Whether you have a few days or a few months to unpack Ubud, Bali, I maintain that the best way to connect with any new place is to explore with your feet and your mouth. Below is a compilation of my favourite Indonesian dishes condensed into an Ubud food tour with both low-cost and backpacker-level-extravagant stops. If you’re looking to experience this city beyond the touristy Monkey Forest, on your own terms, this self-guided walk takes you off the beaten path into serene rice fields with quaint cafes and cuts through bustling city streets to ideal vantage points.
- Total walking time: 1.5 hours
- Total enjoying time: 10 hours
- Total budget: less than 40USD or 540,000IDR
- The Map:
More than likely, your day in Ubud begins with the requisite backpacker hostel free banana pancake. Let this simple luxury become your tour’s Stop Zero. If nothing else, it’ll help justify a fancy cocktail later on. Regardless of what’s for breakfast, you’ll want some fuel for the 7 kilometres of walking ahead. Good walking shoes and preparation for the hot direct sun are critical. A good book to slow down each stop is highly recommended!
Hail a taxi to whisk you to paradise. Head toward the Pyramids of Chi and in less than 10 minutes, it feels like you’re civilizations away from the urban chaos. Continue about 100 meters past Pyramids of Chi in search of an unmarked narrow stone-paved path on the left.
9 a.m. — Take it easy, sip on a coconut and enjoy the views and the art galleries that line the walking path. There are a few opportunities between now and the next stop to buy a fresh path-side coconut, cracked to order. Despite the vibe, I assure you that you’re still in Ubud. 10 a.m. — Eventually the rice fields give way to a beautiful dutch-colonial cottage signalling a snack. Just past The Rice Joglo, on the right-hand side of the path is Joglo Organik. I suggest a fresh juice, especially one featuring papaya, given the lanes of papaya trees surround the property. It gets better: there’s a killer view of the rice fields up in the treehouse seating. I won’t blame you if you end the tour here.
11:30 a.m. — Hungry for a Balinese massage in the rice fields? It’s been a rough day already. Cantika Spa serves a quality massage with quality products, and you can’t beat the scenery. It’s worth either calling ahead or walking in now to make a reservation following lunch. 12:30 p.m. — After massage bliss, backtrack just five minutes for lunch at Cafe Pomegranate. Sit on the floor and you’re practically sitting in the rice field. Your order won’t come quickly, but with the views, who cares? For a lighter meal (ahem, for the backpacker budget) I recommend the curry dip noodles, available for vegetarians or non.
2:30 p.m. — The hot sun and urban insanity are unavoidable, so gather your things and power walk the 2 kilometres along Ubud’s main street to Seniman Coffee Studio. You’ll be rewarded with the sweet nectar of coffee and rocking chairs. It’s a hip shop, well-staffed with super-knowledgeable servers poised to pump you with caffeine. They don’t sell a cheap cup, but you get a nearly customized brew with a buttery cookie on the side.
3:30 p.m. — No one likes to be hangry at happy hour. Snack time! One of Indonesia’s best treats cannot be bought in a trendy cafe — wade into Ubud Market for a bunch of food-tour-worthy bananas. These pack unbelievable flavour inside their tiny peels as compared to the Cavendish variety ubiquitous outside of the tropics. Ubud Market is bustling with produce vendors in the morning, and there are a few vendors selling off their fruit this time in the afternoon. Even still, don’t pay more than 10,000 IDR per kilogram.
4 p.m. — Linger or cruise through the market and make your way to happy hour. Night Rooster is a cocktail bar from Locavore, which infuses European style with local flavour for an exceptional pre-fixe just across the street. Dinner there is far from backpacker-friendly, so settle on a cocktail to sample incredible flavours you’ve probably never heard of and definitely can’t pronounce. They also serve Bintang if that’s your jam. The bar opens at 4 p.m., so there’s a good chance to snag a balcony seat prime for people-watching. 6 p.m. — Bali Buda is another popular spot, and it pays to get there early. The menu is massive and everything looks delicious, but I can make it easy for you. Just order the beetroot burger, add an egg my non-vegan friends, and be done with it. It’s a hell of a time just trying to decide amongst the dressing buffet for the side salad.
Let your sweet tooth guide you toward dessert or head to the bar and get reacquainted with Ubud’s notorious scene. Or do both. You’re the boss.