Bali is filled with deeply rooted cultural vibes and tradition. A short vacation can easily turn into a month-long-journey. At that’s exactly what I set out to do when I visited Indonesia in August of 2018 for a yoga retreat with Glow Yoga Retreats. Because I was there for 24-odd days, I didn’t need a visa. It was my first time traveling out of the country, and I brought WAY TOO MUCH STUFF. This travel guide is all about how to keep it simple, what to see in Bali, and how to absorb and connect to this beautiful culture.
First things first, Scooters.
I have never ridden a scooter before.
My kind of style is to get down like the locals, so if you’re like me then I recommend renting a scooter if you feel comfortable driving. I tried riding the scooter. Brutal truth. But then I instantly crashed into a ditch across the road about 10 ft. from where I hit the gas. Thankfully I didn’t get hurt, but I had a rude awakening and ended up having my friend drive the entire time we were on the island. So just be careful if you’ve never driven one—it’s not as easy as it looks!
If you aren’t feeling a scooter, depending on where you are staying, walking can totally be your thing. Hiring a driver could also be easier for you. A lot of the Air BNB’s and places I stayed at offered rides to places all over for very cheap prices. Figuring out what your day looks like and how far your destinations are can be helpful to plan for what type of transportation is best for you that day. Scooters are definitely faster and cheaper, but if you’re not experienced then I’d bite the bullet and get taxi’d around. You’re on vacation anyways, right?
The Ubud Traditional Art Market
The Ubud Traditional Market is such a vibrant and populous area filled with gorgeous Indonesian textiles, trinkets, and eye-catching handi-crafts that you DO NOT want to leave Bali without. Seriously, they’re incredible. If you’re a photographer, this is basically heaven for you. Culture, rituals, old city streets, and authentic goods are in every direction.
Because this is such an icon destination for tourists I felt like it was CRUCIAL for me to beat the crowd and also see the market before the hustle and bustle set in for the day.
At about 6am, with sleepy eyes and only a few hours of sleep from the night before, my friend and I crawled out of bed and took a ten-minute scooter ride down into the traditional market area to grab some breakfast before the rest of our group woke up. Since he had gone downtown the morning before, he knew the exact spot that all the locals were getting their breakfast at.
And I knew I wanted in on it.
After a short little scenic ride into town from our resort, Taman Sakti, I can’t lie it was refreshing to see NO tourists and not have to deal with traffic whatsoever. We parked the scooter on the side of the road, hopped off, and walked into the market.
My friend showed me that a cute little stand on the side of one of the roads (there are many) was our destination. As he led the way, I quickly became a little distracted (story of my life) watching all of the craftsman set up there stands for the day, putting out all of the colorful trinkets that I wanted. I was consumed by their reality, feeling like a fly on the wall, walking through the side streets. Slowly but surely, I was veering away from my friend while he was waiting for them to put together our breakfast to go. I found a little Indonesian woman who was making the “morning offerings”, so I decided to stop and ask if I could help her make one. “Canang Sari” is what they call these morning offerings and she said that it represents the impermanence of the world. She guided me through the process of putting flowers and other little pieces together onto this straw woven basket.
When I finished, I thanked her “Tarima Kasih”, in Indonesian of course, and ran back to my friend. He immediately handed me a few paper bags full of what looked like gook I can’t lie, but tasted absolutely AMAZING.
We brought back the goods to our friends staying at the resort and got ready for the rest of the day’s adventures.
*Ubud Market Tip* Bargain. Bargain. Bargain. And then bargain some more. It is very common here for negotiating prices for just about everything that you want to buy. Don’t be shy! I bargained for just about every single item that I bought and saved a lot of rupiahs in the process.
Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud
This spot is walking distance right in the same area as the market. Super easy to get to… so I recommend just getting that off your bucket list during the day while you’re in the market area. The entrance fee was about 4 dollars.
*Pro tip* Do not wear hanging jewelry, flashy loose clothing, anything that basically can be grabbed off of you. The little monkeys will try to take it from you!! They love flashy water bottles too so be careful of this as well!
Either way, the monkey forest has beautiful lush scenery with multiple temples within the sanctuary and we spent about an hour there touring around. It’s definitely a must while in the Ubud area to see these little guys roaming around playing together!
Tegallalang Rice Terraces
This mythical land is definitely driving distance from the Ubud Art Market, so I would recommend hiring a driver or if you are scootering your way around the island, hop on! I would say that it took us about twenty minutes (via scooter) to drive (north) from the downtown market area to the terrace fields where we spent a few hours (easily could have spent many more) walking through the fields, eating lunch at a lovely café that oversees the terraces, and shopping at some markets across the street. These terraces are such an incredible sight. Definitely one of my favorites from the whole trip. However, be prepared to be surrounded by many other tourists that are enjoying the rice terrace scenery as well. Unfortunately, you won’t be walking through these heavenly lush green terraces alone. (Definitely try to get there earlier than later in the day…as I advise for most attractions in Ubud these days).
If you want to snap a few photos on an iconic Bali swing, bring some extra rupiah with you to give to the locals! Again, there are shops across the street that are extremely similar to the art market so you will most likely want to have some cash on you anyways if you see something shiny that you just can’t resist. #trinkethoarder
Where you NEED to crash at after the day spent in Ubud? Don’t leave Ubud without a night at this jungle land.
The Zen Hideaway #3
“You had me at “personal Bali swing.” After a long day exploring, my crew and I stopped at a local grocery store on the route to this hideout for the night. Grabbed all of the essentials, you know, like beers and endless snacks. We took a taxi up this way and asked a local to stop at the store. I definitely recommend doing this because there will be no stores nearby the hideaway once you’re there. You’re kind of out there.
When we showed up to this place- my jaw dropped. Immediately after walking into the front door- I asked our host if we could book another night. I mean this place is literally that stunning. But FYI-it’s booked for months out consistently, so definitely book this WAY ahead of time because it is always reserved. Next time I will be reserving this place for a minimum of three nights. Hands down.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: Get on that swing!!
(The hosts will also bring you breakfast in the morning and you have a food menu to order food off of for dinner and breakfast…passionfruit, coco, papaya, mangos.. talk about luxury. My room was off to the side a bit from the rest of the hideout. Already in the jungle but sign me up for a little more privacy. It’s SO open and has the warmest urban-style vibe with hammocks, swings as seats at the table, and also the mattresses are killer there-just saying I slept like a little baby. So nice. My separate bedroom area was a little walk across the cutest little wooden sidewalk across the grass over-looking the jungle and waterfall. It is secluded in by these beautiful sheer mosquito’s nets around the bed and the subtlest lighting within the entire hideaway. It’s a pretty large place. Two other bedrooms and an addition living room area could easily fit a group of six. I was able to do my laundry there. SUPER BONUS. And there is a full kitchen that you’re able to use. The outdoor shower was nothing less than serene and natural with my personal favorite, hot water.
Did I mention that you have your own personal swing on the property overlooking terraces and a waterfall? lol. But really this was the selling point for my friends and I. We hung out there for the night playing music on the speakers that they provided there and got a little buzzed off the liquor concoction my friend bought from a local dude down the street. We killed that. Still don’t know what the hell was in it haha. You’ll wake up in the morning to the sound of the waterfall down below and the sounds of the jungle. The sunrise will not disappoint.
The only negative aspect (in my eyes) was that there was a little group of kittens that were living nearby I assume..they kept coming into the living area searching for food and we had to scare them off a little bit. I am also just not a cat person-but either way, the chances that those cats will be there again are pretty low I’m sure. Here is the link to this dream world: Do yourself a favor and GO!
Other notable mentions in Ubud
Some of your other favorite things about bali, show some behind the scenes.
Go-to Lunch Spots in Ubud
Sayuri Healing Food-A vegan’s paradise
Melting Wok Warung
Ibu Rai Bar & Restaurant
Uma Ceking Warung at the Rice Terraces