Ubud: Up Close & Personal

Ubud: Up Close & Personal

When I finished reading “Eat, Pray, Love” a couple of years ago, I fantasized about moving to Ubud; finding a cozy Balinese cottage in the middle of a rice paddy with a yoga studio right down the street.

When we actually landed in Ubud for the first time this summer, I couldn’t believe my eyes: the quaint artists’ village I had envisioned is actually a bustling mecca of restaurants, art galleries, jewelry shops, cafes and spas – not a yoga studio in sight let alone a spare square inch on the topsy turvy sidewalk we attempted to maneuver with the kids. Note to self: Ubud is not the place to bring a stroller; better off with a Kelty backpack carrier, for sure.

Even in the “slow” season which is regarded as October thru April, Ubud is a beehive of activity. Despite the pace though, there is a different energy here that feels deeper, more grounded than many of the coastal towns; you climb the mountain and the temperature drops a few degrees, coconut, banana, banyan and plumeria trees hover along steep precipices overlooking rocky, flowing streams. You have to take your time in Ubud. It is not the kind of place to spend half a day and feel like you’ve really seen what she has to offer.

The best strategy is to spend a few days and take each street slowly; shop for an hour then people watch inside a cafe and have a fresh watermelon juice or ginger tea. A fantastic souvenir that a few of the shops specialize in is a double-ply parachute fabric hammock; they are bright, durable and will remind the family of Bali for years to come. The jewelry selection is mind boggling, loungy; eco-fabric clothing shops for men and women as well as really fun children’s lines such as Dandelion Baby tempt you in every turn.

There is also art everywhere; good and bad. Dismiss the oversized, beret sporting Che Guevara portraits and duck into one of Ubud’s smart little art galleries such as T-artspace which features temporary exhibits of contemporary Indonesian artists. Right around the corner you’ll find Ganesha Bookshop which has a fabulous collection of Balinese Books and Bali Buddha; where Ubud’s “hippy set” go for a great vegetarian meal, organic necessities and locally made products.

If you’re in a heartier mood, head to the bright and beautiful two-story Laughing Buddha Bar for an amazing bowl of shrimp wonton soup and live music most nights of the week. And if you’re feeling really frisky, head to humble Naughty Nuri’s which boasts the most famous martini on the island. A great place to call home base is Honeymoon Guesthouses which is located within walking distance to everything and offers a fabulous cooking school as icing on the cake.

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