Why My Ubud Experience Was Overrated, But I Still Loved it
Monkey Forest Road
Everything that I've heard about Ubud previously led me to imagine quiet traditional village, quaint. I have to be honest, the most exposure I had of Ubud was from, "Eat, Pray, Love", which now that I think about it, didn't take place anywhere near Ubud's central area. Anyway, I was a little surprised when our driver pulled onto 'Monkey Forest Road' (the main road) to find it packed to the brim with cars and swarming with tourists. However, that doesn't mean I didn't fall in love with it!
Despite the touristy little shops selling wooden monkeys, shirts and everything in between along with the commercial surf shops like Roxy and Billabong, Monkey Forest Rd had its own charm. We got a homestay AirBnB the night before, which we were given instructions for to follow along the alleyway behind "The Buddha Bar". Doing so was a little ominous at first with the tiny little alleyway snaking ever further back from the main road. However, once we came upon our Air BnB, we were greeted by a warm, smiling woman by the name of Putu who ushered us up into a beautiful private room overlooking a garden (the total of which was $20 a night).
Yes, Monkey Forest Rd was overrun by tourists and filled with Westernized restaurants, but I absolutely loved it. Perhaps it was because we'd spent 6 weeks in a more rural area, but I had so much fun trying out all the different restaurants and bars all along the road. From sushi to traditional Indonesian food to burgers you could find it all and for less than $5 a meal!
If you want an "Eat, Pray, Love" experience, then steer clear of Monkey Forest Rd. However, if you want a lively, night on the town filled with endless dining and drinking options then I reccomend staying there at least once!
One of the cool things about Monkey Forest Road is what it's named after. The "monkey forest" is literally at the end of the road. This forest was filled to the brim with monkeys and for a small fee you can check them out for yourself. However, it was a regular occurrence to see monkeys parked on the street or terrorizing the Hindu food offerings left on the curb. Visiting Monkey Forest was both terrifying and amazing. This wasn't one of those "look at the monkey's in their natural habitat" type of things, it was really, well, interactive... I had monkeys try to steal a water bottle out of my bag, jump on me, pull my clothes and at one point a baby monkey even came over and sat on my lap, which was one of the best moments of my life. There were definitely some not so cute monkey moments too, like one chasing me up a stair case and a mama monkey jumping on my boyfriend's head and refusing to get off.
If you like monkeys and want to see them in their natural habitat then you'll love the Monkey Forest! However, be warned that this really isn't like seeing them in a zoo.
Tagallalong Rice Terrace
This was probably my least favorite part about Ubud. If you've seen pictures of the area then it was likely of this infamous rice terrace. Yes, it is beautiful, but the only two words that resonated with me while I was there was "Tourist Trap". At one point in time, I'm sure that the rice terrace had a more authentic feel. I would guess it was around the same time that it's main source of income was the rice itself and not the tourists coming to see them.
The place was packed with tourists and tourist booths and I had the feeling that the place had "sold out" so to speak. We were also asked for money every step of the way, from little boys asking to guide us, to crossing a bridge to taking a picture with one of the rice carrying wicker baskets.
Of course it's an iconic place, so you may want to visit it once, but I much preferred the authentic feel of the rice paddies that were only a 10 minute walk from Monkey Forest Rd. Those were practically empty, except for the people manning the fields and had a much stronger feeling of tranquility and peace rather than a manic Rupiah bag.
This a small little hike/walk that was beautiful! I reccomend doing it at around 6pm so it's not too hot and you can catch the sunset. It's perfect for those who don't want to go on a major hike but want to see some landscape! This was definitely a highlight for me, especially as it wasn't super touristy or crowded and many of the people we passed by were Balinese families. You can also get to this hike from Monkey Forest Rd with a quick 20 minute walk. However, be warned it can be a bit tricky finding the start of it. My boyfriend and I ended up passing it twice before finding the narrow little path that starts at the beginning of a bridge!
The waterfall was also touristy, but still very cool to see! When we went it was cold and rainy so I didn't have the nerve to go in, but if you want you can go all the way behind the waterfall. There's also a path you can take to get to a ledge overlooking the fall. However, depending on when you go, there may be line to get up.
Holy Spring Temple
Holy Spring Temple was a serene experience! I felt as though I was being given the opportunity to experience Balinese Hinduism in its natural state. By that I mean that although there were tourists scattered around still, the temple was not set up for them, but for practicing Hindus. It was also very inclusive, with a stall to hand out Sarongs (required to enter the temple) and for those who wanted to, you could bathe in the Holy Spring.
If you've never been to Bali before, then I'd reccomend seeing all of these places. Yes, many of them are tourist traps, but they are so for a reason! We were able to do a private tour to see the Holy Spring Temple, Tegenungan Falls, and Tegallalong Rice Terrace for $40 for the entire day, which was quite a fair price! However, on my next visit to Ubud, I would much rather go off the beaten path and I know there is so much more of it I haven't seen! The more I travel, the more I learn that I enjoy myself a whole lot more when something hasn't specifically designated/designed for tourists.