This week, we're traveling to Bali, inspired by an incredible trip to Ubud we're giving away with Como Shambhala Estate, Cathay Pacific Airways, and L-atitude. We asked Lara Dunston and Terence Carter from Grantourismo, one of Fathom's 24 Best Travel Blogs and Websites, to show us around this gorgeous corner of Bali. They would know: Ubud is one of the places they lived on their ongoing tour around Asia.
UBUD, Bali – Serenely located in lush foothills and surrounded by terraces of emerald-green rice paddies dotted with scarecrows and fluttering with colorful flags, Ubud, on the Indonesian island of Bali, is a breath of fresh air after the bustle of Kuta and Seminyak.
THE NEIGHBORHOOD BUSTLE
The drive to Ubud, through diminutive villages of dilapidated courtyard houses and moss-dappled temples, is a delight. Locals treat the road like a village square, crossing slowly and stopping for a chat with neighbors and friends, disregarding the motorbikes and other vehicles hurtling by.
A SPIRITUAL START
Ubud is Bali's spiritual heart, and everyday life on the island is imbued with ritual, so start your day's exploration with a stroll around the old center, dropping into temples and observing local rites, such as the lighting of incense and placement of offerings at colorful shrines. Don't miss the elaborate Puri Saren Agung, the palace of Ubud's last ruler, Tjokorda Gede Agung Sukawati.
MAKE AN OFFERING
Ubud is also a center of learning so try your hand at making your own offerings, as I did in a cultural workshop at the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA). (It’s not as easy as you think!) Enroll in a class to learn Balinese cooking, batik-making, wood-carving, or basket-weaving – or simply absorb the superb collection of Balinese art, from the Pitamaha school to the naïve style of the Young Artists.
BROWSE THE MARKET
Take in the atmosphere of Ubud's crowded market, where locals shop for flowers and fruit and vegetables. While you'll want to avoid the stalls selling Bintang T-shirts and beer coolers, look for colorful cotton dresses and printed sarongs that are lovely for the pool and beach.
SOUVENIRS WITH HEART
Save your souvenir shopping for the fair trade Threads of Life boutique, where you'll find vibrant textiles and handmade crafts such as bamboo baskets and fishermen hats. The best bit is that you can buy with a clear conscience, knowing your money is going directly to the artisans who crafted your beautiful purchases.
Lunch at a restaurant overlooking the rice paddies is a must. Popular Bebel Bengil (Dirty Duck) specializes in Ubud's famous crispy duck and suckling pig. At The Pond, which is more elegant with a prettier setting overlooking a tranquil lily pond, try fried spring rolls and scrumptious pork ribs and wash it down with Balinese wine.
Stroll down to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary to spend time with the adorable albeit naughty Balinese long-tail macaques. And they are cheeky, so take precautions: Don't take food you don't want to lose and don't even think about hiding it in your handbag — these guys are smart. Buy bananas when you purchase your tickets. The money goes to maintaining the sanctuary.