Ubud and Canguu: Is This Authentic Bali?
Ubud and Canguu: Is This Authentic Bali?
We spent a little over two days in each Ubud and Canguu. From everything I had read and heard about the two towns on the island of Bali, I thought it was going to be the most magical place on the planet. A dream land of ancient culture, beautiful temples, and exotic food. I was expecting to be amazed. We were not.
A lot of factors went into our disappointment. The number one reason was the fair amount of people who treat Bali as a vacation or holiday. Bali seems to be the new ultra-trendy destination to be seen traveling to. I also truly believe that Eat, Pray, Love had a lot to do with the downfall of Ubud as well.
Rather than what we expected when traveling to Bali, we were welcomed into a luxury vacation hot spot.
We started our stay with two days in Ubud, as I’m sure many people do with the close proximity to the airport. While I must admit I loved staying in a private villa with it’s own private pool, that was the highlight of my trip to this city. This little bit of isolated luxury was such a nice way to relax away from the hustle of the city. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Ubud, I would highly recommend Nyoman Bisma Villa.
I also loved the abundance of art and religious symbols, and traditional Balinese art on the streets. Walking down any street, there was no shortage of mossy covered stone statues, ornate doorways to temple entrances, or small shrines adorned with offerings.
When it comes to food and traditional culture though, I was let down. We ate at stereotypical spots you would find in trendy neighborhoods in the States. Brunches were menus of avocado toast and acai bowls, everything had astronomical prices, and big name designer stores lined the streets. I will say though, that there were many smaller boutique shops that were adorable and I did enjoy looking around in those. It definitely was not our favorite foodie destination. You can check out my post on Ubud restaurants here.
There was one market in downtown, but it was the typical tourist street full of trinkets, bracelets and clothing without any authenticity at all. It was sort of disheartening to see how the influx of tourism in a place that was once a cultural hotspot for Balinese people has deteriorated into essentially an extension of Western ideals and culture. It just seemed like Ubud was more full of Western tourists than real people.
We moved on to Canguu, hoping that things would be different than Ubud. It was a little better than Ubud because of the beach vibe, but it still wasn’t quite what we thought of as Bali. We were again thrust into the same Western culture, just with a bigger emphasis on partying. There were multiple mega-clubs that stayed open well into the night. After hearing so many great things about Finn’s Beach Club, Old Man’s and all of the other famous places people love to talk about, we were very underwhelmed.
I’m sure if I was on a week long vacation and wanted to party non-stop, I would have loved these types of places. However, I have never been, nor wanted to go, on a week long vacation to simply party. I can do that in my hometown, or at least in the United States.
I will say that although not authentic Balinese food, I did really enjoy the food that I tried. I most notably enjoyed culinary experiments from the vegan craze that is sweeping over Bali. The creative inventions of plant based foods were fun to sample and I love the idea behind the vegan movement. The abundance of healthy food places was so nice! We of course tried the famous Pelaton’s Super Shop, and I loved every minute of my pumpkin toast.
With that being said, it is still a very western experience.
There is decent surfing in Canguu, which is always fun to try. You can rent a board for 50,000 rupiah for the day, and attempt to not kill yourself out on the waves. We tried it at Echo Beach, but there are also tons of other beaches you can find as well. It’s a little scary but a good time and a fantastic workout! Honestly, it might be worth looking for another beach because Echo Beach was a tad crowded as well as dirty. I was a little worried someone would drop in on a wave on top of me at all times.
I think that Ubud and Canguu serve a very specific purpose for those who travel to them. We wouldn’t have come to Bali without visiting them, but I think a couple days in each is enough. They’re definitely fun for partiers, and they have enough western style restaurants and food options that people can stay well within their comfort zone while still in a foreign country. For us though, we were hoping for a much more authentic experience. After four days in these hot spots, we were ready to head to a new place, escape the crowds, and discover the true Bali.
Check out our other posts on Bali: