Ubud—The Spiritual Heart and Soul of Bali

Near the center of the island, nestled in between lush green rice paddies and forests filled with mischievous monkeys, Ubud is often referred to as the heart of Bali. It’s the cultural epicenter, home to temples, art galleries, and an international community of expats.

Like the rest of Bali, the climate can be hot and humid, but in Ubud you also get the benefit of some cooler mountain breezes. It would be wise to have a light jumper or two for the evenings, especially in the winter. The wet season is from November to June, with short but frequent heavy downpours.

Ubud, a town of 30,000, is two hours from the southern beaches and attracts expats seeking an alternative lifestyle. There is a large artist community with gallery openings and workshops scattered throughout the town. Some of Bali’s most famous artists, past and present, have lived here and have museums to display their work. Cleanse your soul as well as your body at any number of yoga and meditation retreats.

The locals embrace nature; they build around the trees, incorporate them into the grounds of hotels, restaurants, and villas.

As you walk down the street the smell of incense lures you toward the temples. Watch a village ceremony taking place and the locals will invite you in and explain everything. (To enter the holy temples, you must wear a floor-length sarong, have your shoulders covered and take off your shoes.)

Expats find a balanced life here, with hundreds of cafés and fantastic restaurants serving cuisine from around the world. There is a profound focus on healthy eating, so breakfast at Kafe is a must. There you can have your tofu scramble ($2.60) and a macrobiotic breakfast bowl ($3.10), but you can also indulge in their vanilla crème brulee ($2.50).

Everyday items are easy to get in Ubud. There are three big supermarket chains; Bintang, Coco’s, and Delta Dewata. These are more than just grocery stores; it’s where you can get all of your homeware and even some clothing. If you want to get the freshest local produce, go to the morning market and haggle for some fresh mangosteen, rambutan, and dragon fruit.

Like the rest of Bali, apartment or villa hunting is best done on the ground. There are flyers and brochures posted on the streets and on many of the cafés’ corkboards. Word of mouth is king so tell the local bartender or yoga instructor what you’re looking for. On the Kafe corkboard I saw advertised an older, furnished two-bedroom villa with a private pool for $530 per month. You can save $80 if you rent without a pool, but if you can afford it, I would suggest splurging.

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