Day trips that offer an insight into Balinese life are a must-do for visitors to Ubud, nestled in lush, green rice fields.
It’s become something of a cliche that visitors to Bali spend time in Ubud following the global success of the book and movie, Eat, Pray, Love.
Surrounded – and intersected – by lush, green rice fields, this destination in Bali’s hill region is swiftly becoming the destination of choice for tourists to Bali.
Its narrow streets are often jam-packed with buses which ferry them from better-known beachside destinations including Kuta and Seminyak, but taking the time to enjoy Ubud for Ubud’s sake is well worthwhile.
Most of the day tours from Ubud involve a cultural insight into Balinese life, so you’ll wind up much better informed about the traditions of this beautiful and fascinating island.
While Julia Roberts’ character may have found love in Ubud, there is much more to do in this bustling region than stare deeply into the eyes of your loved one, although that doesn’t hurt.
LOBONG CULINARY EXPERIENCE
So much more than anything you’d expect of a cooking class, this half-day tour takes you on a food journey.
From the out-of-town markets where the ingredients are purchased (and where you’re likely to be the only tourists in attendance), to the family compound where you’re instructed not only in the hands-on preparation of meals but in the broad brushstrokes of traditional Balinese life – including a visit to the family temple – then finishing off by sitting down to a meal comprised of the fruits of your labour.
The brainchild of owner Dewa Jana it’s been refined by his brother-in-law Sang Made, both products of five-star hotels, the first as a chef and the second as concierge.
With pick-up and delivery from anywhere in the area, it’s an easy and delicious way of spending your time.
Food allergies are catered for and the cost includes a recipe booklet and a suitable culinary gift.
A warning though – the food is mouth-watering so forget about planning anything too strenuous for the afternoon. A siesta by the pool is recommended.
COST: 400,000 rupiah ($A40)
MORE INFORMATION: lobongcooking.com
BALI HERBAL WALKS
This three-hour walking tour focuses on Ubud’s stunning rice paddies.
Although it’s billed as an excursion where you’ll learn about the medicinal properties of the plants that grow in the area – and you do – this makes up only a small part of the tour.
Learning about the system that Bali uses to manage its rice crops is entertaining as well as informative and the guide, Wayan Lilir, shows off his farming knowledge along with his botanical expertise.
The tour includes a mid-walk stop-off for a fresh coconut drink and ends with a refreshing ginger and herb tea inside a shop run by Wayan.
There is also the option to return to the shop in the afternoon for a course in how to turn herbs like ginger, turmeric and lemongrass into teas and salves for an extra fee.
COST: 170,000 rupiah ($A17) for the walk only or 350,000 rupiah ($35) for the walk and the in-store class
TRANSPORT: on foot, meet in the car park of Ubud’s Puri Lukisan Museum
MORE INFORMATION: baliherbalwalk.com
BALI ECO CYCLE TOURS
As there are more than 20 cycling tours operating in Ubud you can take your pick, but the Eco Cycle Tours have been well reviewed and didn’t disappoint.
After being collected in a small shuttle bus the tour begins with a buffet breakfast about an hour from Ubud at Kintamani, with spectacular views of the volcanic peak of Mount Batur and Lake Batur at its foot.
Then the bus takes you to a coffee plantation that produces Bali’s famous Lurwak coffee – made from beans that have passed intact through the digestive tract of the local civet cat, a relative of Australia’s own possums.
A free tasting tray of locally produced coffees and teas is provided, however if you want to taste the smooth and mellow Lurwak – brewed at your table – there is an extra charge.
Then it’s on to the bikes and the start of a three-to-four hour ride, mostly coasting downhill through small Balinese villages, past fields of rice, vegetables and other crops.
This tour was carefully managed throughout with stops for photography or fresh water and fruit during the ride, wrapping up with a buffet lunch.
While it’s not one for families with very small fry, appropriately-sized bikes were provided for tweens and teens, and the smaller, less-travelled roads meant everyone felt relatively safe.
COST: 420,000 rupiah ($A42) per person.
MORE INFORMATION: baliecocycling.com
IF YOU GO
GETTING THERE: Virgin, Jetstar, Qantas and Garuda all offer direct flights to Denpasar from Australia. A taxi to Ubud takes about 1-1.5 hours and costs around $A35-40 from Denpasar’s Ngurah Rai International Airport.
STAYING THERE: Ubud has many accommodation choices, from backpacker-style hostels through to five-star resorts. If you plan to stay for a while, you may like to book one of the many villas available in the area through airbnb.com, bookings.com or one of the many specialist sites including balivillas.com or cantikbalivillas.com
PLAYING THERE: For more to do in Bali, visit balitourismboard.org.
* The writer travelled at her own expense.