Brian planned a trip to Indonesia for my 40th birthday. Our first stop was in Ubud, which is in the uplands of Bali. It’s quieter than other parts of the island, although plenty of tourists visit, and it is said to be the cultural capital of Bali. I had a picture in my mind of what this Indonesian island, which is roughly half the size of the Big Island of Hawaii, looked like. In reality it’s even better than I had expected but it’s far more densely populated. There is so much to see and do, it can be a little overwhelming to narrow it down. Here are 8 things not to miss in Ubud, Bali.
1. Viewing a rice paddy terrace
Much of the rice grown in Bali is consumed by the families growing it. Almost every family compound has a rice paddy that the family farms. Driving through Ubud, you see rice paddies everywhere. While most of them are at ground level, there are some amazing rice terraces. Tegallalang, is right off a main road on your way to the mountains. It’s definitely worth a stop.
2. A hike up the Campuhan Ridge Walk
Roughly a ten-minute walk from the center of Ubud, you’ll find the entrance to the Campuhan Ridge Walk trail. This light hike takes you by sweeping valley views and by local homes. It takes about 30-40 minutes one-way, and there are several cafes that offer cold drinks. We tried the local drink, jamu, made from turmeric, ginger, honey, and lime.
3. Dinner at Room4Dessert
Since we visited Room4Dessert, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It’s rare to have a dining experience that hits only high notes, with everything exceeding expectations, but this place pulls it off. (If you’ve binged all of Chef’s Table on Netflix, you might recognize the name of this place from the Dessert season, Episode 4.) Although, I’m not sure what’s not to love about a 21 course, mostly dessert-centric meal that features an optional cocktail pairing. The first seven courses were snacks, the second seven were desserts paired with cocktails, and the last seven courses were petit fours.
Pictured above: the Kentucky mushroom (just like the chicken but better); one of the dessert paired cocktails; the Incidente stradale; and the mango puff.
Each set of seven courses was served in a different location. This added to the fun and provided an opportunity to visit the gardens and the kitchen between sets of food. The highlight of the whole experience was definitely the staff. Everyone seemed genuinely excited and proud of the food, drinks, and restaurant. The owner/executive chef, Will Goldfarb, was also onsite and we had a lovely chat with him. This place was worth every penny.
4. Learning to cook Balinese food with Lobong
I love taking cooking classes when I travel. I’ve been lucky enough to take them in Barcelona, Kyoto, Costa Rica, Buenos Aires, and Shanghai. It’s such an interesting way to learn about a culture and bring recipes home with you. On this trip, we had the pleasure of cooking with Lobong Culinary Experience. We started the day with a trip to a local food market and then got to work on our seven dishes. I got to make special fish curry and satay for myself and everyone had chicken.
5. Taking a tour with Ring A Bike
We toured the countryside on bike with Ring A Bike Tour. We enjoyed several stops to learn about native fruits, like the snake fruit on the left, and local coffee, the famous luwak coffee. The coffee looks like poop because it is the coffee that is eaten and partially digested by the Asian palm civet. It was pretty good brewed.
We also visited a rice field and “helped” separate the rice from the stalks. I think we provided a good amount of comic relief to the family who was working in their field.
The rest of the bike tour included a stop at a local family home to learn about daily life. We also had lunch and visited a community preparing for a temple re-opening ceremony. If biking isn’t your thing, Ring offers many other tours, along with his staff of 15 tour guides. You won’t regret booking with him.
6. A cocktail at Night Rooster
Operated by another incredible restaurant in Ubud, Locavore (which we also enjoyed), The Night Rooster needs to be on your list. This chill bar features local ingredients in craft cocktails, along with small bites to eat. I had the Tuak & Jagang which was made from tuak granita, arak infused smoked corn husk, coconut vinegar, and mango blossom honey. Truly a unique cocktail – and very delicious!
7. A night (or two) at Bambu Inda
The journey to the Moon House at Bambu Indah puts you in the right state of mind for what awaits you. This bamboo bridge comes after the most whimsical, handmade elevator for 2-3 people brings you down a story. After the bridge, there are paths and steps that guide you to the river and rooms.
Bambu Indah offers almost 20 highly unique rooms. From ours, the Moon House, to ancient family homes that were relocated to the property. They all celebrate local materials and the nature that surround them. The property grows as much of the produce needed by the restaurant and bar as they can. We had jackfruit and herbs growing next to our pool.
Another highlight is the ridge where you can sip a delicious cocktail while watching the sun set over the river valley. I enjoyed a Hidden Paradise which was made with tequila, ginger ale, lime juice, ginger, and brown sugar. It was spicy and refreshing!
8. A visit to the Tirta Empul Temple
Founded around a large water spring in 962 A.D., this Hindu temple is quite large and beautiful. From the koi pond to gates like the one above, it’s worth an hour of your time.
Wishing you an incredible visit, whether virtually or in-person, with these 8 things not to miss in Ubud, Bali!