Things to Do
Clearly the main thing to do at Villa Kalisha is to relax and enjoy the villa and the amazing views and let the staff look after you. If however you are interested in getting out and about and experiencing Bali then you are in just the right place to do so and there are loads of things to see and do in the Ubud area. Bali is blessed with an amazing culture and history and the people are very friendly and welcoming particularly in the less touristed areas around the Villa.
Villa Kalisha has easy access to some of Bali’s most important cultural attractions including the palaces at Ubud and Tampaksiring, and the many famous temples in and around Ubud including those at Monkey Forest, Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) and many others. See Cultural Attractions.
There are also a wealth of outdoor activities in the area, the easiest and possibly the best of which is just going for a walk or a bike ride which is easy to do from right outside Villa Kalisha. There are also many other activities that you can do that are close to Ubud including white-water rafting; kayaking; and elephant safaris. See Outdoor Activities for more details.
There is something for everyone in Ubud though. Why not take in a Balinese cooking course? Or feed the monkeys at Monkey Forest? For some more ideas check out Other Activities.
Finally don’t forget the joys of eating and drinking. While Villa Kalisha is fully catered and our cook can prepare a really good selection of Balinese cuisine, Ubud has one of the best selection of restaurants, cafes and bars in Bali so you are almost certainly going to head out one night to try it. We have picked a few of our own personal favourites for you if you are looking for some ideas, and if you have more to add please let us know. See Going out in Ubud
Balinese Hinduism still permeates life in Bali, but in Ubud it always seems to even more active than anywhere else in Bali. Everywhere you look, every single day, you will see ceremony, ritual and sacred offering. To witness (or participate in) a ceremony, just visit a temple during a ceremony day. Nyos the manager of Villa Kalisha, can normally tell you when and where a ceremony is going on near to the villa, and in my experience the villagers have always been more than happy to have you participate and watch. Alternatively just asking around town is likely to bring a wealth of suggestions.
There are dance performances every night in Ubud, and you can easily pick up brochures detailing which dances are happening where. Our favourite dance is the Kecak dance which has dozens (sometimes more than a hundred) of performers all chanting, and as it often includes the "naughty" Hanuman monkey god and fire, this is a good dance for kids as well. Favourite venue is probably Ubud Palace, and you can also enjoy performances at the palace from the Lotus Garden restaurant as well.
Remember if you visit a temple you will need a sarong, sash and a modest shirt (with sleeves, not low-cut). If you forgot to bring them, don’t worry as at many temples you will find them on sale or for hire. Many tourist attractions which sound like they're not temples, actually are, and the same dress code applies (e.g. Gunung Kawi, The Elephant Cave, holy springs and sacred bathing places, etc.).
Puri Saren (or Ubud Palace) – This is a beautiful old palace where the grounds are beautifully kept, with old stone gateways and statues wearing the familiar checkered cloth. Puri Saren Agung is in the center of Ubud, across from Ubud Market, at the end of Monkey Forest Road in the north. It was the home of the last king of Ubud, and now his descendants live there. It is essentially the father palace of the other Ubud palaces, which were built as the family extended. Visitors are welcome in the ornate inner courtyards to see the ornate thatched bale furnished with Dutch-era armchairs and to inspect numerous colonial-era photographs of the extended royal clan. Evening dance performances are held in the courtyard, and it is by far the best and most dramatic setting for these in Ubud.
Goa Gajah (or Elephant Cave) – Situated a couple of km south of Ubud, Goa Gajah can seem overrun with tourists, but once you are past the souvenir sellers and coach park, there is actually a nice peaceful temple to be found. Originally a dwelling for Hindu priests, the main highlight is a very dark cave with the massive carved face entrance and huge holy pools. It is worth stepping away from the main temple area as well as there are also a number of pleasant forest walks in and around the temple complex.
Gunung Kawi – Situated just south of Tampaksiring, and less than 15 minutes from Villa Kalisha is Gunung Kawi, the largest and maybe also the most impressive of the old monuments on Bali. Like Goa Gajah this site is around 1.000 years old, and it consists of a total of 10 temples or shrines carved out of the mountain. It's a peaceful place, surrounded by rushing water and local farmers harvesting terraced rice paddies.
Tirta Empul - This important temple one km north of the Tampaksiring village was founded as early as 962 AD. It is not as spectacular as Gunung Kawi a few km's away, but absolutely worth a visit. The crystal clear water surfaces in a pool which, according to old traditions, is the Balinese Fountain of Eternal Youth. The surfacing water originates from the Batur lake via underground rivers.
Monkey Forest Temples - Each village in Bali has their own temple for death which are used during cremation ceremonies, and for Ubud it is located in the Monkey forest at the Southern end of Monkey Forest Road. Common characteristics of such temples are statues of the Rangda, the goddess of the death, with bulging eyes, sharp fangs, long finger nails and her lolling tongue. Despite all the tourists, the temples are interesting and the Monkey Forest itself is a pleasantly cool walk over ancient bridges, past huge banyan trees, and down atmospheric river gorges, all the time watched by a multitude of monkeys.
As well as its amazing culture and people, the area around Ubud is blessed with some of the best scenery in Bali, with lush green vegetation, spectacular jungle gorges, beautiful rice paddy views meaning that there are a huge number of outdoor activities that can be done in and around Ubud. The location of Villa Kalisha is perfect for exploring, with the picturesque traditional villages of Kebon and Tangkup close by and as we are a bit higher than Ubud, the cooler temperatures make it ideal of walks in the area.
Just go! There are many wonderful walks in every direction from Villa Kalisha and yet more in and around Ubud. Don't be afraid. Just strike out in any direction and follow your instinct through villages, rice terraces, jungle gorges, and grassy hilltops. You can walk anywhere you like, without "trespassing." Don't be shy, just be courteous. Often the best discoveries are purely coincidental and can't be found in any guidebook. If you prefer to follow a good leader, then Nyos (manager at Villa Kalisha) would be more than happy to show you around locally, or alternatively day treks are offered by various adventure guides like Sobek (Tel - 287059), Ayung (Tel - 238759) and Adventure Products (tel - Vayatours 285555).
Bali Eco Adventure
One of the less well known attractions in the Ubud area but one of the more interesting, is just a few minutes drive from Villa Kalisha, or alternatively a pleasant 20 minutes walk down the quiet back road. While Bali Eco Adventure has really nice and interesting hikes through its own tropical forest and spice and herb gardens, the real attraction is an amazingly atmostpheric 1.5km underground labyrinth which you can explore with torches, and find hidden temples, colonies of bats and so much more. Really interesting for adults and great for kids. Check it out at www.baliecoadventure.com. Alternatively there are also Bali Herb Walks organised by tour operators such as Vayatours (t - 974865) where you can similarly learn about the many fragrant, edible and medicinal plants that surround you, focusing on historic Pejeng, and the hills and villages North of Campuan
Cycling is a great way to see the Ubud area, and to stay fit. The early morning hours are best, when it's still cool. You can peddle sedately along backroads, or take a mountain bike and bash your way down precipitous gorges, along slippery rice terrace dikes, or through rough village byways pocked with craters. A truly glorious ride is to slog all the way up to Kintamani on the crater of Mt. Batur then glide effortlessly back downhill to Ubud through a chain of traditional villages dotted with craft studios and cafes. For the lazy, you can find a car and driver in the middle of Ubud, put your bikes in and just do the downhill bit. Rent a bike in Monkey Forest Road, grab a Bali map, then find a driver in front of the tourist information office at Ubud Corner, and you're on your way. Another way to go is to call adventure guides like Sobek (Tel 287059) or Ayung (Tel 238759) who lead biking tours suitable for the whole family, with every little detail provided.
Rental Bikes are available for about 50,000 rupiah per day from many places in Monkey Forest Road and elsewhere. Once you're on your way, try hard to avoid the main roads because traffic can be bad, except at the crack of dawn. All of the back roads are negotiable by bicycle and are only steep where they cross a river gorge (east to west). Otherwise, they generally run uphill gently from south to north. We recommend you ride north first, until you've had enough, then coast back downhill, and eat bigtime. Adventure guides like Sobek (287059) and Ayung (238759) also offer day trips.
The rivers around Ubud provide pleasant rafting conditions year round with enough rapids to make the ride fun, but still mild enough for those who tend to be timid when it comes to whitewater. Rafting also provides an unrivalled way to check out the natural scenery, wildlife and exotic plants of Bali, while sitting happily on your rear end! And it's a good way to cool off if the tropical heat gets oppressive. Call Sobek (Tel - 287059) , Ayung (Tel - 238759) or Bali Adventure Rafting (Tel - 721480) and they will take care of everything for you, including transportation, equipment and food. The staff can book rafting for you, if you don't feel like phoning. Prices for a half day river trip are about US$60.
Ayung (Tel - 238759) offers kayaking in easy to handle inflatable boats on the scenic Ayung River. No prior experience required, just a healthy body and a willing attitude.
Sobek now organises the famous "Bali Bird Walks", which are light-hearted explorations of the Ubud area, seeking ornithological oddities. The program was started by Victor Mason, a famous local character and the former publican at the Beggar's Bush in Campuan. (Tel - 287059).
You can ride with the Elephants at Taro, which is a short drive from Villa Kalisha. Very well run attraction and the kids will love it, and there are not many places in the world where you can ride on an elephant, feed it and give it a bath! Be warned however, Taro is a pretty expensive day out. Open 9 to 4 every day, no reservations necessary, just show up.
Dining out in Ubud
Although we believe that the food prepared by our cook at Villa Kalisha is some of the best Balinese food you will find, Ubud is incredibly well supplied with fine restaurants, cafes and foodstalls of almost every variety, from Mexican to Japanese to German to Italian and so it is likely that some nights you are going to want to grab a car and head into the centre of Ubud. Standards of hygeine are generally excellent in all restaurants, and even in the foodstalls. Water served is always either bottled or sterlised by boiling, and the ice is safe, too. So don't worry too much, just drive right in and eat whatever and whenever you feel like it.
Ubud is not however renowned as a hot place for the wilder kind of nightlife, so there are are no discos or night clubs to speak of. There's plenty of music though, and lots of atmostpheric friendly restaurants and bars where you are likely to meet both tourists and local Ubuddites.
Here are some of our favourites:
Kampung Cafe – Tegallalang. The closest restaurant to Villa Kalisha being only a few minutes drive or a pleasant 20 minute walk. A big, open restaurant with fantastic rice terrace views and a large and well-equipped kitchen. The menu and kitchen staff were put together by the former executive chef from the world-famous Amandari hotel in Sayan, and they certainly know how to bake. Sometimes holds special events with live music at night. Look for flyers around Ubud or just ask the staff to call up and find out what is going on.
Bebek Bengil - Jalan Hanoman, Padang Tegal. This long-time favourite restaurant in South Ubud, is open pretty late, and there's regular crowd of locals and their friends who "hold court" here. Although Bebek Bengil is a huge restaurant, which suffers from the odd bus tour, it still manages (just about) to retain a relaxed and friendly atmostphere, and it is still possible to have a nice romantic meal here in one of the water-side bales. Overall the food is good, drink prices are fair and the service pretty good considering.
Ary's Warung - Jalan Raya (just opposite Ubud Palace). A chic, extremely modern, but relaxed restaurant and bar with excellent recorded music and highly aesthetic surroundings. Late dining until about midnight. Drinking until 1am. A great place for an intimate little dinner, or a group party upstairs, or to just sit and watch the world go by.
Lotus Restaurant - Right next to Ubud Palace, and opposite Ary’s Warung is the venerable Lotus Restaurant. Location can’t be beat, with views across the lotus ponds to the temple and although it can be busy with many tourists, the service and normal eclectic mix of western/Indonesian/ Balinese food is pretty good, and the giant carp in the ponds will finish off anything you don’t eat which the kids love. Most evening you can actually sit and dine here and watch the dancers on the large open air stage in front of the temple performing traditional Balinese dances.
Ibu Oka’s - In the side street next to Ubud Palace is an institution. Ibu Oka’s has been around for donkeys years, and is the local place that every tourist goes in Ubud goes to to try out traditional Balinese Suckling Pig (Babi Guling). It is not much more than a glorified shack with tables and chairs outside, but you will normally have to queue and finding a table can be difficult. It is hard to go wrong with Babi Guling in Bali, and although we have had better elsewhere, Ibu Oka’s still serves up a cheap and tasty (and very spicy) dish of this old Balinese favourite.
Other places to try in Ubud. Here are some places that we have not been to ourselves, but have been mentioned by our guests:
Studio 22k - Jalan Raya, Tebesaya. A tiny, elegant little bar with antique woodcarvings and exotic gardens. They pour excellent cocktails, serve good wine, and the music is excellent.
Cafe Wayan - Monkey Forest Road. There are Balinese dishes on the menu every day, but on Sunday nights they do a huge buffet that's a real feast. Get plenty of exercise beforehand to whet your appetite.
Ketut's Place - Jalan Suweta, just north of the centre of Ubud. Ketut provides a Balinese banquet every Thursday night, in a traditional setting, with explanations, Balinese music, and (rather potent) Balinese alcoholic beverages. Stop by or call to book (tel. 975 304).
Ryoshi - Sushi and a vast Japanese menu in air conditioned spendour.
Apakabar - Italian/Indonesian cafe that visiting Italians give their unequivocal seal of approval.
Café Exiles - Pengosekan Road, Pengosekan Village. This is the place to be on Saturday night, and sometimes on Wednesday, too. There's live music (blues, R&B, Funk) both nights. The only place in Ubud that really jams. A solid local crowd is augmented by visiting expats from glamourous enclaves in Seminyak and Sanur, plus a strong showing of Balinese and Javanese patrons from the intellectual and artistic set, who come up from Denpasar and elsewhere for the night. Sai-Sai Bar Monkey Forest Road. This is the number one hangout for young local and visitors alike. Live music almost every night (pop or traditional bamboo gamelan). Big screen TV, Movies. Pizzas made in a wood-fired oven. A "barbecue" atmosphere in the back. Good, cold beers and a wild range of cocktails.
Putra Bar - Monkey Forest Road. Live music "jam sessions" Monday - Saturday, 9 - 11 p.m., with jazz and latin music on Monday and Thursday, A favourite watering hole for locals and visitors, with a relaxed, unpretentious ambience. It's nice to sit at the streetside tables and watch the world go past. Gung Oka, who manages the place is one of the friendliest guys in town, and he speaks excellent English.
Jazz Café - Jalan Sukma 2, Tebesaya, in the East part of Ubud, near the main cremation ground. Emphasis on blues and jazz guitar. Agung Wiryawan, the owner, is a skilful guitarist himself and has an extensive collection of recorded music. Happy hour with discounted beer from 5 - 8. Live music some Tuesday and Fridays from about 9 p.m., with local and visiting musicians, The owner encourages talented musicians who happen to be in Ubud to make cameo performances here during evening jam sessions. (Tel 976594).Café ARMA - Jalan Hanoman, Padang Tegal . Pengosekan area. A rather elegant, large restaurant with live music on Thursday nights from 7 to 9 o'clock. Sometimes called the "Ubud Millionaire's Club", it is frequented at times by a sophisticated, but affable set of local figures. The friendly and knowledgeable chef is extremely talented, and produces fine Italian and Indonesian food from newly built kitchens which boast a first-rate bakery and authentic pizza ovens. Good wine. Great apple pie and breads. Super place for a big party or a "last-night-in-Ubud" dinner.
Café Tutmak - Jalan Dewi Sita. A hip café, with great coffee. A key hangout for creative expats and locals. Live acoustic music several nights a month (frequently unannounced). Distinguished musicians visiting Ubud are encouraged to collaborate and we have seen extraordinary violinists from Europe and Japan, Flamenco guitarists, harpists and even didgeridoo players here. If there's no live music, the conversation, coffee, backgammon, scrabble, drinks and desserts are more than enough to keep you happy here for hours.
Other places around Ubud:
Klub Kokos - Bangkiang Sidem village – A wonderful peaceful hideaway in a charming village setting , that can be reached by a wonderful scenic walk from the middle of Ubud. The location, and the personality of the owners make this place magic. Turn into the Ibah hotel driveway, follow signs saying "Going to the Hill" and walk north along a scenic ridge high up between two river valleys. About ten or fifteen minutes later you will find Klub Kokos nestled among the tall palm trees. Have lunch and continue your walk, or stay a while and meet the owners Kris and Cathy. You can also get there by driving north from Sayan, then taking the road which branches off to the east before you reach Payangan. Take a right at the T-junction in the middle of a simple village, then continue south a few kilometers to Bangkian Sidem. Most of the road is paved.
The Chedi - In the Chedi Hotel, a few kilometres north of Sayan Village. On Friday nights David Ades, an absolutely outstanding saxophonist plays. You can have a really elegant and superb top quality dinner here, where the presentation, the service and the wine list are all truly fantastic. Alternatively we can also recommend the Amandari which is yet another 5* hotel with great views and superb food with prices to match.
Our thanks to www.indo.com for their help and input to this guide.
Other Activities in Ubud
While Ubud is best known for its active traditional Balinese culture, vibrant arts scene and restaurants as well as the many beautiful walks across picturesque rice paddies and over dramatic gorges, it is a bustling town in its own right, and there are many other great things to do and see.
For the chance to meet 300 cheeky macaque monkeys up close, head over to the Monkey Forest located on the south part of Monkey Forest Road. At the entrance you can buy peanuts or bananas for the monkeys. These monkeys will eagerly wait for their treat, so be careful if they jump on you once they have spotted the goodies. Despite all the tourists, it is still pleasant to walk around the cool forest, over ancient looking bridges, past huge banyan trees, and down an atmospheric river gorge all the time accompanied by dozens of monkeys.
Ubud is a great place to try your hand out at a bit of Balinese cookery, and there are many restaurants that offer you the chance, and it is always enjoyable as well as interesting. Some the favourites of our guests include: Casa Luna which runs various great restaurants in Ubud but also runs a different cookery class every day for Rp 300,000 (call +62 361 973 282); Bumi Bali on Monkey Forest offers a one-day course for Rp 175,000 (call 0361 976698); Cafe Wayan also offers courses that have been recommended (call (361) 975447). Classes typically start about 9am and last for a single day and need to be booked 24 hours in advance.
If you are not doing a market tour as part of a cookery class then it is still worth a visit. Early in the morning local people head to the market to buy the things they need for the day. This can include fruit and vegetables, but also flowers and flower petals for their decorations and offerings. It is even possible to buy a full bag of ready made offerings, so no hassle with that anymore.
To see this colourful spectacle you do need to wake up early. If you are there by 6.30am the market is already out and about, so you will see enough action that will wake you up immediately. At the market you can buy delicious cakes and fruits too.
Gunung Batur & Other Tours
It is possible to arrange a tour to almost anywhere in Bali from Ubud, so if you fancy seeing the Tanah Lot temple, or anywhere else it can all be arranged for you. If you are looking to escape to the beach or to do some diving and snorkelling, we would of course heartily recommend you stay at Villa Talia Vashti our sister villa in Candidasa, which is more convenient for all things sea and sand than Villa Kalisha.
Villa Kalisha is however a great jumping off point for the spectacular mountains and volcanoes of central Bali. In particular Gunung Batur is only 30 minutes away, with its spectacular caldera containing a lake and numerous small craters, hot springs and traditional Bali Aga village of Trunyan, still inhabited by remnants of the original Balinese, the people who predate the Majapahit arrival. You can easily head up by car (or bike) to Kintamani on the outer crater rim and take in the great views at one of the many cafes there or if you are feeling more active it is relatively easy to climb up Gunung Batur itself (which is a mini-volcano within the large caldera) and take in some amazing views of the volcanic lake below.
Ubud is the shopper's paradise of Bali, with everything from tacky plastic tat to priceless works that will have you thinking of mortgaging the house. The real attraction though is the huge number of shops set up by people to showcase their own individual designs, be it art, jewellery, carvings, clothes or whatever. Most people start at Ubud Market, at the northeast corner of Monkey Forest Road and Jalan Raya Ubud. Open during daylight hours only, it's a real market -- great noisy fun, with dozens of stalls selling produce and livestock along with tourist kitsch. All along Monkey Forest Road, Jalan Raya Ubud, and Jalan Hanoman, there is shop after shop filled with gorgeous sarongs, woodcarvings, mobiles, jewelry, incense, pottery, and gaily colored shirts. It's all geared to tourists, but the quality is often surprisingly good, and the choice astonishing. With Ubud it is best just to see where your eyes take you.
Numerous cafes and bars show recently released movies on big screen televisions, and there is no charge to watch. Casa Luna tends to choose films of higher intellectual content, as well as quality films for children and families (Tel - 976283). Times for some of the locations are as follows: Casa Luna (Jalan Raya) 7:00 with a second film following around 9:00. Sai-Sai Bar (Monkey Forest Road) 7:00 Putra Bar (Monkey Forest Road) 7:00 and 9:00 Bamboo Restaurant (Jalan Dewi Sita) 9:00. Do Drop Inn (Behind the Football Field) 8:00, Coconut Café (Jalan Suweta) 8:00, Café Yogyakarta (Monkey Forest Road) 7:00.