Most Southeast Asia trips involve a little–okay, actually a lot–of beach time. Whether you’re diving in Sipadan, partying in Phuket, or relaxing in Phu Quoc, white sand and sunshine are always part of your plan. So when you set your sights on Bali, the Seminyak area is no doubt your focus. But a trip to Indonesia’s most popular island wouldn’t be complete without heading inland–to the rivers, the forests, the rice paddies, and the somewhat cooler temperatures. A trip to Bali wouldn’t be complete without Ubud.
In the green Ayung River valley outside of Ubud, you’ll find Alila Ubud, which is set up like a traditional hill village. Balinese architecture meets contemporary design to create a calm, peaceful oasis. Dense clouds slowly rise through the forest in the morning. Wander through the sculpture garden or the art gallery. Float in the emerald-green pool that seems suspended in the foothills. Take a nap on your terrace’s daybed. Have a really deep-tissue massage at the spa. Eat nasi goreng ayam for lunch in the lounge. And take the shuttle into town when you feel like socializing.
Ubud is the culture capital of Bali. The Gunung Lebah Temple has been a pilgrimage destination since the eighth–yes, the eighth–century. More recently, tourists have been flocking to the area for yoga, meditation, and natural healing remedies since the 1960s.
Walk down hectic Jalan Raya, the main street, to find artist workshops and photo galleries, jewelry and wooden carvings, and sarongs, flowers, and painted masks. Bring your offerings to Goa Gajah’s caves, quiet Pura Kehen, or the hot springs of Tirta Empul. Eat suckling pig or pork sausage–the island is home to Indonesia’s Hindu minority. Visit the Neka Art Museum or the Agung Rai Museum of Art. Watch dance performances, ride bikes, and visit the Macaque monkeys at Ubud Monkey Forest. Ubud is seeping into your skin. Pretty soon you’ll be looking at property instead of hotels.
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