Hindus pray and where the natural spring is. I thought it was fascinating and the red and orange colors of the temple are spectacular. If you enter the back part of the temple and you have long hair, it has to be pulled up in a ponytail or bun. You can also acknowledge the Presidential estate that is built on the hill next to the temple – reserved only for when the President is in town or prestigious guest. Before you leave, make sure you check out the Koi Pond and buy the food to feed them! They are colossal fish but super friendly and it was a totally unique experience.
We could have honestly stayed five days to a whole week in Ubud because the central to northern part of the island is bustling with places to go and things to do. So I made a small list of things I wish we could have done that we missed out on because of either time or money:
- Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave)
- Gitgit Waterfall
- White Water Rafting ($$$)
- Sekumpul Waterfall
- Nungnung Waterfall
There is also an Elephant Park near Ubud that Megan and I chose not to go to for our own reasons. First, it was very expensive. Two, it is not a sanctuary. Three, they allow elephant rides there which is torture for the animals and isn’t what either of us believe in so we chose against it. If its something you’re interested in, it might be a cool experience but you should do some research before you go on how it effects the animals!
Ubud will always have a place in my heart. The landscape, culture, and people were beautiful beyond words and I would try to convince anyone interested to go there and experience it all first hand. You can thank me when you return.