- While most people know the Indonesian island of Bali as a seaside paradise, I found the inland jungle, and specifically the town of Ubud, to be a much more interesting place to explore.
- Ubud has a vibrant community of local Balinese, digital nomads working on startups, and vacationers exploring Ubud’s mix of rice terraces, temples, spiritual retreats, yoga and meditation classes, and villas located in the countryside.
- It would be easy to mock Ubud for its proliferation of New Age seekers, vegan and raw food establishments, and more, but it’s the earnestness and positivity that permeates the city that makes it a place you want to discover and come back to.
Bali is the kind of place you visit more than once.
When my driver, a burly guy named Wayan, picked me up from the airport on a trip to the island last May, the first thing he said to me was, “Welcome. So , how many times have you been to Bali?”
In most places, I think he was making a joke. It was my first time to the island, after all. But, in Bali, vacationers, expats and travelers always seem to come more than once.
From a Filipino yoga teacher to a German programmer to an Australian cafe owner and countless other people I’ve met over and over again, I’ve heard a similar refrain: I came here the first time not knowing what to expect but after being in Bali for a few days I knew I would be back. This is now my fourth, fifth or tenth time.
It didn’t take me long to figure out why. While Bali has become known for its endless parade of Instagram influencers, newlyweds laying in infinity pools, and beach sunsets to end all beach sunsets, I think it’s It’s the town of Ubud and the jungle interior of the island that keeps people coming back.
Ubud has been known for centuries as a spiritual and mystical center for the Balinese – Ubud means ‘medicine’ – but, in recent decades, it has spawned a community of scholars and New Age expats seeking to live the good life. .
Add in a new generation of digital nomads working on startups at night and doing yoga during the day and you’ve got the mix for a vibrant community that keeps people coming back.
While overtourism is a problem – the number of annual tourists rose from 2.2 million in 1990 to 13.7 million last year – many foreigners are starting to work with locals to create sustainable and good tourism businesses. many of the best guesthouses, shops, restaurants, yoga studios, tour operators are run by local Balinese or Indonesians.
In May I spent a week in Ubud and never even bothered to hang out on the beach. I didn’t need it. There was way too much to do in Ubud. Here is what I did: