A day in Ubud can work. I did it 15 years ago on my first trip to one of Bali’s major arts and culture centers in the Gianyar regency. Back then it was quieter and the trip around the attractions quicker, with an objective to take home art pieces by a local artists. The big canvas and the sculptures are have since then been on display in my home.
Hiring your own ride to and around Ubud is wise as it can give you the extra time to spend in each stop. But if you’re up for a long day’s walk, which I did, then Ubud can open up surprises for you—quaint shops, art-filled alleys, charming coffee shops, spots that can be easily missed on board a car.
The town center is basically small with all its attractions situated along the three streets—the main road, Jalan Raya Ubud, the Jalan Monkey Forest and the Jalan Hanoman— linked to form into a triangle.
But before you make your rounds, did you know that the town was originally an important source of medicinal herbs and plants? Ubud gets its name from “ubad,” the Balinese word for medicine.
Why the town became the cultural and art center was because of these points in history: Ubud in the late 19th century was the seat of feudal lords loyal to the king of Gianyar, the most powerful of Bali’s southern states then. These lords, members of the Balinese Kshatriya caste of Sukawati, were significant supporters of the village’s increasingly renowned arts scene; Art teacher Walter Spies not only taught but also brought other artists from all over to teach and train the Balinese in arts; the 1960s got a burst of creative energy after the arrival of Dutch painter Arie Smit and Young Artists Movement was developed.
Time to go around Ubud. This was the route of my (long) walking tour that took me to these attractions:
1. Blanco Museum (Campuan ridge. Entrance fee applies).
Pinoy connection: The artist Antonio Blanco is Spanish by blood and born in the Manila. Move to New York after high school to study at the National Academy of Art. An extensive traveler, he finally settled in Bali in 1952, where he was given a hilltop property overlooking the lush valley of Campuan by the King to set up his home and studio.
The mansion turned museum houses paintings, collages and illustrated poetry and lithographic artworks of nude Balinese women, the artist’s his favorite subject. Offerings: guided tours are, a pleasant garden to walk around and a panoramic view of the ridge from the restaurant.
2. The Puri Saren Agung (corner of Monkey Forest and Raya Ubud roads. Free entrance).
The large Royal Palace was the residence of the last ruling monarch of Ubud, Tjokorda Gede Agung Sukawati, and it is still owned by the royal family.
In the 1930s, the place was the one of the first hotels in Ubud. Before the Kuta bombing incient, the palace grounds was open to the public. Only the courtyard is open to visitors. The palace was also one of Ubud’s first hotels, opening its doors back in the 1930s.
3. Pura Taman Sraswati (access by Starbucks along Jalan Raya Ubud. Free entrance).
The temple, founded by I Gusti Nyoman Lempad in the 19th century by order of the Prince of Ubud, was built to honor the Hindu Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of learning, literature and art.
To honor the goddess of art means to built a temple filled with artistry. The path between the two big Lotus ponds are lined with sculptures and approaches the main towering temple gate with a face carving of the Jero Gede Mecaling.
Entry requires the guests to be properly attired. Within the temple walls are an impressive number of artwork, including that of the Goddess Saraswati.
The 10-hectare heavily forested park within the village of Pedangtegal is a sacred nature reserve. It is home to a large population of Balinese long-tailed monkeys and a Hindu temple complex that includes the Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal, Pura Beji and the Pura Prajapati.
Beyond the presence of monkeys and temples, the conservation area teaches the principle of Tri Hata Karana or the three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being—harmonious relationships between humans and humans, between humans and the natural environment, and between humans and The Supreme God.
5. The Puri Lukisan Museum (Jalan Raya Ubud. Entrance fee applies).
Puri Lukisan is the oldest art museum in Bali. It exhibits the finest collection of modern traditional Balinese painting and wood carving on the island, covering the eras of the pre-Independence war to the post-Independence war.
The collection includes important examples of all of the artistic styles in Bali including the Sanur, Batuan, Ubud, Young Artist and Keliki schools.
Artworks for sale in the Founders Gallery, South Building.
Locally, it is referred to as ‘Pasar Seni Ubud’ and the best place to shop for Balinese handicrafts and souvenirs. If you love shopping, then you will be spending most of your hours in Ubud in this huge marketplace, bargaining time included.
Most of the items found here, ranging from home decors, hand woven bags, garment and toys are made by artisans of the neighboring of villages of Pengosekan, Tegallalang, Payangan and Peliatan.
If you must know, Julia Roberts strolled through the stalls of this place.
Today, Ubud has developed a large tourism industry. It’s busier with tourist daily arrivals by the buses. But if you ask me, it is wiser to enjoy the town by staying for a couple of nights. This will give you the chance to enjoy Ubud’s two worlds— the busy city center and the serene, verdant scenery off it—at a slower pace. In doing so your view of the sights will be more detailed, your prayer more heartfelt, your food tastier and your love, for yourself or your mate, more intense.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on November 05, 2015.
6. The Ubud Art Market (in front of the Puri Saren Royal Ubud Palace.)