21 February 2011
Bali: Out and About in Ubud
Great ways to spend a day high in Bali's hills.
When you first arrive at Ubud Hanging Gardens, you won't want to leave the grounds. Dining is pure magic on the private terrace of your villa, in the café down by the river or at the restaurant where, after sunset cocktails, dinner is served in an impossibly romantic setting across from the twinkling lights of a temple on the opposite bank of a dramatic gorge.
Take your time over a nine-course tasting menu that includes lobster caviar, Wagyu beef and pistachio panna cotta. Ring the changes on your second evening with a secret romantic dinner in a secluded location, reached at the end of a beautiful walk through stunning tropical scenery.
The resort itself offers a variety of activities, including kite making for children, Balinese cooking lessons in a delightful open air setting and tours of the gardens with an expert to point out amazing flowers and trees.
The villages surrounding Ubud are all famous for a particular craft - Batubulan for stone carving, Celuk for silversmiths, Tohpati for batik, Mas for woodcarvers. It is extremely satisfying to buy direct from the artist in an environment that specialises in a particular genre.
And there's bustling Ubud town itself, for many generations a retreat for those seeking peace of mind and artistic inspiration. This leafy hilltop settlement is home to studios, galleries, festivals and religious ceremonies galore. It is a delightful place to explore. Go trekking through the mountains and discover village life close-up. Guided walks organised from the hotel lead along hidden trails to untouched parts of the island with spectacular views. (Alternatively, you can explore by elephant.)
Walk on FireA huge variety of walks surround Ubud: exploring on foot is by far the best way to experience Bali close up. Among the most exciting is the track around the cones of several volcanoes, followed by a descent through black lava-sand.
Visit Puri Lukisan Museum (Palace of Painting) to trace the evolution of Balinese art. Opened in 1956, the collection embraces a variety of work, including local Wayang style and wood carving.
Music and dance are "musts" in Bali. Enjoy both together at Ubud Palace: the Ramayana Ballet tells the story of Prince Rama, and the abduction and subsequent rescue of his wife, Sita, through sinuous movement, accompanied by a full gamelan orchestra of mystical-sounding xylophones and gongs (pictured top).
By Wendy Gomersall, who writes on travel for a wide range of UK publications
Question: What were your top experiences in Ubud?