Ubud, the town
Walking along Ubud’s main street, with uneven sidewalks, hideous wiring overhead and an all-day traffic jam on Jl Raya Ubud – a thoroughly nasty experience, in spite of the plethora of lovely temples and attractive restaurants.
Ubud is the cultural heart of Bali, an hour north of Denpasar airport and a bit longer from Kuta beach, but the town is a huge disappointment. Ubud is now totally dominated by the internal combustion engine, making walking the streets deeply unpleasant due to noise as well as exhaust toxins.
It’s astonishing that the authorities that are clearly reaping millions from Government taxes are so shortsighted that they are not re-investing and improving infrastructure but instead – almost certainly – pocketing most of the revenue (just like the police pocket your motorcycle ‘fines’).
Hey Fatcat Fatheads! Yes you! This street needs to be pedestrianised! It’s historic and needs a bypass! You’re killing the Golden Goose!
In fact it’s pretty clear that tourism has dropped off a cliff in Bali, partly due to loss of Chinese custom and partly the word is getting out – Bali is still cheap but it’s lost it’s allure. The magnificent culture is shrouded with carbon monoxide and diesel particles. Ironically this means tourists are better off going from place to place in taxis, making the situation worse. A vicious cycle…
Ubud’s Monkey Forest
There is one terrific attraction in Ubud, the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. This substantial forest near the centre of town is beautifully laid out, full of vast trees, little temples and of course monkeys, over 600 macaques to be precise, animals which have quite tricky natures, inquisitive, greedy and extremely aggressive if surprised or threatened.
There are three temples in the Monkey Forest dating back to about the 14th century but they seem to be generally closed or not very interesting, or both. However, the Dragon bridge shrouded with Banyan tree roots and scattered forest statues are brilliant, with a spooky Lost World ambience including a full size Komodo Dragon creeping out of the forest floor near the bridge.
A leaping monkey in Ubud’s Monkey Forest.
A selfie in Monkey Forest. Aaahh! But she was lucky to escape with her phone, the beast was probably too young to have a developed a really mischievous streak.
The 600+ macaques in Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary are divided into 5 groups which occasionally clash, mainly over river bathing rights in the dry season.
The monkeys are fed a rich diet of fruit and vegetable daily but tourists can also buy fruit to feed them, often resulting in the active little chaps climbing onto the donor with frequently hilarious results – hilarious for watchers but not often for the donor! We saw skirts dragged down, bags grabbed, hair pulled and so on.
I warned my partner that macaques are hyper-sensitive but she insisted on lightly touching the tail of a resting animal. It went bananas – if you’ll excuse the expression – chasing her around and around, pulling her clothes, snapping its teeth. A sudden and scary reminder that these are still wild animals.
Visitors are recommended not to carry any plastic bags and if they wish to feed a monkey or two never tease them by withdrawing the food, this will provoke an instant and aggressive reaction. Also don’t feed them human food such as bread, biscuits or peanuts.
If you’re nervous, carry as little as possible and simply watch others doing the feeding, no problem!
Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is open daily 8.30am – 6pm and you could easily spend a couple of hours+ there.
Lesser Ubud sights
The entrance to the Blanco Museum. This is a quite interesting place, showcasing mostly wacky, obsessive naked-female pictures by Dali-buddy Antonio Blanco. Check out the entrance again!
Blanco Museum is in Ubud and better, IMHO, than another museum, the Arma Museum (aka Agung Rai) that shows a few dozen traditional Balinese paintings in huge buildings and little else. Museum? Where are the brilliant batiks? Where are the glorious sculptures? Another failed fatcat vanity project…
Campuhan trail, Ubud. Much touted but a bit of a time waster.
The walk is short – about 30 minutes to one hour there and back depending on pace, pleasant but by no means outstanding. It appears to be promoted mainly by a café at the end of the trail.
Best Balinese temples near Ubud