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Hundreds of blogs have already been written about Ubud in Bali. Is this blog necessary? I think so. Not to dampen your enthusiasm about Ubud but to paint a slightly more realistic picture.

Ubud: the center of everything

Ubud is the creative center of Bali, Ubud is the spiritual center of Bali and Ubud is the cultural center of Bali. Pretty clever, that one place is the center of everything, isn’t it? And maybe that’s why it’s the center of nothing. I find it a relief to arrive in lively Ubud after a few days of complete peace and quiet at a yoga retreat. I choose a hostel to meet other travelers. I enjoy the crowds, the smells of food and incense, and the many sights and activities. But wait a minute, wasn’t Ubud supposed to be a party for the soul?

Buddha statues are smiling at you all over the city.

Eat, Pray, Love, but different

I have slightly forgotten the details of the book, and the film Eat, Pray, Love. Other tourists and the residents of Ubud definitely haven’t forgotten about Eat, Pray, Love and regularly remind me. Single women closely follow the moves of Elizabeth Gilbert and/or Julia Roberts: healers, yoga, therapies, and cycling through the rice fields.

The real Ubud is not like in the movie. For example, Julia Roberts visits the Ubud Market in the film. The market was closed for a few days for the recordings, and that’s why the atmosphere in the movie was so serene. In reality, it is teeming with tourists, and I can buy everything my souvenir-loving heart desires (read: I don’t buy anything).

The Monkey Forest Road and Hanoman Street surround the heart of Ubud. These two streets have hundreds of shops, from chic boutiques to simple massage parlors. I set off early in the morning when it’s relatively cool and nice and quiet. If you want to shop in Bali, Ubud is the place to be.

Monkey watching in the Monkey Forest

On the Monkey Forest Road is (where else, right) the Monkey Forest. The forest is jungle-like and is home to almost 700 monkeys. Many people advise against a visit: sad for the monkeys. I took a look there in 2017, a bit naively, and concluded that this Monkey Forest feels a lot more monkey-friendly than the one in Canggu. But yes, some idiotic people always need to bully the monkeys. I am more impressed by the jungle than the monkeys. It’s so beautiful here!

Google Maps location

Yoga class at Yoga Barn

I decide to have my own soul party at Yoga Barn. A very famous yoga studio in Ubud. Very well-known, very popular, and massive. I’m a bit confused when I enter the grounds. It feels very commercial to me. I am used to small yoga schools with a very personal atmosphere. Yet here, the yoga class is with sixty (or more?) people. Although attention has clearly been paid to the space, and I look out on a green garden, I can’t get very zen.

Google Maps location

Yoga Barn's yoga studio

Infinite rice fields

The rice fields do make me feel zen. Directly from the busy street, I take a small path (Google Maps location) at restaurant Paon to find myself in the middle of the rice fields after a few minutes. Only a few tourists are bold enough to do this because I am almost alone. However, the path is marked with a sign, so I don’t think I’m trespassing.

But people may be tired of paddy fields. Because if you rent a scooter, you imagine yourself in a green rice field valhalla around Ubud. I opt for a morning walk of officially 3.5 hours and manage to make it last 4.5 hours. Somewhere I took a wrong turn… But who cares if you can clear your head in the countryside? The walk is called Campuan Ridge and starts at the Warwick hotel (Google Maps location). Take lots and lots of water with you, and mosquito repellent is not an excessive luxury either. It is not a challenging walk; you can even do it in flip-flops if you want.

Magical Ubud?

Conclusion? Ubud is well worth a visit. Just don’t expect revelations and life-changing events. The hypnotic, magical effect of Ubud has passed me by. Perhaps you have experienced it?

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First published: July 2017. Updated since.

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