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The traditional cultural centre of Indonesia’s Bali, lush Ubud is also a modern hub of creativity, home to world-class retreats, restaurants, and designer cool. Samantha Brown indulges in facials, martinis and retail therapy to bring you the best picks of this mountain town.
A step up from an Indonesian streetside warung, Ibu Oka’s serves up Bali’s delectable speciality: babi guling, or suckling pig, at ridiculous prices. The lunchtime rush is absurd, so get in early, grab a seat at one of the communal tables, and savour the many imaginative ways the many parts of a pig can be cooked!
+62 361 976 345
The airy Ubud institution of Casa Luna offers melt-in-the-mouth pastries with sharp-jab coffees, served under whirling fans. Meals with both Balinese and Italian accents are also fabulous, and if you simply must have more, sign up for one of their well-regarded cooking classes.
Jalan Raya Ubud
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Dinner for two
Launch with a cocktail in Mozaic’s tres chic lounge before heading to their candlelit garden, where discreet waiters deliver six-course set meals. Choose from Indonesian- or Western-inspired, vegetarian or the chef’s surprise menu, each with the option of matching wines. Pricey but worth every rupiah (and the perfect outing for a little black dress).
Jalan Raya Sanggingan
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Bali is famous for its exquisite dances and Ubud is an excellent spot to be mesmerised by a trance-like performance. Ubud Palace, opposite Ubud’s central market, has performances most days at 7:30pm. Stop by to check the current programme.
Opposite Ubud market
Balinese artists are enjoying a global surge of popularity, so pick up some knowledge that may pay off handsomely while also immersing yourself in some of the best art inspired by the island, some by foreigners, at the respected Neka Art Museum.
Jalan Raya Campuhan
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Brush up your haggling skills and make a beeline for Ubud’s central market. This is the place to snap up everything from dirt-cheap sarongs to elegant silks, with a wide range of other crafty items and surprises in between.
Corner of Jalan Raya Ubud and Jalan Monkey Forest
Kou consists of two hole-in-the-wall sister shops specialising in, organic soaps, handmade jams and sea salt. Frangipani and tuberose scented soaps will make house guests swoon and you may want to make mango jam your hostess dinner-party offering for the year ahead.
Cuisine on Jalan Monkey Forest, soap on Jalan Dewi Sita
+62 361 972 319
Grab a local designer hat or have a Tibetan butter lamp shipped home for you from The Shop, an upscale boutique lying on Ubud’s outskirts just outside the Four Seasons. Impeccably styled, with prices to match.
Jalan Raya Sayan No. 52
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Smooth and sultry
Ubud shuts down early so bars are few and far between, but Jazz Cafe fits the bill for a few rounds of drinks, sipped listening to some live — you guessed it — Jazz. Performances wrap up at 10:30pm, doors shut at midnight.
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Strictly speaking, Naughty Nuri’s is a restaurant a mere step-up from a roadside shack, but the best martinis in town are to be found here. Try not to be too put out when your waitperson orders you to immediately swallow a few gulps so they can top your glass with what’s left in the shaker. Their spare ribs, too, are amazing.
Jalan Raya Campuhan
Across the road from Neka Art Museum
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The airy, sleek Ary’s Warung is the perfect spot for an Irish coffee or a final glass of chilled white wine. It’s a restaurant as well, so pair your drink with one of their thigh-busting desserts. Or do get in early and enjoy one of their superb and very affordable degustation menus.
Jalan Raya Ubud
+62 361 975 053
Cheap as chips
Ubud is dotted with pleasant enough homestays where for just a few dollars a night you can enjoy life in a Balinese family compound. If you savour your privacy but don’t want to spend big, Ubud Bungalow offers spotless rooms in two-storey bungalows sprawling through a manicured garden that stretches to a pool. Fan rooms start at US$37, air-conditioned US$47.
Jalan Monkey Forest
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Lovely Alila’s drawcard is its infinity edge swimming pool, jutting out into a gorge filled with birdsong. Impeccable service and stylish rooms make this hotel a fine example of how spending a little more in Ubud gets you a lot. Online rates start at US$180++.
Desa Melinggih Kelod
+62 361 975 963
Como Shambhala Estate is one of Ubud’s most salubrious getaways, targetting stressed-out executives who retreat to their swish residences to undertake wellness programmes. Choose from rooms with classical Balinese and Javanese touches to minimalist ones, all incredibly private. Their spa has been named one of the world’s best, with jaw-dropping views of the Ayung River gorge.
Begawan Giri, Banjar Begawan, Desa Melinggih Kelod
+62 361 978 888