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Hanoi or indonesia

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We (husband and 17 year old son) are traveling from Los Angeles to Singapore for a day or two and then thinking of going on to Hanoi. Entire trip is from the 19th of December to return date of January 1, 2016. We have been to Vietnam before in 2008 and traveled through out and loved Hanoi and are thinking of returning there and also see Sapa this time around. We have never been to Indonesia though and as I browse the forums I am feeling more undecided about Hanoi. Is our time too short to visit Indonesia? If you had to plan a trip to Singapore & Indonesia within our time frame, where would you go in Indonesia? Should we save Indonesia for a longer trip? Any help would be appreciated.

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    You could certainly do a short trip to Indonesia in the time you have. You would need to think of it as a trip to Bali (or Lombok or Java) and not as a trip to Indonesia as Indonesia is a huge country, just as you think of the other option as being a trip to Hanoi (not a trip to VN).

    Bali will be busy and expensive at Christmas time, and you would need to make reservations immediately. You'll find that many places are long sold out, but you still should be able to find something very nice. Normally, I recommend that people divide their time on Bali between a beach location and inland, near Ubud. But with your short time, consider spending all of it inland near Ubud at one of the lovely places overlooking the river gorge.

    Another option to consider in Indonesia would be to visit central Java to see Borobudur and Prambanam. Here is a link to our photos from a Java trip a few years ago:

    Lombok would be a good option if you are looking for a quiet beach holiday.

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    Thanks Kathie. I get your point. If we did this we would do Bali and Ubud. Any recommendations on two great places (luxury) to stay in Bali and Ubud? I'll see what I can find.

    If we went to Hanoi, wondering if you have been to Sapa in Vietnam? Is it worth a side trip?

    Thanks for your help.

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    I'd just go to one of the big booking engines like agoda or booking and see what is available for your dates. There are many, many wonderful places to stay on Bali. There have been plenty of hotel threads for Bali here - do a search.

    It sounds like you are thinking to stay at two different places, one near Ubud, the other a beach location. My recommendations for beach locations are to avoid Kuta (it's the party beach for young Aussies) and avoid Nusa Dua (a sterile tourist enclave). Seminyak is popular, and I like Sanur.

    We did not go to Sapa when we visited Hanoi. It's one of those places that people either love or not. You will take an overnight train each way between Hanoi and Sapa. Be prepared for very aggressive selling by the local vendors in town.

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    Two weeks is a good chunk of time for Bali or a combination of Bali and Central Java. The last half of December is a popular time to visit the area, and consequently rates go up and everything is more crowded. It's also the rainy season, which is not the best combination with the beach. This year, however, has been uncommonly dry which may continue into December. The rain won't impact your time in Ubud.

    With a 17 year old I'd lean toward Petitenget beach, the north end of Seminyak. There are lots of restaurants, shops, clubs, spas in the area and a very good big wave surfing beach, though it can be a rough for swimming when there is high tide or a strong surge.

    In Ubud I'd do the opposite and choose a place outside of town along one of the river valleys.

    My favorites in the luxury category would be:
    Seminyak: The Legian (make sure you get the one in Seminyak) is one of the best resort hotels, anywhere.
    A new Alila just opened this month. I haven't visited yet. It's big, but looks nice.
    The Samaya is also good.

    You might also consider a villa in Seminyak. It won't be on the beach (like all of the above properties) but you'll have a private pool and a full staff. It's a fun way to experience Bali.

    Ubud: The Alila has beautiful public spaces and a phenomenal view. The rooms are smallish, so get two. Or a valley view suite.
    The Samaya and Kayu Manis are smaller but lovely.
    Uma Ubud is on the outskirts of town and is very stylish.

    Central Java: Amanjiwo overlooking Borobudur monument. An extraordinary experience!

    I would note that all the resorts have gala Christmas and New Year's events which can be disruptive if it's not what you have in mind. Check the rules: some are mandatory, i.e, you get charged whether you attend or not.

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    Thank you for this detailed information. It is a great starting point on planning this trip. It will be great if we can fit in Central Java and see Borobudur too. Just checked out Amanjiwo and it is amazing! Thank you!

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    One follow up question: We plan to stay in Singapore for a couple of days and then go on to Indonesia.

    12/19 - Los Angeles to Singapore
    12/24 - Depart Singapore to Borobudur or Bali
    12/31 - fly back to Singapore
    1/1 - 9:20 am flight from Singapore to LA

    Based on a little research I just did, it seems better to fly to Central Java and see Borobudur first (how many days??) and then go to Ubud and then to Bali and then fly back to Singapore and connect to flight back to Los Angeles.

    I would appreciate your input.

    Should we do Bali first and end in Borobudur?

    Best way to get from Borobudur to Ubud or Bali?


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    Ubud is on Bali. So I'd suggest two locations in addition to Singapore: Central Java and one place on Bali, either Ubud or a beach location. It doesn't really matter wither you visit central Java first or Bali first. You will want to fly between the two locations. On Java, you will want to fly in to Yogyakarta (JOG) or Solo City (SOC) and there is just one airport on Bali, at Denpasar (DPS). All three of these airports have flights to/from Singapore.

    How much time to spend on Java depends on your level of interest in the places there. Borobudur is the largest Buddhist monument in the world. But there is also Prambanam, a complex of Hindu temples, and there is an open air venue where the Ramayana Ballet is presented (go to the one at the temples, not the dinner theater in Yogyakarta). There is also the lovely countryside surrounding this area, which can be seen on a drive to the Dieng Plateau. We had 4 full days (5 nights) in Central Java on this last trip, but it would be possible to see the main sights with just two full days (three nights): One day for Borobudur, another for Prambanam and the Ramayana Ballet.

    That would leave 4 nights for Bali. It would be a crowded itinerary, but it is do-able. If it were me, I'd likely opt for just a day in Singapore at the beginning to get as much time as possible for Indonesia.

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    Thanks Kathie. This year I ended up planning our trip too late and your suggestions will help me in making decisions and getting reservations quicker. A few questions:

    1. Any particular airline you recommend for travel between singapore and Central Java and domestically in Indonesia? I think we will do Central Java first and then finish in Bali.

    2. I see that Borobudur and Prambanan are about 2 hours from each other. We were thinking of stay at Amanjiwo for all three nights. Is that wise or change hotels?

    3. I would assume we need a guide and driver for Central Java. Do you have any recommendations?

    Thanks again.

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    Silk Air (a subsidiary of Singapore Air) flies from SIN to SOC. But SOC is less convenient than JOG for getting to Amanjiwo. From Java to Bali, Garuda is the biggest airline with the most flights. But last I tried, one cannot book Garuda flights online from the US. I'm sure that Amanjiwo will be glad to recommend a driver and guide for you. You might also ask them about booking your flight from Java to Bali for you - I'm sure they would be glad to do so. If you opt to fly with Silk Air, you can book on the Singapore Air website SIN-SOC, then DPS-SIN, an open-jaw or multi-destination ticket.

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    Seeing that December 19 is the date of your departure from LAX, three destinations may be a bit tight as you'll only have 11 days on the ground. Expect some jet lag at the front end.

    Would it be possible to change your Singapore-LAX flight to later in the day so that you could connect directly from Bali and not spend the last night in Singapore? Alternately, maybe you could connect directly to Central Java upon arrival at Singapore airport and save your Singapore visit until the end. You want to avoid as much airport time as possible.

    If you decide to get a taste of all three places, I'd try for Singapore 2 or 3 nights, Central Java 3, Bali 5 or 6. If that's too rushed then I'd save Java for another trip. (Actually, my personal inclination would be to skip Singapore altogether and spend your limited days in Indonesia.)

    Either way you'll have to deal with Christmas and New Year's Eve in one place or another. All of the hotels and most of the restaurants in all places will have big expensive New Year's Eve dinners and parties. If you like to celebrate NYE you'll be in your element. If you like a quiet night, you'll be inconvenienced. Christmas is less frantic, but you'll still find special set-menus everywhere.

    My choice would be to spend Christmas in Java or Ubud and New Year's Eve at the Legian in Seminyak.

    Singapore is festive and insanely lit up at Christmas and New Year's. The streets are mobbed on New Year's Eve which can either be fun or claustrophobic depending on your point of view.

    New Year's Eve in the south Bali beach area is an enormous local event with thousands of Javanese young people on the streets -- an experience you'll probably want to avoid. The New Year's Eve dinner and party at the Legian will be pricey, but good and the fire works up and down the beach are a sight to behold.

    My airline of choice in the region would be Air Asia. It's inexpensive and well organized and flies to all the places you're going. The on-line booking system is clear and easy to use. They may not check your bags through to your connecting flight in Singapore, though.

    Singapore Airlines and its subsidiary Silk Air are also excellent. Garuda's just okay. Flights will be crowded between Christmas and New Year's so book now.

    If you stay at Amanjiwo you may miss some of the sights of Yogyakarta city, but I think that would be a reasonable trade off. The country side around Borobudur is magnificent and there's plenty to see and do in addition to Borobudur. I'd let the hotel arrange the cars and drivers. Be aware that they'll add 21% to already inflated charges, but since your time is short you'll want to keep it simple.

    You can ask the Aman to arrange a visit to Prambanan on your way to or from the airport. Or maybe devote one day to Yogyakarta including Prambanan.

    As far as I know the Ramayana performances outdoors on the temple grounds won't take place in December. The Javanese dances at the Kraton (palace) are very good and the Aman will most likely have evening performances too, though not as spectacular as the full Ramayana.

    Borobudur will be jammed from December 24-27 with Indonesian school kids, so if you're there at that time take advantage of the Aman's early mornings and late afternoon viewings. Amanjiwo Christmas would be lovely, I'm sure.

    In Bali, I would either opt for the whole time in Ubud or split between Ubud and the beach. With a 17 year old, you'll most likely want some surf time. The Legian will make everyone happy.

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    Thank you Marmot. Based on advise from Kathie and you, and our limitations due to our return date (my son is a high school junior and needs a couple of days to get over jet lag before school starts)we have the following itinerary:

    12/20-12/23 in Singapore
    12/23 leave for Amanjiwo.(Kathie after I saw the hotel in your email my mind was made up to go. It is breathtaking in pictures. I have stayed in some really great hotels especially in India but this is out of this world). Per Kathie's advise, we are spending two full days here. One day to see Borobudu and the second full day to see Prambanan. I am heartbroken about the outdoor performance being canceled in December. We intend to drive through the Dieng Plateau and the countryside.

    12/26 - we fly to Bali and stay at the Legian. I had the hardest time finding a room but I called the hotel directly and snagged one. Very happy. Due to hotel rules we could not check out on the 31st but had to move it to 12/30. We fly back to Singapore on the 30th and depart on the 1st.

    There is only one flight on Singapore airlies to LA via TOkyo and that leaves at 9:20 am on the 1st. So we wanted to be in Singapore at least the day before to feel safe.

    Based on Kathie's suggestion, we will fly from Singapore to

    We will not be visiting Ubud on this trip but I think this is a good compromise. Couple of questions:

    1. Closest airport to Amanjiwo is JOG (Yogyakarta) per Kathie but it seems to be close to Prambanan? Silk air either does not fly there on 12/23 or its fully booked. I have to look at other airlines.

    2. There are two airports in BAli (BPN and DPS). Which one should we fly into from JOG?

    Thanks again.

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    December 25 is a holiday in Indonesia, so check with the Aman to make sure that Borobudur and Prabanan are open on that day.

    December 24 and 26 will be "unofficial" holidays. The temples will be MOBBED. You can avoid the crowds at Borobudur by taking advantage of the Aman's sunrise admissions. I think they also have sunset admissions, but I'm not sure. It's good to see Borobudur more than once at different times of day. Try to get a copy of the book "Borobudur, Golden Tales of the Buddhas."

    Depending on the time of your arrival and departure I'd suggest you arrange to stop at Prambanan on you way to or from the airport. You could ask the Aman about the open air performance of the Ramayana just to be sure, but I believe they don't perform during the rainy season.

    The Dieng Plateau is really a full day activity, but the country side around Borobudur is spectacular.

    Silk Air used to fly to Surakarta/Solo, but I couldn't find the flights either. You can fly from Singapore to Yogyakarta (JOG) on Air Asia. This is a reliable airline. You can book on line.

    Bali airport is Denpasar (DPS). If you choose BPN, you'd end up in Balikpapan, Borneo. :) You can fly AirAsia or Garuda from Yogyakarta to Bali. I'd prefer AirAsia.

    Just to double confirm this is the Legian you want.

    It's a wonderful hotel in a lively beachy area, but for nature (other than the ocean) and culture you need to go to Ubud. I live quite close to the Legian and really enjoy the neighborhood, but when most people think of Bali, it's Ubud that comes to mind. So, you might consider spending December 29 and 30 in Ubud and flying back to Singapore on the 31st.

    Bali restaurants will be very busy that week, so ask your hotel to make reservations for you before you arrive. These are my favorites
    Seminyak: La Lucciola, Sardine, Sarong, Watercress
    Milk & Madu for breakfast, lunch
    KuDeTa for drinks
    Ubud: Locavore, Mosaic, Hujan Local

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    I checked again and found that December 24 is also an official Indonesian holiday Muhammad's birthday. I'm not sure how this will impact Borobudur and Prambanan. You might want to consider rearranging your dates to avoid Central Java at this time. Maybe go directly to Yogyakarta and spend more time in Singapore at the end?

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    I went back and checked the Silk Air site. Marmot is right, they no longer list flights to Solo City, but they do have flights from SIN to JOG 4 days a week, Tues, Thurs, Fri and Sun. Flying into JOG is more convenient than flying into SOC. But if Air Asia also has flights, see what is most convenient for you. And if Air Asia is now flying JOG to DPS, I'd opt for them over Garuda. Note that Air Asia is a budget airline, with the usual restricted luggage, etc. Pay for your luggage when you buy your ticket - you can also pay for early boarding, etc.

    I agree with Marmot that it would make the most sense to minimize your time in Singapore so you have more time in Indonesia. I also agree that just transmitting Singapore on the way in makes sense. We overnighted at SIN at the Crown Plaza, then got up the next morning and flew to Java. This would enable you to miss the holiday crowds at Borobudur.

    The Dieng Plateau is a full day activity, but we crammed it in on the same day we had sunrise at Borobudur. It worked for us, even though we had a long drive "home" to the Phoenix in Yogyakarta. Your driver back to the Amanjiwo will be a full hour less than ours, so it is do-able.

    Do listen to Marmot's advice, as she is our local expert.

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    Thank you Marmot and Kathie. I checked with Amanjiwo and they said that the sights are open 365 days. We will definitely go at sunrise and sunset to avoid the crowds at Borobudur. Unfortunately our flights have all been booked and we could not avoid the holiday on the 24th.

    You are right about the Ramayana ballet not performing on the temple grounds Marmot. It is however playing at the Trimurti Theatre at Prambanan (indoor). We arrive in Yogyakarta airport at noon so we plan to see Prambanan on that day directly from the airport but is it worth staying there late to see the ballet indoors? It will be a really long day!

    Marmot where is Kraton Palace? Maybe seeing a dance there would suffice.

    We are flying from Singapore to Yogyakarta on Air Asia and then within Indonesia on Garuda International as they had better selection on departure times.

    It will be a real disappointment to not be able to stay in Ubud this time around but hopefully we will spend a day there and maybe stay on the next trip to Indonesia.

    Thank you Marmon for the wonderful restaurant recommendations. I will post a report when we return.

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    Yes, the temples are open every day. Marmot's concern, I believe, was how crowded it will be with Indonesian visitors.

    I loved the Ramayana Ballet at Prambanam. The theatre is covered, but open air (no solid walls). It would make for a very long day. Will you be acclimated to the time zone? For me, that would make a difference.

    There is a kraton in Yogya and 2 in Solo City. Watching dancing at a kraton is in no way comparable to seeing the Ramayana.

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    I don't have time right now to read the comments above so I'm posting from not having read any of them. But, yes you have time to do Indonesia. I've only done Bali and it was back in the late 90s and from L.A.-Singapore-Bali.

    As far as your flight schedule, it seems from your other thread, that you might be planning to fly to Singapore first and then on to someplace else after a couple days in Singapore. When I fly that route, which has been a lot over the last 17 years, I overnight in Singapore and then fly on to the farthest place first, not start in Singapore, but end in Singapore. I also fly from L.A. as I'm from L.A. County.

    I fly into Singapore on Singapore Air which arrives at 3:30AM from L.A. and then I go straight to the transit hotel inside of the airport and sleep. A few hours later, I get up and go straight to my gate for my ongoing flight which for me is usually Bangkok and usually around 9:45AM. I'll be doing this again in a few weeks. I find it a lot easier to sleep in the transit hotel, since it's right inside of the airport, and then just walk over to my next gate than to leave the airport, go into town to a hotel, and then back to the airport either on the same day or a day or two later, and then fly on to another place. Plus, when I arrive to the my destination, like Bangkok, it's day time and I've had some solid hours of sleep at the transit hotel in Singapore.

    On my first trip to S.E. Asia, back in the 90s, I went into Singapore City to sleep some hours before going back to the airport and flying on the Bali. I should have just stayed at the transit hotel. Changi Airport is so good and convenient until I like to take advantage of just staying there.

    I usually end my trip in Singapore where I'll catch my flight back to L.A. anyway. I'm usually on SQ12 (9:20AM).

    Oh, by the way, what hotel did you decide on in Singapore as I don't think you got back to your other thread?

    Happy Travels!

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    OK, I've gone back and read a few of the comments, but not time for all of them.

    Marmot: "If you decide to get a taste of all three places, I'd try for Singapore 2 or 3 nights, Central Java 3, Bali 5 or 6. If that's too rushed then I'd save Java for another trip. (Actually, my personal inclination would be to skip Singapore altogether and spend your limited days in Indonesia."

    Personally my schedule would be:

    1) L.A.-Singapore-sleep in transit hotel. You buy the hotel space in blocks of 6 hours. Sleep. Wake up refreshed. Have breakfast at airport. Walk to gate and fly on to Indonesia to wherever you'd want to start your trip.

    2) Leave Indonesia after X amount of days and fly back to Singapore for 2-3 nights.

    3) Fly back to L.A. on Singapore Day 3 or 4. Since you've flown all that way, you might as well visit Singapore. I personally love Singapore and the food is really good. I've spent as much as 2 weeks at a time staying in hotels there. However, I usually do 2-7 nights depending on my S.E. Asian trip plans from year to year. But, I find it very relaxing to finish up in Singapore.

    Happy Travels!

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    Guenmai: I wish I had heard from you before we finalized our trip. I was already late in booking and had to work quickly. I think your itinerary makes more sense. We will end up spending a couple of days on way to Singapore and a day on the return leg of our trip.

    My hotel bookings in Singapore are at the Fairmont hotel and the Four Seasons for the final leg. Rates are astronomical for the new years eve portion.

    Kathie: Thanks for the info on the Kraton theaters. I'll have to see how and if we can fit in the Ramayana ballet.

    One more question: Is Ubud a kind of place to spend a day at or is it a place that one really has to stay at to enjoy. I am concerned about holiday traffic and crowds making a day trip to Ubud. If you have some favorite things to do in this area of Indonesia, I would love to read it, including shopping for art, textiles etc. (Marmot: as a local living there I would appreciate your input)


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    Ubud is the kind of place it's worthwhile to stay. Ubud is the cultural center and artistic center of Bali. So shopping for arts and crafts is a fine thing to do there. Ubud, traditionally, has been known for paintings.

    I expect your "astronomical" rate for New years includes a "gala dinner."

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    "monsoon99 on Oct 30, 15 at 10:49am
    Guenmai: I wish I had heard from you before we finalized our trip. I was already late in booking and had to work quickly. I think your itinerary makes more sense. We will end up spending a couple of days on way to Singapore and a day on the return leg of our trip. "

    Oh, well, you'll have the info if you go back to S.E. Asia in the future as it's pretty infectious as most on this forum have probably been going for at least over a decade. Since I'm one who is a Singapore Air fan, I know that I'll be routing my trips through Singapore and ending in Singapore in order to kick back, relax, and eat well before flying home.

    The transit hotel e-mailed me some weeks ago and all is in order. I arrive into Terminal 3, from L.A., and then this time will stay in Terminal 3 at the transit hotel. In the past, I've stayed at the transit hotel in the terminal of my ongoing flight. But, this past December, I found out that the sky tram that zips one from one terminal to the other, stops running before 3:30AM and it ended up about a 40-minute walk from Terminal 3 to the Terminal of my ongoing Bangkok flight. The airport has been renovated over the years. So, now I'll stay in Terminal 3 and then when I wake up, the sky tram will be running and will zip me over to Terminal 2 from where my Bangkok flight will leave.

    It's good that you got both the Fairmont and the Four Seasons so that you can get a taste of both hotels and areas. While at the Fairmont, try to go to the Peranakan Museum as it's a short walk away. It's just on one of the streets in back of the Chjmes complex area.

    The Asian Civilizations Museum is also really good and is directly across from the Fullerton Hotel. Also try some Peranakan food. I love that food and the culture. True Blue is next door to the Peranakan museum although there are plenty of Peranakan restaurants in town. But, you have such a short amount of time there that for convenience at least if you go to the museum, there is food next door.

    When you get to the Fairmont, in the lower level of the mall that the Fairmont is attached to, there's a supermarket which is very convenient for cold drinks and packaged food. I've been going to that market for years. There's also a food court in that area with the chain places like Subway, etc.. for if you need to pack some snacks or want a quick bite like on your way to the airport as it'll be cheaper to get food there than in the airport. Plus, your room will probably have a fridge. I buy small sandwiches at the supermarket and refrigerate them and then take them to the airport with me the next day.

    Happy Travels!

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    I'm actually in Ubud right now for the wonderful Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Highly recommended! I'll give you some suggestions next week

    The dance performances at the Sultan's Palace (the Kraton) are in an intimate setting and on a small scale but feature some of the best classical dancers in Java, usually 2 or 3 dancers with a small gamelan orchestra. If you're already at the Kraton try to see them.

    The Ramayana performances traditionally go on all night and feature dozens of actors and dancers and full gamelan. They enact various episodes from the Hindu epic. I haven't been to the Prambanan adaptation.

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    The Ramayana production at Prambanam is about two hours of scenes from the full production (which does go on all night as marmot says and is only put on for a limited time each summer). I've seen it twice, once twenty years ago, once two years ago. The production is stunning, with the best dancers, a full gamelan orchestra and fabulous costumes. I've also seen dancing at the kraton, both in Yogya and In Solo. While seeing that dancing is worthwhile, it doesn't hold a candle to the Ramayana production at Prambanam, IMO.

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    The town of Ubud itself tires me out, especially when it's busy, but then I'm not a big shopper.

    There are many arts and crafts shops all over Ubud, in the center of town and radiating in all directions. The shop Threads of Life is a must see for textiles. Jalan Hanoman and Monkey Forest Road form a walkable, shop-able loop.

    The country side surrounding Ubud is definitely worth a day trip to see the terraced rice paddies, maybe having lunch in one of the resorts overlooking the Ayung river, maybe a museum or dance performance, maybe a major temple or historical site; it really depends on what you like to do. Try to plan a balance of driving and walking around.

    Several people on this board recommend guide named Putu who is helpful in planning itineraries. I don't know him myself, but he appears to have a knack for showing visitors what interests them. You could do a search or start a thread asking how to contact him.

    A guide -- whether it's Putu or anyone else -- will be able to take you to the arts and crafts villages for silver, wood carving, mask making, textile weaving -- again, whatever interests you. The guides usually know of temple ceremonies or religious festivals in the area. There's something going on nearly every day.

    Your hotel could arrange day or half-day activities like bike rides, rice paddy and village walks, bird watching, mountain trekking.

    Some activities I would recommend:
    River rafting -- I like Sobek.

    Setia Darma House of Masks & Puppets

    John Hardy jewelry showroom and factory tour -- Make a reservation. The nearby Five Elements resort is a nice place for lunch -- health oriented raw food only but very good and a beautiful setting.

    Dance performances at Ubud Palace -- They start around 7:30. You can buy tickets at the door. Not so good if it rains.

    Cooking class in a Balinese village-- This is great fun, you chop and grate and pound then cook and eat -- Bali style. Some include market tours.

    Champuan Ridge Walk -- Starts in central Ubud and continues about 2 KMs. It's a level easy walk with very scenic views.

    Your hotel could also arrange other Ubud area activities like bike rides, long walks, bird watching, mountain trekking.

    ARMA museum offers a great menu of arts and crafts activities

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