SHOULD I GO to UBUD again?

Old Apr 20th, 2019, 07:16 PM
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SHOULD I GO to UBUD again?

I fell in love with Ubud,and the rest of Bali..and Java (not so much Sumatra) in the early-mid 80s when I traveled extensively in Indonesia on about four different trips of many weeks each. Ubud was a tiny place with lots of little guesthouses and walks through the rice paddies to artists' studios, and dinners in roadside warungs. There were no big hotels that I was aware of. The only bad thing were the many mangy dogs, and the pesky monkeys at the end of Jalan Monkey Forest, a street where I stayed for weeks in a small guest house on one visit.

Nusa Dua was a place we went by motorboke to surf, or to watch surfers; there were no hotels. Kuta was already a tad sleazy but you could stay near Legian for a couple of dollars a night in a great bungalow. Lovina Beach on the north coast was just private houses with rooms to rent along the beach.

Fast forward about 40 years. I hope to go to Australia next year and could make a stop in Bali, as my current travel partner has never been so SE Asia. I can now afford a "fancy" hotel but do not need one. Would like a good pool for lap swimming. Could rent villa, could stay at just about any hotel.

Question: Have any of you old timers gone back? I hesitate as I hear about all this new veneer of gloss with Four Seasons and all that. Is there any charm left in Ubud?
(I am not even asking about coastal Bali cause I have little interest, from what I've read about it nowadays) I fear I would ruin my beautiful memories if I returned.

I have such wonderful memories of being young and being able to travel in SE Asia. My best and finest after Ubud was Koh Samui, before the airport and before any large hotels....went back over and over until it just was not paradise anymore.

Second part of this post is: Where is that SE Asian paradise to be found today? Certain islands in Philippines? (I'm not about to go looking, just curious what is left)
Is there a pretty low-key beach or other town that would combine ok with Melbourne, for someone flying from east coast USA??
ekscrunchy is offline  
Old Apr 21st, 2019, 01:33 AM
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Ubud has changed as fast as everywhere else. Personally, I have all of Indonesia on my banned list due to their actions in West Timor, so my answer would be no.

Disclaimer - I havenít been, but reckon the Mergui archipelago in Myanmar might provide your unspoilt paradise. Not really easy to get to from east coast US unless you hub through Singapore or KL and can handle an extra flight or two.
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Old Apr 21st, 2019, 10:58 AM
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I remember my first trip to Bali, driving through Ubud. Ubud had just gotten electrical service. I remember seeing a barber cutting the hair of a local, outside, not far off the street. Ekscrunchy, I fear that you and I are of an age where we saw a great many places before they landed on the tourist track, and it is now hard to return without feeling the loss.

There are a number of places in Burma that likely qualify, perhaps only because of the terrible things the country has been through (and continues to go through). When we went to Sikkim a few years ago, it was well off the tourist track, though we ran into honeymooning Indian couples. But they have announced an airport to be built near Gangtok, which would entirely change things.

We had a lovely trip though Java a few years ago, and found central Java (Borobudor) no more crowded than it was twenty years ago. We also went to Eastern Java and found it relatively untouristed.

I know you went on a Pandaw cruise yers ago, and there are a couple of Pandaw cruises that take you well off the tourist track. We went on the Chidwin River cruise, which we loved, and they have a cruise even farther north to Nagaland. They also have a cruise in the Irrawaddy delta, one to the costal villages, and one to the Mergui Archipelago.

Good luck in your quest for less touristed places - it's a quandary many of us face.
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Old Apr 21st, 2019, 11:46 AM
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Good luck in your quest for less touristed places - it's a quandary many of us face.

Truer words have never been spoken (or typed).
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Old Apr 21st, 2019, 02:17 PM
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we have been back several times and continue to love it, especially Ubud. More interesting restaurants spring up all the time.

our fav hotel remains alam shanti--- if you reserve the yamma or gangga room you share a full sized pool-- totally private.
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Old Apr 21st, 2019, 05:06 PM
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I first travelled to Bali -- Sanur and Ubud -- in the mid-80's. I visited frequently over the years and moved here 8 years ago. There's no question that Bali has changed and that not all change has been for the good, but what amazes me is the resilience of the Balinese people in protecting their culture. Despite welcoming millions of tourists every year, Bali still maintains a deep and overarching adherence to tradition: the temples, large and intimate; the ceremonies and processions; the arts, handicrafts and architecture, wood carving, rattan and bamboo, textiles, painting; the performing arts, masked dance, gamelan; the warmth and kindness of the hospitality. You may have to venture a bit farther to experience the profound natural beauty of the river valleys, the terraced rice paddies, the mountains, the oceans. If you look for the worst you can find it, but if you look for tradition and beauty it's there too.

Sure Bali has typical developing world issues with traffic, transportation, waste disposal and loud music. On the plus side, tourism has lifted millions of Balinese out poverty. Every worker in the resorts in Ubud and south Bali is supporting an extended family back home in the village, funding the ceremonies (which is critical) and assuring that village life continues as it always has but with access to medical care and better schools.

So I'd say yes, return to Bali. Whether inland or along the coast, you'll be able to find a villa, guest house or small resort that hasn't changed much. Ubud central on a hot afternoon may make your head explode, but wander a bit and you'll find the rice paddy walks, roadside warungs and artists' studios that your remember (as well as the street dogs and aggressive monkeys). Go a little farther afield -- to Munduk or Sidemen for example -- and you'll be mostly back to the 80's. And if you avoid the rainy season, you'll find that the surf is still the same too. To me, walking miles along the beach at sunset, from Petitenget and Legian and back is still a glorious experience. Go farther north to the black sand beaches and you can almost relive your surfer days (but with motorbikes and cell phones).
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Old Apr 21st, 2019, 10:46 PM
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I did not have the pleasure of visiting Ubud until my one and only visit there in 2016, and so perhaps shouldn't comment. But, FWIW, "charm" is not a word that I associate with Ubud. I found it fascinating, I found it a place holding many exquisite treasures, I thought it a wonderful base. But you asked, "Is there any charm left in Ubud?" and my answer is: Unfortunately, not as I define it.

But it depends on what YOU mean by "charm!" I couldn't agree more with marmot's characterization of the delights of experiencing the ways in which Balinese people have retained their traditions, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have gained some glimpses into those traditions.

But my experience of Ubud included gaggles of giggling girls -- mostly English speaking and probably 20-somethings, but acting like late teens -- who trudged unthinkingly through the offerings that local people had placed with care just moments before. And groups of people of varying ages and varying degrees of sobriety who jostled any one and every one off the narrow sidewalks without a second glance. And masses of people trying to maneuver motorbikes with no idea of how to do so. And rows of local men trying to hawk their services as taxi drivers who actually fell into a stunned silence when I passed, only to have one ask me (with genuine and friendly curiosity) what had made me learn enough Indonesian to say "no, thank you" when NO one else seemed to even notice they exist. How sad! (We -- all of them! -- proceeded to exchange greetings every time I walked by in the several days I was in the area.)

As already mentioned, Ubud holds some extraordinarily beautiful and intriguing places, and is still surrounded by lovely rice paddies (among which are a staggering number of yoga retreat and massage spas and an awesome number of people trying, with only mild success, to ride motorbikes) -- but I was led to believe that these areas are edging further from Ubud's center, as more an more locals sell their family's compounds and lands to developers. When I was there, only one small area of Ubud remained within the ownership of its traditional family owners, and I was told that they are under increasing pressure from developers to sell. Quite a dilemma for families with little income and a strong wish to see their children obtain a good education.

If I go back to Bali -- and I would happily do so! -- I would certainly plan on spending a chunk of my time in Ubud. It is a cultural core, with much that is traditional to appreciate, easy access to wonderful surrounding areas, and the benefits of tourism -- a variety of good restaurants and lodgings, ATMs, etc. But "charming?" Not by my definition.

Hope that helps!

Now: Are you aware that the use of ALL CAPS IS AN IRRITATING WAY OF INTERNET SCREAMING? Please stop! Please!!!

Last edited by kja; Apr 21st, 2019 at 11:11 PM.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2019, 01:25 AM
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The section of my report on travels to Ubud begins with post # 128 of this thread. My "best/worst" is post # 154.
A Memorable Solo Month in Singapore, Java, and Bali

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Old Apr 22nd, 2019, 03:48 AM
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I first visited Ubud in the late 90s in the depths of the recession in Asia. Very sad to see the effects on many of the local people and businesses. My wife was buying stuff just because she felt for the businesses which were suffering badly. She even donated her shoes to some local women before we left! The poverty was quite shocking in places. Our last visit was around 5 years ago, like many places in Asia the economic growth and increase in tourism has made it a much happier place for the locals and who would begrudge them that. However, I fear you may be disappointed by those changes, especially since your last visit was so long ago.

I was quite shocked at how the place had changed. A lot more development, a lot more tourists. Ubud wasn’t a particularly tranquil place 20 years ago and it certainly isn’t now. The tourism demographic I think has changed, whilst there are still a lot of the "Eat, Pray, Love" people seeking yoga, peace and enlightenment, there are many more backpackers and package tourists ( tourism snobbery I know!).

The "dinners in roadside warungs" are still possible but not so much these days. We did re visit one of my all time favourites "Naughty Nuri’s only to find that the palce had been bought by an American expat who had turned it into a proper restaurant and had open branches other parts of Bali and even KL.

There are low key beach places left but they are becoming increasingly rare or difficult to get to. One of the best we have been to in recent years is "The Tip of Borneo" deserted beaches a few decent restaurants but that is a big diversion en route from the US.

The Philippines I really didn’t take to. Planned to be there for a month and left after 4 days!

Not SE Asia but I would take a look at South Korea or Taiwan ( subject to the weather)
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Old Apr 22nd, 2019, 06:36 PM
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If you look at a map of Bali you will see that the area from the southern tip to the Ubud country side comprises about 10 to 15% of Bali's total land mass. Get beyond the tourism triangle and there's plenty of the old Bali out there.

You can find pristine beaches in many parts of the world, many are surf-able or snorkel-able, but what is rare is to find a unique and vibrant culture like Bali's with ocean access too. To me the charm of Bali -- and I am sincerely charmed by it every day -- is the way the culture prevails all over the island.
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Old Apr 27th, 2019, 01:11 AM
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yes you must go.. I will be in Ubud at the start of June. This will be my 3rd time to Bali. Last time I went I said 'never again'. It was all the noise, the traffic and so many people that go to me. But i am going back. Bali has a particular charm and the Balinese are beautiful people. in 40 years things will be not as you remembered but that is everywhere in the world.
I would say go. Stay away from Kuta, Legian and perhaps even Seminyak. just way too busy.
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