I’m no hater of tours. They can be rip-offs, but a lot of the time, it’s great to have a local share places with you that would have been much harder to logistically plan yourself. For example, climbing Mt. Batur on a tour was a great choice. The support while climbing and having transportation taken care of was totally worth it.
Yet, there are times when you can skip the tour and have a much better time doing it yourself. My friends and I saw so many day tours of Ubud, but many of them were more than we wanted to spend or included things we weren’t interested in. So, we took the initiative and made our own! I wrote down a list of five places we wanted to see and went up to one of the MANY taxi drivers on the street. He said he could take us for 400,000 rupiah, but our friend bartered him down to 300,000 rupiah for the day and he agreed. That’s roughly $22 for 3 people; all day! We had our own air-conditioned car and an awesome driver who let us take our time at each spot. I can’t recommend this option enough 🙂
*Disclaimer: Our driver asked if we wanted to go to a coffee plantation at the start of our drive and we said yes. They most likely get a commission for this. You can probably say no, but we really enjoyed it! They showed us the animals that make the “poo coffee” and we got to taste 10 different teas and coffees for free. We probably spent 20-30 minutes there and there was an option to buy chocolates and coffees in the shop at the end.
If you’re not sure what you’d like to see in Ubud, here are the five spots we visited (in order).
This temple has the famous Elephant Cave, which is not actually a cave inside a stone elephant (what I was hoping for), but a cave inside the mouth of a monstrous face. There are many other creatures carved into the wall surrounding it and inside it is small and damp, with incense burning. Right across from the cave is an ancient pool with statues holding vases that act as water spouts.
It was a lovely complex, but we hit it at mid-day and we were dying in the sun. I’d suggest an umbrella or trying to make it out earlier in the day.
I’d read that this huge burial complex was a tourist trap and packed with people, but thanks to the rain that began to descend, it was anything but. There were hardly any other people as we walked down the 371 steps that were lined with souvenir shops. The sellers gave out a few half-hearted “you want to buy?,” but mostly left us alone.
It was very peaceful in the drizzle, walking amongst rice terraces, and then down a path along old temple walls that crawled with jungle. We even walked by a naked Balinese man taking a shower in a waterfall! It was nice to get a spiritual vibe at the temple instead of trying to push through other visitors holding cameras.
It began to pour as we walked the many stairs back up, but we were too blissful to care all that much 🙂
By far, this was my favorite temple and it was made even more magical by the pouring rain. It IS the water temple, after all.
When we got out of our taxi, there were Balinese boys renting umbrellas for a buck or two, which saved the day. There were lots of tourists at this temple, but everyone was very respectful of the Balinese praying. The temple area included a koi pond, multiple prayer areas, gardens, and most importantly, a large pool with ever-flowing faucets. There were Balinese and foreigners worshipping and bathing themselves inside. Foreigners were made to wear sarongs and a ceremony was held before they got in the bath that included holy water and incense.
If you only have time for one temple, this is the one you have to see.
Tegallagang Rice Terraces
We’d heard that this was THE place for rice terraces, but we’d already seen some spectacular ones at Gunung Kawi and we’d had those ones to ourselves. Our taxi driver said we should slowly drive by and take some photos instead of stopping, so we did. The terraces were quite a view, but it was a busy, touristy area and we were happy to not stay long.
(the photos above are from Gunung Kawi)
White Herons of Petulu
This was not a usual request by tourists, but our driver was down to take us out to the small village of Petulu to see the famous white herons that cover the trees at sunrise. It wasn’t far from Tegallagang and the drive was gorgeous. A nice slice of Balinese life with a side of weird bird tourism. I couldn’t ask for more.
You can read more about this unique aviary occurrence by clicking the link above.
Good luck planning your own Ubud Day Tour! Was there anything I missed?