Things to Do in Ubud
One of Bali’s holiest Hindu sites (and one of its most popular attractions) is a grotto with a history dating back more than 1,000 years. Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) has uncertain origins, but it's believed that it once served as a sanctuary for Hindu priests to meditate or even sleep.
Goa Gajah's entrance makes a menacing first impression, carved in the likeness of a gaping mouth of a demonic creature. The façade of the cave entrance features several relief carvings of various mythological creatures, and while no one is sure what they represent, local lore says that an elephant was the protagonist of the drama depicted in the carvings; hence, the nickname Elephant Cave.
The courtyard just outside the cave has more recently excavated decorative bathing pools, adorned with carvings of partially clad females pouring water from urns. The cave itself is rather small, a T-shaped space with several small ledges and a statue of Ganesh, added after the cave was excavated.
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is a Balinese Hindu site at the bottom of Monkey Forest Road and populated by cheeky long-tailed macaques. It's a popular site with visitors to Ubud who come to see the monkeys and the temples within the sanctuary.
There are hundreds of monkeys living in and around the monkey forest. You can purchase food for them at the entrance gate but be warned that the monkeys are aggresive opportunists - particularly in their pursuit of food. They will think nothing of climbing on you or raking through your bag in search of something edible.
There are 3 temples within the forest, Pura Dalem (death temple), the Holy Bathing Temple and Pura Prajapati (funerary or cremation temple). All 3 of these temples are sacred, as is the forest and the monkeys, who are believed to protect the area from evil spirits.
Ubud’s Agung Rai Museum of Art, or ARMA as it’s more popularly known, is a museum, gallery space and cultural center founded by Agung Rai, a Balinese entrepreneur who got exposed to the world of Balinese art while selling souvenirs in Kuta. Inspired by visits to the Puri Lukisan and Neka museums, Agung Rai began collecting paintings to which he felt a spiritual connection, including works by Balinese and international artists.
Today, that collection makes its home in ARMA, a series of traditional buildings in a vibrant garden setting. It is divided thematically into four sections: Kamasan, Pre-war, European Living in Bali and Modern Traditional. Of particular note is the collection by Russian-born German painter Walter Spies, who came to Bali in 1927 and greatly influenced the 1930s Balinese art movement with his primitivism-style paintings. Also on display are works by Raden Saleh, a pioneer of modern Balinese painting.
More Things to Do in Ubud
The Bali Bird Park has a large collection of rare and unusual Indonesian birds and birds from other countries that roam free throughout the park or are contained within lush avaries. Located in the Batubulan stone carving village and next door to the reptile farm, the Park is a popular day trip from the surrounding tourist towns of Kuta, Sanur and Ubud. Divided into regions that attempt to recreate the birds natural habitats, the Bali Bird Park takes you on a trail through the Indonesian archipelago, Latin America and South Africa. The Bird Park plays a key role in protecting and conserving Indonesia’s endangered wildlife and has successfully bred many species, including the rare Pesquet’s Parrot, Birds of Paradise, Hornbills and Bali Starlings.
Bali Zoo’s collection of animal-friendly enclosures and interactive exhibits span over 20 acres (8 hectares) of tropical forest and gardens near the village of Singapadu. Zoo-goers can observe river otters from an underwater viewpoint, watch African lions enjoying an afternoon snack or ride atop a Sumatran elephant. A highlight, particularly for younger visitors, is the petting zoo where kids can touch and sometimes feed domestic and baby animals, including elephants, rabbits, Timor deer and sitatunga. At Night at the Zoo (separate ticket required), visitors get a glimpse of Bali’s nocturnal habitats before sitting down for a dinner under the stars next to the lion enclosure.
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